I originally started this post on June 29th and put it aside. Then I learned his name, Hector Echeverria, and realized that my family knew him and his family. He was my daughter's Algebra 2 teacher at Coral Reef High and subsequently taught at Palmetto High and MAST Academy. He lived two blocks away from us, and my other daughter knew his daughter at Coral Reef Elementary, Southwood Middle School, and Palmetto Senior. She also knew Hector. He was a caring, gentle, and certainly not careless man. At 57, he had just beaten pancreatic cancer.
This is the cyclist who was mowed down by a vehicle in what was supposed to be a 25 mph street on Key Biscayne this past weekend. A second cyclist was also struck and remains in the hospital.
I mourn the loss of another cyclist - one who had a deep and personal connection to Palmetto Bay. I still do not know the identity of the other cyclist. But regardless, a pair of cyclists were struck by a single vehicle early Sunday morning on Key Biscayne. There appears to be no allegation that either cyclist was doing anything other than what thousands of others do riding that same route. Another life lost and more lives changed forever.
But hey, keep tell me how we don’t need bike lanes. We still know little about this accident. But killing a cyclist is barely even a traffic ticket in South Florida. And there are always those who will make the point that cyclists are a nuisance -- as if they deserve the death penalty for getting in your way.
There has been much discussion and planning for bike lanes in Palmetto Bay. But there seems to be a lack of political will to act beyond planning. Politicians, including our own Daniella Levine-Cava, hold meetings. There are longstanding strategic / master / local / community plans. Plans are not the problem. The problem is that the efforts end with a celebration of discussion. Then people go back thinking there will be action, implementation. But there is little to none. And then more are injured or worse, killed. And then we all wonder why.
Or maybe discussion ends because politicians are scared of a few neighbors who don't like cyclists -- even if those cyclists are kids trying to get to school.
Why do I post my opinions here? Because this latest killing occurred at a spot where many were pushing for
meaningful changes to improve safety. It tears me up to think of what this family is going through. The route was one used primarily by
bikes, basically like being in a park. A road where it occurred, I am told, had a posted speed limit (for any vehicle, any type) of 25 MPH. I am familiar with this
area, having ridden this route often. It is filled with bicycles.
This situation has been festering for far too long. Cycling advocates, and anyone who believes that life has value, need to ask whether this latest killing should (not could, but should) have been prevented.
When will discussion result in actual action? We have seen many, many, “initiatives” where people are
called together to discuss the issues, weigh in and propose solutions. I have participated in some of these: See the Miami-Dade County "Dead Serious" discussions reported back in May of 2018 (CLICK HERE to review). What has changed? Everything appeared to have gone dark once the videos and photo ops were completed. "Mission accomplished" was declared seemingly without any new protections actually put in place.
The above is just a single example. But the bottom line is that, as long as pedestrians (and their dogs and children) are on the path, cyclists will continue to ride along on the roadway of SW 136th Street as they are legally entitled to; where they will not be placing pedestrians at risk of bikes or be at risk of being struck by vehicles turning on or off the roadway (a recent example was posted on June 24, 2020, Yet another car v bike conflict along the Old Cutler Trail – a multi-use path, not a dedicated bike lane.)
I have worked to implement actual solutions,
including safe routes to school programs, bike lanes and cyclist and motorist
safety education. Implementation, going beyond the planning. Discussion, advocating, location (and, more
importantly, securing) funding and then implemented.
But it is disingenuous and worse – actually dangerous – when
plans are derailed and replaced with lesser alternatives, that are not really
alternatives at all, but 'repurposing' serious transportation safety issues to recreational
uses that continues to place cyclists at risk. Cyclists that are our family, friends, neighbors, co-workers - teachers.
Look at the dates of the “Dead Serious” initiatives. Where
is the follow up, the delivery, a completion of a project? What has been actually implemented as a result of the
efforts? Photo ops or actual efforts to improve safety? How many more need to
Meanwhile - Palmetto Bay continues to sit on $1 million dollars, a grant which they received to during my administration. This is that was to be used to make bicycling safer and, what's more, to enable people to use public transportation and take a bicycle for the first and last mile of public transportation. It would also help students to bicycle to Southwood Middle School. Is Palmetto Bay going to use this grant? Or should it be returned so that it can be awarded to another local government that we can trust to keep promises made.
Fair Question: WILL PALMETTO BAY SQUANDER A $1 MILLION GRANT RECEIVED FOR ROADS?
SUPPORT VERSUS ACCOMPLISHMENTS. It is easy to wave a flag in support. The hard part is actually delivering solutions. I suggest that this current Palmetto Bay Village Council, Charter Officers and Staff take a look at policy set to date by prior administrations, specifically Resolution 2017-67, (sponsored by then Mayor Eugene Flinn) wherein the Village Council unanimously adopted Miami-Dade County’s “Complete Streets Guidelines” and directed that these guidelines should be incorporated into the planning, design, approval, and implementation processes for any construction, reconstruction, retrofit, maintenance, alteration, or repair of streets, bridges, or other portions of the transportation network, including pavement resurfacing, restriping, and signalization operations if the safety and convenience of all types of users (i.e., pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists, and public transit riders, including children, youth, families, older adults, and individuals with disabilities) can be improved within the scope of the work.
CONCLUDING STATEMENT: I make no apologies for the passion and venting of frustration. People are dying - all types - parents, grandparents, sons, daughters, friends and neighbors. Yes, some are sportsters; but many of these victims were simply traveling on a short commute by bike to or from work, riding to school or a friends house, or otherwise simply on a leisurely ride, but all were in the very wrong place at a very wrong time. So spare me the celebration of yet another public photo op forum. I am demanding implementation, that promises be kept.