Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Bike advisers balk at Rickenbacker plans

Rickenbacker riders head east after their turnaround.


The Miami-Dade Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee asked tonight that plans for a new bicycle turnaround next to Windsurfer Beach on the Rickenbacker Causeway not be carried out until the committee can look at alternatives.  The county's Public Works department is poised to install a new crossing and traffic light between the Rickenbacker toll gates and the tall William Powell Bridge, while barring the turnaround through the parking lot at the west end of the causeway.

The signalized turnaround is the biggest item in the first year of the department's five-year plan for improving walker and bicyclist safety on the Rickenbacker.  Also planned in the fiscal year that just started are a study of motor speeds on the causeway, installation of radar-equipped "your speed" signs, and lane modifications to help bicyclists enter the causeway from Brickell Avenue and 26th Road.

Advisory committee member Lee Marks, an avid road cyclist, said there's a simpler and much less costly way to do what the proposed $630,000 signalized crossing would attempt. "It's a harebrained idea," he said.  Instead, Marks proposed narrowing the cyclists' exit from the causeway office parking lot and placing concrete Jersey barricades to shield cyclists as they emerge into eastbound traffic lanes.

The scenic causeway is probably the most popular attraction for residents' personal physical exercise in South Florida.  It's not unusual to see 1,000 brightly-clad bicyclists riding the causeway on a Saturday or Sunday. Walkers, joggers and long-distance runners also frequent the paths to and from Key Biscayne, and the beaches are busy from daybreak on. By any metric that includes usage, the causeway is a hugely successful park.

The road to Key Biscayne, however, has the width and feel of a highway. Athletes are not alone in their concern about how fast drivers travel on the road.  After cyclist Christoph Le Canne was killed by a speeding driver on Jan. 17, County Commissioner Carlos Gimenez got his colleagues to allocate 25 cents from each Rickenbacker toll to be used on safety improvements.  That safety fund is projected to yield upwards of $870,000 yearly.  The five-year work plan was presented to the bicycling community at a town hall meeting on July 1 and vetted by the commission later that month.

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