South Miami cyclists: Hold your fire

By | June 21st, 2011 | 16 Comments
Miami Bike Prom 2011

Leah Weston is a South Miami resident and a member of Emerge Miami, which regularly organizes group bike rides like the 2011 Miami Bike Prom (pictured above).

Monday afternoon, a social media firestorm was a-brewin’ in the cycling community in response to an article in the South Miami news section of the Miami Herald.

To recap: Bike SoMi, a grassroots initiative whose goal is for South Miami to earn the League of American Bicyclists designation of “Bicycle Friendly”, had organized a bike ride open to all interested cyclists and citizens with the purpose of highlighting areas that could use improvement.

It was to occur Monday night. When the ad hoc leader of this group, architect Mari Chael, presented a list of 700 signatures on a petition and invited members of the City Commission to the ride at an official city meeting last week, City Manager Hector Mirabile declared that the ride would be a “special event” and would therefore require a permit, fees, and a $1,000,000 insurance policy.

Chael was taken aback and, after much shuffling and regrouping, Bike SoMi eventually cancelled the ride.

As a cyclist, a fan of my civil liberties, and a tax-paying citizen of the fair city of South Miami, I was outraged when I first got wind of this news last week. I’ve helped organize dozens of group rides with Emerge Miami for the past several years and never once have we encountered a problem with permits.

But, as I found out this week in meetings with Bike SoMi, the story as presented in the Herald lacks context. The job of the city manager is to watch out for any potential liabilities. If someone were to learn about the bike ride through an “official” city channel — say, meeting minutes or on the city’s cable TV channel, where all meetings are broadcast — and then get hurt on the ride, the city would be 100 percent liable.

Would it be productive for the cyclists and citizens of South Miami if the city had to spend money it does not have on a lawsuit? That’s not how I want my property taxes used.

With that in mind, a group of activists and concerned citizens (some on bikes, others not) met at Sunset Tavern last night to discuss how we should move forward. We were happy to have two city commissioners, Walter Harris and Brian Beasley, join us for the conversation. Both were unwavering in their support of bicycling. Ultimately, we all agreed that the city, local businesses, and residents want to work together to earn official “bicycle friendly” status for South Miami, which, in the past few years, has embraced bicycle initiatives as warmly as any other South Florida city.

Commissioner Beasley shared his draft of a resolution, which he plans on introducing to the city commission in August, that expresses support for making South Miami better for biking and walking and calls for the creation of an advisory committee to work on a bicycle master plan. This is the path that the City of Miami took several years ago, and now we see miles of new bike lanes, sharrows on the streets, “SHARE THE ROAD” street signs, and an environment that, while still a work in progress, has vastly improved bicycling in the City of Miami.

In other words: Cyclists, hold your fire. The City of South Miami is not the enemy. Bike SoMi and the city manager may have gotten off on the wrong foot, but both sides have also learned a great deal in the past two weeks. Better bicycling must involve the city, but the city need not officially endorse every independently organized bike-related event. Citizens and community groups (like Emerge Miami) are free to assemble and ride bikes as they please (in accordance with the laws, of course). Cities can contribute as well, through smart policies and incentives.

Cyclists, let’s be friends with the City of South Miami, not a liability.

Leah Weston is a member of the community activist group Emerge Miami.

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16 Comments on “South Miami cyclists: Hold your fire”

  1. 1 Nick Sortal said at 11:14 am on June 21st, 2011:

    I tried to get on the Herald’s web site and although I’m registered it didn’t take my comment.

    Agree, re: the article. We need to know how many cyclists, are we talking 10 or 500? And is it a ride or a stroll, i.e. are we talking 20-25 mph or 10-15… Story doesn’t say.

    I’m a cyclist, too, and think that we didn’t get the whole story on this one.

    And, not to be a nit, but half the folks in the photo above don’t have helmets. C’mon folks, help your own cause…

  2. 2 Maxwell said at 1:21 pm on June 21st, 2011:

    Would have been even more encouraging if the mayor or city manager were at the meeting last night. The Commissioners in attendance sound like they were supportive from the get-go.

  3. 3 Donna Shelley said at 1:44 pm on June 21st, 2011:

    Well Leah I agree with most of what you said, but fail to follow the logic on the comment about the city being liable if it knows the bike ride is going to happen. We have groups in South Miami that bike out to Key Biscayne and back on a regular basis. Are you saying that if the city manager “finds out” that these folks are riding in a pack, that he is legally compelled to make them have a permit and $1m. in insurance?With all due respect, that is absurd. The City of South Miami is not the enemy, as you say. But how about a little common sense from the city manager? Commissioners Beasley and Harris needed to be more forceful at the commission meeting instead of doing damage control at Sunset Tavern.

  4. 4 Leah said at 2:09 pm on June 21st, 2011:

    @Donna I basically agree with everything you said. All I mean to say is that there was a communication mishap at a public meeting, where the City Manager interpreted an invitation to the police department as requesting police presence. When you go on public record asking for police to come (on paid time), you bring in liability issues.

    Otherwise, I am 100% in agreement with you.

  5. 5 Eddie Suarez said at 3:40 pm on June 21st, 2011:

    Hi Leah,

    Please meeting you last night!! I’d agree too. I didn’t understand why the city needed an insurance policy to protect them when they weren’t involved. However this statement doesn’t seem right:

    “If someone were to learn about the bike ride through an “official” city channel — say, meeting minutes or on the city’s cable TV channel, where all meetings are broadcast — and then get hurt on the ride, the city would be 100 percent liable.”

    I’ve been to a couple meetings at SoMi City Hall and some at Gov’t Center and several members in the audience including myself all said that we’re triathletes, members of Team Hammerheads, and we ride every Sunday from cocoplum through SoMi and south… So anyone who was there, anyone watching the broadcast, would have now learned through an official city/county channel that we ride. Does this make the city or county liable?

    And the police presence issue. If it’s miscommunication, could it have been cleared up before it exploded? If the word event was the problem, could the commission have asked for a clear definition of what an event is?

    Here’s what says about Event:
    1. something that happens or is regarded as happening; an occurrence, especially one of some importance.
    2. the outcome, issue, or result of anything: The venture had no successful event.
    3. something that occurs in a certain place during a particular interval of time.

    Our dinner last night was an event then. And so were the WAKA folks playing beer pong. Glenn and I walk from FootWorks to the FoodSpot every weekday at noon for lunch. Is that an event? Do I need a permit and insurance? Many things which happen every day which would be considered an event according to definition #1 or #3.

    And yes, I know I’m being facetious :)

  6. 6 Leah said at 4:55 pm on June 21st, 2011:

    @Eddie It was likewise nice to meet with you. I always prefer face time myself.

    Look, I think your logic is perfectly reasonable. Perhaps it simply comes down to my belief that it is never wise to ask the city to participate in something if you don’t want bureaucratic hoops to jump through. By asking the city to participate, you’re inviting them to introduce their own terms.

    Again, this is all just my opinion.

  7. 7 Yvonne Beckman said at 5:37 pm on June 21st, 2011:

    My husband wrote 15 or so bike routes for the Dutch club. we started the rally’s at various homes and would have dinner and a party afterwards. We used our home and garden in South Miami several times, we had rallies in Key Biscayne, Miami Beach , Coral Gables , Pinecrest and the Grove (several times). We never applied for no stinking permit and never had a problem. it was nothing but fun fun fun in the sun.
    I’m in favor of keeping the government out of our lives and that worked just fine.

  8. 8 Carlos said at 7:07 pm on June 21st, 2011:

    Good blog! As a cyclist and activist here in Miami for years, I agree with most of this article. We have to be friendly and polite with the city officials. However……. we also must flex our muscles once in a while, in smart ways. Carrots and sticks. The political process has been taking way too long. Our Miami neighborhoods are still among the least friendly and Deadliest in the Nation for cyclists, and to practice other sports, even for pedestrians. And very little has been accomplished, year, after year.. decades. So we must continue to speak up, in a civil manner, yet demanding concrete improvements in infrastructure, signs, education, bike paths, law enforcement, and what have you. The bureacracy at City Hall never ceases to amaze me, and they are soooooo slooooow to get anything Done. Keep pushing!! (Nicely, of course :–))

  9. 9 Amy Donner said at 7:34 pm on June 21st, 2011:

    The story was written and published by The South MiamiNews. The Miami Herald picked the story up and ran it under the community section. And the city manager could have said what you said in your story. He could have said “this will not be a community “event” , now go enjoy your ride. The culture at city hall is to be not not helpful. Being helpful is a good idea.

  10. 10 Mari Chael said at 7:38 pm on June 21st, 2011:

    Leah, as you know, I am one for civility and communication. I suggest that from now on the City and all our public officials (including our city manager) set the example. That being said, onward!!!!!

  11. 11 Stephanie said at 11:50 pm on June 22nd, 2011:

    @ Maxwell- on the bit about encouraging, did you or anyone else invite people who you expected to be there? Take a role by encouraging people to attend.

    @ Amy- “And the city manager could have said what you said in your story”..I didn’t see a comment in Raqual Garcia’s article that The City of South Miami delined to comment or anything like that. So that article that leads me to believe that The City wasn’t asked to comment for the article. Were they asked within a reasonable deadline?

  12. 12 name said at 12:51 am on June 23rd, 2011:

    this is why critical mass exists.> no rules except for self preservation. it is intersting that once a month roller bladers gather in sobe and have a police escort with 8 police cars blockng traffic for a one hour ride. critical mass needs to crash this party.

  13. 13 Leah said at 9:00 am on June 23rd, 2011:

    @”name”: EXACTLY. The best approach if you want to ride is just to ride. Don’t ask for permission. Don’t invite the city. When you bring city business into it, everything gets needlessly complicated. Rides should be independent.

  14. 14 mm said at 1:29 pm on June 23rd, 2011:

    Before I even leave my comment: I bike every weekend, I bike alone, in a mountain bike, do about 20-22 miles round trip and support biking 100%

    Having said that, I am absolutely sick and tired of two things: Asshole bikers taking the entire damned road (I also own 3 cars and pay taxes) and the self-rightousness of bikists in general.

    I would never run over a cyclist and I would be appaled if someone were to do it. But, let me tell you, I truly understand the road rage situation.

  15. 15 NIck Mck said at 1:48 pm on June 25th, 2011:

    Thank you Emergers and the boys and girls of Beached for the bicycle related portion, and bicycle related works of this excellent site!


  16. 16 Josh B said at 4:10 pm on June 28th, 2011:

    If Dade County (Miami) really wants to be considered “bicycle friendly” they have a long way to go. More cyclists have been killed on S Florida roads so far this year than in the Portland, OR area in the last 5 years. The attitude of the city manager runs rampant in our community towards cyclists.

    We will never be considered “Bicycle Friendly” when we have 2 hit and run deaths in 2 weeks. Adding bike lanes to the master plan does nothing if law enforcement won’t even enforce the 3 foot law that is currently on the books. As far as I can see very little driver education has been done. Making rules is great, but when you don’t inform the driving public and you don’t enforce them why bother to take the time to write them in the first place. How much can these cities make on citations for the 3 foot law alone?

    Last week when I was out riding I saw someone wearing a bright orange jersey that said “Please Don’t Orphan My Children, Drive Safely”. In how many Bicycle Friendly communties do you see that being worn?

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