Fatal car crashes eclipse milestones for Miami bike community

By | July 2nd, 2012 | 4 Comments

It’s a shame. A weekend that featured two celebratory “safe streets” milestones in Miami ended with startling slaughter on the city’s roads.

Miami Critical Mass by @305creative

Miami Critical Mass by @305creative
Photo by @305creative (Instagram)

On Friday night, approximately 1,500 cyclists turned out for Miami Critical Mass (see photo). It was one of the largest turnouts for the monthly group bike ride in its history, a sign that the bike community and the general public’s awareness of the bike community (and the need to accomodate it) are growing.

On Saturday night, the Magic City Bicycle Collective, whose goal is to “demystify bicycles and encourage the general public to incorporate practical bicycling into everyday life”, hosted its grand opening party at its new downtown space at 1100 N. Miami Avenue.

But neither of those truly promising occasions defined the weekend when it came to transit.

“In a tragic prelude to a holiday week, crashes by out-of-control vehicles have taken seven lives — including three members of a single family and two church leaders — in Miami-Dade and Broward counties,” the Herald reported on Sunday.

The Miami crash happened in Little Havana after the Marlins’ afternoon game on Saturday when the 67-year-old driver of a minivan lost control of his vehicle and plowed into a group of pedestrians — a family from Georgia — on the sidewalk, killing a 13-year-old girl, a 14-year-old boy, a 50-year-old woman, and the driver himself, who police believe experienced a medical emergency just before losing control of his red 2006 Dodge Caravan, according to the Herald. The crash also sent a 10-year-old girl to the hospital, where she remains in “extremely critical condition”, and grazed a passing cyclist without causing significant injury. A fifth member of the family from Georgia, a man in his 60s “who was unhurt but witnessed the horrific accident and was overcome with grief”, also required medical treatment.

“About the same time in Liberty City,” the Herald reports, “there were two more deaths.” An excerpt from the article, “Seven people killed by out-of-control vehicles in Miami-Dade, Broward”:

Two church leaders had stopped to grab a bite at the landmark Jumbo’s Restaurant at 7501 NW Seventh Ave. As they stood outside, a speeding pick-up truck flew out of control and slammed into them.

One victim was sent flying into the restaurant as the truck pushed one of the victims’ parked vehicle into the restaurant’s front wall, shattering three window panels and leaving a gaping hole.

Killed were Wilton Harris, 60, and Al Jo Hamlin, 61, police and relatives said.

The driver, whose name was not immediately released by police, survived.

Witnesses to the Liberty City crash say the driver “appeared be drunk when he stumbled out of his vehicle.”

The seventh death described in the Herald article occurred in Pembroke Pines on early Sunday morning when “a white, two-door Nissan spun out of control, hit the curb, and slammed into a concrete utility pole near the Shops at Pembroke Gardens, in the 900 block of Southwest 145th Avenue.” The impact split the car in half and ejected a 22-year-old male passenger, who died at the scene. The driver, 21-year-old Kevin Singh, went to the hospital with noncritical injuries.

What should have been a happy weekend for safe streets advocates in Miami — and Miami residents in general — became a horrific weekend with the two deadly car crashes on Saturday evening. The carnage threatens to eclipse the promise of the huge Critical Mass turnout and the launch of the Magic City Bicycle Collective, perhaps rightfully so. The blood that stained Miami’s roads this weekend reminds us that the city has a very long way to go in securing the safety of pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists. As Transit Miami blogger Craig Chester wrote in response to the crashes: “The staggering pedestrian death toll from motor vehicle crashes this weekend should rightfully be a long-overdue tipping point for improved road safety and dangerous roadway design in Miami.”

If it turns out to be such a tipping point, it will not make the seven deaths any less lamentable. But it will make the next death far less likely.

Related link: “Seven people killed by out-of-control vehicles in Miami-Dade, Broward”

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4 Comments on “Fatal car crashes eclipse milestones for Miami bike community”

  1. 1 Craig Chester said at 9:54 am on July 2nd, 2012:

    Right on, Jordan. Thank you for pointing out these two commendable achievements for the cycling community. We won’t concede the fight to automobiles, but we need our local officials to step up and demonstrate that they care.

  2. 2 Jordan Melnick said at 9:58 am on July 2nd, 2012:

    Craig, thanks. Pat Santangelo, Mayor Regaldo’s spokesman and Florida State Rep candidate, left a comment on our Magic City Bicycle Collective post voicing his (and the mayor’s) support of Miami’s bike community. “Improving bicycle and pedestrian safety is my passion and is one of the reasons I chose to run for state office. If I can help in any way, let me know.” This would seem to be the perfect moment to take him up on that offer.

  3. 3 Leah said at 10:06 am on July 2nd, 2012:

    The bicycling community needs to mobilize behind getting good candidates elected to the State legislature, staying on top of them, and then getting a delegation to lobby the hell out of the legislature. We need to tell them that the FDOT is not doing its job and demand safer conditions on our roadways.

  4. 4 Craig Chester said at 10:37 am on July 2nd, 2012:

    Jordan, Mr. Santangelo did come to the opening of the MCBC and even said a few words to the crowd. It was encouraging to see that level of support from a candidate and I look forward to following him on his campaign.

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