South Florida cyclists have been vocal for years about the dangers of riding down here, what with wet grates and unruly drivers hitting people, but those aren't the only dangers. Kevin Culp, a 43-year-old cyclist who moved here from New York two years ago, says South Florida is the most dangerous place he's ever ridden. Culp has put in miles on his bike in Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia and even rode BMX as a kid.
Last month, Culp took a ride from Brickell to Bal Harbour and back, something he's done more than 100 times. But after he ran into a construction site that had no warnings and nowhere for him to go, he landed on his head and sliced open his fingers. He wrecked his bike and doesn't remember parts of it, he fell so hard.
Fast-forward a month and Culp is speaking out, trying to change the way cyclists are treated. And he'll file a lawsuit if he has to, he says. What follows is his account, told to New Times.
It was on the 17th of last month, a Saturday, and I had gone out for a ride around 11:30 a.m. or noon. Since moving into Brickell I tried to ride the Rickenbacker Causeway and quickly found that bikes are not welcome in Miami in general, but especially not on bridges here. After the recent construction started on the Rickenbacker Causeway, it wasn't safe the way they designed the lanes for anyone -- especially bikers. So I switched my ride to the MacArthur Causeway and had done that ride maybe 100 times, so I knew the ride very well. Due to the construction at the port, they, as you know, have shut down the eastbound sidewalk and bike path, forcing riders to enter into oncoming traffic, protected in some cases by a thin concrete wall. And once you get past Jungle Island if you're going east, you then ride around a blind corner at the Marina.
If you go up and over the MacArthur Causeway, there's a blind little bend right, probably 200 to 300 yards before you get to the end of the bridge where you can come off and go down the stairs where Jungle Island starts. So I came around that crest doing, I don't know, maybe as much as 10 miles an hour. I wasn't booking it at all. There was no signage whatsoever, there was no flagman whatsoever, there was no orange cone; there was nothing to indicate something was around the corner.
I simply crested and started to enjoy the way down with my hands on the bars and two fingers on both brakes, and at that instant, I saw what I would estimate to be a 15- to 20-foot railing section with the tines (welded brackets that connect the railing to the nuts and bolts that go into the wall) turned to the wall raising up the railing a few inches off the ground, smack dab in the middle of the pathway. And then my mind processed what I saw in front of me: total blockage with nowhere to go. On the right, past the railing, was a completely full shopping cart full of workers' tools, a big orange water cooler like you'd see mounted to the back of a construction truck or on TV, when they splash a coach for winning a game was on the left, and to make matters worse, a few workers were there too. I'm fuzzy on how many, because I'm missing about a minute or two after the crash, memory-wise.
This left zero options for a rider. It all happened so fast, I was already caught up in the railing itself, and once my front tire hit, I knew I was in serious trouble. The railing got caught up in my bike somehow, and my left knee broke a tine off the railing. I went over the bars but was still clipped in, and all I can remember is saying to myself: "This is going to hurt." I ended up being asking if I was OK by another rider named Frank who was walking his bike up going westbound, I think from a blown tire. I'm not 100 percent sure on that because I lost his last name, but it was he who asked me if I needed the police or to call an ambulance. In retrospect, I should have gone to the emergency room. I didn't really understand at that point that I was in shock and didn't understand the magnitude of the accident.
After asking the workers about calling someone, they all looked at me, got on their walkie-talkies, and said in Spanish that I was asking for the police, and there was zero response from them when I asked them anything at all. They ignored me flat out.
In fact, Frank spoke Spanish and told me that they were told to leave the scene and make no statement via their response to a rider as fallen. Wonderful, I thought to myself, and I was in serious pain. But shock had set in and adrenaline was really pumping, and I made the wrong decision to not file a report right then and go to the emergency room. I walked the bike down to the other side, where I tried to flag a cab, and with no luck I took it very, very slow on sidewalks and road home dripping blood all the way. I did end up seeking a doctor for the nail that was torn off because after the nail was ripped off, it was impacted by a tiny piece of metal or glass, I still don't know which, and I worried that a small piece was still in my fingernail even though I pulled it out at the scene. Suffice to say this was not the best day on my bike, and it could have all been avoided with a simple sign or a person flagging, but it seems FDOT doesn't believe in whatever the law requires, because since the accident, I've read many stories about what riders have now nicknamed the bridges or causeways here "Bloody Bridges of Miami" and my injuries -- some of which came to light after a week or so of healing up, like a possible cracked tooth and more fun on my right hand -- that I'm one of the lucky ones. I came out alive, and a few riders have not, so I feel fortunate, but I also feel that FDOT needs to be looked at and how they do business. I also feel what the workers did that the scene was deplorable.
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