Update, July 24: Ray Strack reports that this ride was not cleared with the family first, so some people are not participating in deference. "However, the Facebook group Miami Road Cyclists on fb still have their event and they will ride. They changed the name of their ride so that it does not mention Colleen's name."
Colleen Lynn Berzok, 37, a children’s swimming instructor in Coral Springs, was struck by a car Monday night, July 13, and was pronounced dead the following afternoon. The collision, still under investigation, occurred at the 2800 block of E. Sunrise Blvd., a stone's throw from Fort Lauderdale Beach, by a driver who remained on the scene, according to FLPD, which has yet to release the identity. Out in Weston just a few days later, on Friday, July 17, bicycle rider Steven Caine, 51, father and CEO of Larry Kline Meats, was struck by driver Michael Chatman, 30, and killed around 5:30 p.m. and died shortly after at Broward Health Medical Center.
Florida leads the nation in fatal bicycle and pedestrian crashes, according to a 2013 report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
“Florida is dead last,” says Florida Atlantic University Professor of Urban Regional Planning Eric Dumbaugh. “We have the highest rates of pedestrian/vehicle fatalities in the nation.”
Dumbaugh purports that South Florida’s streets are simply poorly designed for multimodal transportation use. The posted speeds, such as 45 mph, are too fast for pedestrians to share the road safely with vehicles.
Local scenester and bike advocate Ray Strack, 56, of Fort Lauderdale, survived serious spinal injuries caused by getting hit by a car in January 2014 while he was out on his daily ride near his home. He was struck from behind while approaching the Oakland Park Boulevard Bridge. The driver was allegedly distracted.
“No one deserves to die because they are riding a bicycle,” says Strack, reflecting on the recent deaths. “That’s for sure.”
He believes that existing traffic laws are sufficient — but not enforced strongly enough. “So many people speed here. On a 35-mile-per-hour road, it’s common to see people going 50. As a society, we have accepted speeding, we have accepted changing lanes without direction signals, we have accepted rolling through a stop sign. Every day, this happens so slowly, it’s insidious. I’m talking about neighborhood roads. Highways, the speed is so lethal, that’s why pedestrians are excluded from those roads.”
Strack points out that “the bicyclists and pedestrians — and any people-power users like skateboarders — on the road are seriously vulnerable. We all drive cars, but the people who never ride a bike might not understand the real dangers of the mix of automobiles and bicycles and other users of public space.”
“It doesn’t matter if it was Colleen’s first time on a bike — or that Steven rides every day, once a month, or whatever — people in cars don’t understand that vulnerability, as if they should scare cyclists off the road. They don’t understand how easy it is to die, when they get hit by a car. I think there is some disconnect when people get behind a car; they experience some kind of invincibility, and they lose empathy for anyone who is not behind a steel cage. If you are not in a steel cage and you are in a public space, you are vulnerable. When drivers lose their humanity behind the wheel of a car, that’s the crux of the problem. I challenge every driver, everywhere, to drive the posted speed limit for 24 hours. It will completely change their perspective of what constitutes excessive speeding.”
This Sunday, a memorial ride of six miles will take place in honor of the passing of the two victims.
The Colleen Berzok Memorial Ride meets 8:30 a.m. Sunday, July 26, at Holiday Park, 1150 G. Harold Martin Drive, Fort Lauderdale.