South Florida Bikers Sliced and Diced by Unsafe Drawbridges

Biking in South Florida is dangerous. Given what we see in the news cycle on an almost daily basis down here, that can be said flatly.

Hell, last year cyclists riding down the Rickenbacker Causeway were shot in the leg and back by teenagers armed with BB-Guns.

So, after a cyclist took a bad fall over a wet grated bridge recently, Transit Miami put up a Facebook status asking for any cyclists that had befallen to similar injuries, people that had ridden on dangerous bridges across South Florida.

The answer from the community was swift and, well, sad: Cuts that demanded stitches, Broken bones and worse, Basically, the bridges are a slice and dice for the athletic set.

Harry Emilio Gottlieb, a media consultant, has been vocal within the biking community and the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) about the dangers of South Florida bridges. He says the reason so many injuries happen when the weather gets wet is because of the surface beneath them.

"Most drawbridges have open metal grates to reduce weight which requires less counterbalance to open and close them," Gottlieb wrote in an email. "Metal grates get very slippery when moisture from rain combines with the oil and fuel residue from cars, trucks and boats.Riding over the metal grates when slippery often results in bikes fishtailing or the cyclist to fall. Many cyclists have compared this horrendous experience to that of a 'Cheese Grader'."

In fact, Gottlieb says there's but one bridge in South Florida he feels comfortable riding across -- the one across the Miami River and NW Second Ave. -- and that's because the sucker is made entirely of concrete.

Gottlieb says he's been in contact for months with the Miami division of the FDOT, and according to him, all he's heard back is that they don't have many reports of bikers having accidents. The Miami division agreed to answer a list of questions from New Times but hasn't yet responded.

However, the FDOT Broward Division said they're already trying to fix the problem, according to PIO Barbara Kelleher.

"We have a test site on one of our Intracoastal bridges in Broward County where we've put a metal plate over the bridge decking, you know, the grated section, it has a textured surface on it to reduce tires slipping when it's wet. That seems to be receiving a lot of good feedback from bicyclists and we're going to be trying it on a couple of other intercoastal bridges in Broward County."

Kelleher says the county is testing out the metal plate on more bridges in the coming months. She said the Hillsborough Inlet Bridge would be receiving the new surface in the next few months and plans are to put the plate on the Hillsborough Bridge Blvd. following that.

While moving along slowly, Broward's plan seems to be on the right path. Chicago has made similar changes to a few of its big bridges over the last couple years, with good results.

We can only hope the same for our 305 neighbors.

You can follow Ryan Cortes on Twitter.

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