Biking in South Florida is dangerous — that can be said flatly. Last week, for instance, hundreds of cyclists from Miami to Delray Beach participated in a memorial event for fallen riders called the Ride of Silence.
So after a cyclist took a bad fall over a wet grated bridge recently, Transit Miami put up a Facebook status asking to hear from any cyclists who had suffered similar injuries, people who had ridden on dangerous drawbridges 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.
Stephen Tate from Miami commented on the post, saying the Miami River bridge gave him so much trouble that he felt he shouldn't be alive: "just had to get 20 stitches spread between my hands, elbow and hip from a fall I had crossing over the Miami river downtown. I got off easy considering I could have been bulldozed by the truck behind me. Grated bridges are death traps for anyone on two wheels!"
He wasn't alone. At least 30 people commented, with multiple folks comparing riding over a wet drawbridge in South Florida to driving over a cheese grater. Others, like Christina Warren, said they tore ligaments and owed thousands in medical bills:
"I wiped out on wet grates. Broken nose, 50 stitches in my face, and torn ligaments in both thumbs! I contacted multiple lawyers, as there was no signage saying danger or walk bike, etc. No one was interested to represent me. With deductible, etc., I was out $5,000 in medical expenses! Expensive lesson. I tell everyone I know to walk over grated bridges if they are damp with rain, etc!"
Or Salomon Jakubowicz:
"I almost died in one grated bridge, and it was not raining. It is always slippery, and the metal is sharp. I still have the scars. I fell November 2012 on Dania Boulevard grated bridge. It is slippery with the typical humidity. That day, it did not rain. A slow-speed fall on the concrete is not dangerous, but the grillage is sharp as knives. The metal broke my helmet in half and was incrusted on my ribs, shoulder, and leg. Every month somebody falls. I know a man who needed several face surgeries and a woman who almost lost a finger because it got trapped on the grillage. One day solution: Open a bike access to the sidewalk before and after the grate. Cost: $100."
The Florida Department of Transportation's Miami Division agreed to answer a list of questions from New Times but hasn't yet responded. However, the FDOT Broward Division is already trying to fix the problem, according to spokesperson 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," she says. "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 Intracoastal bridges in Broward County."