An Open Letter to Tallahassee: Carnage on Miami Streets

17 Jan

A functioning media holds democratic institutions accountable. That is why I feel compellled to post my open letter to Tallahassee in the wake of this week’s development in the tragic hit-and-run death of bicyclist Aaron Cohen, just one of many such incidents in South Florida. The dangerous and deadly status quo on our streets is unacceptable.

Check out the Miami Bike Scene’s piece, “Business As Usual in South Florida” to read more on the Aaron Cohen tragedy. If you feel moved to do something about our deadly driving culture, consider joining Emerge Miami on Monday in Brickell for a Pedestrian Safety Walk. Please feel free to share this letter.

* * *

Dear Tallahassee,

There is a culture of violence on our streets.

No, I am not talking about guns. I am talking about cars.

This week, many of us reeled in shock, disgust, and sadness as we learned the fate of 26 year-old Michele Traverso in court. After a late night of partying at the bars in Coconut Grove last February, Mr. Traverso hopped into his car. While driving with a suspended license, Mr. Traverso struck and killed 35 year-old Aaron Cohen, a businessman and father of two young children, who was riding his bicycle on the Rickenbacker Causeway. Rather than stop, Mr. Traverso fled the scene of the crash, called his lawyer, and left Mr. Cohen to die. He turned himself into police the following evening.

This week, our justice system rewarded Mr. Traverso for this cowardly act of selfishness. By waiting 24 hours to sober up and turn himself in, he rendered DUI charges against him impossible. Mr. Traverso pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of an accident and driving with a suspended license. Based on the guidelines by which he is bound, the judge sentenced Mr. Traverso to 364 days in jail and two years on probation for killing a man.

I want to bring this story to your attention, not just because it is outrageous, but because it is typical. This is the story of the carnage we see on our roads every single day when someone dares to ride a bicycle or cross the street. This is not just a transportation problem—it’s an institutional problem. Our system perpetuates carelessness and selfishness on our roads.

It is time for the Florida legislature to take swift and bold action to address this public safety crisis. The public streets are for everyone. Riding a bicycle or walking should not be a death wish. If the House Transportation and Highway Safety Subcommittee has time to consider a bill to convert low-speed electric vehicles to golf carts, surely it can work on changes to address the motor vehicle-related carnage, including harsher penalties for fleeing the scene of an accident and safer, more inclusive street design policies for bicyclists and pedestrians.

Do not allow 2013 to be a rerun of this devastating tragedy.

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20 Responses to “An Open Letter to Tallahassee: Carnage on Miami Streets”

  1. Joshua Beatty January 17, 2013 at 12:10 pm #

    Thank you for writing this. If you could please also add the we are again The Deadliest State in the Union for cyclists and pedestrians and it is due to their lack of action and planning.

    • Miami LPFM January 17, 2013 at 12:13 pm #

      Thank you for bringing that up. I will definitely add that.

  2. Steph January 17, 2013 at 1:44 pm #

    The bars here are open until 4:00am!! is that really necessary? Bar owners have no responsibility either.

    • AnthonyVOP January 21, 2013 at 12:48 pm #

      You talk responsibility by advocating the closure of bars earlier? Do you even know what responsibility means?

      • Miami LPFM January 21, 2013 at 2:50 pm #

        I agree. I don’t think closing bars earlier is a good idea for a variety of reasons. It won’t stop people from drinking and driving. Plus, people like to stay out late and enjoy themselves–they should just be required to do it responsibly.

  3. Eddie Suarez January 17, 2013 at 2:07 pm #

    Also, I think it was cbs which said we’ve had 5 hit and run’s in south florida this year. This year is just 17 days old…

    • Jim January 17, 2013 at 2:19 pm #

      2 just this last weekend in South Broward.

      • Miami LPFM January 17, 2013 at 2:24 pm #

        Just a few days ago, I saw something in the news about a car plowing into a daycare.

  4. Brian Beaudoin January 17, 2013 at 3:08 pm #

    After cycling over 10,000 miles collectively in fifteen states along the United States east and gulf coasts, I felt the laws, road features, designated bicycle routes, paths, and driver education made Florida the most dangerous state to ride. Florida drivers were openly hostile towards cyclists on the road which left me feeling threatened, harassed, and bullied during a recent bicycling vacation in Florida earlier this year.

    If I felt threatened, harassed, and bullied during a two-week vacation I could only imagine how residents of the Sunshine state must feel. I was saddened to learn of the death of Aaron Cohen as I was upon the news of how little the law appeared to regard Aaron’s memory in the sentencing of Michele Traverso. I hope Florida lawmakers take notice and work together to support meaningful change and improvements in both driver’s education and cyclist’s safety before my next vacation to the state.

    • Miami LPFM January 17, 2013 at 3:19 pm #

      Yes, we really need to do better. That is not the impression we should be leaving with people who want to visit and it is not the condition we should accept for our residents.

    • AnthonyVOP January 21, 2013 at 12:50 pm #

      As soon as cyclists have to get a license, pay for a Tag and are required to have insurance then I will gladly accept them as equals. Until then you are just in my way and my time is much more valuable to me than yours.

      • Miami LPFM January 21, 2013 at 2:50 pm #

        The fact that you took the time to read my post and dig all the way through the comments to make a provocative comment tells me that you are looking for a fight. That, sir, I am not going to give you.

        What I will say, however, is that your statement is problematic. You may believe your time is more valuable–that’s fine. However, it is not your decision whether or not your LIFE, inside of your car, is more valuable than that of someone who is on a bicycle. That decision is made for you by the law.

      • AnthonyVOP January 21, 2013 at 3:12 pm #

        That decision is made by me and a superior law than that of the state. The laws of physics. I would never purposely hit a cyclist with my car as the paperwork and the biased media makes that problematic but I refuse to bow to those obnoxious, pretentious, Lycra, Nazis who think that the roads belong to them.
        Single file off to the side people. Take the back roads and stop blocking traffic.

  5. Raoo January 21, 2013 at 5:19 pm #

    Anthony, you should know better to sit here and respond like an internet troll. While your vague point about educating cyclists is valid, it has to spread across to all who use the roadways. Pedestrians need education, cyclists need to be better riders and have good judgement, and drivers need to understand that they can kill anything quite easily with the slightest slip up in a vehicle. This idea isn’t a radical or new one, and I find you are on the defensive here because it is portrayed as cyclist v.s driver. I ask you to think about your daily encounters with other motorists and I am sure you will discover as I have that a lack of driving education and an aura of lawlessness is rampant here in South Florida. I commute everywhere I spend most of my days in a car… I encounter good cyclists and bad cyclists and sometimes pedestrians who make me think that they must really hate their lives… however being a cyclist and taking a risk using the roadways for transportation and recreation has enabled me to react more calmly and anticipate dangerous situations. I stand by the fact that what scares me most is car on car aggression. I have been followed for honking at someone who ran a stop sign, and I had my car totaled last August by a man who insisted on doing 75mph on 125th street trying to avoid a bus that was stopped. If he couldn’t see a silver BMW in the roadway what makes me confident that if I or you were walking, driving, or cycling we would have been seen? It’s a scary roadway and it’s full of angry people who are a little too self important these days to stop and consider the danger we put others in while driving. I used to be like you, angry and in the belief that whatever I was doing was more important, once I broadened my perceptions of those people I dismissed I caught on to a lot more than I bargained for and I am happy I did. I ask of you to honestly and concisely state your grievances, and mostly think about the other person on the road or you will wind up pretty lonely.

    • Miami LPFM January 21, 2013 at 5:38 pm #

      Well-stated, though I’m not sure AnthonyVOP wants to be convinced. I hope that others who practice extreme road aggression come to the same conclusions as you did.

    • AnthonyVOP January 21, 2013 at 6:57 pm #

      You miss the point, Drivers good or bad pay huge amounts in taxes for the privileged to use the roads. Drivers License, Tag, Title, Gasoline taxes. Tire Tax. battery Tax, Insurance……The list goes on and on with examples of how drivers are forced to pay taxes and fees.
      Cyclists pay ZERO. NOTHING, ZIP, ZILCH, NADA for the privilege to clog traffic and scream like petulant children when they are forced to follow the laws of physics.
      If questioning your assertions and not bowing to your lies makes me a troll then I am a big, huge-Ass TROLL and damn proud of it.

      • Miami LPFM January 21, 2013 at 7:13 pm #

        If you truly feel that way, I encourage you to write to your Florida representative and have the law changed. Thanks for visiting.

      • AnthonyVOP January 21, 2013 at 7:22 pm #

        Why Bother? They have already been bought and paid for by moochers and cronies. I will just continue to live as a free and honest man,
        I mean you no harm but next time you take an entire lane and hold up traffic it will be I blasting the my horn interrupting your enjoyment of Cold Play on your iPod!

      • Miami LPFM January 21, 2013 at 7:27 pm #

        And I will wave and smile. Cheers!

      • euphoricism January 21, 2013 at 8:31 pm #

        Those taxes are paid to compensate for the damage to the road that vehicle traffic causes. You are not paying for the privilege to use the road, you’re paying because 2 ton cars are heavy, and they tend to cause potholes.

        You should actually be pissed at commercial trucks — they pay the same taxes as you do, but cause way, way, way more damage to the road.

        A bicycle is light, and causes no damage.

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