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Critical Mass cyclists to ride in honor of teen killed in accide

The Miami Herald: Critical Mass cyclists to ride in honor of teen killed in accident

A teenage cyclist, struck and killed last month while riding along Biscayne Boulevard, will be memorialized.

BY ANDRES VIGLUCCI

One month ago, gifted high-school student Rodolfo Rojo and his two best friends decided to ride their bicycles from one boy’s Miami Shores house to another’s home in North Miami. It was late, after 2 a.m., but there was no school the next day and they felt safe because their bikes had front and rear lights, friends say.

It didn’t matter. As they rode along Biscayne Boulevard early on the morning of Oct. 30, Rodolfo, 17, was struck and killed by a car his friends say was speeding, one more cyclist fatality in the state with the highest number in the nation.

This Friday, the monthly Critical Mass ride -- which is designed in part to demand safety for cyclists and assert their rights to the road -- will be dedicated to Rojo.

From the usual 6:30 p.m. starting point at Miami-Dade County Hall in downtown Miami, the ride will proceed north on Biscayne Boulevard to 113th Street, where Rojo was killed. There Rojo’s friends and family will gather to place a ``ghost bike’’ -- a bicycle painted entirely in white and bearing a plaque -- in his memory.

Rojo, a senior at Doctors Charter School in Miami Shores, had been looking forward to going on his first Critical Mass ride the Friday he was killed. He had just gotten his first good bike the week before, said Sara Kelly, whose son Bradley was one of the boys accompanying Rojo when he was hit. Neither was struck or hurt.

``Rodolfo was like another son to us. We all loved him,’’ Kelly said. ``He was just full of life, a very serious student, and he had a very promising future. It’s really beyond words the way we feel. It’s so sad.’’

The day before he died, on the last school day before Halloween, Rojo had amused students at his school by showing up in a full-body gorilla suit.

``He had a very dry, wry humor,’’ said Doctors English and debate teacher Kristin Grosskopf Matheny, who twice taught Rojo and recruited him for the school debate team. ``He was very aware of the world, very interested in politics and history, very curious. And really well liked. Everyone thought very highly of him.’’

Rojo lived in Bay Harbor Islands with his mother, Claudia Fernandez, and two younger sisters.

The teens were on their way to Kelly’s house in Keystone Point when the accident happened. Rojo was riding behind Bradley Kelly while the third boy, Marlon Corona, rode on the sidewalk, Sara Kelly said.

They had turned up Biscayne from 96th Street and were at 113th Street when a car tried to speed past, striking Rojo, Sara Kelly said.

``The bicycle was pinned down under the front tire of the car,’’ said Sara Kelly, who arrived at the scene shortly after the accident.

An accident report was unavailable from Miami-Dade Police on Wednesday. Kelly said the motorist was arrested, but his name and the status of any resulting case could not be determined.

State law classifies bicycles as vehicles, giving cyclists the right to use the roadway. After dark, cyclists are required to have bike lights front and rear.

Like other cities, Miami has seen an increase in the popularity of cycling despite streets widely regarded as hazardous to bicyclists, in part because many roads are designed for fast motorized traffic and lack marked bike lanes.

Activists have fruitlessly asked the Florida Department of Transportation, which manages Biscayne Boulevard, to add bike lanes on the state road, the principal north-south surface route along eastern Miami-Dade County.