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Cyclist's death raises road-safety questions

The Miami Herald: Cyclist’s death raises road-safety questions

Miami-Dade commissioners Thursday discussed how to prevent accidents like the one that killed a bicyclist on the Rickenbacker Causeway.

BY CHARLES RABIN
CRABIN@MIAMIHERALD.COM

Miami-Dade County commissioners spent over an hour Thursday searching for answers to last week’s death of a South Miami man who was struck by a car while bicycling on the Rickenbacker Causeway, discussing making the roadway safer, investigating what caused the accident, even considering the use of a single radio system for all the county’s fire departments.

Christopher Lecanne, 44, was riding on the causeway toward Key Biscayne Sunday morning when he was struck by a car, which dragged his bike almost the entire length of the village. The next day musician Carlos G. Bertonatti, 28, who lives on Grapetree Drive on Key Biscayne, was arrested and charged with vehicular homicide, DUI manslaughter, leaving the scene of an accident and not having a valid driver’s license.

His website had boasted of his poor driving record. Bertonatti has received 42 traffic citations in the past 12 years, records show.

The incident caused a furor: Bike riders and those who use the parks, beaches and trails along the road questioned the almost 20 minutes it is believed to have taken a Miami fire-rescue squad to reach Lecanne at the accident scene on Bear Cut Bridge, which connects Virginia Key and Key Biscayne.

The county’s Station 15, which is near the entrance to Key Biscayne, was closed at 8 a.m. Sunday, when the accident happened. It is open only part-time.

Instead, Miami-Dade dispatched a unit from South Miami, 10 miles away, which arrived after the victim died.

Thursday, Commissioner Carlos Gimenez questioned County Manager George Burgess about the station’s part-time hours. Commissioners said they made it very clear during September’s tough budget session that no public safety concerns would be slashed.

``We did agree that there should not be any cuts in public safety,’’ said Commissioner Jose ``Pepe’’ Diaz. Several other commissioners said the same.

Gimenez even brought up a discussion he had with Burgess a few years back when the commissioner said they agreed to raise the toll at the Key Biscayne entrance by 25 cents, with the $1.2 million a year it would raise to be used to fund Station 15.

``Apparently I was mistaken,’’ Gimenez said.

Burgess responded that the agreement was ``not exclusively’’ about using the money to fund the station.

Gimenez suggested safety measures such as lowering the speed limit and having more police officers on patrol to prevent accidents in the future. Burgess said a county investigation was under way. And Diaz suggested uniting the radio systems of as many of the county’s six fire departments as possible.

Dominick Barbera, president of the county fire union, said he has come before commissioners for 40 years to discuss the same issue: finding money to fund all of the department’s stations.

Barbera even took a shot at some who blamed county dispatchers for the lengthy time it took for fire-rescue workers to get to the scene.

``The mayor said no cuts in public safety,’’ Barbera told commissioners. ``So if you want to throw someone under the bus in public service, throw the person who cut.’’