Let’s Channel the Anger Over Traverso

The year in jail that Miami-Dade Circuit Judge William Thomas sentenced Michele Traverso to is far too insignificant for killing Aaron Cohen last year.

We share the outrage of the cycling community and sympathize with the Cohen family for what certainly seems a continuation of this awful tragedy.  Aaron Cohen’s death was, unfortunately, one of many on Florida’s roads, as our state was the top-ranked state for bicyclist and pedestrian deaths in 2012, according to the Alliance for Biking and Walking.

Florida should be doing more to protect vulnerable people from this careless violence. The Legislature needs to pass better laws so that police and prosecutors can charge criminals appropriately for such death and injury. Judges should realize that society benefits when dangerous drivers have strong incentives to respect the wellbeing of others. The small risk of getting caught, and small penalties if convicted are out of line with the excess of deaths by motor vehicle and the horrible consequences for victims’ families and all of Florida.

Normal responsible drivers know to keep a safe distance away from bicycles, drive at reasonable speeds, obey signals and signs, and give up the steering wheel when necessary. Irresponsible drivers make it necessary to adopt more specific laws and strong penalties in order to keep us all safe on shared roads.

At the local level, Aaron Cohen’s memory can best be served if we, as a community, join together to improve the safety of our roadways in his honor. By supporting efforts to improve conditions for cyclists, pedestrians, and all users of our roadways with a renewed sense of urgency, we help to diminish the utter senselessness of his death. One important step would be for Miami’s leaders to implement the city’s Bicycle Master Plan, which was created in 2009 but is still far from being a reality.Aside from demanding safer streets and supporting efforts like Green Mobility Network’s SafeStreetsMiami campaign, it is also crucial that drivers and cyclists evaluate their behaviors to avoid accidents like this from occurring.  Several of the most dangerous practices are:

Unsafe Motorist Behavior
  • Driving while under the influence
  • Speeding
  • Overtaking bicyclists without at least three feet of horizontal clearance
  • Harassment or assault of bicyclists
  • Turning left or right in front of bicyclists without properly using signals
  • Rolling through stop signs or disobeying traffic control devices
  • Opening the doors of parked vehicles in front of cyclists
Unsafe Bicyclist Behavior
  • Bicycling without lights at night
  • Ignoring traffic control devices
  • Bicycling against the flow of traffic
  • Bicycling recklessly on sidewalks
  • Failing to yield to pedestrians
  • Riding more than two abreast
  • Bicycling without helmets
  • Bicycling while wearing earphones

Whether as drivers, cyclists, or pedestrians, we all have an obligation to our fellow citizens to be conscientious and safe whenever we are on South Florida’s roadways.  Be safe out there!

(The article above is a statement from the Board of Directors of Green Mobility Network. We invite your comments and participation as we work for better laws and safer streets.)