Home Content CategoryBoca Viewpoint Three Boca cyclists killed in 3 months. Here’s why.
Another Boca Raton Cyclist Killed

Three Boca cyclists killed in 3 months. Here’s why.

by Les Wilson

BOCA RATON: May 8 2023 – Boca residents that go safely from point A to B in something other than a vehicle reduce traffic congestion. However, getting from point A to B in Boca Raton in something other than a vehicle requires skill, luck, bravery and armor. It shouldn’t. And, until Boca Raton makes its archaic bike infrastructure safe, congestion and deaths will get worse as its City Council and greedy landowners overbuild Boca. But here we are. Another cyclist has been killed on Boca’s 20 years outdated “painted gutter” bike infrastructure.

Location of Amaral crash on the BocaFirst Detailed Bike Map
Location of Amaral crash on the BocaFirst Detailed Bike Map. Graphic by Les Wilson.

Before the 60-day crash report waiting period had elapsed on the March 3rd 2023 crash that killed Boca resident Mark Rudow, another cyclist has been killed. On April 29th 2023, Longuinho Amaral Jr. was killed riding Eastbound on SW 18th St. And ICYMI, on February 3rd 2023, 43-year-old Didier Estrada was killed riding a scooter in the bike lane of Palmetto Park Rd. Three people trying to get from point A to B in something other than a vehicle killed in as many months, not to mention the three drivers whose lives have been ruined.

Another cyclist killed. Are you angry yet?

There’s nothing wrong with righteous anger. Let us know your thoughts via the contact page on BocaFirst.org. Know about a problem with our bike infrastructure? Create a problem report on our Vision Zero Project Problem Report page here (we report them to the city monthly). Read on.

So what Happened?

There is scant information about this latest accident. A week after it happened, I biked to the spot to film the route from a rider’s perspective. The 10 mile round trip from East Boca was as harrowing as any of the 300+ miles of Boca bike routes I have filmed and published here.

Below is a video showing the approach to the crash site. It’s a 1st person view of riding that stretch of road starting at the Turnpike overpass. What you see is the very typical discombobulated condition of Boca’s pedestrian/bike infrastructure that all cyclists deal with. Riding skill is required. Bravery should not. But it is. Turn the sound on to experience it fully. WARNING: May be too intense for some viewers:

What Must Happen Now

It is time for people who will never traverse Boca by bike to understand what it’s like. And it’s time for those who whine about traffic to understand that safe bike infrastructure increases riders and reduces cars. So join the choir and speak out. Don’t be this guy:

Post on Nextdoor
Post on Nextdoor after Rudow was killed

But most of all, for those in positions of power, it is time you see for yourselves the hardships you have wrought and do something. Immediately. You can start the journey using our “first person” perspective YouTube videos of Boca’s bike infrastructure indexed on our detailed bike map here. And get up to speed about Strong Towns. Follow YouTubers like @NotJuskBikes and @Shifter.

For residents, keep the pressure on. As was done in the Boca’s 2023 General Election, all Boca residents must continue to speak out at their dissatisfaction with their City Council and lack of accomplishment on behalf of quality of life.

In the week’s time since the accident, a beautiful memorial with a ghost bike has been erected. While I paid my respects, News 12 reporter Lena Salzbank who lives nearby stopped by to investigate. Here is the CBS New 12 article and TV spot.

CBS12 News Story by Lena

As for what is known, the Miami Cycling Show has an article here. It indicates the accident was a hit and run. There was a witness that identified the car but the suspect is at large. A GoFundMe page has been setup by his widow Ana here.

The Junior Memorial where another Boca Cyclist was killed
The Amaral Memorial where another Boca Cyclist was killed. Photo by Les Wilson.

What is Boca Raton doing about it?

The casual reader may want to point out that the Estrada and Amaral accidents were in unincorporated Boca Raton. And, the Rudow accident was at the intersection of State and County roads. “So what’s a poor city to do?” This is common but erroneous thinking. It is part of the problem. Pedestrian and cycling has long taken a back seat in Boca Raton. Look no further than the failure of Boca, in 2021, to progress past the “Getting Started Bronze Level Award” of its “Bike Friendly Award” since being awarded it 19 years ago (a story for another time). Thanks Mayors Whelchel, Haynie and Singer!

At what point does the City’s inaction turn into partial culpability in accidents and deaths on its roads? At a time when both the need and the demand for alternative transportation is at an all time high, how many cyclists have to die before governing bodies do something?

Note on traffic cone at Junior crash
Note left at Amaral roadside memorial

Had Boca gotten the county to paint the bike lanes green at Palmetto and Federal, the driver that killed Rudow might have been alert to the possibility of bike traffic and not had his life ruined.

Does reluctantly joining the Palm Beach County Vision Zero cities count? Does using a Federal $300K grant to study the problem count? Painting bicycle/car conflict areas with green paint might have saved Rudow and Estrada’s lives. But unlike surrounding cities, Boca doesn’t do green paint downtown. Witness its newly designed street for Brightline with much touted “Bike Boxes” and the least safe bike infrastructure ever invented: Bike Sharrows. They are both supposed to be green but aren’t. Jim wood wrote about it here. Does Boca Raton’s willful disregard for modern standards count as culpable yet?

What are Bike Boxes

This is the reality

We know from the first hand experience of a BocaFirst reader who contacted us about his frustration trying to get bike lanes added to a dangerous and very popular stretch of Camino Real. This long time Boca resident and cyclist had tried on his own to get some action and hit a brick wall. It went like this:

RESIDENT: Dear City Hall, Camino Real is dangerous for cyclists riding to A1A. Can bike lanes be added?
CITY HALL: That's a county road
RESIDENT: Dear County, Camino Real is dangerous for cyclists riding to A1A. Can bike lanes be added?
COUNTY: We'd love to. In fact we provide grants for cities to apply for to get changes. They can get up to 5 grants per year.
RESIDENT: Dear City Hall, The County says they want bike lanes on Camino Real. All you have to do is apply for a grant.
CITY HALL: Yes, but you're the only one asking. 

And so it goes. The unknowing public conscience is soothed by a jurisdictional slight-of-hand as City leaders spend all their time and resources ways to make monstrously ugly boxes with windows easier for developers and not the time of day on what it takes to enable those people who will live there get around safely and efficiently.

It’s worse than nothing.

Boca Raton is actively destroying the resources it needs to get out of this mess. Five days before Amaral’s death, the Boca Raton City Council gave away a downtown public street and some alleys. The give away went to investors at Dunay, Miskel and Backman LLP (DMBK), the law firm of land-use attorney Bonnie Miskel, and Compson Associates. This let their developer (Compson) build one massive tall luxury condo building instead of two “right sized ones” that conformed to Ordinance 4035.

To accommodate the loss of the street for cars, DMBK say they will “rehabilitate” the alley to handle traffic caused by their building blocking access to other properties. They are not strangers to blocking public access. Here’s a video of the alley with their malodorous trash bins blocking what is otherwise a beautiful shaded north/south path through Boca’s long time professional suites.

Another Boca Cyclist has been killed. Let it sink in.

Think about it. Not only is the city of Boca Raton not facilitating modern urban planning of alternative forms of transportation for residents, it is actively getting rid of the very resources it needs to move those people around the city safely.

These are the very streets and alleys that could have saved Rudow’s life as a pedestrian and bike only bypass of Federal and Dixie Hwy. Had Boca Raton actually done something to make the city safe for pedestrians and cyclists, Rudow might be alive today. Had Boca gotten the county to paint the bike lanes green at Palmetto and Federal, the driver that killed Rudow might have been alert to the possibility of bike traffic and not had his life ruined.

Estrada, Rudow and Amaral were all killed while riding in Boca’s 1990’s era “painted gutter” bike lanes. It has long been known and established in urban planning circles that the most effective way to replace cars with bikes is to not treat them as after thoughts to car infrastructure. Rather, treat them akin to pedestrians in need of their own protected routes to navigate the city. Its streets, alleys, drainage canals make Boca Raton wealthy in the resources to do it. In giving these resources away to DMBK/Compson, Mayor Singer, Drucker, Mayotte, Nachlas and Wigder demonstrate a decided lack of will to do it. With a focus on sparkling downtown buildings in the sky, “Another Boca Cyclist Killed” will continue to be the headline and ghost bikes will line our roads.

Ghost bike at the scene of Junior crash
Ghost bike at the scene of Amaral crash. Photo by Les Wilson.

Other resources:

A week after the crash, the cycling club Amaral founded and lead, Bora Pedalar, sponsored a tribute ride as a combined effort with the Boca Raton Bicycling Club. It’s touching. Give it a minute to load (it’s Facebook):

There was a memorial bike ride this morning in #PBCFR #Battalion5 #Station56 zone. The organizers honored us by asking if we could be on the apron as they rode by. Our “Southernmost Station” thanks you for including us. When tragedy strikes, it affects us all. #ShareTheRoad #BicycleSafety

Posted by Palm Beach County Fire Rescue on Sunday, May 7, 2023

UPDATED MAY 9: Add link to CBS 12 story. Corrected information about the tribute ride.

UPDATED MAY 10: Corrected I-95 to be Turnpike

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