BOCA RATON: January 9 2024 – On January 4th, an SUV driver going south on A1A crossed the centerline and plowed into oncoming cyclists going northbound. Video of the crash shows the peloton was riding according to the laws but the driver clearly crossed the centerline into the oncoming bicycle traffic. It was horrific, sad, tragic and unnecessary. The crash occurred in Gulfstream where A1A is narrow and whose residents notably have opposed state initiatives to widen and modernize A1A. On January 8th, the Boca Raton Bike Club issued a resolution drawing attention to the Town of Gulfstream for failing to support those road improvements and failing to enforce traffic laws. Read more about that resolution here.
Who is to blame for the Gulfstream bike accident? It’s not who you think.
It is no surprise that barrier island residents came out in force on social media condemning cyclists. They deal with it the traffic conflicts every day. One person went so far as to speculate “if they cycled properly, maybe the car would have missed them?”. Another said the quiet part out loud “maybe possible that the towns people don’t want bike lanes.” which seems to reflect the common misconception held by motorists in general and barrier island motorists specifically (be they Gulfstream or Boca) that they own the road. They don’t. In fact, according to the Frontier Group, gas taxes and user fees cover only half the cost of building/maintaining roads and that people who walk and bicycle pay their fair share through property and local taxes; a story for another time.
But victim blaming or speculation about what happened is not needed. A rear facing camera, on one of the cyclists involved, captured the whole thing. I have seen it and it clearly shows the cyclists riding in proper side-by-side formation on the edge of the northbound lane when out of nowhere, a southbound SUV crosses the solid double yellow line and plows into the riders. It is horrific. In spite of there being space for generously sized bike lanes within the public right of way, there is no shoulder, barrier, buffer or bike lane. There is no place and no chance for cyclists to evade and only milliseconds for a driver to recover on the narrow road.
When we point a finger, three point back at us
Other examples of towns caving to the selfish interests of the few, and prevent advancements for the many, abound. Here in Boca Raton, we need look no further than the barrier island residents along Camino Real who protested the County and City efforts to put in sidewalks and bike lanes in the public right of way that would have connected the existing Camino Real bike lanes to A1A (see this article for more).
And inland, on Boca Raton’s NW 7th St, a small but loud few residents stopped a Boca Raton plan to install sidewalks to facilitate an east/west route for walking/riding/rolling to and from Boca Middle School. In both cases, cyclists and pedestrians are forced to mix it up with motorists on the narrow roads exactly like the cyclists on A1A in Gulfstream.
The age old caution about pointing the finger only to have 3 fingers pointing back at you applies. While we wag our finger and cluck our tongues at Gulfstream, know that Boca Raton’s process for doing improvements suffers the same flaw. Caving to residents means having to do nothing and using the money for other things. Looking further, you’ll find the process is further flawed as it only considers input from City Staff and nearby landowners. Period.
The thousands of City and County residents who want access to Camino Real in something other than a car and who are part owners of the public right of way, were NOT afforded a voice in the decision. Ditto the hundreds of families who drive daily to and from Boca Middle because a couple local residents wanted to keep the biking and walking infrastructure on NW 7th St. unsafe.
What can you do? Don’t let Boca Raton become Gulfstream.
Since October of 2022, BocaFirst has been working with Boca’s Citizen Pedestrian and Bike Advisory Board advocating for improved pedestrian and bike infrastructure (a map of their projects under consideration is here). You can help. Make your voice heard in their project selection process via our public survey here.
- Use your time and skills for the public good and attend or join Boca’s Citizen Pedestrian and Bike Advisory Board (there’s an opening right now). Next meeting is January 22.
- Subscribe to our Pedestrian/Bike Advocate mailing list here to stay on top of things.
- Join the Boca Raton Bike Club and participate in their lobbying efforts.
- Take the BocaFirst survey to bring your voice into the City project selection process.
So speak out. Don’t let a small group of people decide about projects that affect the thousands of Boca Residents that would benefit. The BocaFirst Live/Work/Play survey is open until January 31st and you don’t have to live in Boca Raton to be counted. If you are a BocaFirst subscriber, a survey was already emailed to you. If you aren’t a subscriber, request one below. Tell your friends.
Boca Raton has under invested in modern infrastructure for getting around in something other than a car for many years and it shows. Where it has tried, it caved to special interests and spent the money on other things. Infrastructure is not free but everyone benefits. The time is now. Let’s not become Gulfstream.