It was a bittersweet scene as hundreds of cyclists rode their bikes Wednesday night during the yearly “Ride of Silence” event on Key Biscayne against the backdrop of the Miami skyline. They paid homage to those killed or injured in crashes.
The ride came on the heels of the recent deaths of two cyclists who were killed after a Jeep hit them on the Rickenbacker Causeway, just three miles from the Crandon Park Marina, 4000 Crandon Blvd., where the group gathered.
The nationwide event happens during “Bike Safety Month,” when people ride their bikes in complete silence with the intention of remembering the dead, raising awareness of the dangers that cyclists face and asking everyone to share the road.
Cyclists pedaled quietly among palm trees and under a sweltering sun. There was no need to speak with one another — they all knew why they were there.
Jeishy Zerpa, 44, watched cyclists with her 2-year-old daughter to remember her late husband who was killed in a collision with a police vehicle near Black Point Park and Marina in February of last year. Her husband, Juan Carlos Martinez, was just two weeks away from his 40th birthday when he died.
“For me he wasn’t only the best husband, he was also my best friend and an excellent father to our daughter,” Zerpa said in Spanish.
Zerpa stood at the entrance of the marina as about 300 cyclists left the parking lot going south towards the city limits of the Village of Key Biscayne. Most participants rode 5.5 miles, making two loops on Crandon Boulevard, before arriving back.
She still remembers how caring Martínez was during her pregnancy and how their daughter would take naps on his stomach.
“I have mixed feelings,” she said with watery eyes. “It’s a beautiful event but it’s commemorated for such a sad reason.”
In Miami-Dade County, the 20th anniversary of the event held special significance after the death of the two cyclists, a couple building their lives together.
Yaudys Vera, 48, and Ogniana Reyes, 46, died Sunday afternoon on a section of the William Powell Bridge after a collision with a Jeep. The couple leaves behind three kids — two teenage boys from Vera and 15-year-old girl from Reyes.
The man who struck them was issued traffic tickets, but criminal charges appear unlikely, Miami police said on Monday. Officers have not released the driver’s name.
As of Wednesday, a GoFundMe to cover the costs of Reyes’ funeral expenses had raised nearly $40,000.
Two memorial services will be held for Reyes. The first at 7 p.m. on Thursday at 8200 Bird Rd. The other at 2 p.m. on Friday at Caballero Rivero Woodlawn South, 11655 SW 117th Ave. Vera’s services will be held from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Thursday at 8200 Bird Rd., and then another at 3 p.m. on Friday at Caballero Rivero Woodlawn South, 11655 SW 117th Ave.
Cyclists demand change
Eddie Suarez, 48, is an avid cyclist. He said he used to ride his bike often on the Rickenbacker Causeway until 2012, the year Aaron Cohen, a 36-year-old at the time, died after a hit-and-run crash.
Suarez recalled it was the third accident in the same area in a short amount of time.
“I said ‘that’s it. I’m not going to ride on the causeway anymore,’” Suarez said. “It’s not safe.”
Suarez says he wants to ride on the causeway again but not until elected officials take further action to keep cyclists safe on the roadway.
In 2021, Florida saw 6,398 bicycle crashes, with 182 fatalities among them. In South Florida, Miami-Dade County led the pack in bicycle crashes by far, with Broward closed behind:
▪ Miami-Dade: 795 crashes, 17 deaths
▪ Broward: 716 crashes, 17 deaths
▪ Palm Beach: 423 crashes, 7 deaths
▪ Monroe: 82 crashes, 2 deaths
For years, local cyclists have asked for more bike lanes with buffer areas to separate motor vehicles from bicycles.
Following the deaths of Veras and Reyes, Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said the county plans to install barriers on stretches of the causeway considered dangerous for cyclists as part of a $250,000 upgrade that she ordered this week.
“It’s a short-term measure to address certain areas,” Levine Cava told the Miami Herald earlier this week.
A $500 million blueprint to prevent cycling deaths on the Rickenbacker stalled in January because it lacked political support. Known as “Plan Z,” the proposal would use higher toll revenues to fund safety improvements.
In the short term — like other cyclists the Miami Herald spoke with — Suarez wants authorities to step up their enforcement of existing traffic laws designed to clamp down on dangerous or distracted drivers.
Ultimately, he would like to see a redesigned causeway with fewer lanes for vehicles by creating a physical barrier to make more room for cyclists to cruise.
“One cyclist death is too much,” Zerpa said. “There should be zero.”