Running Lessons From A Troubled Time

Roanke teamFrom almost the moment of setting foot on campus we knew things would go badly. Our long trip in the college station wagons ended abruptly at our destination. Then with cars parked, the team walked beneath the great ‘Rattlers’ stadium entrance to be greeted by a half dozen trackmen interrupting their workout to check us out. With Florida A &M University on our spring schedule in 1969 we now accepted our place as lambs taken to our kill… Read More

Bridge to Bridge Swim set for July 26th

Who wants to swim 3.75 miles in Melbourne, Florida? Answer:  people who’ve been asking to know the 2015 date ever since the swim last year. More than 50 swimmers along with 25 escorts participated in 2014 when Dave’s blender cranked out multiple ‘smoothies’ for everyone who came ashore at the Indialantic pier. Calm water brought the field back to the level seen in the 2012 video….Read more

One Lemon picked for the Lemonade

I was prepared and felt so ready. But the Space Coast League of Cities board meeting can only last 45 minutes.  A presentation by the Director of the Indian River National Estuary Program was interesting but his fifteen minutes was cutting deeply into what time might be left for me.  As it was, never can it be good to be ninth on a time limited agenda ending with the number ten… ‘Adjournment’.

Finally the president announced my item. ” Now we have Rob Downey, ‘Bicycle-vehicle crash statistics.” I looked at my watch showing three minutes remaining but I had a strategy in mind.
“Ladies and gentlemen, there’s not enough time to cover my topic so I’ll ask to be placed at the top of next month’s agenda but I’ll leave you with a handout”. With my request  approved  I went around the table giving out a seven page document I’d spent hours creating while explaining what they were receiving and why. My thirty copies were enough for the Brevard County mayors, managers and representatives in the room.

“Now you’ll have a chance to review the statistics and information. You may even want to get a password to the remarkable website for use by Florida government officials providing access to a traffic statistics database.” I could see this was something in which they were interested as they turned the pages.

Then something really gratifying happened when the mayor of Cape Canaveral spoke. Mayor Randalls put his hand on my shoulder. “Two weeks ago after receiving Mayor Downey’s first email about this subject, I asked for advice about our city’s ‘Better Streets Program’. Some things he told us are being considered and we’ve actually had our planners go out and ride our streets on their bicycles!”
Meeting adjourned.

Later when looking for a hard to find open dinner seat for the regular monthly meeting I happened upon a perfect window view looking out to the boat docks of the Eau Gallie Yacht Club. In the near distance I could see the tip of Merritt Island and the swim training route I’ve done so many times. Sitting next to me was the Director of the Chamber of Commerce who 20 years ago was one of my most hard to beat age group competitors in running 5ks. Across from me was Maurice Sterling who had been the earlier speaker for the Indian River recovery program. Someone at the table asked, “Rob, you swim out there don’t you? ” My answer ‘yes’ brought a response from Mr. Sterling…”Tell me about that…” And so started the beginning to a good dinner conversation, an evening touching it all… swim-bike-run.

Below are some pieces from my seven page hand-out that included spread sheets, graphs, photos and quotes from Brevard County riders:

county stats 3” I was hit by cars twice… fortunately not hurt.  In one case I was just bumped and we went on our way. In the other I went up on the hood of the car.  He stopped and I slid off into the middle of Palm Bay Road.  I just had a scrapped knee and bent bike pedal where it caught in the grille. The driver was an off duty cop. I don’t know if he reported it.  I continued my bike ride.”  M. M.City 2

“I was hit on A1A going south. Impact was in front of Cantina Dos Amigos.  The driver was going north, took a left turn in front of me and I impacted the side of his vehicle at almost full speed.

After the incident the driver who was 85 years old got out and yelled at me for not stopping.  He felt it was up to me to avoid him.  He proceeded to walk into the restaurant and sit down.  Minor bruises and scrapes and a very broken bike.  His insurance paid for all of it but he never apologized and actually said he saw me and was not concerned about me impacting his vehicle.  He actually thought I should pay for the damage to his car.” G. P.

bike lane 2This is an example of a bike lane providing safe travel to the left of cars parallel parked with width adequate for opening a driver’s door.

“Intentionally hit by the mirror on a pickup truck on Emerson between Malabar and Minton.  Clipped on the left shoulder.  Truck sped off.” L.L.

‘Sharrows’ are bike symbols with two chevrons indicating bicycles have the right to fully occupy the traffic lane.  This reminds drivers that bicycles need space to travel safely.

sharrow“I’ve been involved in many crashes over the years. In one, a car westbound on 192 made a right hook onto Airport Blvd. I slammed into the passenger side door and it was an old couple looking straight at me.  They sped away as I hit the ground.” P.M.3 feet billboardMany drivers are not aware of Florida law dictating a 3′ space be given between a motor vehicle and a cyclist.

I was hit going west bound on Indrio Rd., Ft Pierce.  Coming out of a side street a driver took a left in front of me.  He managed to get his car stopped and I got cut up as I raked across the front of his car.  He sped off. My hand needed stitches”. T.D.


Michael Kaier was riding his red Trek 330 southbound on Fiske Blvd on May 1, 2014. He crossed the I-95 overpass toward the  traffic light that allows cars to turn left to enter the ramp to I-95. As he approached the light, the bike lane ended IMG_0837and  was also confronted with an uneven section of road surface caused by spilled concrete. Reacting to the situation he moved into the vehicle lane where a startled driver hit him from behind. A ‘ghost bike’ now marks the location of the tragedy.

“An auto making a left turn into a gas station hit me as I was going straight. It was dark outside at the time but I had headlights on”. P.E.

The Deadliest Week

Most people who ride bicycles in Brevard County will never know the two deaths of the first week of May 2014.   Sixty-five year old Michael Kaier was riding his vintage red Trek 330 south bound on Fiske Blvd. the first day of the month when hit from behind. Seven days later his fate was repeated on US #1 in Malabar. David O’Haver died May 7th in a similar crash though for a different reason. Their loss followed the near death of a triathlete  six weeks earlier. All three were hit from behind, known to be the most deadly form of bicycle/vehicle collision.Trek 330

The Michael Kaier crash exposes the incredibly poor road design and maintenance in Brevard County. Kaier was on a route often favored by riders cycling between Rockledge and the County government center in Viera.

The Fiske Blvd I-95 overpass is on this route and part of the very popular Sonic and Bagel Shop weekend group rides. These are fast group rides with experienced cyclists following the southbound route. They now pass a ‘ghost bike’ chained to a post reminding of the tragedy at 1:50 pm on May 1st.




The Fiske Blvd overpass features a wide, very adequate shoulder for both solo rider or  group as it descends  to a traffic light. There vehicles can turn left onto a ramp to I-95. But just before the light the wide shoulder disappears leaving riders with a sliver of shoulder less than 12″ forcing a shift  abruptly into the vehicle lane. IMG_0837

Complicating the situation is the clump of concrete that apparently fell from a construction vehicle years ago forcing riders even further into the vehicle lane at the base of the decline near the traffic light. The police report includes this section of narrative:

“For unknown reasons, NM01 (non-motorist 1) left a direct path of travel and turned left to cross the southbound lanes of travel as V01 (vehicle 1) was passing alongside…NM01 was ejected off the bicycle and collided into the left side windshield…”

I’ve done the Sonic and Bagel rides dozens of times and know how riders are forced left. I ask the question, ‘how is it possible for anyone to not realize Michael Kaier was simply responding to a disappearing shoulder and a clump of concrete’? How did the investigating officer come to such a nonsensical conclusion? Kaier was not turning left and was not trying to cross the southbound lane! There is nothing on the other side of the road except the ‘on-ramp’ to I-95. He was riding just as riders have done for years, forced to ‘take the lane’ when the shoulder disappears or an obstruction comes in view.

It can easily be argued the driver was startled by the quick shift by the rider and unable to react in time. There is a solution and that is a painted ‘sharrow’. These are bike symbols with two chevrons indicating a bicyclist has the need and right to take the lane. If the driver on May 1st had seen this symbol as she approached the narrowing pavement she might have anticipated what Mr. Kaier was about to do on his Trek. These symbols are needed in so many places to avoid  calamity.index

Days later and fifteen miles south, 56 year old David O’Haver was riding his black Gary Fisher Tassajara mountain bike on US #1. At 4:35 pm he was hit from

“D01 lost control of V01 which departed it’s travel lane and struck a pedalcyclist. He lost control of V01 due to a diabetic episode and was so incoherent that he drove 3.3 miles from the crash scene before coming to a stop after wrecking V01 for a second time.”
For Brevard cyclists it became the deadliest week.




Bridge To Bridge Swim

Start Time: 7:00am, Sunday, June 29th, Eau Gallie Causeway boat ramp to the Indialantic pier.

Distance: 3.75 miles

Instructions:  Swimmers should provide arrangements for support and return to the starting place.  No charge to participate and thus no liability for swimmers and their escorts. There are no specific rules. Swimmers can relay, use fins, snorkels, etc. Some people leave shoes near the Indialantic pier and run back to the Eau Gallie boat ramp. That distance is exactly four miles. Be sure to hydrate!

Facebook-Icon-300x300Bridge to Bridge on Facebook

If the wind forecast is accurate conditions 6/29/14 could be similar to 2012 . That year was epic and able to  see bottom for 75% of the way.  Yesterday ( 6/24 ) I swam one mile south along the Indian River shoreline of Merritt Island to Dragon Point returning north by the same route. We easily saw bottom the entire 2 mile swim with visibility best I’ve ever seen, the course having a 7′ depth. It was surprising being cloudy with 10 mph wind from the SW.  Water temperature was perfect…not to warm.

7:00 am 74 °F Chance of a Thunderstorm Chance of a Thunderstorm 45% 3 mph NW

Distances along the course.


 Compass bearings, point to point.

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The 2012 video begins as  50+ swimmers and escorts re-group at the first shoal, 1.45 miles done! Click image.

2012 Video of Bridge to Bridge Swim

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