“Bikes Up, Guns Down” in South Florida Criticized as Safety Hazard

For the second Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. day in a row, throngs of riders on motorcycles, all-terrain vehicles, dirt bikes and mopeds took the highways of Broward and Miami-Dade Counties. According to those on the informal, unsanctioned ride, it was about civil rights. It was about honoring King’s legacy of non-violence. wheelie

However, police say that was nothing more than a guise to pull roadway stunts that endangered the traveling public. Some of the actions observed by police and others:

  • Running red lights;
  • Popping wheelies;
  • Speeding;
  • Driving in the wrong lanes;
  • Taking photographs and video of other riders while operating vehicles.

Although police did make some arrests, there were no law enforcement-involved pursuits. Two motorcyclists ended up in the hospital with injuries sustained from crashes. Other motorists seemed confused and many had trips that were temporarily halted while the group of some 200 riders roared through the streets. Thankfully, though, no one else was hurt.

Some have questioned the police response, saying more should have been done to stop the riders. However, police say they acted appropriately, given the circumstances. They noted that policies prohibit chasing motor vehicles when there is no felony crime committed (i.e., kidnapping, murder, etc.). Certainly, running a red light could result in death, but on its own, it’s not a felony that would warrant initiating a police pursuit, law enforcement leaders said.

When asked why they didn’t set up a road block on the highway, authorities said that could have been even more dangerous than simply allowing the riders to take over some stretches of road. There was concern that if they blocked the road, drivers coming over area bridges and moving at speeds of 70 miles-per-hour or more would have no idea traffic ahead was at a sudden standstill. That could have meant catastrophic car accidents along South Florida highways. Police said to set up a roadblock – just like engaging in a pursuit of the riders – was not done for public safety reasons. They did not, they said, want to make a bad situation worse.

And it was bad for several people. One man was found on the ground with a head injury on Northwest 22nd Avenue in Miami-Dade County. He was suffering in critical condition, but there was no bike or motorcycle left at the scene, though he was wearing motorcycle gloves. Authorities say it’s presumed he was on the back of a bicycle, fell off and was left. He was flown to a nearby hospital, where he remains in critical condition.

Another motorcyclist was also injured when he crashed into a car on Northwest 12th Avenue. The driver of the car was unhurt, but the biker suffered moderate injuries after he was thrown from the bike.

In Miami-Dade, police arrested more than two dozen people, including a man who was later discovered wanted on a warrant for attempted murder. Officers in that city also towed nearly 60 bikes/ ATVs and three cars. There were also five firearms confiscated, including a machine gun. Miami city police towed 15 bikes and made one arrest. Miami Gardens Police arrested 1, cited several others and towed a dozen bikes.

Broward County emergency dispatch teams fielded more than 60 calls to 911 related to the ride.

Riders speaking to local news outlets say they don’t feel they did anything wrong, as no police or anyone in the general public was hurt. However, that’s likely only pure luck, given the kinds of stunts in which they were engaged. Next year, if public safety officials don’t address the issue, it could be a different story.

Call Fort Lauderdale Injury Attorney Richard Ansara at (954) 761-4011. Serving Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.

Additional Resources:

Bikes Up, Guns Down ride an ‘unacceptable situation,’ mayor says, Jan. 20, 2016, By Linda Trischitta, Mike Clary and Tonya Alanez, Sun Sentinel

More Blog Entries:

Wrong-Way Accidents in Broward, Miami-Dade Target for Safety Advocates, Jan. 25, 2016, Fort Lauderdale Car Accident Lawyer Blog