Bike Miami Days wants to share your stories! Here is a profile of some of our friends. Many thanks to Jennifer Lane of ELEVATE Miami for contributing this great story and photos: A Tandem Riding Through Downtown.
A bicycle for two is called a tandem. Melanie Ashby and Wayne Phelps ride their tandem, together as a married couple, throughout the streets of southern Florida. They have been riding bicycles for 12 years and together on a tandem since 2005.
Braving the streets of Miami was not an easy task after a truck collided with them in January of 2006. The truck swiped the sides of the tandem, knocking the two to the hard pavement. The truck then drove away, leaving the couple unconscious on the side of the road.
Phelps pulled out his cell phone and showed an x-ray of the four metal rods that had to be put into his hips after the collision.
“I broke my back and leg…oh and a couple of ribs, but that doesn’t count,” Ashby described what happened to her from the hit and run collision.
Sometimes he limps at a walks after the multiple surgeries he went through to bring his hip back to place. Still though, Phelps can ride his tandem with Ashby.
I asked why they would still ride after a near deadly collision with a truck.
“Because we love it. It is our life,” Ashby replied.
Ashby and Phelps were riding through downtown Miami during Bike Miami Day on December 14, 2008. They normally don’t ride in downtown because they are afraid of cars. They hope Bike Miami Day will help make it safer for cyclists to ride downtown and not be so dependent on cars.
If the roads were safer for cyclists, Ashby thinks more people would commute to work on their bikes.
“Miami has gotten so big, so fast,” Phelps said.
Ashby thinks that there are more people in a hurry to get places, “more visual distractions for drivers, more personal distractions for drivers such as cell phones and coffee drinking. A driver’s eye is not trained to see or expecting to see a bicycle on the road. Here is where education helps and designated bike lanes would help”.
Ashby and Phelps have come up with some of their own rules.
When there are multiple lanes for drivers to drive on, the couple will try to ride in the middle of one of the lanes.
“If we ride within the two foot limit**, we are at much greater danger because people try to pass too close,” Phelps described how they have learned to ride their tandem on the roads, just to protect themselves from being hit again.
**The “Two Foot Limit” practice dictates that cyclists ride not less than two feet from the edge of road, thus encouraging motorists to go into the other lane to pass them instead of passing too closely. Florida State and Federal Laws state that cyclists have the same right as motorists, and may take up a full lane of traffic. Regardless of how cyclists ride, the Florida State “Three Foot Law” makes it illegal for motorists to pass within a minimum of three feet from cyclists.