Cyclist was victim of hit-and-run driver in SW Miami-Dade


 

Miguel Angel Rocafort

Almost unnoticed, Miguel Angel Rocafort was struck by an early-morning hit-and-run driver while out riding his bicycle in Southwest Miami-Dade and left, badly injured and alone, lying on a grassy swale.

Five days later, the hardworking 51-year-old father, husband and model neighbor died suddenly from complications of his injuries, only the latest victim of what critics say are Miami’s dangerous streets. The motorist who struck him has not been found.

According to Rocafort’s family, the sole witness to the March 31 hit-and-run said the driver got out of his car, looked down at the injured cyclist, then coldly got back in his car without rendering aid and took off.

“He was a great guy, always happy, always wanting to help people,’’ said Rocafort’s stepson, Andre Caballero. “He took good care of my mom, who’s just detroyed over this. It’s a great loss for us.’’

On Sunday, Rocafort’s family, cycling clubs and Safe Streets Miami — a campaign launched to press for greater safety for pedestrians, cyclists and motorists after the hit-and-run death of triathlete and businessman Aaron Cohen on the Rickenbacker Causeway earlier this year — will hold a memorial and a slow ride through Kendall to press for action by authorities.

They’re also hoping the unknown motorist will step forward, or that someone will turn him in.

“We want to ask for the community’s help to find this guy,’’ Caballero said. “He left my stepfather in the street like some piece of garbage. If you hit someone, stay and be a man.”

Safe Streets organizers say that although the death of Cohen, the third cyclist to be fatally struck by a car on the popular Rickenbacker bicycle lanes in recent years, prompted demands for safety improvements on the causeway, Rocafort’s death shows the need for significant improvements across Miami-Dade County as more people walk and cycle.

Urban and suburban streets roads designed primarily to ease fast travel by cars, compounded by heedless drivers and lack of police traffic enforcement, make it perilous not just for people on foot and bicycles but also for motorists, said Safe Streets co-founder Gary Mendenhall.

“There’s a lot of pedestrian hit-and-runs, too,’’ Mendenhall said. “Even if you’re in a car, the streets are getting worse all the time. We can’t just keep looking the other way.’’

Just this week the website TransitMiami.com compiled several recent reports of pedestrians seriously injured by out-of-control cars while they were crossing streets or walking on sidewalks, including a University of Miami student struck by a runaway driver in a silver-gray Mercedes Benz E-320 while crossing South Dixie Highway near Red Road. TransitMiami writer Craig Chester called the string of incidents an unacknowledged public-safety crisis.

Miami-Dade police have said they have few leads in Rocafort’s death. The witness was focused on helping Rocafort and did not get a tag number or a good look at the motorist’s car, which he described only as an older model, dark Honda or Toyota with different shades of body panels, as if it were under repair, Caballero said.

Rocafort, a native of Puerto Rico who worked as an installer for Dish Network, was a careful and experienced rider who pedaled every Saturday morning from his home near Homestead to meet a group of longtime cycling buddies at Sugarwood Park, the starting point for rides to South Miami-Dade or Key Biscayne.

Miami Herald

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