Miami’s Critical Mass embraces beer, bikes and Dutch orange

 

aviglucci@MiamiHerald.com

There may be no better combination than bicycles, beer and the color orange.

Or so say organizers of a special Go Dutch! edition on Friday of Miami Critical Mass, the monthly, totally unsanctioned, all-comers bike ride that now routinely lures 2,000 people to pedal through the city, including, recently, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.

This time, the organizers expect as many as 3,000 people for what would be the biggest local Critical Mass ride to date: a celebration of Queen’s Day, a big, beery holiday in uber-bike-friendly Holland for which nearly everyone suits up in orange.

The 12-mile evening ride will begin as usual at 7:15 p.m. outside Miami-Dade County’s government center in downtown Miami. After looping through Little Havana, downtown Coral Gables and back to downtown Miami, the ride will end just north of there at Grand Central Park, the temporary green on the site of the old Miami Arena in the Park West neighborhood, for a free Dutch-themed festival.

That means motorists along the route, which can be viewed at www.themiamibikescene.com, should be prepared to wait several minutes at intersections while cyclists pedal by. Critical Mass participants block intersections to allow the group to go safely through. Police have largely tolerated the ride, and in some places, like downtown Coral Gables, will stop cars to get riders out quickly and safely.

Held on the last Friday of every month in cities around the world, Critical Mass rides started as sometimes-rowdy demonstrations for cyclists’ right to use the road.

But the Miami version, now several years old, took on a fun, friendly attitude, which helps it attract hundreds of young, casual riders, families with children, and a smattering of celebrities. Though the ride has no official organizer, the Miami Bike Scene website publishes the Critical Mass route map, which can change month to month, as well as safety guidelines.

“Critical Mass and Miami Bike Scene are doing an important thing to attract people to downtown,’’ said Park West activist Mark Lesniak, whose group, the Omni/Park West Redevelopment Association, built the non-profit Grand Central Park with private and public funds to help revitalize the long-forlorn area. “It’s nice because it’s safe. It has become a great community event.

“So we thought, let’s do a real Queen’s Day festival, just a crazy kind of Mardi Gras thing, and hopefully this introduces more people to the park.’’

In the Netherlands, the Queen’s Day holiday marks the Dutch monarch’s birthday with jampacked street festivities and outdoor concerts. Participants dress in orange, or dye their hair, or both, in honor of the royal family’s House of Orange. This year’s celebration, officially Tuesday, will be the last for Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, who is stepping down from the throne that day. This year’s Miami bike-themed celebration is the second, following a first try last year at Grand Central Park. But organizers say this year’s will be significantly larger given Critical Mass’s exploding popularity.

Beer sales by Dutch brand Grolsch, the event’s title sponsor, will benefit the park. The Downtown Development Authority is among a long list of co-sponsors, along with Miami Bike Scene, whose mastermind, bike activist Rydel Deed, is also helping organize the Go Dutch! event.

Early arrivals at the start can grab one of 800 orange t-shirts donated by Grolsch. At the park, a Dutch-themed orange costume contest will be held, with a new fixed-gear bike as top prize. DJ DZA of the weekly Peachfuzz party at the adjacent Grand Central venue will perform.

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