Critical Mass cycling in Miami a mix of protest, party

Bicyclists took to the streets of Miami en masse in July, backing up traffic.
Bicyclists took to the streets of Miami en masse in July, backing up traffic.
Peter Andrew Bosch / Miami Herald staff

More information

A few weeks ago I witnessed Miami’s version of Critical Mass — a cycling event where a couple thousand bike riders appropriate city streets on the last Friday evening of every month, for what one Mass cyclist described as “a political protest disguised as one hell of a party.”

Over the last few years I began hearing more about the cycling phenomenon , which originated in San Francisco in 1992 and spread like wildfire to cities throughout the world. Miami was a latecomer to what can be considered the seedlings of a social movement. Also, over the last several years, I’ve heard a good number of complaints by motorists and business owners who are unhappy with the ride’s ill effects on traffic and thereby on local stores and restaurants.

Rydel Deed of explained that, “The mission of the rides is to create bicycle awareness and educate motorists that they need to share the road with cyclists as we are entitled to it.”

Safety for cyclists and pedestrians should be of paramount concern in Miami-Dade County. A recent study rated Miami-Dade County drivers as the worst drivers in the nation.

And while Deed and his fellow cyclists are joyfully pedaling through the urban core, there are hundreds of South Florida motorists who are experiencing long delays as the throng of bikes glides by. The delays can be as long as 45 minutes, which can understandably lead to great frustration if you’re stuck behind the wheel. Community activist and five-year Critical Mass participant, Dario Gonzalez, told me he understood some drivers are upset and suggested “motorists can learn of the Mass routes online so that they can plan accordingly.”

As much as I appreciate Gonzalez’s and other Mass cyclists’ free-spirited, rebellious vibe, I’m not sure that I wouldn’t maneuver my car through a herd of bike riders if my daughter was in the car with me and was not feeling well.

While on the issue of public safety, the other night as I watched many families biking together on the Mass ride, I saw too many children riding without helmets. Event organizers need to be more stringent about safety rules — especially for minors.

City of Miami officials and police have shown great restraint in dealing with Critical Mass, though the calls complaining of the event are increasing. “We want to be supportive and better serve all parties involved. Permits would be a welcomed step because it would allow us to redirect car traffic and also ride along with the cyclists and look out for their safety,” said Miami Police Maj. Delrish Moss.

There is also the issue of the angry merchants.

All along Calle Ocho, business owners expressed their displeasure during the most recent Mass ride.

Pati Vargas, executive director of Viernes Culturales (Cultural Fridays), a potpourri of cultural events held on Southwest Eighth Street on the last Friday of every month, expressed her concern for Critical Mass’ “blatant disregard” for the monthly event. “I want to work with them, but they need to be a little more sensitive to the needs of the Little Havana merchants.”

There is a unique and refreshing sense of sharing that takes place during a Critical Mass ride.

The participants appear to be decent, law-abiding Miamians who are having a good time with friends and family while making a valid point about bike safety.

The trouble is one group’s rights, no matter how well intentioned, do not supersede the rights of others. Miami should embrace Critical Mass rides — accent them with our own Magic City flavor.

However, organizers of the bike events need to be a bit more yielding to authorities to make the rides safer and more enjoyable for everyone involved — on and off the bikes.

Read more Joe Cardona stories from the Miami Herald



    County leaders ignoring the people’s will

    Czech author Milan Kundera once wrote, “Humanity’s true moral test, its fundamental test, consists of its attitude toward those who are at its mercy: animals.”



    Being a single parent is doubly challenging

    For years I watched co-workers and employees —mostly women — hurriedly packing their belongings just before closing time at work, and I wondered why that was? Were they all that miserable at work? Did they all share a phobia for Miami rush-hour traffic?

Singer Anita Bryant’s campaign against homosexuality jump-started the gay-rights movement.


    Tio Bebo: A life not quite fully lived

    For as far back as I can remember my great-uncle, Mario, stood out. He was the patriarch of my family — a distinguished gentleman who had put himself through the University of Havana and willed his way to success, pulling his entire family up by the proverbial bootstraps. He was ethical and compassionate, even-keeled and sophisticated. My Tio Bebo, as we lovingly called him, meant the universe to my mother, whom he helped raise. He was, basically, a third grandfather to me.

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category