Miami’s monthly Critical Mass bike ride was halted briefly for 10 minutes after it got started on Friday night. Not by police. Not by uncaring, unruly motorists.
It was halted by a drawbridge.
Otherwise, the ride that has been attracting thousands of bikers on the last Friday of each month went as smoothly as it possibly could during a 13-mile route through Miami streets.
The sabre-rattling from earlier in the week, which attracted more media coverage to the ride than usual, turned out to be Mass ado about nothing.
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Backed-up cars honked at some intersections.
Along Northwest 54th Street, motorists greeted bikers with “good job!”
Some riders stopped at the first red light; others yelled “pedal, pedal, pedal!”
“There were no incidents at all,” said Miami Police spokesperson Frederica Burden.
Friday’s route, which began at Government Center, swung west to Northwest 22nd Avenue, north to Northwest 54th Street, east to Northwest 12th Avenue then made its way east and south to Northeast Second Avenue and 29th Street. From there, it was south to Northeast 15th Street, west to Miami Avenue and south to a finish.
While Critical Mass events have taken off around the world on the last Friday of each month, South Florida has had a relatively tame experience, given its reputation for being short on patience and long on firepower. A YouTube search of Critical Mass altercations turns up relatively little from Miami compared to other places.
But as the ride has expanded, so has the time it takes to negotiate the streets shared with motorists. That’s why — in part — Miami Police Chief Manuel Orosa called a press conference on Wednesday warning of potential pitfalls with the monthly Friday night rides.
Orosa asked Critical Mass organizers to help quell some of the unruliness during the ride and he threatened to fine cyclists for blowing through red lights, frustrating drivers stuck at intersections for long periods while the cyclists pass.
Orosa sent Raydel Baluja-Herrera, who runs The Miami Bike Scene website, a letter threatening to hold him liable for any problems stemming from riders’ unruliness. Deed, who blogs as Raydel Deed, rejected the idea that he organizes the event. He posted this on his website Friday:
“All eyes appear to be on Miami Critical Mass and it’s time for participants to prove the opposition wrong. Everyone riding is solely responsible for their actions and should lead by example,” he said. “Ride safely and be courteous to everyone in the community, if you can’t do this then quite simply you are not welcomed. There’s no room for hostile, drunk, moronic individuals.”
Along for the ride:
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South Miami native Morgan DeFranco began riding in Miami’s Critical Mass in January 2013 and suffered a shoulder injury during a February 2013 ride.
“Everything in Miami has evolved to a ‘go big or go home’ type of thing,” DeFranco said. “Everything in Miami has turned into an excuse to party.”
She said some of his friends have stopped riding in Critical Mass because they feel the group has strayed away from its original goal, which is to make drivers aware they must share the roadways.
The event has gotten “exponentially larger” over the last few years because it is one of the only times some people feel safe riding their bike, said Maxwell Noah Kirsner, of The Magic City Bicycle Collective, which shows up to help fix riders’ bikes.
Realtor June Savage, an avid cyclist and Critical Mass participant, met with Orosa and his staff on Thursday to talk about the police chief’s concerns. Savage said the group will meet again next week to continue working on an amicable solution.
Meanwhile, Miami Police spokesperson Kenia Reyes said on Friday before the ride started that no police would be stationed along the route specifically to handle the event.
By 9 p.m. the ride wound down with no major problems reported.
Miami Herald Staff Writers Emma Court and Monica Disare contributed to this report.