Some see it as a movement against distracted driving and cyclists’ right to use the roads.
Others see it as an act of civil disobedience and have renamed the monthly bike ride that draws thousands as “Critical Mess” for its impact on traffic. Still others have coined derogatory epithets to name the participants.
Whichever side you fall on, both cyclists and motorists are equivalent in the eyes of the law and bound by the same traffic laws in Florida.
If you’re heading to Miami Beach, Wynwood, Overtown or parts of North Bay Village Friday night you may feel the traffic-clogging effect of Critical Mass.
This month’s ride is dedicated to a Miami native who was killed by a distracted driver in Oklahoma while biking on a charity ride in 2015.
The events, held the last Friday of every month, involve riders pedaling an approximate 20-mile route beginning and ending at Government Center in downtown Miami and wending its way through Miami-Dade neighborhoods.
This month’s ride, which begins at 7:15 p.m., goes along Northwest Second Avenue, Northwest 36th Street, ends up on Biscayne Boulevard after Northwest 54th Street, turns right onto 79th Street, heads across the causeway through North Bay Village to Miami Beach, then takes in Indian Creek Drive and Pine Tree Drive, turns west at Dade Boulevard and merges onto the Venetian Causeway. From there, it will cross Biscayne Boulevard on Northeast 15th Street before returning to Government Center.
Cyclists, however, are not above the rules of the road. Florida law considers a bicycle a vehicle if on the road and a cyclist as a driver.
According to Florida law concerning cyclists: “Bicyclists have the same rights to the roadways, and must obey the same traffic laws as the drivers of other vehicles. These laws include stopping for stop signs and red lights, riding with the flow of traffic, using lights at night, yielding the right-of-way when entering a roadway and yielding to pedestrians in crosswalks.”
Miami native Janna Pelle, an indie pop musician now based in Brooklyn, is dedicating the July ride to her friend Patrick Wanninkhof, who was killed on an Oklahoma highway while riding a cross-country charity bike ride for Bike & Build in August 2015.
Wanninkhof, who was 25 when he was struck by a distracted driver who was looking at her phone, grew up on Key Biscayne and graduated from Coral Gables High School in 2008. He earned a degree in materials engineering from the University of Florida in 2012. He was living in New York and working as a school teacher at the time of his death.
The driver, Sarah Morris, then 35, was charged in January 2016 with first-degree manslaughter and a misdemeanor charge for overtaking a bicycle while failing to leave a safe distance. She pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 10 months in prison and 14 years of probation, reported NewsOK.
Pelle, 28, released her new video, “Hit and Run,” with her friend in mind.
“The ‘Hit and Run’ video was inspired by a recurring daydream I had, and continue to have. I imagine myself in Patrick’s body after the impact. I wonder what it must have felt like, if he felt anything at all. In the video, I’m lying in the middle of the road, and people are too distracted to notice,” Pelle said.
Pelle is hosting a celebration of life for Wanninkhof at Miami’s Esquina de Abuela at the official Critical Mass After Party, which will double as a release party for her newly issued “Voicememo” album. The party will also benefit the highway safety advocate group We Save Lives.
Though Pelle and Wanninkhof were no longer living in Miami, the message resonates locally, Pelle believes.
“Miami needs this message more than ever,” she said. “Anyone who lives and drives in Miami knows that this is an epidemic that needs to be taken seriously. This is a message that I hope to raise awareness of worldwide, but when choosing whether to do the album release in Miami or New York, the choice was easy. Everyone knows that distracted driving is bad, but everyone rides the subway in New York. People in Miami know how bad it is — they see it every day.”
Several cyclists have been hit while riding through Miami-Dade.
In April, Sunny Isles Beach cyclist Jorge Rouco was left for dead while cycling on the Rickenbacker Causeway. He survived and spoke out from his hospital bed.
In 2012, Aaron Cohen, a triathlete and father of two young children, died after being hit by a car while riding on the Rickenbacker Causeway. His hit-and-run death resulted in lawmakers passing the Aaron Cohen Act, which requires a mandatory minimum prison sentence of four years for drivers convicted of leaving the scene of a fatal crash.
Walter Reyes, a former CFO of real-estate firm Keyes Company, was killed in 2015 by a hit-and-run driver as he biked on Crandon Boulevard while training for the Dolphins Cycling Challenge.
If you go
What: Critical Mass After Party and album release for Janna Pelle’s “Voicememo” to raise awareness of distracted driving
Where: Esquina de Abuela, 2705 NW 22nd Ave., Miami
When: After the Critical Mass 20-mile ride, which begins at 7:15 p.m. July 27 from Government Center
Cost: Admission by donation to benefit We Save Lives’ mission
Information: 305-905-5057 or email@example.com and more info on the ride at www.themiamibikescene.com.
Follow @HowardCohen on Twitter.