Miami-Dade County

Ultra + Critical Mass = A rush hour mess of epic proportions on Miami roadways

File photo from June 27, 2014 at Government Center in downtown Miami shows cyclists participating in the Critical Mass bike ride through the streets of Miami-Dade.
File photo from June 27, 2014 at Government Center in downtown Miami shows cyclists participating in the Critical Mass bike ride through the streets of Miami-Dade. El Nuevo Herald File

Put the opening day of Ultra, the rave DJ music festival on Virginia Key, and the monthly Miami Critical Mass bike ride on the same day and what do you get?

Can’t think of anything more applicable than what Miami New Times predicted for this Friday: a “traffic apocalypse.” (Some expletives do come to mind. If you’re a commuter in South Florida, you’ve used them.)

Cursing will get a workout, especially this afternoon.

Thousands of already confused electronic music lovers stymied by the move of the three-day Ultra from downtown Miami to the island near Key Biscayne will try to figure out how to get to and from the music site. Parking isn’t allowed on site because the onslaught of cars would totally paralyze the Rickenbacker Causeway.

So unless they opt for a water ferry at nearly $150 a pop, they’ll have to choose from one of the free shuttles at three mainland locations at Vizcaya Museum and Gardens near the Rickenbacker entrance, the AmericanAirlines Arena on Biscayne Boulevard and the former Miami Herald site on South Bayshore a block from the Omni parking garage.

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Now add Critical Mass, which, on the last Friday of every month, puts thousands of cyclists on Miami-Dade streets alongside fuming motorists who see riders as targets. This month’s 20-mile or so route, beginning at 6:30 p.m., takes in the neighborhoods of Historic Overtown, Wynwood, Little Haiti, Upper East Side, North Bay Village, North Beach, Miami Beach, Venetian Islands, and Downtown Miami, according to Miami Bike Scene.

The route is a bit north of the Rickenbacker Causeway entrance to the Ultra madness, but the appointed 230 shuttles meant to whisk the DJ culture devotees to the site have to use some of the same streets. Not to mention commuters trying to get home from work.

The Critical Mass route will find riders taking off from Government Center in Miami, as usual, and then heading to and through Northwest Second Avenue, Overtown on Northwest Third Avenue, Wynwood on Northwest Fifth Avenue and then into Little Haiti via Northwest Third Avenue.

From there, cyclists will find themselves on Biscayne Boulevard as they make their way to the 79th Street Causeway for the ride through North Bay Village into Miami Beach.

On Saturday, the village of Key Biscayne published a video on the government's Facebook page blasting Ultra Music Festival and the city of Miami's upcoming vote to allow the festival to be held on Virginia Key.

Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber took to Twitter Thursday to note that Critical Mass isn’t a Beach-sanctioned or permitted event but added that Beach police officers will be stationed at key intersections. The ride could tie up traffic for more than three hours.

Once on the Beach, bikers will ride south on Collins Avenue and turn onto Pine Tree Drive. This portion will take them to Dade Boulevard near the old Publix and across Alton onto the Venetian Causeway, which ends right where the old Herald property and the Omni (and a shuttle pickup and drop-off destination) meet.

To get back to Government Center an hour or so after the start, riders and motorists will eye each other warily on North Miami Avenue, Northwest Third Street (again) and Northwest First Avenue.

Already, Miami Bike Scene warns of potential problems. For one, city of Miami police will not be escorting the Critical Mass riders this month. They will have their work cut out for them dealing with the Ultra distraction.

Miami police spokeswoman Officer Kenia Fallat released an alert that officers would be assigned to the Rickernbacker Causeway, Brickell Avenue, South Miami Avenue and Miami Brickell roads neighborhoods “in order to assist residents and visitors with the traffic.”



Miami Bike Scene responded with a warning to its own community of riders: “If you feel uncomfortable riding in traffic without police support, then you should NOT come on this ride. You are solely responsible for your actions.”

The group also added that if riders disobey any Florida traffic laws — which apply to both cyclists and motorists — “that is totally on you, the rider.”

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Miami Herald Real Time/Breaking News reporter Howard Cohen, a 2017 Media Excellence Awards winner, has covered pop music, theater, health and fitness, obituaries, municipal government and general assignment. He started his career in the Features department at the Miami Herald in 1991.


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