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It's a bird! It's a plane! No, wait -- it's a politician! So the citizens of Miami shouted to one another last Saturday as City Commissioner Joe Sanchez whizzed past them on a rusty old Raleigh mountain bike last Saturday, flanked by a motley crowd of riders that included Mr. Clucky, Miami's own bicycle-riding rooster. The event was activist group Emerge Miami's regular "Critical Mass" ride, which takes place every second Saturday of the month.

Commissioner Sanchez had run into the group by accident last February, a meeting which turned out to be fateful: only a month later, Miami Mayor Manny Diaz proclaimed the formation of the Miami Bicycle Action Committee, a subcommittee of the Mayor's Green Commission, of which Sanchez is chair.

When it comes to hokey political [showmanship?], the ride-along is an old standby - politicos love to pose atop floats, inside cop cars, even astride bicycles. But Sanchez, it must be said, plunged into the event head first.

After a brief photo-op at City Hall, the group set off. At first, it seemed doubtful that Sanchez had a long ride in mind - he was dressed in golf shorts and an uncomfortable-looking striped button down, and his bike - which appeared to have been dragged out of the basement for the event - was too small, forcing the Commissioner's knees halfway up to his face as he rode. Sanchez, however, not only accompanied the group along Bayshore drive and over the Bear Cut bridge onto Key Biscayne - but then, under the blazing mid-day sun, declared "Let's go Jimbo's!" peddling on to the infamously bare bones Virginia Key fishing shack, where he gamely knocked down a bud-lite and went halfsies on a hunk of smoked tuna.

By the time the group arrived at its intended destination - the annual "River Day" at Jose Marti park, it was Sanchez who had pulled to the front of the pack, beckoning the twenty-some bikers the wrong way down a one-way street with the wave of his hand. "At one point, he had his own route to get over to the park, so we let him take the reins," recalls Adam Schachner, who helped organize the ride. "He really got into it; It was wonderful to see him so enthusiastic." --Isaiah Thompson

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