Critical Mass: It's Time for Miami Police and Motorists to Respect Bike Riders

Categories: Bike Blog

Critical_Mass_arms_up.jpg
Michael E. Miller
An estimated 4,000 riders came out on Friday
As the light leaks out of the sky over downtown last Friday, mechanical gears squeak in the distance. Slowly, small groups begin to gather at Government Center. Before long, the groups swell into a crowd, then a swarm.

By 7:15 p.m., 4,000 people line NW First Street as if it's Tahrir Square. There are hipsters in tight jeans and tattoo sleeves, curvy Colombian women packed into spandex like sausages, and marching bands of Cubans in matching T-shirts. But instead of political placards, they've all brought bicycles. Instead of slogans, they offer sweat. Critical Mass is once again taking Miami's streets by storm.

Not everyone is happy about it, however. Motorists stranded in the sea of bicycles angrily blast their horns. Some try to push their way through the peloton. Meanwhile, half a dozen City of Miami cops lounge on their motorcycles at a gas station on the corner, not lifting a finger to rein in the riotous traffic.

See also:
- Photos: July's Critical Mass Miami
- Critical Mass Chaos: Cops Booed, Pelted With Objects After Arresting Ice-Cream Bicycle Chef
- Mt. Sinai Doctor Accused of Leaving Accident After Hitting Biker During Friday's Critical Mass

"We were called here to make sure there were no fights, but that's it," says a hulking officer with salt-and-pepper hair and a stogie smoldering in his mouth. As he puffs on his cigar, the sea of cyclists begins moving west on its 12-mile route through Little Havana. The cop stays stoically seated.

"Look, they go right through the red light," he says. "We can't help them because what they are doing is illegal."

This ambivalence over Critical Mass pervades MPD. As the monthly bike movement has swelled in size over the past six years, Miami cops have steadfastly ignored it. While other cities including Miami Beach and Coral Gables have embraced the bikers, MPD continues to treat them as an annoyance, even arresting one rider last month for selling ice cream from his tricycle.

But there are real dangers to dismissing Critical Mass. Miami is one of the most dangerous cities in the country for cyclists. At least three bikers have been killed by cars in the past three years, yet many perpetrators of car-on-bike crime either aren't caught or face farcical penalties. Just last month, two Critical Mass participants were struck by a Mercedes-Benz belonging to a prominent local surgeon, yet MPD has yet to even interview the doctor. On Sunday, another car hit a cyclist on the MacArthur Causeway and sped off.

Critical_Mass_boombox.jpg
Michael E. Miller
Mayor Tomas Regalado likes to boast that Miami is becoming a world-class cultural destination. But even as new museums go up downtown, the city is undermining one of its few real civic movements. It's time that Miami motorists, politicians, and cops embrace Critical Mass.

"Ideally, the police would embrace it and not clash with it," says Critical Mass Miami founder Rydel Deed, "because we're not going anywhere."

Before Critical Mass came along, this city's bike scene was limited to a couple of cruisers on Miami Beach and the occasional soccer dad pedaling through the suburbs. But in 2007, Deed imported the idea after a visit to Chicago, where he joined thousands of other cyclists on a short tour through the city. The monthly bike rides, which began in 1992 in San Francisco and spread worldwide, are equal parts cycling celebration and civic activism for bikers' rights.

Miami was one of the last major American cities to get on board. It was slow going at first. For several years, only 30 or so riders came out. But Deed and his fellow die-hards kept it going. By 2009, the rides had reached 100 members. They grew steadily until last September, when Dwyane Wade and Gabrielle Union tweeted photos of themselves at #CriticalMassMiami. LeBron James joined the movement two months later. Suddenly, Critical Mass was mainstream.



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47 comments
krulik
krulik

Bicyclists do not pay a gas tax. they do not pay a registration fee. they do not even pay tolls.  You are the guest of the motorist on our roads, so act accordingly.

aritario
aritario

"Together we can achieve better living!"

Check some of their Bicycle Rules & Safety Tips and you can see they don't have any respect for it:

-Riders must be able to maintain 12mph and should not exceed 12mph.
=== On several occasions I have seen them police signals that cyclists are driving too fast and that they may lose control and run over any pedestrian or another cyclist.

-Stay in the right lane, and do not ride across middle line on the road into opposite travel lane.
=== Needless to explanation because we are all witnesses that cyclists do what they please and are driving for any path.

-Yield to emergency vehicles.
=== Pretty effort have to do emergency carts, police or firefighters when they need to go through the route of the Miami Critical Mass.

-No Headphones! While riding a bicycle it is illegal to wear a headse...t, headphone or other listening device, other than a hearing aid or instrument for the improvement of defective human hearing.
=== This part is written for blind because most of the participants in Miami Critical Mass passed quickly in front of us with their mp3 headphones or cell phones.

-Safety Lights: Front & rear lights are required by law in the State of Florida.
=== I want to see the police stopping each of the participants in Miami Critical Mass and check if your bikes have the rear and front lights and if they are operating in a good way.

-Passing: A passing cyclist is responsible for the safety of the cyclist that is being passed. When passing ring a bell and/or say "on your left".
=== That's crap, not all of them do that.

-No drinking of alcohol during ride.
=== Big lie! They know I'm telling the truth because in Calle 8 or Flagler street we have seen get off their bikes, go inside the bars and leave with the beer covered in a nylon bag. I see that every "Viernes Cultural on Calle 8", always the same.

-Skateboarders, inline skaters and recumbent bikes are welcomed.
=== More danger...

-Yield to pedestrians and buses.
Here is where the main problem is with the Miami Critical Mass, the infamous lie, trash in the paper and as none of them met. Respect for the respect. Cyclists generally do not obey the traffic laws. They yell at drivers and pedestrians, they do hand signals and even cross the streets without respecting the lights.
How the hell are going to demand that respect if you are the first to fail. The time performing the Miami Critical Mass is quite inconvenient for hundreds of people in Miami. Many people are in the streets driving in both directions between home and work, or going back to school or whatever.... Being 30-45 minutes stuck in traffic because cyclists do not want to stop at red lights is stressful enough, and even more demeaning to see that cyclists passing yelling insults to drivers and pedestrians, in addition, to laugh at those who are unable to continue their route. Is enough!

Personally, I very much agree with this type of activity. It's good to educate about healthy sports, family, friends, etc. But I also think that when conducting an event of this size, with hundreds of cyclists and miles to go, then you should organize as many events held in the city and do not commit the traffic and busy schedules of its inhabitants. If they continue in this way, the day is not far in the outbreak of a brawl, a serious accident and major discontent against something that could have been avoided. I'm just saying, then do not complain about the consequences. Together we can achieve better living!

michael.arufe
michael.arufe

No actually, I'd say it's time for Critical Mass to act like civilized goddamn adults and SHARE the road, instead of monopolizing it for hours on a Friday night when people are trying to get home to their families. That is literally the most stupid and childish way I can think of to garner respect from motorists. If anything, it engenders more disrespect, and sometimes outright animosity. 

bknoefler
bknoefler

The problem with critical mass is the Miami PD. they have made a conscious decision to ignore critical mass to avoid " condoning" it as a legal event. What city in the world ignores to public safety requirements of a 4,000 person event? What do they do for the calle Ocho festival, Heat games or even. Miami heat parade? Imagine if Obama came to town and they sat around at the gas stations? Until the MPD addresses the public safety requirements of such a large monthly even by blocking intersections,etc, there will be conflict. All they have to do is do their job

avcaro9573
avcaro9573

wow!!! its hard for me to believe that I moved to Florida thinking that people here are more conscious and civilized than the place where I come from...I have a car, I had two motorcycles and now I ride a bike to keep my self healthy and enjoy the ride with my family.  I always have respected the transit rules and laws.  I understand the frustration of the persons that got stuck in a traffic jam but from there to say that you re going to run over a person wow!!!! that says a lot of the values and humanity of the persons commenting on this article. This should not be a war between one side or the other. I believe that Critical Mass should be more organize and simply get the help of the police in their events so they can planned the routes and make the event a happy experience for both sides.  Instead of criticizing why don't we look for options??? and the last thing I'm going to comment, is all of you should sit down and really look inside yourself and souls because the world is as crazy and awful as it is because of the lack of love and understanding.  You should all be ashamed of yourselves.

Mike Napoles
Mike Napoles

If you want respect on the road follow the same rules on the road as everyone else!!! stop at stop signs. stop at red lights. until then you are on your own! ride at your own risk!

Craig Chester
Craig Chester

We already had Bike Miami Days under Manny Diaz...Regalado scaled it back, then cancelled it...citing city finances...only we piss away money on things far less popular than that.

Phil Ramirez
Phil Ramirez

Well Craig, guess what... Unless such a movement is pushed in miami, by a celebrity or a power broker, it won't take flight. Miami, and Florida in general, are reluctant to be part of a global progressive-thinking society... Stay tuned for replies such as: "We're not Californy, we FloriDUH (they took 'er jeeeeebs!!)" "If you don't like it, you can go somewhere else." Only Old Cutler Road, deep into gables estates, is safe for riders, outside them bike paths in key Biscayne or Oletta Park.

Bilge Rat
Bilge Rat

I'll learn to share the road with them when they learn to obey the same traffic lights and rules on the road motorisists have to.

Craig Chester
Craig Chester

There is no 'antagonism' between cars and bikes. The fact is Critical Mass is an extraordinarily rare opportunity that casual bike riders in Miami have to ride their bikes in relatively safety. There are NO ciclovia, car-free bike events like they have in cities around the country and world. We used to have the popular Bike Miami Days until Regalado inexplicably got rid of it instead of expanding it to capitalize on the momentum of cycling in Miami. CM is a byproduct of the city not offering any chances for people to ride in safety. Check out what goes on in LA for an example of what actually well-run cities are doing to fulfill the pent-up latent demand for car-free riding, walking, skating and enjoyment of their city. http://www.ciclavia.org/about/

Phil Ramirez
Phil Ramirez

Both drivers and riders alike are ANIMALS!! 1-). Miami drivers are idiots and have no common courtesy. I understand that the "Chinese Bike/Burro to Gas Powered Vehicle" transition is hard, but the Miami experiment is total bullshit. 2-). What's the penchant to ride at night, in poor lit roads AND WEARING DARK CLOTHING?! 3-). Even if bike paths are built throughout the county, like the ENTIRE STATE OF RHODE ISLAND, some idiots will claim is their god-given right to ride on the street, just like that wheelchaired-cat on Broward blvd.

monomojao
monomojao

Why cant they ride in Hialeah? 

Kristofer Jesus Castellar
Kristofer Jesus Castellar

I agree with motorist. Critical mass dirupts traffic flow of motorized vehicles .. How about we make all streets one way with the right side as a bicycle lane on all streets, and we implement strict laws to protect pedestrians, and cyclist like in California ..... Or are all of you Slimy Jews?

Omar Ghaffar
Omar Ghaffar

Car insurance is sky high here because people behave like animals on the road, and third world drivers without car insurance are the norm. These factors have to change as well.

cpchester
cpchester topcommenter

Newsflash - Every single day our roads are clogged with cars, idling in traffic. Usually because of crashes and incessant driver error. Every day, roads and highways are shut down to extract someone's bloody body from a mangled car wreck. Don't act like Critical Mass, which happens once a month for an hour is the only thing delaying drivers in this god forsaken traffic ridden clusterfuck of a city. Give it a try, it's one of the few moments you can enjoy the beauty of this place in relative safety without being confined to a metal canister.

Twisted_Sister
Twisted_Sister

As a cyclist I've realized that the responsibility goes both ways. Motorists have no consideration for bikers and bikers have no respect for traffic laws. I've seen it. Bikers think they own the street. But for those who wants to respect the traffic laws it is difficult to move in the city when there is no space for us to ride safely.

Kristina Jones Barahona
Kristina Jones Barahona

I'm in favor of events like this. But any other event of this nature and size would be coordinated with the city from the start. When there is no organization and cyclists going the wrong way down a one way street it is no longer an event but a free-for-all. Respect the rules of the road and gain more respect. As a cyclist I know how badly this city needs to learn it.

Teron Armstrong
Teron Armstrong

Motorists would have no problem with bicyclists IF they obeyed the traffic lights and signs. Blocking streets and running lights, making motorists wait for thousands of bikes to meander through an intersection just makes for tense times.

Anthonyvop1
Anthonyvop1 topcommenter

Cyclists pay no taxes in the form of licenses or tags.  Don't pay tolls nor are forced to have insurance.  The continually violate traffic laws and disrupt the flow of traffic.

And they say they want "respect"......FUCK EM'!

Jason Chohonis
Jason Chohonis

It sucks that the attitude of critical mass is one of antagonism between cars and bikes. Fact is our city and county has let down both groups with a complete lack of effort towards making this a safer driving/cycling city. Not to mention pedestrians. Many sidewalks in this county just end abruptly, forcing pedestrians to cross busy roads. There are asshole cyclists, there are asshole drivers, safer streets wouldn't get rid of these people, but would make the city a lot safer/friendlier.

Sergio Serrano
Sergio Serrano

If they want respect, then they as well need to respect traffic lights & traffic signs.

Amanda Drewniak
Amanda Drewniak

Ha! Respect? Just the other day I seen a cyclist run a red light and made a truck stop short in front of the AAA. There are bike lanes in downtown but where do they ride? On the sidewalk. CM is not a peaceful protest it is an annoyance. If you want the respect from the drivers follow the rules of the road.

Floribel Maldonado Pagán
Floribel Maldonado Pagán

Well, until cyclists remember that THEY also have to share the road with cars and pedestrians alike, no sympathy from me. I've had cyclists cut me off both as a pedestrian and as a driver where I live (Brickell). I'm not understanding this sense of entitlement. Tragedies will continue to happen until they realize they have more to lose.

frankd4
frankd4 topcommenter

i think the MAIN problem is the issue pits CARS against CYCLISTS in such a way that BOTH sides over-reach their demands

any MIX of modes of getting around including WALKING must each have their OWN SEPERATE paths = period

a eighteen-wheel tractor trailer can't mix with bicycles and pedestrians can't mix with motorized vehilces = period

the paths have to be SINGLE USE either designated by design OR allocated during certain specific times (i've seen many many parkways for cars CLOSED in sections on sunday mornings from 7am to NOON to allow BICYCLES ONLY)

Andy Cole
Andy Cole

As a veteran rider I think "critical mass" is the worst thing to happen to bicycling since the flat tire.

Jacob Marek
Jacob Marek

the thing is, and Layssa hit the nail on the head: cyclists are under the same responsibility to obey traffic laws as motorists. there is no way cyclists will ever gain the respect they seek using the methods they use -- the mantra seems to be "piss everyone off until they respect us." not likely to happen. rather than punish motorists (which, yes, are woefully ignorant of cycling culture), why not try to enact change from the people who can provide it? protest the city/county/whoever to add bike lanes, signage, dedicated pathways, etc. as it stands now, nothing will change, and everyone remains in a perpetual state of anger. and, for the record, i am a cyclist and rarely drive. but i also follow the rules of the road.

Alexander Fernandez
Alexander Fernandez

If drivers were as scofflaw as cyclists, either during CM or not, there would be 70 dead bikers a week. There attitude is not one of sharing the road pragmatically, it is rather one of owning the road with a big middle finger extended during Critical Mass.

frankd4
frankd4 topcommenter

IF MOST of us in motor vehicles COULD ride bicycles instead - WE WOULD

Clint Escandell
Clint Escandell

Exactly. This "share the road" crap is a two-way street (no pun intended). My experience is that bicyclists feel entitled to the road, and do what they want. All the blame can't be pinned on the car drivers.

Layssa Ma Zamora-Pérez
Layssa Ma Zamora-Pérez

Cyclists should also remember that they're subject to the same traffic laws as cars. Everyone's attention while on the road (those on bikes, in cars, scooters, etc.) could only make things safer and better for all out there.

Michael Marrero
Michael Marrero

I can see it now. A giant monster truck and angry Miami driver pummeling through a sea of bicyclist. Mass Massacre coming soon..

Jay Lee Mendez
Jay Lee Mendez

Is there a way to bring attention to bicycle scene and sharing the road without causing the traffic on a Friday night. Like breaking up the mass into intervals? I think critical mass is great, but it has grown tremendously, maybe some more organization would help it.

HarryTheHandyman
HarryTheHandyman topcommenter

Getting a cow catcher installed on my F350.  I'm ready for the next Critical Mass event that clogs up the roads.  Want drivers to respect you?  Be courteous and follow traffic laws.

avcaro9573
avcaro9573

@Teron Armstrong  but that's not what we motorist do on big events here and in other states?

bluetrumpet01
bluetrumpet01

@Anthonyvop1 dude really? are you joking? almost every single cyclist in Miami also drives a car, it's close to impossible not to have one in Miami. So yes, not only do cyclists pay taxes on gas, licenses, and tags, but when riding a bicycle on the roads, they cause a miniscule fraction of the damage a car does to said road. your argument is invalid

opusthepoet
opusthepoet

@Victoria Dee Just the other day I was hit by a car passing on my right in the same lane as I was waiting to make a left turn. fortunately I was not seriously injured, but the vehicle did lose a rear-view mirror from contact made with my elbow. The law requires me to move to the left side of the lane when making a left turn (which I was doing to get to my bank and make a mortgage payment). The difference between your story and mine is that the consequences to the victims for illegal actions are much higher when a motor vehicle operator breaks the laws and hits a cyclist than when a cyclist breaks the laws and hits the motor vehicle.

cpchester
cpchester topcommenter

@Victoria Dee Show me where the bike lanes are downtown. 

cpchester
cpchester topcommenter

@frankd4 Closing a lane on the Rickenbacker on the weekend mornings seems pretty obvious - bicycles come close to outnumbering cars.

bluetrumpet01
bluetrumpet01

@Andy Cole amen brother! it makes cyclists look bad. the additional hatred it creates towards cyclists isn't worth the benefit of getting the fringe onto bicycles

Anthonyvop1
Anthonyvop1 topcommenter

@bluetrumpet01 @Anthonyvop1 Every vehicle on the road. Car, truck, motorcycle, scooter has to pay for a Tag(Tax)  Every one of them except Bicycles.    

Using your logic if I pay Tax, tag, driver's license and insurance for one car I don't have to pay for any of those for my other cars.

While you can argue that Bicyclist cause less damage to the roads it is more than offset by the damage to the environment created by the slowing of traffic they cause and of course the loss of time.   time is money.  Every time a Cyclist slows me down they are costing me money.  

And lets not forget the Rickenbacker Causeway.  A favorite place for the worst cyclist to congregate to block traffic and yet they don't even pay toll.

 

frankd4
frankd4 topcommenter

in westchester NY FOR BICYCLES ONLY every SUNDAY morning a stretch of the BRONX RIVER PARKWAY would be closed from white plains to yonkers - on each entrance ramp people would spill out onto the parkway for the time allocated without fear of interaction with CARS - the parkway was specifically designed back in the day to be a scenic mild roller-coaster twisting turning road - it was VERY POPULAR and VERY SAFE = period

frankd4
frankd4 topcommenter

i would take it from public parking lot, say a tri-rail station, whereby people could DRIVE to a central location and then ONTO a BIKE ONLY TRAIL

mixing cars and bikes and runners and walkers is a BIG MISTAKE because they ALL have different requirements

even the bRoadwalk in hollywood is a train-wreck waiting to happen because wobbly little inattentive kids walking to or from the sand have to interact with fomula-one speed cyclists whizzing through as if it were an olympic trial event from one end to the other = mixing doesn't work = period

opusthepoet
opusthepoet

@Anthonyvop1 @bluetrumpet01 I'm still waiting for my sales tax and property tax refunds I supposedly get (according to your logic) because I ride a bicycle and take the bus as my sole transportation options. Local streets are paid for by local taxes, and even state highways are partially funded via general funds that everybody contributes to. 

The only paved routes entirely funded by gas taxes are Federal Interstate highways that bicycles are restricted from except where they are the only access to an area within 5 miles. There are several western states Interstates with bike lanes as they are the only game in town for more than 50 miles if you actually want to go from one town to another, the Interstate having been built over the previous state highways that were the only connecting paved routes. The longest of these is I80 between Salt Lake City and Battle Mountain NV which actually has signage reminding cyclists to get off the highway at the ends of the bikable sections. This is about 300 miles of a bike lane on the Interstate.

frankd4
frankd4 topcommenter

here in soFLA the perfect BIKE ONLY trail for a SUNDAY MORNING could be route 27 (from MIAMI to CLEWISTON)

i bet people would spill out from TAFT and GRIFFIN and KROME all the way to downtown DADE and could have a stretch all up and down out west without a CAR within miles !

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