Critical Mass: It's Time for Miami Police and Motorists to Respect Bike Riders
These days, the ride is in danger of getting too massive for Miami's comfort. Last Friday, the starting line stretched more than three blocks. The crowd was a mixture of Miami hipsters with sleek, ultralight fixed-gear bikes -- or "fixies" -- and moms sporting Walmart specials with ultrawide seats. Some people swigged beer from bottles. Others slurped water out of high-tech CamelBaks.
It's clear Critical Mass has become its own social scene. At Friday's ride, curvaceous young women wore see-through spandex with nothing underneath. One donned fuzzy devil horns, black tights, and a low-cut red halter-top. Many dudes, meanwhile, blared pop music from speakers mounted on their bikes. A heavyset woman in pink spandex balanced atop her bike like a bear on a unicycle. "Nowadays, some people buy bikes just to come to Critical Mass," Deed points out.
The mass began moving at 7:15, undulating westward along NW First Street. Like a marathon, there was some self-selection in the order, with those at the front racing away while those at the back of the peloton were forced to wheel along patiently. Near the back, one man with spiky hair immediately crashed right in front of the cops, who did nothing. The heavyset woman brought up the rear.
Michael E. Miller A drawbridge over the Miami River kept riders from staying together
Spirits were high. But without the help of city officials or Miami Police, things quickly became disorganized. After the first 1,000 feet, a drawbridge rising above the Miami River chopped up what should have been a steady flow of cyclists into sporadic waves. Cars quickly surfed the spaces in between, honking their horns and occasionally swerving around cyclists. "Motherfuckers!" one SUV driver yelled.
"Yo, I'm riding a bike here, bro," shouted a scruffy dude in a yellow bandanna as a silver sedan tried to pass him in the left lane on Flagler. The cyclist slowed to taunt the car. "Where you going?"
As the riders swung past 16th Avenue, music echoed from the second floor of the Latin Quarter Shopping Plaza. It was dance night at Poder de Dios Presbyterian Church. The bikers then swung south onto Beacon Boulevard, past sweaty gyms and bemused firefighters, before heading west on SW Seventh Street. Everywhere, people on the street whipped out their smartphones to record what was until recently the rarest of species: Miami cyclists.
This route, west on Seventh and returning east on Eighth, is one of Critical Mass' mainstays. But recently, organizers of Viernes Culturales, the monthly Little Havana art gathering, have complained that the bikers are delaying visitors attending the area's galleries. "We love Calle Ocho because it's three lanes, one way, with roosters along the street and Brickell in the background," Deed explains.