On the last Friday of every month, hundreds of area cyclists descend on Government Center in Downtown Miami for “Critical Mass”, a global celebration of bicycles that takes place in over 300 world cities. At it’s essence, Critical Mass is a casual bicycle ride through Miami and it’s environs, allowing people to enjoy their city free from the trappings of an automobile interior and making a powerful statement about the rise of bicycling in Miami.
Miami’s iteration of Critical Mass began about 4 years ago. In recent months, it’s popularity and numbers have surged, going from around 600 riders in October 2011 to over 1,300 in February 2012, as documented by the various YouTube videos that sprout up after the ride.
Critical Mass is geared to be a casual ride of 12 to 15 miles at a moderate pace of 12 miles per hour. However, there is no police escort or official recognition from local officials, so participants take it upon themselves to try and keep the group together and organized, even through busy intersections and throughfares. It’s also a teriffic way to experience neighborhoods that many residents typically might not otherwise visit, as past rides have cruised through Little Havana, Wynwood, Little Haiti, Coral Gables, Coconut Grove and elsewhere.
The website The Miami Bike Scene posts a route a few days before the last Friday of the month, along with some safety and group riding tips intended to interject some order to the growing ride. For the past year, the ride has largely been relegated to routes traveling through the Miami-Dade mainland, rather than crossing over to Miami Beach. The various causeway crossings are not well-suited for a large group ride, for reasons including endless construction (Venetian Causeway) and unsafe road design for cyclists (MacArthur, Tuttle causeways).
A loose coalition of area Critical Mass advocates maintain that the ride is not a “protest” ride or designed to foster an “us versus them (motorists)” sentiment. Rather, the event is geared towards enhancing local bicycle culture, having fun and creating social connections. Any type of non-motorized transportation is welcome, as people on tricycles, skateboards, rollerblades/skates and other self-propelled devices have all made appearances in the past.
Recaps of previous rides are chronicled by Beached Miami, complete with pictures and commentary.
Tonight’s Critical Mass meets at 6:30pm at Government Center in Downtown Miami.