Though ranked among the least bike-friendly cities in the country, Miami is improving. With a Bicycle Master Plan, education initiatives, greenways and bike lanes installations, and Bike/Walk city events, improvements are enhancing some of the country’s most dangerous areas for riders and walkers. While these physical upgrades are important, the unity and adjustment of road mentality may be what makes Miami a safer city. One event gaining popularity - due in part to the attendance of LeBron, Dwyane Wade, and Gabrielle Union - is Miami Critical Mass.
Critical Mass is not a new concept, having started in 1992 in San Francisco, then known as the Commute Clot, and even before that in the early 1970s in Stockholm. The term ‘Critical Mass’ - derived from the critical mass of cyclists necessary to move through an intersection without a signal - was first outlined in the documentary Return of the Scorcher. In Miami, these Critical Mass rides are held the last Friday of every month.
Not a protest ride but a spontaneous gathering. Due to its overall decentralized structure, Critical Mass has no leadership or membership. All that is needed is sufficient attendance - announced through social media - to create the “critical mass” of riders.
Not anti-car, but a celebration. The ride is fun with smiles, waving, cheering, supportive honking, and bike bells. It is a visual reminder to drivers that we must safely share the road with each other.
Not an ‘us vs. them’ ride, but inclusive. Critical Mass doesn’t discourage driving.The event encourages sustainable cycling for all ages, skill levels, and backgrounds. Streets should allow for an array of transportation options for a diverse community.
Miami Critical Mass rides have reached around 2,000 riders and are expected to grow throughout the year. Unfortunately, as attendance increases, rides around the globe bring controversy and public opposition: obstruction of traffic, disregard of traffic laws, and disruption of normal city functions. A concerted effort should be made to maintain the positive aspects of the ride, even as it attracts more riders.
What are your views on the Critical Mass rides near you?
Credits: Photographs by Jennifer Garcia. Data linked to sources.