June 13 2013

Transforming Miami: One Ride at a Time

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.

Miami Critical Mass on Calle Ocho

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 on Coral Way

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.

Jennifer Garcia

Born and raised in the Midwest, Jennifer García now enjoys the energy and quality of life that Miami has to offer. Professionally, she uses traditional architecture and principles of the New Urbanism as a Town Planner at Dover, Kohl & Partners. Based on careful research, she designs each project within the context of the local architectural language, distinct culture, and regional settlement patterns. She proudly holds a Master of Architecture from Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan. Traveling has taught her to immerse herself into each place’s history, culture, traditions, and how they contribute to the range of urbanism and local vernacular. She also enjoys blogging as a local transit advocate for Transit Miami. Her daily bicycle commutes reinforce her belief in nurturing a living urbanism with livable streets.

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This entry was posted on Thursday, June 13th, 2013 at 9:03 am and is filed under Environment, Transportation. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


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