Thousands Expected to Clog the Streets for Miami's Monthly Critical Mass Bike Ride

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Thousands of cyclists from Miami will take to the streets Friday night for the monthly Critical Mass bike ride.

    About 3,000 riders are expected to participate in this month's bike ride, which also coincides with Miami's 117th birthday.

    The ride, which happens on the last Friday of every month, starts at the Stephen P. Clark Government Center in downtown Miami. Riders head out at 7:15 for the almost 12-mile route that takes them down Calle Ocho to Coral Gables and then back east on Coral Way. The ride will end at Grand Central Park for the free Magic City Bike Party, which is from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m.

    Critical Mass is meant to show drivers they have to share the road with bikes and encourage cities to invest in bike lanes where they can ride safely, the Miami Herald reported.

    The tradition started about 20 years ago in San Francisco, when a few dozen cyclists held the first ride. It was called "Commute Clot," and people rode to raise motorists' awareness of cyclists' rights.

    Since then, it has grown leading to driver complaints, arrests and injuries.

    During a ride in Brazil two years ago, a driver hit cyclists from behind, injuring 40 people, the newspaper reported.

    South Florida's Critical Mass started meeting on the last Friday of each month in May 2007.

    Riders are encouraged to not filter forward passed stop cars at a red light. They are also encouraged to cork, which is the act of preventing cars from passing through or driving into the mass. They do this by placing their bicycle in front of cars or talking to the driver, according to themiamibikescene.com, which posts the routes for Miami Critical Mass.

    They are also encouraged to keep a 12 mile per hour pace, making the ride last about an hour.

    Although, this hour is one of frustration for commuters.

    During the Critical Mass last month, drivers couldn't get home from work. Even emergency vehicles couldn't get to their destinations because of the backed up traffic, the newspaper reported.

    "Critical Mass totally screws up the commute," Miami Beach resident John Felder, who has been stuck behind the ride several times while driving home from work, told the newspaper. "Traffic is just stuck there until they're completely gone."

    Bicyclist Rydel Deed, who runs themiamibikescene.com, said they are entitled to use the road.

    "Once we get treated with respect from all motorists, then we won't need Critical Mass," he wrote in an email to the newspaper.

    But drivers don't believe the bicyclists are sharing the road, instead they are blocking entire lanes during their ride.

    "If these riders stopped at every red light and rode two abreast as required by law, then the citizens would really see what real gridlock we can legally cause," Deed said.

    The ride also coincides with the monthly Cultural Viernes festival, which the bicyclists ride by in Little Havana.

    The organizers of the festival wish the bike ride was on a different day, but visitors love to see the bicyclists ride by.

    "If it wouldn't be because of the traffic, we would love to have them," Viernes Culturales Executive Pati Vargas told the newspaper. "It's a great concept. It's a bike parade, if you think about it."

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