Will 2012 be regarded as the year Critical Mass penetrated Miami’s mainstream culture?
There’s no denying it, ladies and gentlemen: The monthly assemblage of what is now consistently 1000-2000 cyclists for Miami’s Critical Mass has hit, or is at least beginning to hit, the mainstream.
Yes, of course, we have the brouhaha generated by certain celebrity athletes’ participation at recent rides. If you’ve missed it, here’s just one tiny sample of the coverage of recent Critical Mass appearances by the likes of basketball idols Dwayne Wade and Lebron James.
As with all cities, but with Miami in particular, the presence of high-profile figures makes things buzz just a bit more loudly and brightly. Their presence has undeniably elevated the event’s public profile in a positive way. Thank you, basketball superheros!
As a quick aside, though, in the opinion of this humble author, if we wish to see these guys at future rides — which would be great for the Miami biking community — we should probably not hound them with fanatical human-worshiping behavior. Let them embrace the ride in its raw, unadulterated-by-celebrity-fixation glory like any other Miamian.
Twenty-twelve was critical for Critical Mass in ways that go beyond the mere presence of famous athletes, though. Most importantly, the past year saw a virtually exponential increase in ridership.
I don’t have any solid data (does anyone?), but there’s a distinct impression that the number of riders averaged around 500 in 2011 while averaging around 1000 in 2012 (plus or minus a few hundred, depending on the month, weather, and maybe even the alignment of the planets — who knows!?)
What’s important to understand, though, is that Critical Mass reached a certain threshold in 2012. Throughout the course of the past year, word has spread farther and wider than ever before on the wonders and excitement of this cherished celebration of cycling and community.
It’s penetrated beyond the sub-cultural circles of fixie-riding hipsters; latex-wearing roadies; cruiser-riding beach bums; blinged-out, low-riding gangsters; your grandma and grandpa; and all other bicycle geek squads of various sorts (including nerdy blog writers).
Indeed, it’s now even reached the radars of Miami’s basketball legends-in-the-making.
The point, however, is that Critical Mass brought D-Wade and King James; they didn’t bring Critical Mass.
Dare I also go so far as to posit that in 2012 Critical Mass even served diplomatic purposes by further consolidating bilateral relations between the United States and at least one of its European allies?
We all remember the epic April 2012 Go Dutch! Orange Bike-In Festival!, celebrating Queen’s Day (Koninginnedag) and sponsored by the Consulate General of the Kingdom of The Netherlands.
As with all Miami Critical Mass rides, this righteous event was unofficially organized by the The Miami Bike Scene (at least to the extent that such an inherently organic and self-regulating event can even be ‘organized’ at all).
There are also other qualities marking the Critical Mass rides of 2012 from all previous years. In the preceding years, and even in early 2012, Critical Massers would convene directly beneath the Metrorail and Metromover tracks at the Government Center transit station, where the administrative offices of Miami-Dade County are located.
Now, however, the rendezvous point has reached, well, a critical mass. We now regularly occupy not only the ground floor of Government Center station, but also nearly all of NW 1st Street from NW 1st to 2nd Avenues, with pockets of riders filling other adjacent areas as well. The meeting spot has now become the meeting block.
The city’s public safety crews are now much more sympathetic and cooperative with the event too. I personally remember my earliest masses when I would hear rumors floating through the crowds that cops were vigilantly ‘giving citations’ and that riders needed to ‘watch out for cops’.
Such hearsay, whether legitimate or not, cast a sort of perceived antagonism between cops and mass cyclists. These days, though, I don’t hear any of that nonsense, and I’m glad for it too! In fact, the only interaction I witnessed between the cyclists and cops at this past weekend’s ride was quite heartening: patrol cars waited patiently for 10-15 minutes for the bulk of the mass to get through.
Also, as was recently reported on an extremely prestigious, high-profile news source, our Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man was seen protecting Critical Mass riders as they made their way through the city.
With public defenders like Spidey (or at least a cool firefighter dude dressed-up like him) climbing street-lamps to demonstrate their good-will toward cyclists, one finds it difficult to deny that Critical Mass has indeed made it to the big leagues of Miami’s collective consciousness.
So, our dearly beloved readers, we ask you to give us your reflections on the past year of Critical Mass . . .
Will you remember 2012 as the year Miami’s Critical Mass went mainstream?
Whatever the case, while 2012 was unquestionably a great year for Miami Critical Mass, I’m pretty sure it’s only going to get better in 2013.
Happy New Year, Miami!
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