Will 2012 be regarded as the year Critical Mass penetrated Miami’s mainstream culture?

Miami Critical Mass December 2012 — riders convene at Government Center transit station.

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.

Last week’s route took riders through downtown Coral Gables’ main thoroughfare: historic Miracle Mile, where classy (and want-to-be classy) Gables’ folk were elated to encounter the reclamation of the streets by 1000-1500 cyclists.

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.

Miami Basket-Ballers (left to right): LeBron James, Mario Chalmers, Dwayne Wade. Even Miami’s athlete elite enjoy Miami’s Critical Mass.
Photo Credit: Craig Chester. Source: StreetsBlog.org

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.

The April 2012 Go Dutch! Orange Bike-In Festival was definitely a highlight of the past year. It also certainly added a heightened degree of validity and credibility to the growing stature of Miami Critical Mass as a trans-cultural community event. Hell, it was partially sponsored by Queen Beatrix and Dutch tax-payers. It doesn’t get more legit than that!

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.

Critical Mass riders no longer fit in the limited public space beneath Government Center . . . we’ve taken over nearly the entire street 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.

The officer in this City of Miami  police car recognizes that Critical Mass is now a regular monthly phenomenon that should be respected and celebrated. S/he waited just like all the other cars . . . probably wishing that s/he could join us!

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.

Critical Mass has been ending at The Filling Station, among Miami’s best dive bars, for the past several months. Even the final intersection we’ve been stopping at is more mainstream, bringing the cyclist traffic of the mass into the heart of downtown automobile traffic — a very appropriate ending, if you ask me.

 

These days, Critical Mass ends at the intersection of SE 2nd Street and SE 1st Avenue, at a great Miami dive bar, The Filling Station.

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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8 Responses to 2012 — The Year Miami’s Critical Mass Went Mainstream?

  1. Armandoji says:

    I am all in favor of Critical Mass but simply taking over the streets is ridiculous. I had to wait over 30 minutes at an intersection off of Coral Way for the miles long line of bicyclists to pass. They wouldnt stop for street lights or anything. They should divide the bicyclists into groups so that regular traffic can continue. Otherwise, i will begin to oppose this event. After all, I do not support incnveniencing tens of thousands of workers trying to get home from work so that a thousand hipsters can entertain themselves.

       0 likes

  2. jpy says:

    The crowd can be more organized or the timing of the event can be better planned. But I don’t think it should be stopped anyhow. Perhaps opposition against such a well-meant event because of only one reason, its “formality,” cannot stand strong. I’m not sure how much traffic exactly is there at night on that route in Miami but it seems that those lightrail buses are almost empty in the pictures…had the crowd caused severe disturbance to a normal Miami night, I am sure the cops would have done something already instead of waiting. This event is not about promoting some sort of entertainment for those who have simply too much time on their hands, or merely some performance art (no offense to that!) but beyond! It’s a statement calling for a hybrid public transportation system that can connect people more efficiently in Miami.

       2 likes

  3. B says:

    Critical Mass has definitely become mainstream, but like any mainstream recreational event, like running events or triathlons, it needs the next level of organization. If the goal is to make motorists aware of cyclists and respect them as equally legitimate users of the road, the “equally” part needs to apply, especially with regards to obeying basic traffic signals. Kindly remember that you DON’T have a permit to close the roads to automobile traffic, and motorists still need to get to their destinations. I’d suggest getting permits for partial road closures, depart in waves, and have the police direct traffic at intersections. This sould greatly improve the perception of the movement by the general public, since you’re not just “occupying” the roads.

       1 likes

  4. Meghan says:

    I agree with the comments above…the event needs to be more organized as CM has lost it’s original goal. I haven’t participated in CM in a while mostly because the cyclists do not follow any rules. It feels like a free for all. If we are aspiring to have mutual respect on the roads of Miami through such events like CM then we need to get back to basics. Cyclists need to follow traffic laws too.

       1 likes

  5. Kris337 says:

    First of all Cyclist are not motorized vehicles, and stopping at lights would not only break the mass up, but endanger a lot of riders. There are women, and children in the mass, and their safety is paramount. That is why we cannot risk any accidents.

    Cars have their own critical mass every day of the month, at all hours. They not only disrespect Pedestrians, and cyclist, but hold us up on any other given day. No where else in the world do we have to yield to Gas Guzzlers. If you truly believe in Freedom, and Humanity you will have to turn the other cheek, or turn on your brain instead. This is America, land of the Free, with Liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
    Next time turn off your engines, and instead be thankful that we even grazed your presence fatso

       2 likes

  6. Thais Alvarez says:

    This is an interesting article delineating the evolution of Critical Mass. It is great that the cycling community is coming out to support and create awareness for cyclists by participating in Critical Mass. The comments, however, cannot be ignored; they allude to the fact that Critical Mass needs direction to avoid creating a divide between cyclists and commuters. Given, as the article states, that law enforcement has grown sympathetic towards Critical Mass, perhaps they can be persuaded to escort the Critical Mass rides. It is evident that many motorists are growing angry at the Critical Mass ride and/or riders, and in certain Critical Mass events in other cities, both domestically and aboard, violence has ensued. In any case, I love attending Critical Mass rides because the synergy is intoxicating! Everyone should try this at least once! Safely, ride on!

       1 likes

  7. Kris337 says:

    Well I see your point, and understand where you are coming feom. The point of critical mass is not to recieve a police escort but to raise awareness so that one day, everyday will be critical mass. These bozos argue about congestion of traffic like hipocrites yet drive a car in an densly populated city. Its bipolar!

    What we really need is a bicycle infustructur that will network all of south florida, not just a mile here an a there. But most importantly strict laws to protect cyclist lives, and protect them from any harrassment. Lastly large programs on educating the major public, especially motorist on the laws, and rights of cyclist

       1 likes

  8. B says:

    ^^Large-scale programs to educate the public are definitely necessary. I’d even go as far as to say driver’s ed classes should have a component where some students ride bikes and others practice safely passing with minimum 3 ft clearance. “Traffic school” after getting a ticket should also have a cyclist-focused module.

    However, there is no way you can expect every day to be like CM in it’s current form!!! Even in Holland, cyclists are expected to obey basic traffic laws, and for the most part, they do so, and cars and cyclists interact pretty well. Shaking your fists at motorists and name calling is not the best way to foster this kind of harmony. Especially when you are breaking traffic regulations in front of ~99% of drivers who do routinely stop at red lights.

       1 likes

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