Saturday, August 28, 2010


There comes a time when we are all faced with the evidence that points to the fact that we are mistaken.
Last night's Miami Critical Mass ride proved me wrong ... in a big way. I had previously taken away a couple of stars because in principle I am opposed to guerilla style activism that may fuel polarizing views and rather than bringing all parts together towards the achievement of a common goal, it drives them apart by the actions of one of the interested parties.

Critical Mass is potentially such a thing- However, we cannot discount power of the masses so to speak and in these event the Miami Cycling community in all shapes and forms comes together to achieve what is in my view, a common goal : Awareness

The event has grown exponentially from its first years when maybe a couple dozen of people showed up. Now it is literally hundreds of riders coming together for a fun ride around urban Miami.

It is truly a powerful scene to see all those blinking lights taking to the streets and exploring the city, the neighborhoods come out to witness the throng of bikes cruising to town and we are greeted by people waiving on the side of the road, and the sights, sounds, and smells of a Friday evening in the neighborhoods.

As for the car to cyclist relationship, the scales are tilted in favor of the bike and for the most part, motorists understand and respect what they see unfolding in front of them. It is undeniable that at some point in time, many of the participants are in fact motorists as well and as we take to the streets on our bikes and to some, this is their only experience of riding on open streets with real traffic, we learn to come together and respect each other in the open area that in the end, belongs to everyone alike.

Total kudos to the organizers of these event, the routes are always a cultural travel through the streets of the Magic City and gives us all an opportunity to see our town from the ground level and interact positively with our neighbors, as they play host to Critical Mass on any given Friday evening, the are surprised when they see peloton coming through and while wondering what on earth rolled into town, they welcome the riders and cheer enthusiastically.

Note to the riders, it is not cool to litter these communities while we go through it, we noticed riders discarding Styrofoam cups in the middle of the street - we are striving to reduce our footprint and this encompasses everything - also, smoking on the ride around fellow riders completely unacceptable.

To the corkers - great job ! Not only keeping the riders safe in the intersections, but also taking the time to politely interact with motorists as the cyclists roll by and inform them about Critical Mass.

I met a fellow rider who told he had learned about the ride when he witness Critical Mass while he was waiting on a red light and in his own words "It was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen" - fast forward to the next month, he is now riding his bike on this event.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Commuting is subject to natural selection

"It's illegal!" That's the response I got from an acquaintance when I told him that after a couple of weeks of commuting to and from work on my road bike, and having experienced several close calls with vehicles on the road;  it was time to switch to my hybrid bike and consider riding on the sidewalk when traffic got really challenging.

Naturally, I wasn't about  to take his word for it, and I did some researching of my own, to make sure that if and when it became necessary to jump the curb and ride on the sidewalk, I wouldn't be subject to tickets or fines.

To wit :

Sidewalk riding

(Section 316.2065(10) and (11), F.S.)
A person propelling a vehicle by human power upon and along a sidewalk, or across a roadway upon and along a crosswalk, has all the rights and duties applicable to a pedestrian under the same circumstances.

So, having cleared that issue, and after duly documenting my right to ride on the sidewalk, the argument continued on for days on my facebook page, he went on to say that despite the fact that it was not illegal per Se, it should still not be allowed. Some of his fellow riders from his Tuesday night group ride chimed in to call me a wuss for not riding on the road and declared me persona non grata for the cycling community of the world.

Clearly this was a healthy exchange of some banter among members of the same demographic group with different ideas: On the one hand, not a single one of those cyclists who decided to deride my announcement of safety over peril ride their bicycles to work; so clearly, they simply cannot relate. On the other hand, they are all from the North Shore suburbs of Chicago, populated mostly by WASPs, where they enjoy some of the best bicycle trails in the midwest so how can they possible imagine what it feel like to get buzzed by east bound traffic on SW 8th street coming from the west towards Coral Gables? I am not exagerating when I say that on a given day, I get brushed at least twice by side mirrors.

Now, I give these drivers the benefit of the doubt and assume that they are too busy texting, on the phone, or applying make up, so their spatial percepetion is skewed and I refuse to believe that a human being would purposely attempt to hurt another individual simply because they can. But reality tells me that my presence on the road awakens their feelings of inadequacy and rather than trying to walk or bike a bit more, it is simply easier to try to obliterate those who do than to rise up to the challenge and improve their lives.

But I digress, I have since switched bicycles for my commute, and no longer ride my road bike, and the main purpose is: Survival. You see, on my road bike, I am not able to jump a curb if need be, or cut through parking lots, or ride on the sidewalk whenever I feel endangered by traffic. I realized that being a strong rider is quite meaningless when going up against a car, because for all my mental acquity and muscle strength and reaction, a vehicle will trump human any day of the week.

Now don't get me wrong, I am by no means yielding or running away. I am simply  adapting to my environment to survive, because in the end, my commute makes me feel good, makes me feel happy, relaxes me and keeps me in better shape, but it is not a training ride - it is simply just that.... a commute ... on a bicycle....propelled by me.... without emisions, and this is my life.