Friday, May 13, 2011

Florida Cyclists unite for the MS Ride

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the MS Ride, a two day ride which covers 150 miles from Homestead to the Florida Keys and back, and brings together over 3500 participants including cyclists, volunteers, sponsors, family and friends with the motto "bike to create a world free of MS".

The ride offers participants the opportunity to choose different distances depending on ability, riders can ride distances of 50, 75, 110 or 150 miles in the span of two days. Beginning on Saturday May 14th and returning on Sunday May 15th. Departing from the Homestead- Miami Speedway and making their way down to the 42BELOW village in John Pennekamp State Park in Key Largo on Saturday, and returning to Miami on Sunday. This is a fully supported ride with sponsored rest stops along the route to provide food and drinks along with entertainment for the riders along the route.
In order to participate in this ride, each rider pledges to raise at least $400.00, average riders have typically raised over $800.00. While there are scores of teams and contributors to this ride, the common cause is to raise money for the National MS Society to help with the fight against Multiple Sclerosis.

Events such as this one highlight the generosity of the human spirit, and as we scan the crowd of over 2500 riders, some great stories begin to appear. One such story is that of the Bacardi/42BELOW team which will field this year over 310 riders to make it the second largest team on the event. Under the leadership of team captain Claudette Halluk, Bacardi's director of business development and an eight year veteran of the MS Ride; the team has grown to an impressive group of employees and other members of the community to more than 300 riders and have raised to date over $150,000 for the ride, well over their goal of $140,000.

Claudette has worked tirelessly to increase awareness of the ride and raise funds of such an incredible cause and she credits her team for such a great achievement, "I’m so proud of Bacardi, 42BELOW, and the individual efforts of my teammates that this a successful event every year", and referring to the cause she adds, "because we fight this disease by simply riding a bike and because we have chosen to help thousands of people through a contribution to the MS Bike Tour, every year we come one step closer to ending MS".

Among the members of the Bacardi/42BELOW team, Debbie Kulig stands out as a true hero. Debbie not only will be riding with her two sons in this year's ride, but she has also been battling MS for over 15 years. She leads the field by example and works tirelessly to raise awareness for the case; needless to say, her participation raises the team spirit and is a source of great inspiration for participants and volunteers. Team Captain Claudette Halluk says, "Debbie is very active in the cause and she is an invaluable part of the team Bacardi/42BELOW and is a huge reason why the MS 150 has been such a success for all involved".
To find out more about the 2011 Zimmerman MS Bike Ride presented by Mack Cycle and Fitness and to see how you can make a contribution to the fight for MS, visit

Sunday, April 17, 2011

A Bad Week for Florida Cyclists

April 17th, 2011 marks the end of a particular violent week for South Florida cyclists, as details continue to emerge from the latest accident today on the MacArthur causeway, initial reports were that one of the 2 cyclists that were struck this morning had died. Sources continue to confirm that the unfortunate outcome of today's accident is a cyclist fatality.

During this past week, there have be at least 8 reported accidents involving cyclists and vehicles, and even though many details are still unclear from the different cases, the fact still remains that riding a bicycle in Miami gets more dangerous by the day.

Herein lies the problem, as we see a bike sharing program successfully grow in Miami Beach, and the sheer number of people riding bikes in Miami continues to grow, some may argue that the increase in cars to bike accidents is a direct result to the growing number of cyclists on the road. While some may fall into the numbers game trap, the figures show that a greater number of bicyclists on the road should actually result in safer conditions.

So, what seems to be the problem? I believe that the issue is more complex and multidimensional than just numbers. I have spent the better part of the past 3 years riding my bike to and from work at least 2 times a week and in the 10 miles each way that I travel on my bike, I have had the opportunity to see the city from a different point of view. I have discovered new picturesque streets, ridden by beautiful parks, explored new routes and gone through some pretty cool South Florida thunderstorms, commuting by bike not only makes you feel better, it makes you a better driver as well.

During these rides, I have developed a golden rule to keep me safe and ultimately alive; if cannot make eye contact with the driver who's car I am about to pass, cross, or ride in front of, I simply don't do it. One of the biggest limitations to this rule is, tinted windows and the second one is that drivers are simply not watching the road. It is nothing short of flabbergasting and infuriating to see the sheer amount of motorists who are looking down at their cell phones while they drive. I do realize, however, that eye contact can only happen when I am about to cross a street of ride in front of a vehicle and cannot control what's coming from behind, which is 99% of the traffic we interact with, and so, we take a leap of faith and hope that those drivers who overtake us from behind are actually looking ahead and watching the road. Wishful thinking, I know.

So in the end, the main determining factor from a safe commute to an unfortunate statistic in South Florida is, luck. Quite an unfortunate conclusion, considering that we are talking about human to human interaction, but there is little hope when we hear cases like 22 year old Michael Martin who was hit by a car whose driver returned to the scene and a couple of passengers got out of the car to look at the victim laying on the ground only to get back on the vehicle and leave the scene while Michael died as a result of his injuries. What kind of animal does something like this?

I have been yelled at, honked at, startled, assaulted with objects thrown from vehicles and insulted in some internet forums for encouraging bike riding and advocating cyclist safety, this of course only strengthens my spirit and motivates me to carry on, but it is a very sad commentary on the community we live in.

My thoughts and prayers go to the family and friends of today's fatality as we close one of the worst weeks for cyclists in South Florida, and now more than ever, it is our responsibility as cyclists and pedestrians to carry on with our message and speak as loud and often as we can to bring change to our streets.

Change will come, there is no doubt about it, the question is, how many more cyclists and pedestrians need to die before our elected officials and public employees recognize that progress will happen with or without them?