"Yo, I'm riding a bike here, bro," shouted a scruffy dude in a yellow bandanna as a silver sedan tried to pass him in the left lane on Flagler. The cyclist slowed to taunt the car. "Where you going?"

As the riders swung past 16th Avenue, music echoed from the second floor of the Latin Quarter Shopping Plaza. It was dance night at Poder de Dios Presbyterian Church. The bikers then swung south onto Beacom Boulevard, past sweaty gyms and bemused firefighters, before heading west on SW Eighth Street. Everywhere, people on the street whipped out their smartphones to record what was until recently the rarest of species: Miami cyclists.

The Eighth Street route is one of Critical Mass' mainstays. But recently, organizers of Viernes Culturales, the monthly Little Havana art gathering, have complained that the bikers are delaying visitors attending the area's galleries. "We love Calle Ocho because it's three lanes, one way, with roosters along the street and Brickell in the background," Deed explains.

Michael E. Miller

On Friday, however, many riders couldn't complete the trip. Around 8:30 p.m., storm clouds began carpet-bombing Calle Ocho with rain. Some cyclists ducked into Little Havana stores for cover, but most kept on pedaling.

They probably shouldn't have. By now, it was dark, but few riders had lights. As the crowd got stretched out, cars began passing at dangerous speeds, sluicing around cyclists despite the driving rain. Many bikers decided it was safer on the sidewalk, but that only pissed off pedestrians.

"What was most irksome was when the rain fell and the cyclists began to ride on the sidewalks under the awnings and then parked with their bikes," wrote one commenter on a Reddit thread titled "Critical Mass Douchebaggery." "That meant the pedestrians had to walk in the rain so no one's precious bike would get wet... It used to be a cool spectacle to see all the bikes. Now you can hear the merchants and festivalgoers talk about 'those assholes.'"

Indeed, the debate over Critical Mass has never been more virulent. Some drivers would happily hit a cyclist if it didn't mess up their wax job. As Critical Mass has grown, so have the delays — and anger — it causes.

Meanwhile, a string of deadly, high-profile hit-and-runs have sown anger among bikers. First, playboy pop musician Carlos Bertonatti killed cyclist Christophe Le Canne on the Rickenbacker in 2010. Two years later, Michael Traverso fatally hit cyclist Aaron Cohen on the same road only to be sentenced to less than a year in jail. Several other recent deadly hit-and-runs have never been solved. In May, teenagers with BB guns repeatedly attacked Rickenbacker cyclists.

The standoff between annoyed drivers and outraged cyclists came to a head in late June, when Mount Sinai surgeon Irvin Willis struck two Critical Mass bikers with his black Mercedes. According to a police report, Willis was trying to pass cyclists on the 79th Street Causeway when he hit a father and son, injuring the latter.

The incident ignited an internet war. "The problem is NOT critical mass but the fucking stupid car drivers in Miami," one New Times reader commented. Another posted a video of a car barreling like a bowling ball through a Critical Mass ride in Brazil and wrote, "I'm waiting for this to happen [here]."

The hit-and-run also reflected poorly on the Miami Police Department. More than a month later, investigators have yet to even interview Willis. Instead, they seem more concerned with punishing cyclists. After last June's Critical Mass, Miami cops arrested local chef Aleric "AJ" Constantin for selling ice cream from a tricycle without the proper paperwork. (Constantin will go to court on the charges this month.)

Despite the setbacks, Deed insists Critical Mass is gaining momentum. Indeed, hundreds of cyclists endured last Friday's monsoon and joined him at Grand Central Park afterward. Music thumped from loudspeakers. Food trucks dished out much-needed carbs. Fire dancers spun flames around their hips. And bikers lined up to have the Critical Mass logo stamped on their T-shirts for free.

"We're not trying to piss people off," Deed says. "We don't do this during rush hour. We do it one hour a month. That's 12 hours a year. But people complain like it's the end of the world."

Contrary to news reports, Critical Mass isn't demanding the city spend millions on bike lanes, Deed says. But he admits that disrupting Miami's mindless everyday traffic is part of the process. "Countless people have told me that their first experience with Critical Mass was being stuck in a car," he says. "Then the next month they come out on their bike.

"The city needs to learn to deal with it," Deed argues, pointing out he publishes the Critical Mass route ahead of time on his blog The Miami Bike Scene. Police in Miami Beach and Coral Gables have taken to blocking — or "corking" — intersections for the riders, but MPD has received no such order. Police help block intersections in San Francisco, and cops even ride along with the group in Chicago.

Sgt. Freddie Cruz, an MPD spokesman, says he plans on meeting with organizers to discuss the idea of blocking streets. "There's no bad blood," Cruz says. "We want to come to a solution with them so everyone will be happy."

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2 comments
aasdf
aasdf

Don't block the passing lane, and obey traffic laws.  that will earn respect.

otherwise its just another illegal protest.

 
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