Critical Mass Returns to Miami Beach Tonight as Mayor Levine Warns Police Are on Alert

If your Friday night plan was to skip traffic and sneak across the Venetian Causeway to Miami Beach, you might reconsider. The narrow, two-lane toll road will host this month's tour de Critical Mass.

It's the first time in five months that Critical Mass will cross the causeways and maneuver its way up Miami Beach.

As always, tonight's ride will begin at 7:15 from Government Center.

The Critical Mass will then head west through Little Havana and Overtown before heading north into Allapattah, Liberty City, Little Haiti and the Upper East Side.

The ride will then take a right and head east across the 79th Street (JFK) Causeway, through North Bay Village, and down Collins Avenue for almost 60 blocks before veering back towards Miami and crossing the Venetian Causeway.

Tonight's ride is on the longer side, clocking in at around 20 miles, and is basically a repeat of April's Critical Mass.

Here's a map of the route, courtesy of the Miami Bike Scene:

Although the Venetian Causeway may be the toughest stretch of traffic for drivers, the 79th Street Causeway is much more dangerous for cyclists.

It was there that a local surgeon hit a father and son during Critical Mass before fleeing in his car last summer.

Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine has already put out a warning that police will be closely watching the ride tonight. In a letter sent to Beach residents this morning, Levine note his support for cycling on the Beach but warns against "traffic violations."

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

Tonight, Miami Critical Mass will be riding through Miami Beach. This cycling event, which occurs from time to time, draws thousands of bicyclists for a massive group ride that effectively takes over the city streets along the posted route. When the route brings the group to Miami Beach, as it will tonight, traffic can come to a standstill, and many residents have voiced their concerns.

Critical Mass is NOT sponsored or sanctioned by either the City of Miami Beach or the City of Miami, and no special event permits are issued. In fact, there is no central Critical Mass organization-even though the rides take place in cities all over the world. The purpose is to raise awareness for the rights and the safety of cyclists. Unfortunately, the demonstration proves to be quite frustrating for motorists and others on the road when the group rolls out for the ride.

While we don't encourage, organize, or sponsor Critical Mass, bicyclists are welcome on Miami Beach. I'm a major proponent of the use of bicycles to alleviate traffic congestion in our City. That said, traffic violations that endanger anyone will not be tolerated. Our new police chief and his staff will be implementing traffic management protocols to help ensure the safety of everyone on Miami Beach, whether they are on two wheels, four wheels, or no wheels at all.

We have instructed our police department to explore innovative ways in the future to minimize any inconveniences to our residents and at the same time ensure the safety of the riders.

Tonight could be particularly tricky considering there is a 60 percent chance of rain.

As always, cyclists are advised to use lights, stay with the mass whenever possible, and leave the Friday night libations until after the ride is over.

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Michael E. Miller was a staff writer at Miami New Times for five years. His work for New Times won many national awards, including back-to-back-to-back Sigma Delta Chi medallions. He now covers local enterprise for the Washington Post.

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