When I moved into my first apartment in Miami three months ago, one of the first things I asked my landlord was whether it was even possible to ride my bike to work, from the Orange Bowl to the New Times building on 28th and Biscayne. He stared a minute and smiled gently – like I had asked if maybe the tooth fairy could give me a lift -- before saying, “No.”
That answer, of course, was bullshit. Not only was it possible for me to bike to work -- it’s only about a twenty-minute ride. Coming home during rush hour, it’s faster than driving.
But it’s always something, ain't it? Since I started biking Miami in earnest, I’ve been thrown any number of reasons it can’t be done: long distances, killer heat, summer rains, crazy drivers, dangerous neighborhoods. And as the earth continues making its way around the sun, so too will the Bike Blog continue to test these hurtles as they come.
That last concern – biking through the hood – is one the Bike Blog has considered. Miami suffers no lack of poverty, crime, and violence, and biking from one place to another eventually necessitates riding through some pretty rough parts of town. In my first week of Miami biking, I got a flat in the middle of Overtown, and was beset upon immediately -- by two men who asked if I needed a hand. One of them hung out as I patched the tube, borrowing my pump for his own desperately low tire. That night, on my way back, the tube went flat again, again in Overtown. I decided to walk it this time.
“That a twenty-six?” a man called out as he passed me on his bike. He meant a twenty-six-inch tire. I told him it was a twenty-seven. “Oh, sorry,” he said. “I have an extra twenty-six.”
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Last week, I was riding from the Grove to Little Haiti and found myself coming up Miami Avenue around midnight. For anyone who hasn’t seen some down-home Miami poverty in a while, a nocturnal visit to downtown Miami is a good start: homeless camp beneath the awnings of businesses in startling numbers. Milling about the streets are prostitutes, crackheads, the mentally ill, and the down-and-out. It can be scary.
As I rode north into Overtown – and was debating whether to forget the helmet for a while (the Bike Blog endorses helmets, but they do draw a different kind of attention, sometimes) -- another biker come out of a side-street nearby. Another biker – and no spandex-wearing accessory-toting bicyclist was he – is a rare sight downtown, and it made me nervous. He looked at me across the empty, crumbling street, and I looked at him. I began to calculate the distance between us, and which way I’d go if there was trouble.
But then, right as we crossed paths, he waved. It was slight raising of his hand, coupled with a quick nod, no more. I nodded back, and then he disappeared into the Miami night -- and so did I.
Is biking in Miami safe? The Bike Blog can’t say for sure – but it’s been three months, and so far, so good. --Isaiah Thompson