Every month, hundreds of cyclists meet for Critical Mass, pouring through downtown intersections in the name of bike culture. This month, though, they have another cause: a memorial to Patrick Wanninkhof, a local cyclist killed last month on a cross-country journey.
For drivers, of course, there's another wrinkle to this month's ride: Critical Mass happens to fall the weekend before a hurricane might blow into South Florida. So take note of the route if you're planning a supply run after work today.
Wanninkhof, a Key Biscayne native, loved bicycling, beat-boxing, and helping people. He had a megawatt smile, a mop of curly brown hair (sometimes), and an affinity for math and engineering. After graduating summa cum laude from the University of Florida, he taught physics and computer science at a public school in the Bronx with the program Teach for America.
Earlier this year, after earning a master's degree from Fordham, Wanninkhof joined the organization Bike and Build: His mission was to cycle from Maine to Santa Barbara to raise money, stopping to volunteer to build affordable housing along the way.
"As a teacher in the Bronx, I know that biking across America pales in comparison to the struggles my students must overcome on a daily basis," Wanninkhof wrote on his page. "To fix systemic inequities which burden our nation, we need a systemic approach to fighting poverty. Education reform will be fruitless if we cannot guarantee that every child can return to a safe home in the evening."
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Wanninkhof, who added that "as someone with a Dutch father, bicycling is in my blood," began his ride in June. Over the following weeks, he stopped in Massachusetts, Ohio, and Missouri and raised thousands of dollars. On July 31, while riding in Oklahoma, he was hit from behind by a distracted driver and killed. Wanninkhof was 25.
Tonight's Critical Mass will pedal in his honor. After meeting in downtown Miami at Government Center, as usual, the ride will head north along North Miami Avenue to NE 14th Street and then turn west through Overtown before heading back south. At SW First Street, the ride will cut west again, passing through Little Havana. The route will jog west and south, all the way to Ponce de Leon Boulevard and SW 23rd Street in Coral Gables before turning north again and crossing back through Little Havana to downtown.
The ride will total about 13 miles and begin at 7:15 p.m.
The ride could also encounter and present some extra logistical challenges for a city quickly entering prestorm mode. Given that Tropical Storm Erika expected to affect Miami as early as Sunday, many residents might be out gathering supplies, further snarling the city's always-horrible traffic. Drivers and cyclists, please be vigilant and safe.