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Sunday, February 26, 2012


Maybe you shouldn't come on the next
Critical Mass bike ride. So many enjoy this popular monthly event the bureaucrats may try to shut it down.
Over 1000 bike lovers now participate the wild ride that swoops and zooms all over Miami. They come in all shapes, sizes, on all kinds of bikes.
Very few are lycra-clad racers.
A remarkable number blast their own sound systems. We heard hip-hop, reggae, salsa, and son as we rolled on the evening's journey.
It begins, as always, at Government Center. The number of riders gathering there on the last Friday of the month have almost reached a "critical mass" (sometimes defined as "the minimal amount of fissionable material
that can sustain a nuclear reaction"). None of us wants this great event to explode, implode, or get regulated to death because it is too popular.
Friday night's affair was just right.
At 7 pm one of the organizers stood on top of a light post and asked us to ride safe. He reminded us of Aaron Cohen, last
week's fatality. The father of two was cycling with a friend on the Rickenbacker Causeway when he was cut down by a hit-and-run driver. Many of us wore white in his memory.
At 7:16 someone blew a whistle and the rolling mass slowly headed west.
The lights of downtown Miami were spectacular atop the Flagler Street Bridge. I would have taken a picture except for the ride's main rule, "Don't stop".
On 17th Ave. we headed north and passed the glistening new baseball stadium. I tried to appreciate it's amazingness despite it making our city so broke.
Turning east on 36th took us through Wynwood, the Design District, and Little Haiti. Ten miles into our trip it was time to head south down Biscayne Blvd. In the process we saw a slices of Miami you could only see on a CM ride.
I imagined it might be similar if we were riding on a magic bus a half-mile long. Our ride would have no roof, no walls and travel at just 12 m.p.h. We'd be enjoying the sights and sounds of our city plus the new friends around us. To keep our bus' momentum we would blow
through every stop sign and red light in sight (with friends temporarily blocking the traffic...a little like a presidential motorcade).
That's how it was, a wild, rolling party. It continued past the end when we gathered at The Filling Station to drink beer.
Riding in big groups like this feels too fun to be legal. Florida law actually allows bicycle groups to take up a full lane of traffic. "Share the road" and "Be considerate" are other important rules.
In a little over an hour we had plowed through pieces of Cuba, Nicaragua, Haiti, the Dominican Republic and a few other countries.

I had no idea so many barbershops were open for business in Friday night.
One customer ran out wearing his haircut gown to cheer us on. The Full Gospel Church was having a service right next to the Temptation Bar. Lit up past the glass you could see it all.
Only a handful of drivers cursed us, upset by blocked traffic, their lives put on hold for five minutes. When one man yelled, "Get the f--- out of the road!" hundreds laughed back.
99% of the people I saw cheered us on.
As we finally glided to a stop by the big blue bank my first-time friends smiled in disbelief. Who knew a bike could be this much fun?


It's a lot harder to eat at Bernice's since
they put a 6-foot fence around it. It'll be even harder tomorrow when they bulldoze the tiny West Grove cafe.
The City of Coral Gables bought the 20,000
sq. ft. property to build a warehouse to maintain its "trolleys" (actually motorhomes with a lot of seats and windows). The City of Miami wants it to also be a "trolley station" (actually a bus stop).
Either one would be a good thing for Coconut Grove which has not had a new commercial building erected in years.
If nothing else, it would bring some jobs to a neighborhood with high unemployment. Bernice's usually had just one employee and you can probably guess her name.

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