Today was Bike Miami, an event that made part of Downtown Miami car-free for 5 hours, from 10 am to 3 pm, opening it up for cyclists, skaters and pedestrians, taking a page from such events as Ciclovía in Bogota, Colombia. By all accounts the event was a success, with attendance estimated at around 2000 people, give or take, given how everyone was zipping around.
Overall, I am elated at how well Bike Miami turned out, and at how many people came out to enjoy an area of the city that most of us, in general, rarely ever visit with any kind of regularity. It was just amazing seeing all the different kinds of cyclists–Lycra lizards and slow bikers, mountain bikers and BMXers, singles and couples and families, old and young, men and women–everyone just sharing the wonderful experience that was Bike Miami. I cannot think of anything that went wrong during the time I was there, and if you force me to, the only thing I can recall is one dude who tried to take the intersection of Flagler and Biscayne, in front of Bayfront Park, at a moment when the cops were letting cars through. The cop asked him, “What do you think we’re here for?” So yeah, save for that one guy who thought the laws applied to everyone except him, the day was without a hitch. Which reminds me to send out special thanks to the City of Miami Police, all of whom were super nice to us riders and even shared the ride at times.
We arrived shortly after 11 am and parked at Bayside Marketplace. The lady at the entrance asked us for a Bike Miami flyer in order to give us the special discounted fee, something I had not seen was a requirement for the reduced rates at either Bayside or Mary Brickell Village. “I need a proof of what you’re here for,” she said; we simply pointed to the bikes strapped to the back rack. A few minutes later, we were riding down to Bayfront Park, heading towards the trong of bikes, huge grins on our faces.
One of the big bookends of the Bike Miami route, Bayfront Park was packed with people riding and walking about, enjoying the simply wonderful weather we had: low 70’s, breezy and sunny. There were a number of kiosks from various sponsoring groups, including the Florida Bicycle Association, which had a bike valet service, as well as a tune-up station for quick-fix issues. Though I wasn’t able to use their services on-site, I was very glad to have been able to talk to the tech at hand, who told me precisely what is the problem with my rear tire and what I need to ask for when I take it to the shop.
While we waited for some friends to arrive, we took a look at The Moving Wall, the touring copy of the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial. Though my wife has seen the (much larger) original in Washington, DC, I have not, so I welcomed this chance to take in the sobering sight of so many names, each one an individual who perished in this horrible war, each one a life with all the potential in the world cut short abruptly, violently. Most sobering of all was thinking of each of the names being added practically daily to a wall-to-be recording the toll of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, many of them, much as it was in Vietnam, barely into adulthood. I found myself wishing silently for that future wall’s expansion to be stopped as soon as possible, with the help of G-d.
Still waiting, we decided to ride around Bayfront Park, mingling with the hundreds of fellow riders, stopping here and there to look more closely at something or other, reveling in one of the most important points of this event (and excellently put in the logo, above), being able to “explore the city in a new way.” We were having a lot of fun just checking out all the cool bikes around, and even meeting special attendees like Mr. Clucky, the rooster who likes to ride perched on the handlebar. Once our friends finally showed up, we took off up Flagler St. to check out the rest of the route (after a quick Starbucks pit-stop).
When I first moved here from Puerto Rico 13 years ago (wow!), I used to take a bus and the Metrorail from Kendall and go walking around Downtown just for fun; it was a way for me to get to know my new home city. I did that for maybe a year and then stopped. At the time Downtown was a somewhat decaying place with a few interesting spots but devoid of non-9-to-5 life. My, how have things changed. Bike Miami attendees aside, there was a lot of people walking around, going about their daily business, shopping at stores that now gave life to former empty or abandoned storefronts. Downtown was quite lively, especially given how many shops were closed (note to Downtown merchants: open your stores for the next Bike Miami and enjoy the benefits of the increased traffic).
After riding to the end of Flagler St., we decided to follow 1st Avenue all the way down and over the bridge. I will say that all these mornings of riding to synagogue across the Miami Beach-North Bay Village bridge have certainly paid off; I was able to put some initial speed into it and climb the slope without any overt effort (remember, my bike has a single gear).
On the way down the slope, a pair of riders shouted at us, “Long live the Slow Bike movement!” To which I shouted back, “YEAH!” It took me a moment to wonder why exactly had they said that, figuring that it was because of the style of our bikes (i.e. not mountain or speed bikes). A few seconds later another rider shouted, “Hey, I know you guys from the Slow Bike Miami Beach blog!” What?! That’s just wild! To those of you who recognized us, thanks for saying hi and for following this blog. If you read this, say something in the comments!
When we reached the Mary Brickell Village (aka. Lil’ Cocowalk) we parted company with our friends, who decided to ride down to Key Biscayne. For our part, we parked and walked around the village, just checking it out, enjoying the de-factor mini-street fair at the other bookend of the Bike Miami route.
The rest of the evening we spent simply riding around, exploring as much of the city as we could, especially the waterfront promenade and Bayfront/Bayside. We walked the entire length of the marketplace, something we hadn’t done in more than 5 years, and bought a few things and had some (very expensive) drinks at a waterfront bar.
As we were leaving Bayside to take one last ride around Bayfront Park, we got recognized for the blog again, which doesn’t stop being weird and cool. We then rode around the waterfront promenade, across the bridge onto Brickell (checking out the Miami Circle along the way) and quickly into and out of Brickell Island. And because the day wasn’t awesome enough, right before we left we spotted a pod of dolphins swimming very close to the shore.
After spending almost half an hour strapping the bikes to the rack again (personal note: need to get a new bike rack with longer posts, as well as a new camera that doesn’t take blurry photos), we went back home extremely pleased with the wonderful day we had and figuring out that for the next Bike Miami we’ll just ride our bikes into Downtown Miami.
I eagerly look forward to a next Bike Miami, and then the next one after that. I want this to be more than a one-time event, I want this to be something that becomes a part of our culture. Miami has the perfect set of circumstances–flat terrain, year-round nice-ish weather (especially during the autumn and winter) and a desperate need to have its people connect across all its many cities and neighborhoods in order to breathe new life into it–that could make it another Amsterdam.
So thanks to Mayor Manny Diaz, the City of Miami and all the volunteers that made this such a fantastic day. Now, let’s get ready for the next Bike Miami!
You can see the photos in the slideshow below or at Flickr: Bike Miami 11/09/08 set.