The sophomore instance of Bike Miami Days (the first with the new name) is over and we had an absolutely great time. The weather was once again cooperating with us riders, holding at a cool level, looking like it might rain but never a drop falling from the sky, with gusty winds blowing in from the bay to make cycling a bit more interesting and to refresh the streets of Downtown Miami.
The event actually had a couple of improvements from the last time, most notable being the signs marking the route and the water stations with coolers and paper cones. Both were a great idea, and as the route continues to expand, they will come in even more handy. There was a new extension to the route down by the water and the AA Arena, but we were not able to find it the couple times we rode down there.
It is notable that there were a lot less attendees at this month’s event, and while that could be seen by some as a minus, I personally think that, considering the time of year, it wasn’t that bad (and from what I saw on a video posted at Miami Bike Scene, there were actually a lot more people earlier, before we arrived). There was also the poor promotion on the part of the local (mainstream) media, but I’ll rant about that later. We both still feel that it was a good event, and a necessary step on the road to creating a tradition out of Bike Miami Days. We extend our most heartfelt thanks to Mayor Manny Diaz (was that you in the grey shirt?), the small army of Bike Miami Days volunteers, and the Police Officers and Public Service Aides that made the streets safe for us riders for 6 hours and always had a smile (seriously).
Our day began a bit late. It was already 11:30 AM when we set out of the house, and at first I suggested we take the bus down to Lincoln Road at least. After waiting for almost 20 minutes, the bus arrived with a bike already on the rack, so we would have to wait for the next one. A quick inspection of the bus bike rack left us with the impression that the Amsterdam’s tires would not fit (something to check at a later time), so we just decided to ride Downtown.
We took the same route as when we rode to the Miami Book Fair, encountering pretty much the same bad spots for riding (Indian Creek between 71st and 65th, Dade Boulevard). It took us a bit less time than the last (about 1:30 total) and the route seemed shorter, perhaps because we knew it well this time.
What we did this time around more of was street riding. Once we hit La Gorce Dr. we switched to the paved road and kept going for a while like that, until we hit the bike lanes starting on Pinetree Blvd. and 45th Ave. Even then, because of the so-so conditions of the bike lanes (they are generally covered in gravel and sand, or blocked by trash, debris, fallen palm fronds or parked cars) we rode on the streets on and off. It actually wasn’t that bad; it was around noon, so we were very visible to drivers, and except for a couple here and there that passed us a bit too close for comfort, we had an uneventful ride. Until we got to Dade Boulevard.
We actually rode on the street at Dade as well; the sidewalk there is just horrible, and there is a lot of pedestrian traffic, so we decided to play it safe and use our legal right to the road. Which of course means we had idiot drivers honking and passing us by too fast and too close. Thankfully we hit the Venetian Causeway pretty quickly, and that part of the ride is just the best (even if the bike lane could use some repair in some places). We passed by a lot of cyclists riding eastbound (maybe some were coming from Bike Miami?). The first group were three guys in recumbent bikes that said hi and rang their bells when we crossed paths; after that, of perhaps 15 cyclists we passed, only two said hello back when I greeted them. It was disheartening, honestly. So, fellow cyclists, when you pass other members of the bicycle fellowship on the road, don’t be rude and greet them, either with your bell or with a quick wave.
We hit Downtown, rode down Biscayne and then joined the Bike Miami Days route, taking a quick spin around Bayfront Park first, dropping some toys at the Everglades Bicycle Club Toy Drive, chatting with some folks at the next kiosk (was that the Florida Bicycle Association? Whoever it was, they need better signage). I got to sample riding an Electra Townie and O-M-G what a great ride! Now I’m torn between a Townie or an Amsterdam for my next bike…
The time we spent riding was just enjoyable. It was great seeing families riding their bikes around Downtown again, as well as seeing more stores open to the public. Special thanks go to Kirk Jewelers for handing out water during the day; that was just extra nice of them. Mary Brickell Village was also hopping with cyclists and other visitors. There was a kiosk at the east entrance of the village where they were holding bike clinics, but I felt it was a bit too hidden away, even though there was a sign. Perhaps this can be brought over to the main street next time, so it can enjoy increased visibility.
It was already late in the day so we rode our bikes around some more, ate an apple by the fountain at Bayfront, then rode back to Tobacco Road for the Bike Miami Days After Party by TransitMiami. There I met the indefatigable Kathryn Moore, Bike Miami Days’ online guru, as well as other members of the Bike Miami Days Volunteer Team, including two gentlemen with whom we shared a table, beers and cycling and travel stories, Robert and Neil.
By 4-ish we decided to head back, and to save up some strength, we rode the Metromover from Eight Street Station to College/Bayside, then to Omni Station, which dropped us right at the start of the Venetian Causeway. Riding the Metromover with the bikes was fine, though try as we might to be out of the way, people just did not care about the couple with the large vehicles and made our attempts at maneuvering almost impossible. Once the road, we rode the causeway leisurely all the way back to the Beach, and to Dade Boulevard, again.
This is where our wonderful day of riding went to heck. There is no sidewalk on the eastbound lanes, so we rode on the street, single-file since there is a lot of traffic there and we did not want to hold it up. Most cars drive down Dade Blvd as if they were being chased by Death itself, nevermind the various traffic lights, the residential area or the heavy pedestrian traffic. We were riding as close to the curb as possible, and cars were still zipping past us way close, some perhaps even just a foot away. We stopped at a red light at Dade and Meridian Ave. and when it turned green, I went, but my wife lost her footing so it took her a few seconds to get riding again. In that time, about five cars just started blasting their horns at her, and the car immediately behind her started accelerating menacingly. We crossed the intersection and let all the idiots pass us by, completely and totally angry at this display of trademark Miami rudeness and ignorance of bike laws.
Miffed as we were, we made the turn into Prairie Ave, and since it was starting to get a little dark, we decided to run two-abreast on the road, since traffic here was almost non-existent so any cars coming behind us would be able to pass us. One car came and flashed its lights at us before passing us by, then a guy in an SUV started honking at us and flashing his lights. He then passes us but drives parallel to us for a good full minute arguing with us about getting off the road.
“Learn the law, we have the right to be here,” I said.
“Those have no tags,” was his brilliant response.
“Doesn’t matter, learn the bike laws.”
For a moment he showed some concern. “But, for your own safety, ride on the side.”
“For our own safety, it’s better if we ride like this in this dark street and you pass us on the left.”
Then the anger came back. “I hope you get hit.”
We were so incredibly mad; fuming, even.
We hit the bike lane on Prairie (which actually doesn’t start at the intersection with Dade, but at 28th St.) and rode uneventfully, thank G-d, to 41st Street, where we stopped to eat at Lofty Latte. After a very nice dinner, we rode nice and slow back to the house; even Indian Creek was a breeze after Dade Blvd! We made it back to the house at around 8 PM, tired but happy about our day of bike riding around Miami and Miami Beach.
Already looking forward to January’s Bike Miami Days.
You can check out the photos in the slideshow below or at Flickr: Bike Miami Days – 12/14/08.