Last weekend, on Sunday, January 17, 44-year old Christopher Lecanne was killed in a hit-and-run accident while he bicycled on Key Biscayne, a popular area for road cyclists. The driver of the car was under the influence and after hitting Lecanne, dragged his mangled bike for about 4 miles before it became dislodged from under his car. He was arrested and charged, though a few days ago he posted bail and is currently out of jail.
The event has touched a nerve in the Miami cycling community and seems to be turning into that tragic catalyst that may fuel some actual changes in the city/cities/county of Miami. At least one hopes so.
There will be a Memorial Ride for Mr. Lecanne this Sunday on Key Biscayne. My wife and I won’t be attending because we’re both down with a nasty cold, but we certainly extend our sympathies and prayers to the Lecanne family and will be there with the great bicycling community of Miami in spirit.
Yesterday morning I took the scenic route back home from the synagogue, going down all of Lincoln Road Mall, to the Oceanwalk Promenade, then up 5th St before heading home (see the MapMyRide.com Map). On a whim, I decided to count all the bikes I came across my way, whether parked or with riders. Everyone knows we have a lot of bicyclists here in the Beach, but I wanted to have a very rough headcount. It was 10 AM, and the temp was in the mid 50s, so I figured I would see only those out exercising, and those on their way to/from/already at work.
When all was said and done, I counted 146 bikes, including me, with about 85 of them being spotted just along Lincoln Rd. I am no urban statisticians, but that seemed like a lot of bikes for a 3/4-mile long stretch, let alone for the 2.5 miles of my entire trip. And that fills me with joy.
Check out these pics.
A news article from New York was heavily making its way across the cycling blog/Twitter-verse yesterday, about some New York City bicyclists that repainted some bike lanes in Brooklyn. I vaguely registered the news item on my radar, but did not take a moment to read it until a friend of mine sent it to me by email. It was then I clicked and read it, and realized the Brooklyn area this happened in was Williamsburgh, a section that is full of Jews, specifically Hasidim (or as they are called in the news, Ultra-Orthodox, a title I do not like at all). Oh boy.
I don’t know exactly what happened that those bike lanes in Williamsburgh were sandblasted away. I can only comment on what is said in the article, and even then I have to treat it as not entirely accurate. That said, there’s one part that really pressed my buttons:
Scantily clad hipster cyclists attracted to the Brooklyn neighborhood made it difficult, the Hasids said, to obey religious laws forbidding them from staring at members of the opposite sex in various states of undress. These riders also were disobeying the traffic laws, they complained.
Again, I have to assume that this is the paper embellishing things unless I actually hear it from someone who could corroborate that is precisely what was said. The thing is, it does sound like something they would say, and based on a Google News Search of recent news, and even some articles from a year ago, it would appear this is indeed cited as the reason.
The Miami Herald published in both online and print form an article on Miami’s Critical Mass this past weekend. The writer, Andres Viglucci, rode with the group on at least one ride, probably a couple more, and used his first-hand experience to give us an article that describes the group. It is a good article, well written, and fairly unbiased; Viglucci calls out the good and the bad, though the bad tends to get excused and hand-waved a little too easily.
I’ve toyed with the idea of writing about Critical Mass here on and off for months, but I always put it off. I’ll take Andres’ article as a good excuse to finally tackle the CM monster once and for all, get it out of my system, onto the blog, and move on.
I don’t like Critical Mass. I find it hinders, rather than help, the cause of urban bicycling as a day-to-day activity and needlessly pits cyclists, all cyclists, into an us-vs-them conflict with motorists. It also creates false expectations about urban bicycling and does nothing to encourage a shift into a bicycling lifestyle, not to mention it encourages illegal riding as a norm.
This is a good place to make something very clear: I am interested in having a conversation, not an argument. This isn’t personal; I don’t dislike nor have anything against those that ride in Critical Mass. I dislike the entity of Critical Mass, and I hope that by explaining why, those that participate will at least think about what it means for them to associate with this entity, and to truly reflect on why they are doing it and what they are really accomplishing.
Consider this as a PSA of sorts.
I was reading my new favorite webcomic (a post about it later this week) and came across this strip.
I’ll be darned if that’s not how I’ve felt sometimes when I’m out riding. This is especially a problem when we ride Downtown from the Beach for a Bike Miami Days event, when we come across a great number of hunched over Lycra-clad speedsters. I’ll wave, nod, ring my bell at them in a quick greeting/acknowledgment, and I get nothing in return. And yes, they can see me. It’s happened in places where we’ve waited at a light together; nothing. I even got the impression more than a couple of times that they looked down on me and my fat-tire cruiser, judging me from their thin bikes and form-fitting clothes. Stupid elitism, all of it. After a while, I stopped trying to connect.
Except I don’t want to stop. I like waving hi at other cyclists when we’re out riding, and it wouldn’t kill the speedsters to say hi back. I see it as an extension of the staggering amount of rudeness there is on Miami streets. But I refuse to stop doing it.
So, Miami cyclists, please be nice to each other. If you see another rider, regardless of the bike or the clothes, take a second to acknowledge them with a nod, a small wave, a ring of the bicycle bell, something. Let’s start eradicating that rude behavior from our streets one bike rider at a time.
As we stand on the threshold of autumn (for whatever that is worth in Miami), and with it a new season of Bike Miami Days, I can’t help but be excited. What started as a one-day event back in November 2008 has exploded into a whole entity, now with seven all-day ciclovías under its belt, as well as a handful of rides to tie people over during the hot summer months. During that time the event has grown and attracted more and more sponsors, ranging from commercial endeavors to non-profit organizations, which has helped extend the experience from “just biking around” to (if you’ll permit me the grandiose language) a celebration of community.
I wrote the above about a week-and-a-half before current news on the possibility of there being no Bike Miami Days in the fall became available. I decided to leave it because it expresses how I feel about Bike Miami and why it is important enough to keep around. Perhaps we’ll get good news, Bike Miami Days will be back on the schedule, and the above will once again fully apply. As we ponder the future of Bike Miami Days, I’d like to talk about some things I would like to see in future events, features that I think will enhance the Bike Miami Days experience and help the general cycling community in Miami at the same time.
#1. Lights & Bells For Every Bicycle
Florida Bicycle Law requires every bike that rides at night to be equipped with both a front and a rear light.
Lighting (see Section 316.2065, F.S.)
A bicycle operated between sunset and sunrise must be equipped with a lamp on the front exhibiting a white light visible from 500 feet to the front and both a red reflector and a lamp on the rear exhibiting a red light visible from 600 feet to the rear.
I cannot count the number of bikes I’ve seen riding after sunset that have no lights at all; at most they have the reflector that came with the bike when they purchased it and that’s all. We need to educate all riders, especially the casual ones, that having lights on their bikes is the law. The ideal here would be to have a partnership with a bike shop or bike light manufacturer so that discounts and/or free samples can be given out.
Likewise, though Florida Bicycle Law does not require it, every bike should be equipped with a bell. Every bike. Even you, Lycra speedsters. Just like every car needs a horn to signal, so does every bike. A loud “excuse me” when the rider is already on top of pedestrians/other riders is not acceptable. Bells are de rigeur in countries with high bikeability because they are essential parts of the riding experience. I’d love to see a company donate a large number of bells that can be given out to Bike Miami participants (perhaps these can even be branded with Bike Miami stickers!).
#2. Bike & Ride Support from Miami-Dade Transit
Miami-Dade county’s public transit already has in place a good Bike & Ride program for bicycle commuters. I would love to see a kiosk with representatives educating people about this program, answering questions, processing and handing out Metrorail bike permits (currently these can only be obtained at the Government Center Metrorail station or by mail – why not online baffles me) and teaching people how to properly use the Metrobus bike racks (right). For a double-whammy, have folks there also from Tri-Rail (though maybe not, considering their bicycle policies seem a bit off-putting).
Frankly, this should have been instituted right from the second Bike Miami Day event! By the end of the inaugural Bike Miami in November I wanted a T-shirt and stickers with the Bike Miami logo (which actually changed from that very first one used to the current one). I wanted to show my support by wearing that shirt around, and I still very much do. I have a feeling of this being a case of Bike Miami team members being overwhelmed by their regular daily duties plus the event work to have time to get this done. Silk screening on T-shirts is fairly inexpensive, especially in bulk quantities, so Bike Miami shirts aren’t that unfeasible; sold at $25 or so, depending on how many were printed, these could pay for themselves fairly quick and bring in some extra revenue. (Click on the image for a larger version)
Aside from T-shirts, stickers are another great an inexpensive way to spread the news about the event. I would go with both bumper stickers and 2″-3″ round stickers right off the bat, as these are the most versatile sizes.
Other possible branded items include water bottles (to promote proper hydration while riding), bike bells (see how I tied points #1 and #3?) and cycling jerseys (I don’t particularly care for them, the time-trialists don’t ride without wearing these).
I, of course, am assuming that most Bike Miami fans are rabid about the event like me and would buy all these branded items.
#4. Support/Presence from Bike Companies
Though ultimately this is out of the Bike Miami team’s hands, I’d love to see bicycle manufacturers and other related bicycle companies sponsor and present at the events. Bicycling Magazine has already sponsored a Miami edition of BikeTown, so get them to return with a kiosk. Has anyone other than me noticed the high number of Electra bicycles present at Bike Miami Days (starting with our very own Willow)? Let’s call them and get them to come down. Same thing with Trek, Giant, Jamis, Schwinn and any other major manufacturer (if you want to really target it, start going through the photos and picking out bike brands). Be bold and call emerging/new to the area companies; brands that are starting out or entering a new market could benefit from the exposure. While at it, call Lazer Helmets and Bell (helmets & accessories) as well. You get the idea: if it’s a major bicycle article manufacturer, call them up and try to get them to sponsor and present at the show. Events like Bike Miami and the (hopeful) adoption of programs like Miami 21 make the city an emerging market in serious bicycling, and these companies have a chance to make an early and important impact on consumers.
Got thoughts on these ideas or further ones? Let me know in the comments.
I have this post in my Drafts folder wherein I talk about my Bike Miami Wish List, four things I would love to see happen in upcoming Bike Miami Days. Well, turns out that there might not even be a Bike Miami Days anymore!
I wrote the following post for Miami Metblogs.
It started this morning with a status update on the Bike Miami page on Facebook:
Bike Miami Days Team: Working hard to bring Bike Miami Days back on Sunday, October 4th. That’s just around the corner… will you help us get the word out?
Cool! There’s been rides all summer, but we weren’t sure when the whole-day events would be back. Shortly thereafter, however, a blog post comes through the RSS feed from the Bike Miami Blog, being echoed almost immediately as a comment on the status update above (fourth comment down):
UPDATE: Friends, we apologize for the over-excitement. Bike Miami Days is seeking sponsors to cover the extensive costs associated with keeping this event FREE, FAMILY-FRIENDLY and FUN, all of which requires a great deal of services and financial support that we do not yet have. If you or your business would be able to sponsor the Set Up, Clean Up, Sound, Public Service Aides and Police or any other part of Bike Miami Days, please contact the Coordinator here. Thank you.
Baffled, I sent an email to the aforementioned coordinator, Kathryn Moore, and after a short phone call she gave me the bad news: there’s just no money for a Bike Miami Days.
The October date was to be covered via private sponsorship, but the company in question seems to have pulled out, leaving the event still missing the close to $25,000 needed to hold the 6-hour event. This money, for the most part, pays for the City of Miami police officers present at the event, as well as other costs associated with closing a huge chunk of Downtown Miami.
The City of Miami just released also it’s proposed budget for the 2010 Fiscal Year, and try as I might, I cannot find any mention of Bike Miami in the future tense; it is mentioned a handful of times as part of the past year’s accomplishments, but nothing’s there about future iterations of the event. Add to this the fact that Bike Miami has been the brainchild of the Mayor Diaz administration, and that his term comes to an end in November, and it is easy to see how this community event could fall prey to the shifting political winds in Miami.
Plainly, this sucks. Here we are, just a couple of days ago celebrating the first victory of Miami 21, and now the event that is meant to foster the bikeable lifestyle Miami 21 seeks to facilitate is in danger of not happening. After coming from the dumps in the rankings of Bicycling Magazine’s Most Bikeable Cities two years ago to where they actually declare Miami a BikeTown less than a month ago, could it be that we’re headed for another nosedive?
Any private company/non-government organization/individual donor wants to sponsor part or all of Bike Miami Days, please come forward, please speak up.
As I wrote above, I am very bummed about this turn of events. Over the past year, Bike Miami has served as the flag around which all the improvements or calls to action regarding bikeability in Miami have revolved. It has brought out thousands of people onto their bikes and into their city to explore it like they probably never had before (very true in my case, for example), and encouraged a shift in the car culture of Miami. Anecdotally speaking, Bike Miami events have encouraged more people to become part- or full-time bicycle commuters, given people the confidence to use their bikes beyond time trials and dirt roads, reminded them that bicycling is not only for kids of Lycra speedsters, but for everyone. No, I don’t have numbers to support this, but things like Bicycling Magazine bringing BikeTown to Miami don’t just happen out of nowhere, so the improvements are there.
Ciclovia events held in other parts of the nation, I’m told by Kathryn Moore, count with the support of non-government organizations (NGO), be they private or non-profit, to cover the costs of the events. Miami doesn’t have such sponsors, or that many bicycle-related NGOs either; I can only think of the Florida Bicycle Association, the Everglades Bicycle Club and the Green Mobility Network, and I’m sure that each of them is struggling with their own economic issues (do let me know of other such NGOs you may know of). So where can we in Miami turn to? There was a private company sponsor, but they pulled out today (and they are press, no less), though other companies could step in. I wonder how would some bike manufacturers would feel if asked? Perhaps affluent individuals with an interest in green/sustainable causes?
Bike Miami Days may seem like it’s just one big street party, and it certainly has an aspect of it as it attracts families and more casual riders (one of the reasons why it needs so many police officers/public aides, to make it safe for families to attend), but it also serves as a nexus of inspiration for the creation of a more bikeable city and population. It is a gathering of the tribe, so to speak, a time when we all pull together for the love of bicycling, and thus show our numbers to those who need to see such statistics to take actions that will benefit a bicycle-friendly culture (whether for the general good or for profit, it doesn’t matter).
It is painfully obvious that Bike Miami needs to be divorced from its City Hall connections and taken private in order to safeguard it from any political shifts and last-minute budget cuts. But that can’t be done immediately, so we are faced with the choice of seeking sponsors to cover the costs or shelving it until further notice. I’d rather not see the latter happen. Anyone knows someone with $25,000 to spare?
Let’s start with part of the introduction on the Slow Bicycle Movement group on Facebook.
It’s about riding your bicycle. To work, to play. Casually, in a relaxed manner. With time to enjoy the self-propelled movement that you and you alone generate. And, of course, to look around and see the landscape – urban or not – that you pass by at your leisurely pace. [...] The Slow Bicycle Movement is a celebration of the bicycle. Not as a speed machine or a tool for tribal membership but merely as an enjoyable way to get around.
Slow bicycling is all about using the bike in a regular, run-of-the-mill, everyday kind of way. It’s about looking at a bike, not as a fitness machine, a way to go fast or to climb/go downhill through as harsh terrain as possible, but rather as a regular mode of transportation, the way in which we move around our lives.
Slow bicycling isn’t about the type of bike you have either; while there are some bikes better suited to grocery store excursions and commuting, it is possible to do slow bicycling on a road or mountain bike as well. It’s about the attitude of the rider, the reason why they got on the bike in the first place.
Slow bicycling is about returning the bike to its proper place of importance in people’s lives. It already is in many countries in the world, places like Holland, Denmark, and Japan; it is time to bring that standard to the rest of the world.
That’s our goal here at Slow Bike Miami. Join us.
As being reported on cycling blogs all over the Miami area, Bike Miami Days has set its date for the third event.
Mark your calendars for Sunday, January 18, 2009 for Bike Miami Days 3 (Tokyo Drift or The Search for Spock, you pick).
Also, Mike Lydon of TransitMiami.com has written an excellent Op-Ed piece titled “What a Difference a Year Makes”, chronicling the incredible strides the City of Miami has taken over the last year to turn itself into a bike-friendly place.
Mike submitted the article to the Miami Herald, but given they have not published it (the Herald has been downright horrible about helping to promote bike-friendly news, including Bike Miami Days), he put out via his column at Planetizen.com.
Go and read the article and be sure to join us in January for more Bike Miami Days.
Waltzing around the cycle blogosphere it seems odd that so much terminology has spawned regarding what is, in fact, a simple pursuit.
Is it a result of the decades old tendency in North America and other non-bike culture countries to nerdify cycling because it has primarily been viewed as a sport or a hobby for closed groups of “enthusiasts” – and not a reasonable and basic form of transport? Perhaps.
Let’s straighten things out, shall we? What you see in the photo above, taken in Copenhagen, is something we call a “cyclist”.
Not a “bicycle commuter”, nor a “utility cyclist”. Certainly not a “lightweight, open air, self-powered traffic vehicle user”. It’s a cyclist.
Now, in general I do agree with the inherent message of the post: a true unified bike culture will only be created when we stop thinking about the differences and simply accept the commonalities. But, as someone living in one of the most unfriendly cities in the US for cyclists, I have some things to say in reply.
While it might be redundant in Europe, over here terminology works, and is actually helpful at times. Yes, ideally I could just say “bike” and everyone would know what I mean, but anyone reading that word, “bike,” instantly got a mental image that is probably different than the one I have. That’s because on this side of the world a “bike” is not as simple an artifact to identify: did I mean a mountain bike? A racing bike? A hybrid? A BMX? A cruiser? Maybe even one of those European-style bikes? This applies just as well to the term “cyclist” (and for the record, no, I don’t use or own any spandex, though I do have some comfy excercise pants that I do use from time to time).
When I walk into a bike shop (of the specialty kind) and ask for a bike I need to be able to identify what I want (and don’t get me started on the discount dept. stores), and that’s where terminology comes in handy. Most average people who own a bike have a mountain bike that they purchased cheap at a large discount store like Target or Wal-Mart, not because they are doing some two-wheeled off-roading, but because that’s the cheap standard (at most they may get a cruiser), regardless of the fact that they are buying the wrong vehicle for their needs.
Yes, blame it on the nerdification of cycling in the US. Every single bike store here in Miami caters primarily to the speed cyclist or the mountain biker (see, we can’t help it, we love naming categories), with only minimal attention to the commuter cyclist, something I already commented about in a previous post.
That’s why, at this point in time, at least over here in the US (and for sure specifically in Miami), we need the terminology because that’s what helps us get the message across about what we want out of a bike culture. I need to use that terminology to state that I could care less about going 1000 miles per hour on two very thin tires while wearing brightly colored Lycra; that I could care less about braving uneven rock-covered downhills and root-strewn dirt paths on a frame with more shock absorbers than a monster truck. I ride my back to do errands, to go to places, to go out for a spin and enjoy the city in which I live in. I want a bike to ride on paved surfaces, with a front basket or rack that I can use to carry stuff like groceries and a sturdy back rack that I can strap down a box to if I want to, something comfortable that I can spend a good amount of my time on without assuming a pose that makes me look like I’m skiing downhill or doing yoga, a bike to run on the very flat paved roadways of Miami Beach that can handle the occassional bridge. How do I accomplish this the quickest? By stating that I am a “commuter cyclist” and I want a “city/Dutch-/European-style” bike.
I agree wholeheartedly that the ideal is a place where we don’t need the terminology, or at least where the default is the regular-joe example and not the sports specialty. In the meantime, the same terminology will allow us to begin to change the perceptions around us towards the creation of a normal, day-to-day bike culture.