If you’ve ever ridden in Miami Critical Mass, a group bike ride on the last Friday of every month that draws hundreds of riders, it’s highly likely that Robert Noval corked for your benefit. In Critical Mass parlance, “corking” is the term for blocking an intersection from car traffic to allow the mass of cyclists to pass by safely. Noval is an inveterate corker and therefore one of the unsung saints of Critical Mass, which would descend into chaos without people like him sacrificing the flow of their ride to smooth the way for the mass at large.
With this month’s Critical Mass set to launch from downtown’s Government Center in a few hours, Noval left a lengthy comment on The Miami Bike Scene asking MCM participants to NOT block the road after the ride ends at its usual last stop, The Filling Station. Here’s an excerpt:
The Filling Station’s location, across from a vast, largely empty parking lot provides ample space for the crowd, now regularly estimated at well over one thousand, to stay together for post-ride festivities. But this location also presents a serious problem that we must address. S.E 2nd street, the site of this gathering, is a two-lane, westbound, one-way street. This is the main access to I-95 for motorists leaving the downtown area, the on ramp being at the next intersection. Having spent the last hour-plus making a statement to the South Florida motorist that they are obliged to share the road with us, what are we, as a group, doing? We are getting off our bikes (and now as pedestrians) needlessly blocking both of these lanes, so vital to the motorists’ rightful use of the road. We are failing in our own obligation to share the road, badly subverting our own case. Some short-sighted people seem to revel in this, failing to grasp the implications.
To paraphrase what I said after the January group ride, Critical Mass does make a statement, but that statement should not be, “Cyclists own the road.” As Noval suggests, Critical Mass should send a message that cyclists have as much right to the road as motorists do, no more, no less. Furthermore, if one of the purposes of Critical Mass is to make a city more aware of its bike community and therefore more open to bike-friendly development, then antagonizing motorists is definitely a bad idea. This, I believe, is what Noval is referring to when he laments how some people fail “to grasp the implications” of their bad road etiquette. And as a guy who literally stands in front of traffic to make Miami Critical Mass a success and a blast, Noval deserves attention on this point.
To read his comment in full, visit the Miami Bike Scene. To learn more about the June 29 Miami Critical Mass ride, visit the Facebook event page. Finally, you can learn more about Critical Mass in general from this helpful video.