Want to ride your bicycle with the county mayor, some of his cohorts and an Olympic medalist? Friday's your chance.
To mark national Bike to Work Day, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez plans to hop on his bike at his Coconut Grove home, ride to Metrorail and then take the train to County Hall in downtown Miami. Key Biscayne Mayor Frank Caplan, a lawyer whose office is on Brickell Avenue, plans to pedal from home on the Rickenbacker Causeway's bike trail.
Also along for the ride: former bike messenger and 1984 L.A. Games track cycling silver medalist Nelson Vails, the first African American to win an Olympic medal in the sport.
The two mayors and the former Olympian will meet at 8:15 a.m. at the Metrorail University Station, where they will be joined by Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado and some other elected officials, at least for a ceremonial ride around the station, before setting off for the office.
The idea: to show bike commuting is safe and doable, especially by combining transit and existing, designated bikeways.
The public is welcome to join in, too. Mechanics from Mack Cycle will be on hand for bike-safety checks and last-minute adjustments — important if you're dusting off a long-out-of-use bike — and will also provide wheels and helmets for any bike-less mayors jonesing to ride. Mack Cycle also invited Vails, a California resident who happened to be in South Florida for another event.
County bike planner David Henderson will escort Caplan, Vails and any other cyclists who wish to ride to Brickell and downtown Miami, mostly using the M-Path trail that runs underneath the elevated Metrorail tracks. Henderson said he hopes to leave the station by 8:45 a.m. A Facebook group, 2103 Miami Bike to Work, is also coordinating rides to work. Attendees will receive free t-shirts.
Though Bike to Work day has been a minor fixture on the calendar for years, this year's high-profile event comes amid a boom in cycling for recreation and transportation in Miami, a metro area once seen as hostile to cyclists. Miami and other municipalities have been busy adding bike lanes and shared-lane markings, or sharrows, to streets, but many people who might use their bikes for practical transportation remain intimidated by the city's dense auto traffic.
Yet it's increasingly easy to bike-commute on separated trails, said Carlos Martinez, who has a corporate job downtown at Terremark and has started riding to work twice a week with a colleague from Southwest 152nd Street and Old Cutler Road, almost all the way on off-street paths. The hour-long, 16-mile ride, on a fat-tire bike because the paths are not suitable for skinny-tire road bikes, takes only a few minutes longer than his normal commute by transit, he said.
"By getting my ride in during my commute, I get my workout in and save time to be with my family,'' Martinez said. "When I get to work I'm more energetic. It's a personal choice, but there are a lot of compelling reasons to do it. You can argue health benefits, it's green, it reduces traffic congestion a little bit.''
Martinez, who will be at the mayors' Bike to Work ride, is encouraging others to join in by writing him at email@example.com. He's willing to modify the route to accommodate other riders.
The Bike to Work day caps a new, month-long series of bike-related events during March. Coordinated by the county and dubbed Bike305, the program is designed to publicize the expanding network of interconnected bikeways that link downtown Miami and the southern suburbs of Coral Gables, Key Biscayne, Pinecrest, Palmetto Bay and Cutler Bay.
In addition to the M-Path and the Rickenbacker path, those include the Commodore Trail through Coconut Grove and the trail that runs along Old Cutler Road through Coral Gables all the way to Cutler Bay, where the Biscayne Trail picks up and leads south to Black Point Marina along Southwest 87th Avenue.
Nearly completed is a nine-mile trail that will connect Black Point to the county's Larry and Penny Thompson Park, mostly along a canal right-of-way, among other bike facilities now in planning or construction.