Friday, May 13, 2011

Florida Cyclists unite for the MS Ride

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the MS Ride, a two day ride which covers 150 miles from Homestead to the Florida Keys and back, and brings together over 3500 participants including cyclists, volunteers, sponsors, family and friends with the motto "bike to create a world free of MS".

The ride offers participants the opportunity to choose different distances depending on ability, riders can ride distances of 50, 75, 110 or 150 miles in the span of two days. Beginning on Saturday May 14th and returning on Sunday May 15th. Departing from the Homestead- Miami Speedway and making their way down to the 42BELOW village in John Pennekamp State Park in Key Largo on Saturday, and returning to Miami on Sunday. This is a fully supported ride with sponsored rest stops along the route to provide food and drinks along with entertainment for the riders along the route.
In order to participate in this ride, each rider pledges to raise at least $400.00, average riders have typically raised over $800.00. While there are scores of teams and contributors to this ride, the common cause is to raise money for the National MS Society to help with the fight against Multiple Sclerosis.

Events such as this one highlight the generosity of the human spirit, and as we scan the crowd of over 2500 riders, some great stories begin to appear. One such story is that of the Bacardi/42BELOW team which will field this year over 310 riders to make it the second largest team on the event. Under the leadership of team captain Claudette Halluk, Bacardi's director of business development and an eight year veteran of the MS Ride; the team has grown to an impressive group of employees and other members of the community to more than 300 riders and have raised to date over $150,000 for the ride, well over their goal of $140,000.

Claudette has worked tirelessly to increase awareness of the ride and raise funds of such an incredible cause and she credits her team for such a great achievement, "I’m so proud of Bacardi, 42BELOW, and the individual efforts of my teammates that this a successful event every year", and referring to the cause she adds, "because we fight this disease by simply riding a bike and because we have chosen to help thousands of people through a contribution to the MS Bike Tour, every year we come one step closer to ending MS".

Among the members of the Bacardi/42BELOW team, Debbie Kulig stands out as a true hero. Debbie not only will be riding with her two sons in this year's ride, but she has also been battling MS for over 15 years. She leads the field by example and works tirelessly to raise awareness for the case; needless to say, her participation raises the team spirit and is a source of great inspiration for participants and volunteers. Team Captain Claudette Halluk says, "Debbie is very active in the cause and she is an invaluable part of the team Bacardi/42BELOW and is a huge reason why the MS 150 has been such a success for all involved".
To find out more about the 2011 Zimmerman MS Bike Ride presented by Mack Cycle and Fitness and to see how you can make a contribution to the fight for MS, visit

Sunday, April 17, 2011

A Bad Week for Florida Cyclists

April 17th, 2011 marks the end of a particular violent week for South Florida cyclists, as details continue to emerge from the latest accident today on the MacArthur causeway, initial reports were that one of the 2 cyclists that were struck this morning had died. Sources continue to confirm that the unfortunate outcome of today's accident is a cyclist fatality.

During this past week, there have be at least 8 reported accidents involving cyclists and vehicles, and even though many details are still unclear from the different cases, the fact still remains that riding a bicycle in Miami gets more dangerous by the day.

Herein lies the problem, as we see a bike sharing program successfully grow in Miami Beach, and the sheer number of people riding bikes in Miami continues to grow, some may argue that the increase in cars to bike accidents is a direct result to the growing number of cyclists on the road. While some may fall into the numbers game trap, the figures show that a greater number of bicyclists on the road should actually result in safer conditions.

So, what seems to be the problem? I believe that the issue is more complex and multidimensional than just numbers. I have spent the better part of the past 3 years riding my bike to and from work at least 2 times a week and in the 10 miles each way that I travel on my bike, I have had the opportunity to see the city from a different point of view. I have discovered new picturesque streets, ridden by beautiful parks, explored new routes and gone through some pretty cool South Florida thunderstorms, commuting by bike not only makes you feel better, it makes you a better driver as well.

During these rides, I have developed a golden rule to keep me safe and ultimately alive; if cannot make eye contact with the driver who's car I am about to pass, cross, or ride in front of, I simply don't do it. One of the biggest limitations to this rule is, tinted windows and the second one is that drivers are simply not watching the road. It is nothing short of flabbergasting and infuriating to see the sheer amount of motorists who are looking down at their cell phones while they drive. I do realize, however, that eye contact can only happen when I am about to cross a street of ride in front of a vehicle and cannot control what's coming from behind, which is 99% of the traffic we interact with, and so, we take a leap of faith and hope that those drivers who overtake us from behind are actually looking ahead and watching the road. Wishful thinking, I know.

So in the end, the main determining factor from a safe commute to an unfortunate statistic in South Florida is, luck. Quite an unfortunate conclusion, considering that we are talking about human to human interaction, but there is little hope when we hear cases like 22 year old Michael Martin who was hit by a car whose driver returned to the scene and a couple of passengers got out of the car to look at the victim laying on the ground only to get back on the vehicle and leave the scene while Michael died as a result of his injuries. What kind of animal does something like this?

I have been yelled at, honked at, startled, assaulted with objects thrown from vehicles and insulted in some internet forums for encouraging bike riding and advocating cyclist safety, this of course only strengthens my spirit and motivates me to carry on, but it is a very sad commentary on the community we live in.

My thoughts and prayers go to the family and friends of today's fatality as we close one of the worst weeks for cyclists in South Florida, and now more than ever, it is our responsibility as cyclists and pedestrians to carry on with our message and speak as loud and often as we can to bring change to our streets.

Change will come, there is no doubt about it, the question is, how many more cyclists and pedestrians need to die before our elected officials and public employees recognize that progress will happen with or without them?

Saturday, August 28, 2010


There comes a time when we are all faced with the evidence that points to the fact that we are mistaken.
Last night's Miami Critical Mass ride proved me wrong ... in a big way. I had previously taken away a couple of stars because in principle I am opposed to guerilla style activism that may fuel polarizing views and rather than bringing all parts together towards the achievement of a common goal, it drives them apart by the actions of one of the interested parties.

Critical Mass is potentially such a thing- However, we cannot discount power of the masses so to speak and in these event the Miami Cycling community in all shapes and forms comes together to achieve what is in my view, a common goal : Awareness

The event has grown exponentially from its first years when maybe a couple dozen of people showed up. Now it is literally hundreds of riders coming together for a fun ride around urban Miami.

It is truly a powerful scene to see all those blinking lights taking to the streets and exploring the city, the neighborhoods come out to witness the throng of bikes cruising to town and we are greeted by people waiving on the side of the road, and the sights, sounds, and smells of a Friday evening in the neighborhoods.

As for the car to cyclist relationship, the scales are tilted in favor of the bike and for the most part, motorists understand and respect what they see unfolding in front of them. It is undeniable that at some point in time, many of the participants are in fact motorists as well and as we take to the streets on our bikes and to some, this is their only experience of riding on open streets with real traffic, we learn to come together and respect each other in the open area that in the end, belongs to everyone alike.

Total kudos to the organizers of these event, the routes are always a cultural travel through the streets of the Magic City and gives us all an opportunity to see our town from the ground level and interact positively with our neighbors, as they play host to Critical Mass on any given Friday evening, the are surprised when they see peloton coming through and while wondering what on earth rolled into town, they welcome the riders and cheer enthusiastically.

Note to the riders, it is not cool to litter these communities while we go through it, we noticed riders discarding Styrofoam cups in the middle of the street - we are striving to reduce our footprint and this encompasses everything - also, smoking on the ride around fellow riders completely unacceptable.

To the corkers - great job ! Not only keeping the riders safe in the intersections, but also taking the time to politely interact with motorists as the cyclists roll by and inform them about Critical Mass.

I met a fellow rider who told he had learned about the ride when he witness Critical Mass while he was waiting on a red light and in his own words "It was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen" - fast forward to the next month, he is now riding his bike on this event.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Commuting is subject to natural selection

"It's illegal!" That's the response I got from an acquaintance when I told him that after a couple of weeks of commuting to and from work on my road bike, and having experienced several close calls with vehicles on the road;  it was time to switch to my hybrid bike and consider riding on the sidewalk when traffic got really challenging.

Naturally, I wasn't about  to take his word for it, and I did some researching of my own, to make sure that if and when it became necessary to jump the curb and ride on the sidewalk, I wouldn't be subject to tickets or fines.

To wit :

Sidewalk riding

(Section 316.2065(10) and (11), F.S.)
A person propelling a vehicle by human power upon and along a sidewalk, or across a roadway upon and along a crosswalk, has all the rights and duties applicable to a pedestrian under the same circumstances.

So, having cleared that issue, and after duly documenting my right to ride on the sidewalk, the argument continued on for days on my facebook page, he went on to say that despite the fact that it was not illegal per Se, it should still not be allowed. Some of his fellow riders from his Tuesday night group ride chimed in to call me a wuss for not riding on the road and declared me persona non grata for the cycling community of the world.

Clearly this was a healthy exchange of some banter among members of the same demographic group with different ideas: On the one hand, not a single one of those cyclists who decided to deride my announcement of safety over peril ride their bicycles to work; so clearly, they simply cannot relate. On the other hand, they are all from the North Shore suburbs of Chicago, populated mostly by WASPs, where they enjoy some of the best bicycle trails in the midwest so how can they possible imagine what it feel like to get buzzed by east bound traffic on SW 8th street coming from the west towards Coral Gables? I am not exagerating when I say that on a given day, I get brushed at least twice by side mirrors.

Now, I give these drivers the benefit of the doubt and assume that they are too busy texting, on the phone, or applying make up, so their spatial percepetion is skewed and I refuse to believe that a human being would purposely attempt to hurt another individual simply because they can. But reality tells me that my presence on the road awakens their feelings of inadequacy and rather than trying to walk or bike a bit more, it is simply easier to try to obliterate those who do than to rise up to the challenge and improve their lives.

But I digress, I have since switched bicycles for my commute, and no longer ride my road bike, and the main purpose is: Survival. You see, on my road bike, I am not able to jump a curb if need be, or cut through parking lots, or ride on the sidewalk whenever I feel endangered by traffic. I realized that being a strong rider is quite meaningless when going up against a car, because for all my mental acquity and muscle strength and reaction, a vehicle will trump human any day of the week.

Now don't get me wrong, I am by no means yielding or running away. I am simply  adapting to my environment to survive, because in the end, my commute makes me feel good, makes me feel happy, relaxes me and keeps me in better shape, but it is not a training ride - it is simply just that.... a commute ... on a bicycle....propelled by me.... without emisions, and this is my life.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Sales training comes in handy when spreading the message - Ride a Happier !!!

I ride my bike to work - I repeat this message over and over as many times as I can to anyone who will listen. The message is usually received in the context of the convesation and the communication keeps flowing accordingly as a healthy  exchange of ideas. More often than none, I am peppered with questions mostly dealing with logistical issues pertaining to the commute itself; for example : You ride all the way from your house ? , are you all sweaty by the time you get to work?, do you ride on the street or on the sidewalk?, sometimes I get questions that reflect the subjects misunderstandings or they reflect their insecurities, such as: Are you crazy ? or the actual statement.... Man! You ARE crazy! However, it all boils down to the main purpose of the message : AWARENESS

I ride my  bike for many reasons, all equally important and in no particular order: It makes me feel good, it allows me to see the communities from a different standpoint, it saves money, it is good for the environment, it is fun; and this, is the message I strive to transmit. Always with an open mind, and with the purpose of fostering understanding.

It is very clear to me that I don't own the truth, and will not debate the issue in a confrontational manner, because: a) it is not my purpose to convince anyone and b) I do this for only positive purposes... I don't mean to sound bland, and those who know me, are fully aware that I am not one to shy away from a good argument especially in matters that I feel very strongly about, and I respectfully submit that I am very passionate about cycling; as an alternative transportation, as a sport, as therapy, as recreation. However, I have learned with age and experience that useless argument is nothing but a waste time and effort and it does nothing to forward my message.

Habit number 5 in Steven Covey's 7 habits of highly effective people says: Seek first to understand, then to be understood. It is only through a clear understanding of those who are not receptive to our message, that we can begin to get our message understood, and here is where our sales training comes in handy. One of the most important steps in closing a sale, is the objection handling part, and our effectiveness here is directly proportionate to our the techniques and skills we have developed to achieve this purpose.

The first rule to handle an objection is to isolate it, so therein lies the answer: it is imperative to clearly understand the reasons why we are misunderstood, and without judgement or preconceived notions understand that sometimes we (cyclists) are not without fault. I hear things like: "I hate to get stuck behind a cyclist when I'm in a hury to get to work", or "you cyclists think the laws don't apply to you", all of these and many more are validated by the experiences of the subject, but as we isolate them and understand we can then move ahead to the next step and debunk them.

In the end, I am not trying to convince anyone, albeit, I believe without a shadow of a doubt that cycling to work is good for me and my community and if we can inspire others to follow suit, our cities will become better places to live. I've got it figured out, and my life is so much better with my bicycle in it, and I have a pretty full life and a beautiful family and it makes me very happy when I pass those commuters, or recreational cyclists, or hard core cyclists on the road, because together we can make this a better place.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

National Bike to Work Month

As we celebrate the national bike to work month, I want to take a pause and reflect what a year of commuting to work on bicycle has accomplished. What a fantastic year it has been, for starters I was one of the lucky recipients of a Jamis Commuter Bike from Bicycling magazine as a result of my essay on "how riding a bike could change my life" being on of the selected ones for the award. I have since, modified the bicycle to make it more suitable to my commute, with a new set of halogen lights for those winter nights, an air horn to alert cars of my presence, fenders to prevent splashing water all over me when it rains, and a pannier that can carry my suit and shirt across the rear rack securely.

One of the biggest accomplishments this year is to celebrate this month and the anniversary by very proudly declaring that I made it through unscathed, injury free, and was never hit by a car; although I have experienced some close calls. However, it is a resoundingly positive balance, I became stronger, more energetic and believe or not... more motivated. I have been able to see neighborhoods from a completely different stand point, occasionally I relish a good dog chase and am proud to report that so far, I have always outsprint them.

Unfortunately, there are days that I cannot ride because my job will require that I drive all over town for meetings and other engagements, usually returning to my office to finish up the day. On those days when I must get behind the wheel and drive, going home is always an unwelcomed event, knowing that no matter what time, I will have to waste a good deal of my life encased in a metal box trying to get home. On the other hand, when I ride, I look forward to the trek home; there is no set route or time limit, just a good old bike ride where the reward is reaching the humble abode in time for dinner with the family.

Usually, however, my primitive brain takes control of the ride and it becomes a pseudo time trial where I try to beat the best time ever, this changes everything … street lights become sprint opportunities, gas stations are short cuts and curbs are meant to be jumped, in the end, it all boils down to the fact that I become a teenager again and the ride rules my world and a world ruled by rides is a much better world.

The travel to work on the bike is a completely different dynamic, contrary to the evening commute, there is a time limit. Although I am not driven by a time clock and I can arrive at work pretty much a whatever reasonable time I please, there is always the underlined desire and effort to set an example for the rest of the team and this drives me to maintain high standard to which I must hold myself so I can expect others to follow suit.

May 21st will be the official Bike to work day, and under the motto of one less car on the road, it is incumbent upon everyone to find a way to leave their vehicles behind that day and ride their bikes in to work. I am expecting to hear all the excuses in the book as to why this is not possible, and frankly, I don’t care, there is only one way this can happen and I can only do my part. In the wake of the terrible oil spill in the Gulf, I have seen a large number of postings of people who claim to want to do something to help and make a difference.

This is our opportunity, throw that leg over the top tube of that bike, and hit the road, your bike powered by your own effort, will take you places that you will never otherwise see.

See you on the road!!! And if you must drive, remember: 3 feet please, it’s the law!!!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Cyclist Killed on the Rickenbacker Causeway

A full week has passed since Mr. Christophe Le Canne was killed by a drunk driver on the Bear Cut Bridge while on a training ride near Key Biscayne.

After a week of pondering and going through a whole spectrum of feelings such as anger, sorrow, and mourning, I have finally come to grips as to how to best express myself in the wake of this tragedy.

During the week, the Cyclist community in Miami has spoken, loudly with both actions and words, we have attended council meetings, written to our local politicians and kept the attention front and center to make sure something like this does not happen again.

A lot has been said about the person who killed Mr. Le Canne and fled the scene with the bike still lodged under his car for miles, the inadequate response from rescue mainly due to the actions of the 911 dispatcher who called a rescue unit from miles away, the budget cuts that have resulted in less emergency services in the area and more.

This morning thousands of riders answered the call and made a pilgrimage ride to site of the tragedy, a plaque has been placed along with flowers and a "ghost bike" and even though this may somehow soothe our mourning feelings, the fact still remains that Mr. Le Canne met an untimely passing and his wife is now a widow and his daughter has no father.

In the face of these unfortunate events, true character rises, for starters Mr. Le Canne's family in the wake of such an immense loss, still display and their wonderful humanity and place the spotlight on the people of Haiti by requesting that all and any donations be made in the name of Christopher Le Canne to the Read Cross towards the tragedy in Haiti.

So two stories emerge from this: On the one hand, a pampered, sheltered brat, gets behind the wheel of his car after drinking for hours and on his way home veers out of his lane into the Bicycle lane and hits a cyclist with his car.
A choice needs to be made: One that requires character and true moral fiber, stay and help the person he just hit with the car or show absolutely no respect towards a fellow human and flee the scene without even hesitating, the story has been written already.

This individual made the choice that was instilled in him by his upbringing and carried on to the shelter of the place that created him: His Home.

Once there however, Police caught up with him and once again his true arrogance came to light by not only resisting arrest but refusing to own up to his actions and refusing to give a blood sample that clearly showed he was intoxicated beyond the legal limit for a driver. The rest of the story will be written by our legal system and this person will get what he deserves.

However, he has already set in motion some even more powerful forces that in some Asian beliefs call Karma and that is inescapable.

Mr. Le Canne is no longer with us, but his wife and daughter are and despite the fact that they will have to carry on with the unimaginable pain of having lost him in an untimely fashion, they will also honor his memory by living an honorable life, and here is where the big difference lies. By living a good life, Mr. Le Canne left this world a better place than how he encountered it, and for that Sir; I honor your memory -

A lot of good will come out this event, we owe it to Christophe Le Canne, to those who will come after us, to the cycling community, and to our city. As long as we keep the focus and direction of our actions towards the common good, Mr Le Canne will still live within us.

Rest in Peace Christophe Le Canne, we'll take it from where you left off and carry on !