Bike MiamiI 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.

No More Bike Miami?

September 8th, 2009 @ 6:30 PM Activities, Events, News, Rants, Sports, politics

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?

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