These are the people, places and projects shaping Miami’s bike scene

The Miami bike scene is young, scrappy and fighting for safer streets and more scenic rides for all.

Eric Barton
Written by
Eric Barton
The Underline
Photograph: Robin HillThe Underline

Most people know Carolina Isabela as Caro the Tour Guide, a personality she took on for social media to boast about all the cool things in Miami. But when we spoke, she had just returned home from Amsterdam and couldn’t stop gushing about all the epic bike rides there. 

“It was the best.” And then drawing out words in a way that’s become something of her signature, she said: “ It was amaaaaazing.”

She biked everywhere, slowly so she could take in the view of the Rijksmuseum and look for street food, stroopwafels especially. “Oh, my god. Amaaaaazing. I’m so mad I didn’t bring any back.”

Considering how much Isabela likes to bike, it’d be easy to assume she’d be wistful about Amsterdam now that she’s back in Miami. But when asked about whether the Magic City could ever compare to bike-friendly Amsterdam, she’s nothing but optimistic. “Can Miami do it? Yeah, of course. Miami is only 126 years old. We’re babies!” she says. “Amsterdam has been designing their city for millennia. We’re just getting started.”

Is Miami a bike-friendly city?

Not all bike advocates share Isabela’s hopefulness, but Miami has certainly made progress in becoming a bike-friendly city. Thanks in part to efforts by the Transit Alliance Miami and local organizers, we recently gained bike path protectors along the Venetian Causeway as well as three new miles of Downtown bike lanes, with plans for even more improvements. Maybe best of all, the city now has a crown jewel for cyclists and pedestrians, The Underline, a partially completed 10-mile linear park and urban trail that’s already become a model for other cities.

The Underline wouldn’t be a reality if Meg Daly hadn’t fallen off her bike while cruising Matheson Hammock in 2014. She broke both her arms and, unable to drive, spent months walking everywhere and experiencing the city in a whole new way. “I realized we really lacked the infrastructure to walk or bike,” she says. “It isn’t the drivers as much as it is the infrastructure. We haven’t planned the city for people to walk and bike safely.”

While riding the Metrorail one day, Daly noticed the hardscrabble pathway underneath. She imagined an inviting park that could serve pedestrians and cyclists. Daly rallied supporters to her new cause and created a nonprofit. With a background in marketing, she found encouragement in the number of people who would tell her the plan was a great idea. “There’s power in that,” she says.

The Underline
Photograph: Courtesy the Underline

The Underline’s first phase opened in 2021, a half-mile stretch in Brickell with an urban gym, butterfly garden and walking and biking paths. Work began in 2022 on the second phase, just to the south. In the end, it’ll stretch from downtown to Dadeland, creating a safe, scenic conduit for pedestrians and cyclists traversing the south half of the county. 

Who’s advocating for Miami’s bike scene?

The fact that Daly’s plan has come to fruition in the span of eight years—seconds in government planning time—is something of a miracle. The Underline has come together thanks in part to Daly’s infectious dynamism. We first met at a Starbucks across from the University of Miami in August 2021. As a regular cyclist since strapping a paper route bag to my BMX as a kid, I’ve long pined for improvements to South Florida’s bike network. So it wasn’t hard for Daly to convince me to organize a committee of volunteers to advocate for more bike and pedestrian access in Miami-Dade. 

Once a month, our informal group of around 20 passionate cyclists and concerned citizens meets virtually and then, as often as possible, attends the droll public meetings where fighting for bike and pedestrian access can feel like trying to shout over the speakers at an Ultra concert. Our goal is for The Underline to serve as the main artery of a network that will one day branch out to every corner of the county.

One of the members of our committee is Kurt Kaminer, a man whose passion for bicycles began with an abandoned 1947 Schwinn that he fixed up and started riding everywhere as a teen. Today, Kaminer fixes up bikes as a hobby and is currently working on a 1980 Raleigh Sports—one of about 33 bikes in his collection. 

Rickenbacker Causeway
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Chris Goldberg

A social communications coordinator with a vintage style that matches his classic bikes, Kaminer first got into advocacy in 2009 while studying at Florida International University and says he’s “cautiously optimistic” these days. “All I really want is a protected bike lane to ride in a safe place,” he says.

After a car struck and killed two cyclists on the Rickenbacker Causeway in May 2022, Kaminer helped lead an effort to reduce the causeway’s speed limit. Several bike advocates are now pushing for a long-term solution to keep cars that often fly along the causeway a safe distance away from groups of cyclists that crowd the road, especially on weekends. In Spring 2021, funding was also approved via a grant for City of Miami to begin work on a new Bike Master Plan. A survey for public feedback is currently live on the Bike Master Plan website.

Where to find the Miami bike scene

Those pelotons, or large packs of cyclists, on the causeway are just a small percentage of the bike culture in Miami, says Frankie Ruiz, founder of the Miami Marathon and an avid cyclist. On any weekend morning, you’ll find thousands of bikes on the Beachwalk, the 200 miles of gravel paths along the ridge of the Everglades levees, and cutting through neighborhoods like Miami Lakes and Doral. Then there’s Critical Mass, a monthly gathering of hundreds of riders who cruise together for about 15 miles starting at Government Center, and Miami Bike Scene, a community hub chock-full of information on group rides, trails, events and shops. “What Miami is for cyclists is a real mix of ways of doing things,” Ruiz says. “Miami has truly matured as a bike city.”

That’s good news for Isabela, who became a full-time tour guide after losing her day job in the pandemic and commutes primarily on a bike, skateboard or scooter. “I try to use everything except a car,” she says. That can be difficult living in Little Havana, considering Calle Ocho is virtually a highway of speeding cars. “After I pass 95 and get into Brickell, I feel a little bit more relieved.”

The Underline
Photograph: Sam OberterThe Underline

Isabela remains hopeful about the groundswell she’s noticed these days, brought on by advocates putting in the work and showing up to meetings to try to convince public officials it’s not just about moving more cars. Instagram has been instrumental in creating her brand and building her business, and Isabela thinks bike and pedestrian advocates could also benefit from the platform. She says, “We can change Miami through social media.”

As for Daly, she insists Miami must take more cues from Amsterdam, a city once dominated by cars until citizens laid down in the streets to protest a staggering 3,300 pedestrians and cyclists killed in the Netherlands in 1971. By 2021, the number of pedestrian deaths in the Netherlands was 43

Daly believes Miamians can be comparably motivated. “If you want to walk safely,” she says, “You better speak up. If you want to bike safely, you better speak up. Because without your voice, there will not be change. And we are stronger together.”

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