It is a commonly known fact that commuting in Miami is an all-you-can-eat buffet of garbage. If you've ever been to one of those economy pan-asian buffets in the strip malls with ugly beige paint scheme (a.k.a. all of them), you've experienced that everything looks pretty edible from afar, but the closer you get to the food, the more repulsive it actually is. Forlorn, you return to your table with a plate adorned with 3 lumps of the least disgusting options, but once you sample each, you realize it's exactly as bad as you feared. This again could be paralleled to using Miami's roads, and even more so if you're doing it on a bicycle. The main difference is buffets have trans-fats, and Miami has road-rage.
I'd love to showcase a class of Miami drivers who are particularly good with road manners, but I've yet to identify any. However, it is very easy to notice which group is the worst: the luxury car driver. Specifically if the car they drive is a German sedan, you can typically expect their reaction to your very existence to be an attempt to end it, preferably with your blood neatly splattered accross the Audi logo.
One of the most successful research opportunities for evaluating drivers' abilities to:
a) keep their cool
b) understand the law
is to participate in your local Critical Mass. Critical Mass is a cycling event which occurs once a month in cities accross the nation. Every individual rider has their own definition and purpose for it, and here is mine:
Critical Mass is a radical attempt to create awareness and dialogue between cyclists and motorists about the rules of the road, about the fact that cyclists need to use it, and about how both cyclists and motorists can step on eachother's toes unless something serious is done to improve road usage for everyone. It is done so by a leaderless gathering of cyclists who meet at a pre-determined time, and set off on a group ride on city roads. If there is a sufficiently "critical" amount of cyclists on the road together, they can easily occupy a lane or two of traffic, if not the entire road in attempt to get wherever they are going. Clearly, this gets the attention of motorists, who are forced to wait, slow down, or find alternate routes: the same challenges that any individual cyclist faces on the road every day.
This being said, let us put in perspective what cyclists may excpect on the road with some statistics.
i) Bicycling Magazine recently listed Miami as one of the worst for cycling in the U.S.A.
ii) Although New York recently stole the crown as the city with the most road rage from Miami in 2007, we still sit at a healthy number 7.
It is no suprise then, that when over 100 cyclists took part in Critical Mass Miami: August 2009 edition, they were occasionally met with honks, yells, profanity, reving engines and general threats to their well-being. However, the relatively few offensive drivers weren't the ones driving the beat-up carolla home from work, but the guy in the suit and the brand new BMW.
Drastically violent attempts to cut off cyclists were inflicted by someone driving a Mercedez, and more than one Audi driver came within feet of a cyclist before squeeling to a stop, slamming on his horn. All in all, there were relatively few cases of irrational explosions of rage, but 9 times out of 10 they came from somebody who clearly earned far too much money to wait for cyclists. On the other end of the spectrum, cyclists were aided by patient drivers, cheered on by others, and at the very least were tolerated by the vast majority of motorists.
So, what's the deal anonymous luxury car drivers? Why are you so angry? Is it because you paid good money for your 500hp engine and damn it all if you can't use it right now? Are you afraid that if anyone saw you waiting behind a bicycle, you might lose some of the respect that your finely tuned german car has been earning you? I'm truly at a loss here, because l would assume that anyone who had the patience, maturity, and solid work ethic to get to a point in their lives where they could afford such a nice car, would have also developed the ability to get over themselves once in a while.