Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Critical mass of one

Last Friday was the last Friday of the month, so it brings with it a large number of cyclists who all arrive at the same intersection at the same time in downtown Toronto (and many other cities around North America).

I decided to see what this was all about. I wasn't sure exactly what type of ideas were represented by this mass of cyclists, so I was reluctant about adding my kilograms to the crowd. I had read online that there were some cyclists going out of their way to block lanes of traffic. This type of activity doesn't represent my ideas, but I really like the idea of cruising around the city with a group of cyclists, being seen, and representing ourselves as regular people who happen to be on bikes (not cyclo-militants).

Before you read much more, expecting a wonderful account of the event, I should be clear that I never joined up with the others. I rode around downtown by myself looking for the crowd. I tried to make it there by 6:30, but it's a long ride from my work in Richmond Hill and I didn't make it there in time.

I toured downtown, I'm sure making a big impression on the drivers. I enjoy riding around downtown. And it gave me a chance to explain to a woman in a car who insisted that I should be further to the right at a red light, that I am in fact waiting in the correct spot. She must have been very concerned about my safety because she went out of her way to squeeze up between me and the car in the neighbouring lane to let me know. She must have also been worried about staying in my way because as soon as the light went green, she must have reached 70 km/h before she reached the other side of the intersection.

I ate some street-meat and hung out Queen St. I rode up Spadina, then just when I was preparing to lock up, I heard the sound of bells behind me, and saw the beautiful glob of cyclists sliding down Bloor. They were lead by an enthusiastic woman standing on her pedals and forcing herself to cheer. I don't think I would have been inspired to cheer but it was good to see so many people.

There was a surprisingly large number of police riding in the group. I'm no CNN, but I'd estimate that there were about 80 cyclists, 15 of whom were police. Have a look at the pictures from Darren Stehr.

One thing I learned about riding downtown near rush hour is that there already are a lot of cyclists in Toronto. It's only out in the suburbs where you feel like you're a bike activist just because you're riding on the street instead of the sidewalk.

I hope I can join the crowd in September.

Darren J 8/31/2005 05:46:00 p.m.


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