Saturday, September 29, 2007

Bikes Rule, Cars Drool!

Critical Mass is a monthly bicycle ride to celebrate cycling and to assert cyclists' right to the road. The event is typically held on the last Friday of every month in cities around the world where bicyclists and, less frequently, unicyclists, skateboarders, inline skaters, roller skaters and other self-propelled commuters take to the streets en masse.

September 28th, 2007 was the inaugural North Toronto Critical Mass, starting from York University at the fringes of car-centric York Region. Eight enthusiastic cyclists took to the streets before eventually meeting up with the Toronto Critical Mass at Bloor and Spadina. With bells chiming, they circled the York U bus loop, earning cheers from line-ups of bus riders. They proceeded south, taking a lane on busy Keele St. “I’ve never felt this empowered on Keele Street before,” said one Environmental Studies student. “Ya! Ya! Hurray! Alleluia!” chanted a nine year old boy as we passed. We turned onto Bloor Street and began picking up more riders, grins from ear to ear on the faces of all the pedestrians.

We arrived downtown to see hundreds of cyclists with bikes of all kinds congregating for the Toronto ride. There were homemade bikes with long handles, tandems and unicycles, and decorations and costumes. The atmosphere was electric. A trumpet summoned, and the ride began. What a site to behold! There was safety in numbers. We were many, but also one. There were a few honks from annoyed motorists, but most understood that we’d be through in a few minutes, and they were powerless against the mass anyway.

Once one experiences the interdependence that the bicycle gives us, the increased adrenaline and full use of the senses it calls for, and the overwhelming feeling of moving beyond the speed of walking or running on your own power, it is very hard to go back to a car.

This Critical Mass was a celebration of the human spirit. It was a voice against the sprawl, pollution, global warming, injuries, and destruction of cities that the automobile breeds. And it was a fight for a network of bike lanes that will take you anywhere in the city. And that is something worth fighting for.

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