Around Town - Halloween Critical Mass

The annual Halloween Critical Mass bike ride is happening this Friday night! Some of you may have spotted a Critical Mass in the past and not realized what you were looking at...usually it's a bunch of people having fun on bikes moving from one place to another - very slowly! I corresponded with ARC - Advocacy for Respect for Cyclists representative Darren Stehr who was more than happy to tell me a bit more about this event. Darren has documented several of these rides through his photos and participation.

For those of us out there that don't know what a Critical Mass bike ride is, can you describe it? Where does it start? Where do you go?

Critical Mass is a social space that brings different people and different ideas together whose only common element is a bicycle. We ride together in unity. You can join us at the corner of Spadina and Bloor at 6pm, the last Friday of every month. We meet 12 months of the year. The pace is very gentle, and whoever is up front decides which way we go. Sometimes we call out a 'voice vote' to see where people want to go.

Can you describe what it feels like to take over the streets with a big pack of cyclists?

You will have to imagine a street devoid of cars along with their other ills, and the street filled with happy people. Freedom.

Why does it happen?

It happens for whatever reason you believe it happens for. There are no leaders, no conflict, and no sponsors. YOU make Critical Mass whatever you want.

Can you describe the looks on people's faces and their reactions to Critical Mass when it passes them by?

People smile. Sometimes they want to know what conflict we are protesting - very confused when they find out we are just socializing.

What is the strangest or craziest thing you've seen while participating in a Critical Mass ride?

I was informed by a Toronto Police Officer following one Critical Mass that he saw Jesus Christ riding with us. I thought he was joking but he was pretty convinced because he said the guy looked like Jesus on TV.

Who comes to these events?

There is no specific demographic, people come from all walks of life.

Why would they come?

They want to experience the streets without having to compete with the steel coffins.

Since there is a Critical Mass ride every month do participants dress up for each one or just for Halloween?

Halloween is always a great excuse to dress up but people will also dress up for others. One or two brave souls will even ride it in their underwear!

Why should every bike lover participate in a Critical Mass ride at least once? What do you think they would get out of it?

Everyone, not just bike lovers, should try it. It demonstrates how the city would change for the better when the public space is used for social interaction.

What should people expect?

To meet new people. Instead of watching Toronto on the evening news, you can see it with your own eyes!

What do you need to bring/wear to participate?

A bicycle and a smile. A light for your bike is suggested to avoid tickets.

What is the best thing about a Critical Mass ride?

The people.

What is the worst?

Only happens once a month.

How can readers find out more about Critical Mass?

Stop reading. Join us! The last Friday of every month!

As an aside, I love this daily photo blog about cycling in Toronto by Martin Helmut Reis which illustrates beautifully all the issues that cyclists deal with on a daily basis. The Toronto Bicycling Network is another resource for cyclists in Toronto. Take the Tooker! is a site with information about bike lanes in Toronto and issues relating to cycling in our beautiful city.

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