December 17, 2015

Twelve Days of Bicycles - Five Flashing Lights

Critical Mass – a large group ride where cyclists take over public roads – began in San Francisco in 1992 and has been done in over 300 cities around the world.[1] In recent years, Critical Mass has been on the decline in Toronto given its maturing cycling culture; reflected by numerous other group rides available, infrastructure improvements, and other bike related programs. One ride I attended last year saw only 20 – 30 people take part, while hundreds were reported to have attended in the past. As a way to keep the idea alive, the Cycle Toronto Ward 14 Advocacy Group started a series of “Mini Mass” rides. 
Mini Mass gathered on Roncesvalles Avenue

Originally suggested by Peter Welsh and organized by Mary Jo Pollak, the group has done four rides so far. The purpose of these rides is to be short (30 – 45 minutes), small scale (up to ten people), and fun with a corresponding theme. They are meant to be open to all (including families), as well as provide visibility to the group. The previous rides included a sunflower theme, a “visibility ride” with white attire, and a Nuit Blanche ride to the Marry Your Bike venue.
Cycle Toronto Ward 14's Year End Social
Since December gets dark by 5 PM, lights were a must for the most recent ride on Wednesday, December 9 for the group’s Year End Social. Five other cyclists joined me; hence this verse being called “five flashing lights”. While most cyclists opted for the standard front and rear lights, one opted for battery operated LED Christmas lights around his front wheel. Not a bad way for cyclists to get into the Christmas spirit, though similar lights (and neon glow sticks) were also used for the annual Bike Rave in the summer months!
Lights and bells - two must have items for cyclists
For those who don’t have bike lights from 30 minutes before sunset to 30 minutes after sunrise, they risk getting a $110 fine, which was increased from $20 with the passage of Bill 31 earlier this year. To help spread awareness of bike lights, Cycle Toronto hosted a series of Get Lit Tuesdays in October where volunteers flag down unlit cyclists.[2] The cyclists then receive free lights and get a lesson on why they are important. For most cyclists, $30 to $50 should be enough to get a good set of front and rear lights, though there are also higher end lights available in excess of $100. If your lights take AA or AAA batteries, I recommend bringing extra batteries in case your lights go out while riding and there isn’t a nearby convenience store. If you use a light which is rechargeable via a USB cable, get a low cost spare light, which even dollar stores sell now.

Now that you got the lighter side of things, I will restate the verses and links for those who missed any posts of the “Twelve Days of Bicycles” series.

On the fifth day of bicycles, my true love gave to me …

Five flashing lights
Four Lake Shore spans
Three book rides
Two legal friends
And a bike lane on Bloor Street!

Lighten up!
Rob Z (e-mail)


[1] Brennan Doherty. Dandyhorse Magazine. “Still we ride? A review of Critical Mass in Toronto .” December 26, 2014.

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