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Cyclist Co-operation & Critical Mass Toronto

Critical Mass Toronto is rolling tonight. If you’re interested in attending this “organized coincidence”, people meet up between 6:00 and 6:30 pm at the south-east corner of Bloor & Spadina, with departure shortly thereafter. The route is usually determined “on-the-fly“, but generally stays downtown, within Bloor, Parliament, Front and Bathurst. If you don’t live in Toronto, but another major city in North America (or elsewhere), there is a great collection of global Critical Mass information over here, all broken down geographically for you nice people.

Since the aim of this website is to have as much Toronto cycling / biking information as possible… for both established cyclists and beginning bikers, I was thinking about how to summarize the benefits of Critical Mass.

It’s true that philosophically speaking it’s an “organized coincidence”. Sometimes biking in to work I’ll be in a stretch of road where a lot of other cyclists happen to be too, and we form our own little, linear Critical Mass – cars using the same stretch of road instinctively give us more room as they are passing, since we have more of a presence, although none of us know eachother or arranged to be there all at the same time.

I’ve often been “buzzed” by cars passing me quickly and within a foot of me (the law says they have to give cyclists 3.3 feet / 1 metre of room here in Ontario), but it’s always been when I’m on my own… it never seems to happen when there are a few other cyclists on the same stretch of road.

Group Rides like Critical Mass are all about showing non-cyclists that there is a quick and efficient mode of transportation other than the automobile. As more people take up biking, more of the mini-Critical Masses I mentioned above will occur, effectively calming traffic, and showing yet other people that cycling is an option.

Critical Mass has had a lot of problems in places like New York City, where there have been arrests for “parading without a permit” (the courts have since ruled that this is not applicable to cyclists), but I think Toronto’s cycling community should head towards a more co-operative rather than confrontational model of cycling activism. For instance, in Portland, Oregon, “Cyclists and cops even have regular get togethers to figure out how make the ride work better for everyone“. [from bikeportland.org]

It’s probably the best way to work with “the establishment” to make cycling an accepted and viable transportation alternative for everyone living in Toronto.

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