Critical Mass Ride

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On Saturday I joined my first-ever Critical Mass Ride in Ottawa. These are rides where large groups of people on bikes get together and ride through the streets as a way of pushing for safer infrastructure and normalizing using bicycles as a regular form of transportation. It turns out they are also a lot of fun.

A crowd of people with their bicycles is starting to gather on a courtyard near a row of flagpoles, under a cloudy sky.

About 250 people showed up at the start point from across Ottawa and Gatineau. There were people on racing bikes, hybrids, folding bikes, e-bikes, and cargo bikes. There were people older than me and kids on their bikes. There were dogs and kids in bikes. There were even a couple of supportive walkers and a guy on a skateboard.

As the crowd continues to build, a woman with her child in a cargo bike greets one of the dogs who rode in another cargo bike, and his owner.

The crowd rode in front of Parliament Hill and down to a road along the Canal that is sometimes opened for active transport on weekends.

A large group of people riding bikes waits at a street light on a treed road.

We ended up at the heart of the Tulip Festival near Dow’s Lake, about 8 km from where we had started.

More people and bikes at the end of the ride. a few are applauding and one person has her arms raised in celebration. You can see the lake to the right and trees and a food truck in the background.
More people with their bikes, plus a bed of tulips and some trees (including a crabapple full of pink blossoms) with office buildings in the distance.

I ended up getting to meet people I only knew through Twitter, connected with folks working on active transportation through other groups, got to check out a street with new temporary bike lanes, and explored part of the river partway and a new footbridge I had never used before. It was a great reminder of how easy it is to get around by bike, too: my total distance for the day was about 22 km.

There are already requests for more Critical Mass Rides in Ottawa. Others are doing it too. I have heard about rides in Hamilton, Winnipeg and Vancouver and several places in the UK this week alone. The Hamilton ride is a protest following the death of an 81 year-old cyclist last week, and the Vancouver ride is to protest the removal of hugely popular bike lanes in favour of another car lane through Stanley Park.

Whether you are a cyclist or a person who bikes, walks or rolls, you may want to keep an eye open for similar events where you live. Or organize one yourself! It’s just one part of the advocacy we need to make streets safer for everyone and help fight climate change, but it’s also fun and a great way to be active.

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