Critical Mass not for every cyclist

Hundreds of cyclists in Halifax will be riding as part of Critical Mass, a monthly cycling awareness event with participants around the world. But not everyone is so eager to start pedalling.

By Sean Young

Hundreds of cyclists will fill the streets of Halifax at the end of this month. They’ll be riding as part of Critical Mass, a monthly cycling awareness event with participants around the world. But not everyone is so eager to start pedalling.

Jamie Lamb is a mechanic and salesperson at Cyclesmith and President of Bicycle Nova Scotia.

“We like to call the event ‘Critical Ass,‘” he said.

“The concept of Critical Mass is that an overwhelmingly large number of riders congregate and effectively takes a commuter artery by storm — generally downtown during rush hour on a Friday — riding through traffic lights and putting cycling in the faces of drivers, law-breaking all the while,” said Lamb.

Matthew Harper doesn’t agree. He’s taken part in Critical Mass since 2007.

“Critical Mass is a chance for cyclists to let our presence be known,” he said.

“Most of the time we’re ignored or endangered on the streets, and if we need to assert ourselves to be seen, so be it.”

Lamb believes people shouldn’t be agressive when it comes to sharing the road. “To be honest, you really need to let it slide off your back.”

Lamb also believes that Bill 93, an amendment to the Motor Vehicle Act dating from 2010, has proven to be an effective protection of cyclists’ rights. According to the bill, if vehicles have to pass cyclists, they must give at least one metre of space.

According to Lamb, “In early 2013 we saw the first prosecution under that law, where a rider used their handlebar camera footage to prove that a truck towing a trailer passed within 6 inches.”

But Harper says he hasn’t seen the level of enforcement cyclists deserve. “Drivers still get away with so much because they’re agressive. They drive too fast to have to care what’s behind them. We have to be just as agressive.”

According to Lamb, it’s just a matter of getting the word out. “Advertising that law on buses or in the Coast would go far in making drivers understand that it is the law, not simply common courtesy.”

But despite their stances on Critical Mass, both cyclists look forward to spring riding.

“Some casual riding will be great too, whenever the snow finally melts,” says Harper.

“We’re certainly hoping to take off our jackets and get on our nice bikes and enjoy some salt free, warm roads,” says Lamb.