There’s something to be said for the noise levels of a bike mob.
“This is, like, the quietest revolution ever,” mused Rachel Lissner, while rounding the corner of Bloor Street East. She was among the 1,000 cyclists at Wednesday night’s rally, a protest of the City’s decision to remove a number of bike lanes. It was true: when entire lanes of car traffic are replaced by bicycles, the street becomes a mellower place. Bike bell choruses replace the din of low-groaning motors.
Which was probably the point.
Safety and civility were the driving messages of pre-ride speeches from councillors Mike Layton (Ward 19, Trinity-Spadina) and Paula Fletcher (Ward 30, Toronto-Danforth), Toronto Cyclists Union founder Dave Meslin, and the union’s current director of advocacy Andrea Garcia. The revolution, in other words, will be a respectful one.
“There’s a word most of us learned in kindergarten. It’s called ‘sharing,’” said Meslin. “What we have behind us is called a complete street. Complete streets bring people together instead of dividing them. City Hall is trying to divide us and we’re not going to play that game.”
Last week’s decision to axe Jarvis bike lanes accompanied votes to dismantle lanes on Scarborough’s Pharmacy Avenue and Birchmount Road, in addition to shortening the bike lane network on Dupont Street. Garcia pointed out that the rally was also for those seemingly less-discussed bike routes—for the whole city, beyond one high-profile downtown lane: “We’re riding for Toronto.”
The result was a streetful of jubilant cyclists, passing spectators who both on foot and behind the wheel were unafraid to voice their solidarity. Horns were honked supportively; thank yous were pitched into the throng. And even the indignant battle cries of frustrated rally riders (“Door me now, Toronto!”) were no match for the prevailing calm.
To borrow from a phrase from the bike union’s Jared Kolb: it’s time Ford Nation and Bike Nation get acquainted. The revolution may be a quiet one, but based on Wednesday’s numbers, it’s got some muscle.
Photos by Andrew Louis/Torontoist.