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Halifax biking event pushes night safety for city’s cyclists

A record breaking 220 cyclists participated in the annual I Light HFX to raise awareness for nighttime biking in HRM.

4 min read
Shoulder shot of two smiling women dressed in bright flashy colours wearing helmets lit up with lights.
caption Two participants with helmets decorated in colourful bright lights share a laugh before they take on the streets on their tandem bike.
Molly MacNaughton

Travis Nikkel had a close call one night last week while biking in Halifax.

It was nighttime and he was cycling in the North Park Street bike lane when a taxi driver pulled into the lane to drop someone off. Nikkel described it as a “light tap” between him and the taxi. 

“I don’t think he looked,” said Nikkel, who’s been biking in Halifax for nine years. It’s his main way of transportation.

Nikkel told this story to The Signal during the annual I Light HFX event hosted by the Halifax Cycling Coalition.

The event, held on Saturday night, featured colourful bikes lighting up the streets of the city. Cyclists of all ages took off at 6:30 p.m. from the Cathedral Church of All Saints near Victoria Park. They biked a six-kilometre loop around the Halifax Common, Citadel Hill and back to the church.

Side photo of a little boy smiling at the camera. He's sitting on his blue bike with his feet on the ground. His right hand is in the air.
caption A young happy boy raises his hand in the air while sitting on his bike decorated with blue neon lights.
Molly MacNaughton

According to the municipality’s annual collision data from its Road Safety Dashboard last year there were 73 bicycle collisions in Halifax Regional Municipality — a 25 per cent increase from 2018. This data is taken from the Strategic Road Safety Framework Annual Information Report 2023 and shows a breakdown of cyclist collisions by non-cyclist vehicle manoeuvres and traffic control type, such as roundabouts. 

I Light HFX’s aim is to promote safety and raise awareness and visibility to cycling after dark.

“Just be aware, be patient and respect cyclists who do deserve a space on the road,” said Justine McMillan, one of the main organizers for I Light HFX.

McMillan is on the coalition’s board. She said last year there were around 100-150 participants at the event.

With the days getting shorter and darker, McMillan hopes this free event will motivate cyclists to continue biking year-round. 

“Be patient, be as bright as you can and at the end of the day protect yourself and help to advocate for the better infrastructure that we do need,” McMillan said.

Halifax cyclists gather in a church parking lot with their lit up bikes at night.
caption Cyclists gather in the church parking lot before the ride.

Tom Hardy, originally from North Sydney, has been biking in Halifax since 2017. Hardy said he found out about the event after his friend got him involved in biking promotions a couple years ago. Eventually he found the Halifax Cycling Coalition.

“I like to promote biking, safe biking,” Hardy said. That’s why he took part in Saturday’s event. 

Two years ago Hardy was in an accident. He was biking one dark, early morning in late fall. He was on North Street on his way to Dartmouth for his weekly coffee and cycling group meet up when he hit a bump. A car was too close to him, so he slammed his brakes and flipped his bike. 

“I didn’t go to coffee that day. I was just like ‘I’ll see you guys in a couple weeks.’ ” 

Other than some bruised ribs, Hardy said he “slipped it off” and went back home.

“We need better protected infrastructure separated from cars. At the end of the day, that’s what’s going to keep us the safest,” McMillan said.

As of early 2023, 45 per cent of HRM’s plan to build a 57-kilometre network of cycling infrastructure for all ages and abilities (AAA) has been completed. AAA is part of HRM’s 2017 Integrated Mobility Plan and consists of protected bike lanes, multi-use pathways and local street bikeways. Originally the network was anticipated to be completed in 2022, but now the municipality says on its website that more than 70 per cent of the network will be completed by 2024.

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About the author

Molly MacNaughton

Molly is originally from Digby, N.S. She's in her fourth year of the BJH program. She once covered a story about a murder; a murder of crows...

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    Jeff Harper

    Fantastic photos! Nice work!
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