Sara Kirk rode her “Butterfly bike” around the north end of Halifax in the dark Friday. She wants to remind drivers they share the road with others who are hard to see.
“I think it’s very important that you do have that visibility, so I’m all for coming along and supporting it,” she said. “But actually, the main reason I’m here is that it’s bloody good fun.”
The third annual ILightHFX bike ride took place Friday. It’s an annual nighttime event and fundraiser put on by the Halifax Cycling Coalition.
About 40 cyclists adorned their bicycles with anything that shines, from Christmas tree lights to flashlights. The ride raises awareness for cyclist visibility during the winter months and raises money to buy lights for cyclists who can’t afford them.
Cyclists who ride after dark must have a white light on the front of their bicycle and a red light on back, according to provincial law. Lights must be turned on within 30 minutes of sunrise or dusk, while not having lights can lead to a fine of up to $225.
According to a 2017 government report, between 2005 and 2013, there was an average of 67 cycling-related hospital visits per year in Nova Scotia.
“Some people look at cyclists and just think they’re wild people who disregard their own safety, but it’s really about options in how you commute, and a lot of people can’t afford cars,” said Sarah Manchon, chair of the board of the Halifax Cycling Coalition, before the ride. “In general, there are more collisions this time of year.”
Around this time of year, the coalition occasionally sets up tents on common cycling routes to hand out lights to riders who don’t have any. So far this year they’ve raised about $1,000 for lights.
“Cyclists are quite aware that they are not very visible on the road,” she said. “Handing out lights is a way to make it easier and more affordable.”
During the ride, cyclists faced sub-zero temperatures for over an hour as they moved through Halifax’s north end, from Gladstone Street to the Hydrostone area and beyond. Halifax Regional Police provided an escort to ensure their safety.
At the end of the ride, cyclists of all ages mingled and warmed up inside. Three sisters — Josie, Georgia, and Beatrice — said the ride was fun. “It wasn’t a bad length,” said Georgia Cull. They plan to do it all again next year.