Living the Happy City: The Social Side of Cycling

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Back in March, I wrote an essay for Vancouver Is Awesome about Charles Montgomery’s new book Happy City, and how it perfectly articulated our family’s own decade-long journey from the suburbs of Toronto to the heartbeat of Vancouver. In the coming months, I’m going to share with you the experiences unique to this city that fill us with pride, joy and excitement; allowing us to build a happier city, just by living it.

More and more cities around the world – including our own – are beginning to rediscover cycling as a transportation tool. Perhaps what is less understood (and appreciated) is the bicycle’s potential as a tool for social connectivity. We at Modacity are obviously huge proponents of the former, and believe that with the right infrastructure, cycling from A to B can be as safe and normal as walking. However, we do love an opportunity to meet up with a group of friends, soak up this beautiful city of ours, and ride our bikes for hours, just for the fun of it. As the days get shorter, the leaves change colour, and the summer of 2014 starts to fade from our memories, here are the five group rides our family will remember for years to come.

1 Bike Rave

1.  The Bike Rave: July 5th, 2014

The self-described “glowtastic mobile dance party on wheels” has become an annual tradition, going from a couple dozen hard-core ravers at its first iteration, to over 7,000 Vancouverites (of all ages, sizes, and backgrounds) in 2014. The flashing LED lights, innovative homemade costumes, rolling sound systems, and unique two, three, and four-wheeled machines lend to the incomparable, celebratory vibe. Underlying that diversity is an unparalleled sense of unity: Yaletown kids revelling with Mount Pleasant hipsters, along with hundreds of suburbanites specifically hitting the city for a safe, fun, care-free night on their bikes. And once you’ve experienced your first Bike Rave, you’ll make the return pilgrimage year after year, dragging as many as you can along for the ride. Check out our photographs here.

2 Lucha Libre

2.  Lucha Libre Mask Ride: July 19th, 2014

Another annual Vancouver tradition, the Lucha Libre Mask Ride is a surreal combination of masked luchadores, Mariachi bands, colourful piñatas, and beautiful bicycles. This year marked its fifth iteration, with over 100 masked riders meeting on the pier at Crab Park, and riding the city streets on a hot summer’s night. This included at stop at the Parker Street Studios, where the Los Dorados Mariachi band serenaded everyone for almost an hour. From there, the loud and joyous mass rode through the city centre towards Stanley Park, attracting plenty of attention from passers-by. After a quick stop in Devonian Harbour Park to let the kids beat the crap out of a couple of piñatas, we circled the seawall to Siwash Rock, just in time to catch the end of a stunning sunset. Our photographs from the evening can be found here.

3 Summer Solstice

3.  Summer Solstice Ride: June 21st, 2014

Organized by the fine folks at Vancruisers.ca, the Summer Solstice Ride has been happening for over fifteen years, as a social, informal way to celebrate the longest day of the year. Starting in the Pat’s Pub parking lot on Hastings Street, the ride snakes through Gastown before landing on the seawall, and then heading west on the south side of False Creek. With stops for refreshment and conversation in Leg-In-Boot Square and Vanier Park, the group of 150 made the most of the newly completed Seaside Greenway on Point Grey Road, riding it all the way out to Jericho Beach. After a spectacular sunset, we pedaled back to East Van, only to stumble across an amazing firework display in the Olympic Village, courtesy of the Dragon Boat Festival. Our photographs from that incredible evening can be found here.

4 Church Formal

4.  Church of Bike Formal Ride: May 18th, 2014

Also organized by the good people at Vancruisers.ca, this slow, chic ride with friends (old and new) was the very first of what we hope will become a regular date on the spring calendar. This was our kind of Sunday service! Dressed to the nines, the group of about 30 or so (of *all* ages) met up in the Olympic Village, before setting off on the north side of False Creek towards Stanley Park, with plenty of stops along the way. There were custom-built bikes, antique bikes, cargo bikes, and even one with a built-in sound system! Our family has discovered some wonderful friendships at events such as this, and continue to expand our social circle, simply through the act of riding a bicycle! Our photos from that wonderful afternoon can be found here.

5 Momentum

5.  Momentum Magazine Ride: August 18th, 2014

Sometimes, a great group ride doesn’t have to be planned, scheduled, and publicized in advance. In this case, we received a spontaneous email from a colleague – Yvonne Bambrick – who was visiting from Toronto, and due to fly home the next day. After a couple of quick texts, we arranged a get-together on two wheels, along with some of our friends at Momentum Magazine. We spent a glorious summer evening cruising the bikeways of Vancouver, catching up with an old friend as we pedalled between craft brewpubs (Yvonne – as it turns out – is about to release her first book, entitled The Urban Cycling Survival Guide). It was also lovely to catch up with Mia and Molly from Momentum, as we exchange plenty of emails (as regular contributors to the magazine), but don’t get to converse with them in the flesh nearly often enough.

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Chris Bruntlett is the co-founder of Modacity a multi-service consultancy focused on inspiring healthier, happier, simpler forms of urban mobility through words, photography and film. You can find Chris on Twitter: @modacitylife.