80+ cyclists take over Cape Town’s streets at night.

Dinika Govender shares her first experience of #moonlightmass, with a description of Cape Town’s latest plain-clothed bicycle ride from Gareth Pearson

“No lycra. No cross-trainers. No training wheels”. As I read these recommendations for the second #moonlightmass bicycle ride through the city, I very nearly back-pedaled on my decision to join. For me, the first-time city cyclist, whose last time on a bicycle was on a pavement in a gated estate in Johannesburg, I felt like a baby being asked to swim without floaters.

Perhaps it was the torturous Johannesburg traffic of my school years that haunted me still; but I was certain that I would have to dodge death by manic mini-buses or pushy drivers. Either that, or – given my lack of cycling experience – I would be left trailing behind a group of Argus champions. How wrong (and melodramatic) I was.

The ride was nothing short of spectacular. Starting under the elevated Green Point Circle at 9:15pm, I felt humbled to ride amongst the young and old(er), BMX and mountain bike, helmeted and hairsprayed, local and foreign, commuter and racer.

Cape Town’s sea-views could not help but show off their most tranquil, gleaming selves as the group took to the cycle lanes of Green Point and Sea Point; and the CBD’s formidable hills even carried the group safely to refreshments at &Union (the natural hangout for the city cyclist, so it seems).

There is something incredible about cycling down Long Street with 80 other cyclists, taking over all 3 lanes of one of Cape Town’s streets better known for its nightlife than its pedestrian or cycling infrastructure (or lack thereof). This was made even better by the cheering from the night crowds and an unplanned police car supporting us along our way. If Kasey Klimes believes that Enlightenment is the real reason bicycles are the key to better cities, then #MoonlightMASS down Long Street provided us with a genuine moment of Enlightenment and Perspective.

What started out as a 140-character suggestion from Daniel Graham for a bicycle ride under the full moon, has rapidly grown into a regular gathering of Cape Town bicyclers. We were pleased to see over 30 bicyclers at the first ride in January, but when that number doubled for the second ride this past week, we were more than pleased. You could call it pride, or even relief. H.G. Wells put it best when he said, “When I see an adult on a bicycle, I do not despair for the future of the human race.”

If one was to ask all of those who joined the ride why they do so, you would find a variety of answers. More formally, the ride is essentially like Critical Mass, where bicyclists take to the streets to make a point that they’re there, that bicycles are better, and that they need better infrastructure from the city and more consideration from motorists. The ride is more than that though. It allows bike-minded people to come together, it allows citizens to see the city at night from a different perspective, and it gives those who can’t get enough of riding bicycles a reason to hit the streets. More than anything, it’s good, simple fun.

If you’re intimidated by the idea of riding a bicycle on Cape Town’s streets, you’ll find #moonlightMASS to be a good place to start. The swarm of red lights moves through the city at a casual pace. Some ride faster than others, but everyone stays together. If there’s safety in numbers, the #moonlightMASS bike ride is bound to be one of the safest movements for a more sustainable future.

With the third #moonlightmass taking place just three days before the Argus, we hope to see even more people there.

#moonlightMASS takes place every full moon, starting at 9pm under the elevated Green Point circle (The access point to the Stadium MyCiTi station). The next ride will be on Thursday 8 March. For more information on #moonlightmass and other plain-clothed bicycle rides in Cape Town, see the Cape Town Bicycle Commuter website, and follow @futurecapetown , @CTBikeCommuter, @CaptainGrimmy and @Onekcollection on Twitter.

Images courtesy of Courtney Africa of The Cape Argus, and Nic Grobler