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Bicycle Day (19th April) | Days Of The Year

Bicycle Day is fast approaching. And while we don’t think it’ll ever take off like Thanksgiving, the popularity of the event is growing by the year. However, it remains a day that’s lost on a lot of people while many others have the completely wrong idea of what the celebration is all about. (Hint: it’s not the obvious answer)

The event has grown at a rapid rate and is set to be bigger than ever in 2020 before enjoying continued development over the years to come. While some people may deem it a strange thing to commemorate, especially when they discover it’s not what they thought, there is no question that it’s here to stay. In truth, it has every right to too.

Just don’t try saying that tongue twister on Bicycle Day.

Learn about Bicycle Day

Given its name, you’d be forgiven for jumping to the conclusion that Bicycle Day is a celebration of the two-wheeled, pedal-driven, single-track vehicle. However, the adulation of the bike is actually reserved for World Bicycle Day – so you can put your helmet and Queen record away for a little while longer.

Bicycle Day is, incredibly, a celebration of the lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD). Or rather, it commemorates a discovery that LSD (and, subsequently, other psychoactive substances) can evoke significant shifts of consciousness even in low doses. It is, therefore, one of the biggest breakthroughs in the history of using the substance as a psychiatric tool, recreationally as well as in other situations.

The day is consequently celebrated in a wide range of psychedelic communities by supporters of various ages, as well as individuals (guilty!) of wanting another excuse for adding a little color to their lives – albeit in a much safer environment.

Given the importance of scientific discovery, not least its indirect impacts on further discoveries, Bicycle Day is a valid celebration that can be enjoyed by all. You don’t need to be a junkie to appreciate the development of drugs for medical reasons in recent decades. So, when exactly did that discovery take place, and how did the day become a day to be honored? Let’s find out.

History of Bicycle Day

While the day isn’t a direct celebration of bicycles, most people that learn about the day are relieved to discover that the two-world vehicles do play an integral role in the story. Even for an LSD user, the absence of a bike would just be weird.

The Famous Bike Trip

The historical event was, quite literally, a bike ‘trip’ taken by Dr. Albert Hofmann. In April 1945, the Swiss scientist accidentally discovered the effects of LSD on the human body. Three days later, he subsequently conducted an experiment in which he intentionally took a 250mcg dose of the substance before riding home with his lab assistant. During the ride home, Hofmann’s trip started with bouts of anxiety and paranoid warped thoughts that his next-door neighbor was a malevolent witch. 

However, the trip would change his perceptions in a


This Bicycle Day, Celebrate LSD’s Inward Trips

On the afternoon of April 19th, 1943, the Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann dropped acid, and rode his bike home. Hofmann, who worked in the pharmaceutical department of Sandoz Laboratories in Basel, had first synthesized LSD in 1938 while trying to create a stimulant to treat respiratory and circulatory problems. He had no idea the compound had psychedelic effects, and it yielded no visible results when tested on sedated animals, so he set it aside. 

Five years later, Hofmann decided to revisit his creation. On April 16th, 1943, he synthesized another batch of LSD. This time, he accidentally absorbed a tiny amount into his skin, and sank into “a not unpleasant intoxicated-like condition, characterized by an extremely stimulated imagination.” He decided to experiment on himself with an intentional dose to confirm the compound’s effects, and at 4:20pm on April 19th, he ingested 250 micrograms of the chemical. He soon realized that the trip was going to be intense, and asked his assistant to help him get home. Wartime restrictions prohibited cars on the streets of Basel, so they had to bike — which is why April 19th is now known around the world as Bicycle Day.

With that infamous trippy ride, Hofmann became the scientist-godfather of psychedelics, a term coined by psychiatrist Humphry Osmond based on the Greek words for “mind-revealing”. Journalist John Horgan wrote for Scientific American that Hofmann believed when properly used, psychedelics could stimulate the “inborn faculty of visionary experience” that we all possess as children, and lose as we grow up.

Hofmann had a complex relationship with the field he helped create, dubbing LSD his “problem child” in the book he wrote about his contributions to psychedelic chemistry. He also studied magic mushrooms, and was the first to isolate, synthesize, and name the psychedelic compounds psilocybin and psilocin. He told Horgan about a psilocybin trip he’d taken during which he ended up in a ghost town deep inside the earth. “Nobody was there,” Hofmann said. “I had the feeling of absolute loneliness, absolute loneliness. A terrible feeling!” When he came back to this plane and found himself with friends again, Hofmann felt ecstatic. He told Horgan, in his heavy Swiss accent, “I had feeling of being reborn! To see now again! And see what wonderful life we have here!”

The quest to feel reborn is especially compelling in the era of COVID-19 and self-isolation. The psychedelics journal DoubleBlind recently published an article on using quarantine as a time for inner exploration and self-renewal. DoubleBlind co-founder Madison Margolin says that, in an alternate COVID-less universe, she’d be observing Bicycle Day at a psychedelic seder. “We were planning to partner with Disco Dining Club to celebrate both Bicycle Day and Passover.” Instead, Margolin says, DoubleBlind is co-hosting a free online festival with SPORE (the Society for Psychedelic Outreach, Reform, and Education) on April 19th to support coronavirus aid efforts, “celebrating reciprocity and our connection with Earth and each other,” starting at 8:45 a.m. PST. 

Margolin has some


Tripping in LSD’s Birthplace: A Story for “Bicycle Day”

Exactly 71 years ago, April 19, 1943, Albert Hofmann, a chemist for Sandoz, in Basel, Switzerland, ingested a minute amount—just 250 micrograms–of a compound derived from the ergot fungus. He soon felt so disoriented that he rode his bicycle home, where he experienced all the heavenly and hellish effects of lysergic acid diethylamide. 

Psychedelic enthusiasts now commemorate Hofmann’s discovery of LSD’s effects every April 19, a.k.a. “Bicycle Day. ” To celebrate this Bicycle Day, I’d like to describe one of the strangest trips of my life, which took place in Basel and involved (sort of) Hofmann. 

In 1999, while, researching a book on mysticism, I flew to Basel to attend “Worlds of Consciousness,” a leading forum for scientists studying altered states, especially drug-induced states. The meeting, held in a convention center within walking distance of my hotel, offered two divergent perspectives of hallucinogens. In the convention center’s lobby, vendors peddled visionary books, music and art, including drawings, by Swiss surrealist H.R. Giger, of pouty-lipped, warhead-breasted, cybernetic vixens transmogrified by titanic psychic forces.

Beside this artistic evocation of psychedelic visions, a display of “scientific” posters—with titles like “Psychoneurophysiology of Personalized Regression and Experiential Imaginary Therapy”–seemed parodically dry. The meeting’s schizoid character was reflected in its speakers, too. One group sported hippy-ish threads and extolled altered states in subjective, even poetic language. The other wore jackets and ties and employed clinical, objective rhetoric.

The meeting’s guest of honor was a stooped, white-haired man with fierce, Churchillian mien: Albert Hofmann. His contributions to psychedelic chemistry extended beyond LSD. In the 1950s, he analyzed Psilocybe cubensis, a “magic mushroom” consumed by Indians in Mexico, and deduced that its primary active ingredient is psilocybin. Hofmann’s research inspired other scientists around the world to investigate LSD, psilocybin and similar compounds, which psychiatrist Humphry Osmond dubbed psychedelic, based on the Greek words for “mind-revealing.”

At 93, Hofmann still avidly followed the field he helped create. One day we spoke during the lunch break, and Hofmann, in halting, heavily accented English, vigorously defended LSD, which he called his “problem child.” He blamed Harvard-psychologist-turned-counterculture-guru Timothy Leary for giving LSD such a bad reputation.

“I had this discussion with him,” Hofmann told me. “I said, ‘Oh, you should not tell everybody, even the children, “Take LSD! Take LSD!”'” LSD “can hurt you, it can disturb you,” Hofmann said, “it can make you crazy.” But properly used, psychedelics stimulate the “inborn faculty of visionary experience” that we all possess as children but lose as we mature.

Hofmann recalled a psilocybin trip during which he ended up in a ghost town deep inside the earth. “Nobody was there. I had the feeling of absolute loneliness, absolute loneliness. A terrible feeling!” When he emerged from this nightmare and found himself with friends again, he felt ecstatic. “I had feeling of being reborn! To see now again! And see what wonderful life we have here!” The gruff old man stared above my head, his eyes gleaming, as if born again this very


Car Free Day Vancouver

Car Free Day Vancouver

Car Free Day celebrates the vibrancy of Vancouver’s diverse neighbourhoods by organizing a multi-site annual arts and culture festival that reclaims traffic thoroughfares as community focused public spaces. This allows artists, local residents, performers, artisans, non-profits, and businesses to interact, engage, and re-imagine spaces normally reserved for vehicle traffic. We continue to be a green and grassroots effort, directed and organized by the local residents in each Car Free Day neighbourhood.

Car Free Day Vancouver began in Grandview-Woodlands with concerns over the Gateway highway widening project and the effects of increasing automobile traffic in the neighbourhood. In the place of traditional protest, the founders of Car Free Commercial Drive created a street festival where those from the neighbourhood could be engaged to rethink the range of uses for neighbourhood streets.

Since 2008, the registered non-profit Car Free Vancouver Society has helped communities in the West End and Main Street put on their own festivals. Keeping to the spirit of the original Car Free Days, each festival is produced by members from these neighbourhoods and thus reflects the talents, aspirations and culture particular to these communities.

Car Free Day continues to grow in popularity as measured by attendance, footprint and by the numerous ‘best of’ awards from local media including The Georgia Straight, the Vancouver Courier, and the WestEnder.

Car Free Day remains an almost exclusively volunteer run street festival and gratefully acknowledges the help we have received from the City of Vancouver, local artists, our neighbourhood businesses and BIAs, our sustainability partners Vancity, Translink, and Portable Electric, and most of all from the hundreds of neighbourhood volunteers.

Interesting learning more and participating in this year’s street festivals?

Want to volunteer? Consider getting involved!


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