#moonlightmass - Urban Lifestyle Cape Town - Cycling Social media activation

. Posted in Cape Town

Elad Kirshenbaum and Daniel Graham 

 Why cycling makes you happy and how a social experiment turned into an inspiring urban cycling activation in Cape Town


#moonlightmass is a socially inspired bike ride around the beautiful Mother City – Cape Town. The ride begins, every full moon at 9pm, beneath the Greenpoint circle and skirts the Mouille Point promenade before heading into the city to finish on the famous Greenmarket Square. The distance is short and the pace manageable for everybody, even a wheelchair. #commutingfriday, #iRideCT and #cityactivation are peripheral activities to further the reach of urban cycling in Cape Town.

We chatted to the founders of #moonlightmass, Elad Kirshenbaum and Daniel Graham, who explain where it all started and why it is important to get people involved in the ride. Less than 10 rides in, and already the #moonlightmass ride has grown to over 2000 people, a lot of them regulars. We met at the site of Elad’s new development, Side Street, on Albert Road in Woodstock and sat down for a coffee. From the start it was clear that these friends both have a passion for everything bicycle related and before long, they were finishing each other’s sentences.  retroyspective6
We’ve heard that it was just a social experiment on Twitter, but where did it really all start?

DANIEL: We were having a coffee one evening and we were like, how nice would it be to ride on the promenade under a full moon. And Elad’s says, “Okay so let’s do it…so put a Tweet out there and at the end of the month lets see how many people we get.”

ELAD: You see it didn’t start like a philosophical experiment; it actually was like, let’s do it and see what happens.

DANIEL: Let’s see how many friends we can get to ride with us. Since then we’ve always kept the same time, the same place.

How has social media directed #moonlightmass? Why do you think it grew so fast?

ELAD: This is what I maintain, the #moonlightmass was filling a gap, there’s a need, what is the need, I’m not sure yet. Was it the need of doing something together as a group, was it for cycling, I’m not too sure. Some ride for fun, some ride to raise awareness, some ride for safety it grew because there was a need. And it’s an individual need.

DANIEL: There’s also no registration, it’s free, fun and social. You just have to rock up, there’s no admin involved in partaking in #moonlightmass. You can be one person or you can be ten people with your friends; you’re guaranteed to see people you know, you’re guaranteed to see conversations, you’re guaranteed to see smiles on faces. Its almost like living in a social media world, ‘cause everyone’s friendly, everyone’s happy.

ELAD: You have a common base. So we’re now saying to people that this is the best date night or birthday night or party night. You tie a balloon to your bicycle and everyone knows to say happy birthday to you. You ride next to a guy or a girl and you’re like ‘cool bike’ so it’s a conversation starter.

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Who rides #moonlightmass?

ELAD: Everyone, we’ve had a guy on a wheel chair, who thought it was the most amazing thing he’s ever done. A 60 year old… We have even younger, we had a 3 year old sitting on a baby seat.

DANIEL: Some guy brought his dog along. We’ve had rollerblades, longboards… We should be getting roller derby girls joining us this month.

ELAD: It’s actually limitless. We’ve got used to having to spend money in order to be entertained. This is the first time, you can spend 2 hours…where you have no need to put your hand in your pocket and spend money for your entertainment. People come dressed up and people bring crazy bikes and some play music in their backpacks on the ride. Who is riding? Everyone.

What, for you, is the aim of the event?

ELAD: First of all, we don't use the word event, we use the word ride. {laughs}

DANIEL: It’s a social ride. I mean, when I say event, you think registration, or, I've got to get there early. And at the end of the day, it started as a fun social ride and it’s always going to be fun, social ride. So you don't have to start when we start, you can meet us on the road or just at the end of the ride at Greenmarket Square.

ELAD: The reason I’m saying its not an event or we don’t want to call it an event. Event comes with restrictions, it comes with ties. To answer your question in very simple terms, we’ve achieved everything we could have hoped for. We put cycling on the map, cycling is cool again. We created a system to reward those who cycle and we’re constantly advancing.

DANIEL: It's organic and it is alive, and #moonlightmass is more about the people than about the #moonlightmass. I would definitely say that #moonlightmass is a catalyst for cycle activation.

ELAD: We’ve changed a mindset, this is the bottom line, bicycle shops are a lot more busy than they have ever been in Cape Town.

In eight short months, the popularity has grown exponentially. Are you surprised at how fast it took off?

DANIEL: Oh yes, I am.

ELAD: Listen, from the first ride we said, if we get 20, we’re happy. We were happy to ride on our own. We got 40 on the first ride. And still then we didn’t realise that we have something big on our hands and then the next ride was 80 and then 100, then 250, suddenly 1000. Now we have between two and two and a half thousand. We don't know, because there is no registration. The ride before we had probably 2500 people and on the rainy day we had 250, so what is going to happen at the end of September now. Who knows, we are overwhelmed ya.

DANIEL: It always surprises us.

The ride is free, was there ever an intention of commercialising it?

ELAD: Well the challenge is we always want it to be a free ride. A free, fun, social ride. It’s easier said than done, we’ve done quite nicely until now. We strongly believe that it is the City of Cape Town’s interest to become known for the #moonlightmass. Imagine people come from around the world making sure that they are here for the #moonlightmass. The reality is that we want to grow it, but we want to grow it correctly. We are trying to tell people, it is very simple, you need a full moon, invite two friends, you have a #moonlightmass! This is exactly our formula.

DANIEL: Full moon, friends, riding. Done.

ELAD: If the City of Cape Town become’s a partner in this, we don’t need to commercialise it, even if we commercialise it, which we will do absolutely everything in our power to prevent, it will never be the Pick n Pay #moonlightmass, or the Woolworths or the Coca Cola #moonlightmass.  It will always just be #moonlightmass.

ELAD: Where if any corporates want to get involved, they will get involved under the #CityActivation, so the ride itself stays as pure as possible.

How does the #CityActivation work?

DANIEL: The concept is my bike is my voucher, so we’re not saying you need ride all the way into town, you know, catch a bus, or drive and then park your car and then use your bike to get around, and we’re not saying everyone gets a discount, no, reward that person, he’s gone out his way, he’s made an effort, give him a reward, so offer him a cheaper coffee and stuff like that.

ELAD: So if you look on our website there is a whole list where all the places list their specials and then there is an interaction. So from #moonlightmass, it’s almost opened the eyes that cycling can be done in Cape Town, it can be fun, and now you can be rewarded for it.

DANIEL: There is no limitation, we encourage everyone to be involved, and all we require from them is the special, social media details and their logo.

ELAD: That’s all we need. We don’t get involved in the special, each one has their own. They’ll change it as they go until they find a formula that works for them.

DANIEL: We do encourage a special that is sustainable, that you can just redo every month. The same thing for #CommutingFriday, do a sustainable special like R10 coffee as apposed to R15, might a R5 discount but every week we just refresh that special and everyone’s happy with it – no one goes broke and the commuters actually feel like they get something out if it.

Working together as a team, do you always agree on everything? How do you overcome conflicts?

DANIEL: {laughs} No, we never agree on anything.

ELAD: No we voice opinions. I’m strong-minded and Dan’s strong-minded but we talk it out for the best interests (of #moonlightmass). Like I’ll come up with an idea and Dan will say to me, ya it’s cool but it’s not good enough, or this is the reason why we can’t do it…

DANIEL: Does it benefit #moonlightmass, does it benefit the people, how will our riders respond to it and at the end of the day, who is it benefiting?

For the bike geeks out there, what do you guys ride?

ELAD: Sho, between me and Dan, we have 20 bikes, or very close to it. We have what is regarded as roadies, which we do our triathlons on and they are full on carbon fibre and all that stuff. We have fixed gear, single speeds…

DANIEL: Fold up bikes, a track bike.

ELAD: Okay let’s narrow it, which is my favourite bike.

DANIEL: I don’t know, it depends, I always swap my bikes. I’ve got a commuter, which is a single gear I often ride, which I like skidding with.

ELAD: We have a connection with each and every one of our bikes. Some of them are single, speed which we kind of design and build, so there’s obviously that connection.

DANIEL:  I also have a single speed that's set up like a track bike for speed and stuff like that.

ELAD: If I have to choose one, probably my favourite bike at the moment is my 1980 Bianchi, which is a complete restoration of a 1980 steel frame, a vintage bike, ya, so that’s cool.

DANIEL: My favourite bike has two wheels. [laughs]

Where do you think urban cycling is in Cape Town and where do you think it is going?

DANIEL: I definitely think it is picking up, it’s become more popular. People are definitely looking at it more as a fun thing to do in the city, whereas before it was more like, cycling is a sport.

ELAD: Someone told me yesterday, and because we are involved now, I kind of relate to it. He said the city (of Cape Town) has an approach of schizophrenic behaviour towards cycling. So the city builds all those lanes for cycling, which is cutting edge, advanced, but then on the other hand, the city does not maintain them well enough and doesn’t police them. So this is the kind of the schizophrenic behaviour; on the one hand, they say we want to become the bicycle capital of Africa, and on the other hand they’re challenging the #moonlightmass from existing. So at the end of the day, its legal to cycle and the city wants to promote it…I think that the bottom line is that the more people that cycle the quicker the city will have to shape to accommodate it.

I know its cliché, but where to from here? What’s the next big idea?

DANIEL: Infinity and beyond [laughs].

ELAD: “Since the #moonlightmass we’ve created irideCT (I ride Cape Town), we created #CityActivation, we’re now creating something called #CommutingFriday, where we are trying to change Casual Friday…Friday is already casual, just add the bike to the mix and get rewarded for that. I think we’re going to concentrate on #CommutingFriday and the CityActivation, we’re going to spread it and make it a lot more appealing to take your bike everywhere and get rewarded for that.

DANIEL: Encourage the process and let it grow. We’re also doing a commuter centre here [at 48 Albert Road] and a pop-up store and we’re going to obviously encourage people to come through, socialise, chat, and engage. December we have a special route planned for #moonlightmass, which we think is going to be epic. We are expecting a hell of a lot of people in summer. As #moonlightmass evolves and adapts so too will new concepts and ideas and we just want to engage with people and make it fun.

How do you define happiness?

DANIEL: If you’re smiling you're happy…happiness is.

ELAD: I think I’d put it, the more I cycle, the happier I am. This is basically it; there is an attachment of a bicycle to good memories, to childhood memories. Very few people spend their time cycling and crying, you’re usually having fun. We’ve triggered a discussion, and that makes us happy.

NEXT RIDE: 30 Sept | 9 pm | Greenpoint Circle – Cape Town

Despite the fact that this is a casual ride, you will still need to make sure you kit yourself out and adhere to the following: 

1.    Wear a helmet

2.    Use reflective gear

3.    Switch on the lights

4.    Obey all traffic laws


FB #moonlightmass
T @moonlightmass
E This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Elad: @onekcollection Daniel: @captainGrimmy

For a cup of freshly brewed coffee?
E: Deluxe Coffee Worx/Field Office 
D: Giovanni’s/Truth

  Best bike track?

E: Greenpoint circle to Woodstock D: BRT route behind the Civic Centre, Greenpoint Park, Bantry Bay to Seapoint

Favourite neighborhood?

D: Greenpoint E:Woodstock

Best food experience?

E: The Deli - Woodstock/Royale Eatery

Best place to have a drink with friends?

E: &Union D: Café Sante/Protea Fire & Ice have the best milkshakes ever!

—Dominique Kotze

Photos: Courtesy of Tristan Sandwith and Retroyspective

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