24 June 2011

Fancy a traffic-free ride in London?

Back in November 2008 I joined my first Critical Mass (CM) cycle ride in London. In simple terms, CM provides cyclists from as many as 300 worldwide cities
with traffic-free cycle rides on the last Friday of the month. In political terms, it is a monthly reclaim of the streets for cyclists. According to Wikipedia, it was born in San Francisco in 1992 and has spread out to many other places in the past 20 years. What is amazing about it is its non-existing organisers, no membership, nothing. No leaders on the day other than the people that go in the front of the group, which can potentially be you! Only a location (South Bank under Waterloo bridge in London UK) and a time (6 pm). You just turn up and wait until everyone gets excited, bells start ringing, and audio-systems-on-a-bike playing. The route changes every time, and it usually passes through politically hot places such as the Spanish Embassy on the last May ride (to show support to the Spanish ex-pats demonstrating in London) in Belgravia. Of course it always includes visits to Trafalgar, Big Ben, Buckinham Palace, and other emblematic places.

The pictures on this post were taken last summer in one of our CMs in central London. It is quite common to do a "bike lift" at some point during the ride, as well as corking (blocking cars to allow the mass to cycle safely as a group) along the whole way. Not everything is perfect though: some dudes take it as a drink-as-much-as-you-can event on a bike, while others jump all red lights not letting pedestrians cross when they have a green light. It gets especially bad in the good weather, but on the other hand the turnout for these months is massive!

The variety of people (from bmx kids, to fixed E1, Bromptonians, mums and dads with the whole family on Christiania/Dutch bikes, oldies with amazing steel old-fashion touring bikes and to bike freaks like us), atmosphere, and interesting routes make for a nice alternative (or pre-warm up) Friday in the pub. Some cars get annoyed when being held up, just put a smile on your face, thank them for their patience and keep riding. If you happened to be in London (or in Madrid, Philly, Chicago, or even randoms such as Leicester!), do join and you will certainly have a great time.

Happy Critical Massing!

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