Critical Mass


Yesterday I took part in London’s Critical Mass.  As always, it was superb.  The atmosphere was amazing.  This is the third consecutive month, before that I was working the day in June, and back in May I took part in Nottingham’s Critical Mass.

After a couple of hours we stopped outside Buckingham Palace and danced hard.  Very, very hard.  I left the dance floor (which was later Victoria’s memorial) and took a video.  You can’t see much but flashing bike lights.  Warning: it’s quite loud.


Me, thingy and Tom. My memory is shocking.

Critical Mass is a pro-cycling event.  It is a safe way to explore the city.  Leaving just after 7pm from under Waterloo Bridge, the thousands of cyclists (and some skateboarders) snake all around London.  Totally over four hours of cycling, new pockets of the city can be discovered.  We went down a small street in Shoreditch which looked so vibrant and appealing.  I’ll definitely be checking that out again soon.  There is no worry about being hit by a car and having to be driven (pun) to cycle in the gutter.  Whilst going through tunnels and away from any junctions the quietness speaks volumes – there is no pollution chugging out of cars sitting in traffic.  We are the traffic.

Bit of a different story at junctions.  Critical Mass, by nature, aims to keep the group as a cohesive set of cyclists.  In theory, this is great.  In practicality, difficulties do arise.  An act known as “corking” takes place which is blocking cars from leaving the surrounding junctions to allow cyclists to pass.  In effect, this minimises the disruption once all the cyclists are through and gone.  If this didn’t happen, cars would be on the road surrounded by hundreds of cyclists.  They wouldn’t get anywhere quick.  Let us pass, and then avoid following.  When I explain what Critical Mass is, I tell people to imagine a bus.  If the front of a bus went through a green light but then it changed to red just before its rear end was through, it would, as long as it was safe to do so, continue through.  If the front cyclists go through a green light, the rest of cyclists will follow even if that lights change to red, to amber, to green and back again.  As you can imagine, a lot of drivers get angry.  ‘You are breaking the law’  ‘We have a right’.  Well, you do have a right, but we also have a right to the road as much as you do.  If we drove those big polluting machines around, yes we’d be safe but we’d be contributing towards the death of our environment.  Just picture it.  Thousands of cyclists all in thousands of individual cars which would take up space and would mean those drivers were so far back from all that extra congestion they would be on the other side of the Thames!

As an individual cyclist I always follow the rules of the road.  I cringe when I see a cyclist speed past me at a red light.  It’s dangerous for them, for drivers, and for pedestrians.  As a mass, I cannot stop the group from doing this.  I can but only join in.

Here’s a video I found from last month’s Critical Mass.  I can be seen to the right of the screen at 41 seconds in sitting on a bench with my hi-vis top on.  With thanks to DrMorocho.




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