Critical Mass London celebrates anniversary with ride through the city


The riders will meet under Waterloo Bridge at 6pm tonight.


By Jack Skelton

Cyclists celebrating the twentieth anniversary of Critical Mass London are spreading awareness and a party vibe through the streets of the city tonight.

A diverse group of cyclists, boarders and bladers will meet under Waterloo Bridge at 6pm and set off on an unplanned route through London from 7pm.

Despite the political reputation of the event, participants are also emphasising its celebratory atmosphere and are encouraged to dress up and bring along sound systems.

“It’s just a bunch of nice people congregating together and deciding to go for a ride round London in a friendly party atmosphere,” said Donnachadh McCarthy, co-founder of campaign group Stop Killing Cyclists.

He added: “Critical Mass helps to make cycling more normal and fashionable – it had done a lot towards popularising cycling among younger people.”

The joyous nature of anniversary rides particularly appeals to regular participant Taylan Güngör.

“From the riders dressed up in strange outfits to the sound systems that have triggered a new style of dance-cycling, the ecstatic feeling becomes contagious,” he said.

He believes this unique atmosphere is what attracts people to keep coming to Critical Mass events, including the hardcore element such as himself who persevere through the cold winter months.

“Some of the best moments are when we ride through crowded areas and pedestrians stop and watch the mass go by with wide smiles on their faces,” said Mr Güngör.

The event started in San Francisco in 1992, with the London group founded two years later and has gained worldwide popularity as a means of raising awareness of cycling safety issues.

Both participants regard Critical Mass as a positive way for cyclists to assert their presence and highlight problems with cycling infrastructure and attitudes towards the activity.

“Unfortunately attitudes, although changing for the better, towards cycling are outdate – it’s still perceived as a marginal activity and isn’t taken seriously,” said Mr Güngör.    

“Critical Mass temporarily readjusts the topsy-turvy hierarchies of the road.”

Mr McCarthy and his group are campaigning for the government and local authorities to commit to devoting a higher percentage of transport budgets to cycling.

He said: “Everybody says they’re in favour of cycling and then we just get the breadcrumbs.”

They are calling for 10% of the Transport for Londonand 10% of the boroughs’ transport budgets to be spent of cycling – equating roughly £600million a year.

Following their recent Wall of Death demonstration, Stop Killing Cyclists will be staging their most ambitious protest to date on 15 November.

The National Funeral for the Unknown Victim of Traffic Violence will, if plans go ahead, see the group take a hearse down Oxford Street and stage a die-in underneath Marble Arch to highlight the need for change.

In the meantime Mr McCarthy urges people to join campaigns and write letters to their local councillors and MPs to ensure cycling safety remains a high profile issue.

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Photo courtesy of Critical Mass:London, with thanks

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