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Critical Mass – London

October 1, 2006

On Friday I went on Critical Mass which is a monthly bicycle protest through London. The last Friday of each month cyclist from all over London gather in front of the National Theatre to set off on a journey through the streets of central London. The route is completely spontaneous and the person at the front of the protest decides where to take the group. The police took the organization to court to try to ban the ride because normally in order to protest you need to provide a route, but they lost and have been a little soar because of it over the summer. Yesterday however all the police were very professional and did not infringe on the enjoyment or show the agressivity that has been reported in the past months. There was a good turnout especially given the weather did not look good and the mass was indeed great as we set off. I met the protest at Blackfriars bridge and quickly met up with good friends. We then headed over the Thames and started to weave through the very centre of town. The principle of the protest is to reclaim the streets for bicycles for 2 hours a month. I am a regular cyclist and normally going about the City is a stressful business and a lot of concentration is required if you are to stay alive. During Critical Mass however because of the number within the group we are able to dictate the pace and in effect take over the streets. The Police now help by blocking streets and calming drivers especially taxi drivers who can get very irate. We meandered through to Trafalgar square and on to Piccadilly Circus. This is where the first of 3 stops would take place. This involved everyone stopping in the middle of the road and completely blocking all roads while chanting and lifting up bikes over our heads (for those with the strength or a light bike). We then went on to Oxford Circus and Marble Arch for 2 more junction closures. The reception from pedestrians and bus drivers in particular is great and it is an experience that is truly empowering. The long meandering snake continued up to Paddington and slithered down the A40. When it turned off we left to get a few drinks into us. All is all one of the best city cycle rides around. Get out and try it.

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