September London Critical Mass Bike Ride – report and pics

A dry September Friday saw around 600 cyclists take to the London streets for the customary end of month ‘Critical Mass’ bicycle ride.

Critical Mass takes place on the last Friday of every month and attracts a wide range of cyclists and skateboarders. They meet from around 6pm under Waterloo Bridge on the South Bank, and normally set off on their unplanned route at around 7pm.

Last night, the dry conditions brought out a total of about 600 people, including one dressed in a polar bear costume, and they headed north over Waterloo Bridge, through the Kingsway underpass and on up to the Euston Road.Image

Each month seems to attract bigger and better sound systems, and last night’s star was a neon fringed monster that kept riders entertained throughout the night.Image

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The event attracts a wide range of people, some on Boris bikes, some showing off their style-conscious fixed wheelers, a growing number of skateboarders, and the occasional penny farthing. Last night was another outing for the Critical mass baby, who seemed happy to sleep through most of the ride.Image

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Dipping south from the Euston Road, the ride made its regular short stop at Oxford Circus, where the numbers filled Upper Regent Street in the backlog.Image

As well as cycling enthusiasts and transport activists, the ride often attracts others with political messages. A favourite sign I saw last night referred to Chief Inspector Sonia Davis, who acted as a police witness in the trials of cyclists caught up in the mass arrest at the Olympics last year. On the stand, she spilled the beans that she and several other police had ridden undercover the previous month, and she also confirmed the intelligence role of the blue-tabarded “Police Liaison Officers” regularly seen smiling and chatting with unsuspecting members of the public while snooping for info at politically-charged protests.Image

Last night, other activists sported banners referring to the Rosia Montana campaign to stop a huge Canadian mining project from poisoning land in Western Romania. There is a London protest tomorrow as part of international action at 2.30pm (https://www.facebook.com/events/215215885308814/)Image

I also saw someone sporting a huge Tibetan flag aloft his bike.

With such a large ride, it’s impossible to monitor it all, but my impression last night was that it was a particularly chilled event. Normally, I end up seeing one or two arguments with irate motorists who think that a load of bikes is an unfair form of traffic jam, or who resent the safety-conscious practice of ‘corking’ (temporarily stopping traffic from entering from side roads while the ride passes), but last night I didn’t see a single issue, and it was a relaxed and well-controlled procession.

There was quite a long pause outside Buckingham Palace, where a load of cyclists circled the mini-roundabout, and the neon sound-system promoted a bout of dancing – some very good!Image

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Next, and still going strong with at least a couple of hundred riders, the front runners led the way westwards, and I left them at Wellington Arch as they headed on into Kensington.

The next ride is on October 25th.

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