Critical Mass – Worldwide Social Biking Event
When my friend asked me if I would like to join ‘Critical Maths’ where a bunch of ‘psychists’ (probably a fancy English word for psychologists?) meet every last friday evening of the month, I was skeptical. What would I do there? I haven’t had any proper math classes since my graduation and frankly, I could think of better ways to spend my Friday evening. A couple of weeks later I found out just what ‘Critical Maths’ really was – a huge cycling event. It turned out that my friend was not talking about ‘Critical Maths’ but ‘Critical Mass’ and not ‘psychists’ but ‘cyclists’. Well, seeing it from this side I was more than happy to spend my Friday evening on London’s streets, especially because we (and about 70 others) decided to roll on our longboards and intermix with the huge cycling mass.
Critical Mass is held with the aim of motivating other people to be more active and take initiatives to make cycling a more common travel option. The event was originally founded in San Francisco in 1992 and is now being held in about 300 cities all around the world. Critical Mass differs from city to city, especially in size and toleration of traffic laws. The idea behind it is that cars cause traffic almost all year round, so it’s fair if once a month cyclists rule the streets. There is no route planned in advance and no selected leaders.
Picture above screencapture of Critical Mass London Rory Allen
Critical Mass is not seen as being an organization, but as a celebration and social get-together with locals picking a date, time and location, which is published on the internet. Sometimes it is also held with the aim to protest against various regulations, in London for example, to reclaim the streets (I absolutely agree).
The starting point in London is always in front of South Bank Centre at 7:00 pm, every last friday of the month. EVERYONE is welcome.
From there the tour begins. The route is always decided while biking (or skating) and all cars/buses are stopped by the masses for health and safety reasons to ensure a great street party with music coming from all directions. It really is a great feeling as you normally have to squeeze your bike through the 20cm between pavement and the buses that are constantly passing by. Suddenly the street belongs to us.
Even though I didn’t know a lot of people I felt welcome from the very first second. I was towed up and down the hills by friendly bikers and mingled with the crowd with the soundtrack booming from different bike trailers. Absolutely a great experience!
Watch this recent video of Critical Mass here and this one from back in July.
I could barely walk after almost 16 miles of longboarding, but I definitely had a great time. Here is the rough route that we took through London.
If you don’t have Critical Mass in your city, start thinking about running one. Check out this little guide for more information.