CM | 18.10.2004 17:14 | Free Spaces
5pm central library 29th september FRIDAY!
: What Is CM?
Critical Mass is often described as an 'unorganised coincidence'. It happens when a lot of cyclists happen to be in the same place at the same time and decide to cycle the same way together for a while. Very often, those taking part enjoy it so much that they decide to get together at the same place and time the next month and the month after and so on, and to get other cyclists to join as well. Manchester Critical Mass has been around for years, and has sometimes had over 200 or more people attending. In the summer it usually get quite large, and takes on a more carnival atmosphere.
:: What Happens On CM?
Each one is different and they follow no set route, with the direction being spontaneously chosen as people cycle along. Anyone is free to join or leave the ride as it pedals along.
The ride lasts usually around a couple of hours (depending on the weather!) and usually ends in a at a central london place of interest (ranging from pub, to social centre to park!).
Most of all, they are peaceful, safe and fun!
Critical mass can be used as a good form of protest as well, ;Bikes not Bombs' ran in america throughout the iraq war, and im manchester when the war started a critical mass managed to block sdome petrol stations and cause some havoc. But usually its very peacefull.
:: Who Can Come On CM?
Critical mass is for absolutely everyone and anyone! It transcends any barriers of colour, gender, class, age, political alignment, species, ability, feeling of identity, smell, look, scene or culture. All this means that YOU would be very welcome on critical mass
One important thing to remember is that to come on critical mass you don't have to adhere to any type of political ideology. You don't have to belong to any sad political party or dogmatic ideology! You can just be yourself. As it isn't organised by anyone group of people critical mass attracts all sorts of beliefs and schools of thought. It can be said that critical mass is an apolitical event, although many people believe that there is politics in everything, in the traditional sense of the word critical mass is definitely not political!
Another thing is that IT'S NOT JUST FOR BIKES! Skateboards, roller blades, wheelchairs, pogo sticks - in fact any form of non-motorised, non-polluting is very welcome! In the past people have brought all sorts of thing's to mass, from bikes with wings to circular, 8 person recumbent! So be imaginative.
Critical mass aims to include as many people as possible, if you are at all worried that you won't "fit in", share your thoughts on the discussion list and test the waters.
:: What Are The Aims Of CM?
There is no single aim of CM, although there is a shared wish to see less car-dominated cities and more people cycling. There are as many aims of CM as there are participants. Each individual comes there with his or her own idea of what it's about, and the sum of this makes up the mass. Some of the aims may be:
* To raise the profile of cycling in towns and cities,
* Campaigning for better provision for cyclists,
* Creating a car-free space in the centre of our cities,
* To raise awareness about pollution and other problems caused by cars,
* Having fun,
* Meeting friends,
* Getting our own back at the motorists,
* To demonstrate opposition to car culture,
* To meet that cool person you met last month,
* To cause disruption,
* To meet new friends,
* To show off your new bike,
* To ogle other people's bikes,
* To feel good about being safe on a bike on roads which are usually dangerous,
* To feel reassured that there are hundreds of other active cyclists,
* To create a vision and experience of a possible future,
* To meet friends and go for a beer later.
Some things may feature more strongly than others, but any combination of the aims above and lots of others can be reason enough for anyone to come to CM.
:: Who Are The Organisers?
A favorite question of authoritarina minded individuals (read cops, journalists etc.)
Nobody organises CM in the sense that they control the event - what happens at the ride is up to all the individuals. However, as with any project, some individuals are usually more involved than others, for example in printing and distributing leaflets and other publicity. However, they only do the work, and don't have any authority over anybody else - their only power is to make suggestions.
The mass is most successful if everyone gets involved and does these things of their own accord - it takes the pressure off the few and makes CM more of the spontaneous event it is meant to be.
:: Is It Legal?
In theory, CM is nothing different from a bunch of cyclists taking a slightly convoluted way home from work, or just cruising around the streets, all of which is perfectly legal. Section 209 of the Highway Code advices cyclists to not ride more than two abreast, and to ride in single file on narrow roads when in traffic. However, this advice does not have force of law, and the whole section is titled 'Safe riding' - presumably it would be acceptable to ride more than two abreast where this is safer. It is also acceptable to ride more than two abreast when overtaking.
Logically - though I don't know what a court would think - if you are moving at the same speed as the car in front of you or your group then you could not reasonably be considered to be causing any delay to the car behind. And, in London, as the average rush hour speed has been proved to be less that 2mph, it wouldn't been to hard to go faster that motorised traffic.
However, it is worth remembering, the whole thing about the police is - they don't actually need a reason to do something. Therefore they can break up Critical Mass and stop it happening if they want to - they don't need a reason. Most people seem to forget that the police are an unchallenged force in society, they get away with murder.
There is a huge list of reasons the police would give for breaking up a CM - from obstruction to breaching the peace, what's the best to remember is that if they want to - they will and only we can stop them getting away with it.
The best way of preventing from things happening with the police is to look out for one another and act as group, instead of as individuals. If one person provokes the police and they get angry with her / him, we should stick up for that individual, although what they have done might have been stupid, we never let a friend get arrested.
Arrests on London CM's are very rare, if they do take place the most obvious charge would be obstruction, which carries a maximum of a £1000 fine (very very rare!) and no prison sentence. So there isn't much to worry about :)
:: Why Are You Blocking Traffic?
Critical Mass participants don't block the traffic - we are the traffic! Cyclists are just as much traffic and have just as much right to be on the roads and travel at their own speed as anyone else. Moreover, cars clog up the streets twice a day 29 days a month, so a lot of cyclists doing the same on a limited scale once a month cannot be a great source of complaint. Indeed, Critical Mass often finds itself held up by the traffic jam caused by motorists going about their 'usual' business.
On a more positive note, although some people may want to block the rest of the traffic for the sake of it or to get their own back at motorists, for most slowing up some traffic is incidental to their primary aim of raising the profile of cycling, having fun or creating a car-free space. This cannot be done without blocking out cars from the mass.
What Critical Mass does achieve, is to make people take notice of cyclists as road users. If it is good-humoured and not aggressive, it can put cycling and transport issues on the agenda where they would otherwise be ignored.
Some degree of confrontation may be perceived as necessary. Some say that the whole point of CM is confrontation. Not too inflammatory, not at all violent, but the whole point of CM is to make completely clear the fact that the bike is a force that can replace the car as a viable means of transport. The CM as a demonstration is not going to make many people think unless it also puts them out, hence confrontation is utterly necessary.
On the other hand, an over-confrontational attitude is likely to lead to even more hostility towards cyclists. It is particularly pointless to cycle slowly on a two- or three-lane dual carriageway when you only have the numbers to fill one lane (15-30 people).