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Critical Mass Starts Mayday Weekend
Despite driving rain nearly 400 people attended a Critical Mass cycle ride today as part of a London-based four-day festival of anti-capitalist events.
Starting at its usual location under Waterloo Bridge cyclists converged outside London's National Film Theatre where a variety of peddle-powered vehicles - many of them adourned with flags and brightly-coloured banners - and chatted. The group then rode over Waterloo Bridge accomponied by about a dozen motorcycle police officers and several journalists. It was apparent that once the reporters became aware of the fact that this well-established and largely peqaceful protest was going to remain 'fluffy' their interest quickly dwindled.
Once over Waterloo Bridge the group folowed the Strand - one of London's preemier thoroughfares - into Trafalgar Square. They continued through London's better-known tourist areas including Soho, Chinatown, Tottenham Court Road interracting with puzzled looking sightseers and irate taxi drivers. "What are these guys protesting?" asked a group of confused American theatre-goers.
It was at Goodge Street that vanloads of Metropolitan Police officers on foot arrived and began forcefully moving cyclists on from t-juntions where drivers were often trying to drive through the collected mass of bikers. At this point several Critical Mass veterans commented on the size of the police operationand the pushy nature of the officers involved. "There's usually a couple of motor bike cops - I've never seen the B-boys before" said a bemused young woman.
The procession then headed into Marylebone Road past Madam Tussauds and Baker Street tube. Behind the mass of cyclists was an increasingly car-congested road - this major route is a key arterial link between the city centre and the westway to the M4 motorway. At one point motorcycle officers struggled to contain cyclists who had diverted their course and rode up the flyover which police promptly secured.
From Edgware Road police officers on foot were struggling to catch up. The procession then passed several landmarks including Marble Arch and Park Lane. At Park Lane the combined mass of rickshaws, skateboarders and pedestrians began their descent on Hyde Park Corner.
Wheelchair-user Nigel Bull was also present. When questioned why he had attended he was honest in his response. "Disabilities are not seen as part of society, these events allow us to show ourselves as members of the public who have a right to take part in a protest involoving access to the street, a crucial part of my existence." Whe asked what effect he thought Critical mass might have in changing opinions he responded: "The government doesn't chose to hear our issuses this makes the government hear and see us".
By 9.30 pm rain had soaked a majority of the partipicants and numbers had dwindled. Yet, with a police officer present on the bicycle procession conceding that "traffic in London is reaching a crisis popint" it is clear that this will not be a last - in fact participants were already discussing where to meet for the 10am Mayday cycle action.
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