James Daley: Cyclotherapy
Thursday 05 June 2008
I had some friends in town, visiting from Texas last week, and decided that there could be no better way to show them my city than by taking them on the Critical Mass cycle ride. For those of you who aren't familiar, the London "Mass" (as it's often known) meets on the last Friday of every month, setting off from under Waterloo Bridge at around 7pm. It's simply a gathering of cyclists (around 700 last week, I reckon), who reclaim the streets of the capital and block off the traffic for a few hours, allowing the cyclist to enjoy their great city without the hindrance of any motorised vehicles.
It's not just a London thing, either. Critical Mass takes place in some 400 cities around the world, including Brighton, Glasgow and Manchester (and others) in the UK. A quick Google search should help you to find if there's one in your area.
In London – due to the ride's sheer size (sometimes as many as 1,000 take part during the summer) – around a dozen or so police accompany the pack. Although they occasionally take to badgering the participants, they're mostly there to keep some sort of order and to break up any fights between irate motorists and cyclists. But the police don't tell us where to go.
The route is always completely unplanned – and, having not been for a few months, I'd forgotten how much fun it can be to try to get 700 cyclists to follow you. I was out front for most of the ride last Friday, and at a couple of junctions, my friends and I managed to persuade the pack to follow us. At other points, however, I'd find myself 200 metres up a road, only to realise that someone else had talked the pack into heading off down a different route.
Although I love Critical Mass, my one frustration is that when it comes to anarchy, nothing gets done in a hurry. While the London ride is meant to begin at 7pm, there's no organiser to blow a whistle or wave a flag. So instead, there's always a lot of hanging around, until enough people get impatient and start ringing their bells. Suddenly, everyone cheers, and finally the pack starts to roll.
Once we're going, there's a lot of stopping and starting, too. The police have developed an annoying habit of holding up the pack for ages at every major junction – and once everyone's come to a stop, it's tough to get them going again. But I guess Critical Mass is not about speed or rushing – it's a celebration of the bicycle and our great city.
Given that I was keen to show my friends all the most attractive parts of town, I was disappointed that we spent so much of last Friday evening in not-so-scenic east London. Next time, I'll just have to try a bit harder to persuade the pack to come with me out west.
SeaWorld in US tries to reverse falling audiences after film showing effects of captivity
Chinese ivory trade blamed as poachers drive down elephant population by 2% a year
Twitch and shout: Birdwatchers are raving over rare birds in Britain
Investigation launched after manatee drowns at Paris zoo
Melting glaciers are caused by man-made global warming, study shows
- 1 James Foley 'beheaded': Isis video shows militant with British accent 'execute US journalist' – and warns Obama of more to come
- 2 ALS ice bucket challenge co-founder Corey Griffin drowns aged 27
- 3 Cilla Black defends Cliff Richard: 'I am positive that the allegations are without foundation'
- 4 Nicki Minaj finally releases predictable 'Anaconda' video
- 5 James Foley 'beheading': Met police warn public watching murder video could be criminal offence
Scottish independence: English people overwhelmingly want Scotland to stay in the UK
Isis threat: Cameron wants an alliance with Iran
Crisis? What crisis? A visiting US doctor gives the NHS a rave review
Michael Brown shooting: Chaos erupts on the streets of Ferguson after autopsy shows teenager was shot six times – twice in the head
Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome: 'Abort it and try again. It would be immoral to bring it into the world'
Scottish Independence Referendum: Salmond described as 'arrogant, ambitious and dishonest' by Scottish women
£45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, ...
Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Per...
Negotiable: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB...
£40000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...