Tag Archives: Cars

A Critical Mass of dissent… on wheels

Critical Mass, June 2010, London

On the last Friday of every month something strange, spontaneous and spectacular happens on the streets of central London. The roads are congested (as always) however; they are not filled with big, heavy, dangerous machines that spew out poison gas. They are filled with cycle fanatics who insist on propelling themselves around the place under their own steam; powered by whatever they last ate. This is Critical Mass and it’s a wonderful improvement to the city.

The rendez-vous

Meeting on the South Bank

For a brief time this enthusiastic, motley assortment of London residents join together to reclaim the streets and celebrate their freedom of movement. The giant mobile herd is diverse composed of people of all shapes, sizes, colours and affluence; bound together by the shared love of self propulsion.

This melange of misfits meets up on the South Bank at 18.30. The air is buzzing with excitement as friends reunite. Beers are cracked open, bikes admired and tales of surviving on the mean streets of London traded.

Riders crossing the Thames

Soon the crowd swells like water behind a damn and the air is filled with the dinging of bells. Anticipation gives way to urgency and the cracks in the damn start appearing as the first brave riders head up the ramp to the Imax cinema roundabout and off into the heart of the city. The hive-mind has been engaged and without an agreed route or leader the peloton surges forth to find its way to an unknown destination.

Riders

A mobile sound system

Once beyond the safety of the South Bank you find yourself on roads which have had their ownership seized by the sinister Cult of the Car. So powerful is this cult that the membership is utterly convinced, despite all the evidence that it is reasonable to sit in giant polluting snakes of mechanized metal along the arteries that traverse our giant human beehives. They have suspended rational thought to the point that they cannot see the obvious truth that cars and cities don’t go. Like square pegs and round holes, metal and microwaves and turds in swimming pools.

Whoop!

By invidious means the perverse, sociopathic behaviour of these cultists has been normalized so that London is now permanently shrouded in a haze of pollution and death on London’s roads is an accepted part of city life (4000 deaths by air pollution, 184 deaths by traffic collisions in 2009, 3043 serious injuries). This is the price we are all supposed to pay for the mythical individual convenience that leaps out from billboards but never comes close to manifesting in a city where millions of people are compelled to share limited space and move about each other in some kind of harmonious diurnal cycle.

It's fun for kids

Maybe it’s a power thing, maybe it’s a class thing or maybe it’s the myopic and inapt conflation of technology with progress. Whatever it is, car drivers are convinced the road is theirs as if cars always existed and always will. Car drivers naturally assume that they always have priority over cyclists. So when drivers have to wait as a giant swarm of happy riders surges by in front of their over-engineered wheelchairs they literally start having a nervous breakdown. They froth at the mouth, throw their rattle out of their motorized prams, bang their neo-luddite skulls against the steering wheel and curse the unjust laws that prevent them from teaching us once and for all that cars are mightier by driving through us in a glorious eruption of fossil-power.

Refueling

They scream out of their windows that they are trying to get somewhere and how dare we be so inconsiderate as to hold them up. They might think we would care but they are speaking to the wrong audience… big time.

There is not a single person on this ride that doesn’t have to daily put up with the gross imposition of the car. Day after day we breathe in their fumes, wait as they block up huge sections of the city and weep as they kill our friends. Day after day we peer into the windows of cars filled with solitary occupants and try to comprehend how the system screwed up their weak little minds so badly that they think this offensive behaviour is okay. They are crapping in the swimming pool daily and like thieving mps they say it is okay because it is not against the law. For once they can wait. The bikes are biting back.

Negotiating road space allocation

It might not seem like much but actually it is. This is the sharp edge of a wedge of dissatisfaction against the tyranny of the car. A critical mass of dissent is growing on the streets if London. For one evening a month, for a couple of hours, we take control of the streets. For a fleeting moment in time we can cycle in safety surrounded by friends and music. We can see the city as it could be…. as it should be. Open and flowing, alive not dead.

This is what cities in the future will be like. And the happy and healthy residents of these cities will remember these pioneer cyclists who took a stand for something they believed in against seemingly insurmountable odds and raise a glass to them.

Makes you think... dunnit!

More photos from Critical Mass:

Not all the pedestrians are 100% supportive

Father and son

Die hards

Fun

Explaining the new rules of the road

Amusing

Who's bike you looking at bitch?

The ride home

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Why bikes shouldn’t have to follow the rules of the road

Bike salute at Buckingham PalaceWhen you cycle in London you have to do so using road and traffic infrastructure designed for the car. Traffic lights and lanes are designed for large, heavy, metal box’s to manoeuvre in. The laws too are designed for cars. It is currently presumed that cyclists in London should use the roads like cars and follow the same laws, like cars. In other words bikes should stop at red lights and stay off the pavements.  This is dangerous and disingenuous. It is time for cyclists to make the case for a totally different set of rules to apply for them… to make cycling easier, safer and more popular.

Cars are far heavier and bigger then a person. This means that when they hit a pedestrian things get messy; often involving broken bones and pools of blood. Many incidents are fatal. This is not the case with bikes. The reason why cars MUST stop at red lights is because a miscalculation on the driver’s part and people may die. If a cyclist comes to a red light and looking from side to side sees no traffic there is little risk to her continuing. Indeed if the cyclist has a blind spot and cycles straight into a pedestrian it is likely to be embarrassing but nothing worse. A sincere apology should make amends.

Waiting at a red light is very dangerous for a cyclist. Especially if the cyclist intends to turn left and a lorry comes up behind also wanting to turn left. When the lights change the lorry turns left crushing the cyclist against the metal grill ‘pedestrian protector’. The cyclist is slowly pushed through the grill like scarlet mash potato; a nasty walk to work for the passers by. More female cyclists then males are killed at red lights. The reason for this is that men are more likely to jump the reds.

Cyclists surround a taxi that just rode over a bike on Critical Mass

Cyclists are safer to carefully go ahead of traffic and jump reds because this makes them more visible to cars. Making this illegal endangers lives. If it is legal for pedestrians to cross a road anywhere irrespective of lights… why can’t cyclists? We are of comparable size and shape and weight. The cyclist and the pedestrian are actually interchangeable. Simply by jumping off the bike and pushing it you become a pedestrian. So having laws that insist that cyclists wait at red lights in front of a moaning heap of polluting metal which is itching to spill forward and break your bones seems sadistic at the state level.

Cars have so taken over London’s streets that there are some areas that it is almost impossible to cycle. The cars are backed up spilling out fumes at dangerous levels. The drivers are getting mad and start switching their cars from lane to lane in such a way that a cyclist can be slowly crushed to death at any moment. At times like these the logical and safe response for a cyclist who wants to one day be old is to get off the road and slowly and carefully cycle past the section of road in which death hovers above like a giant stale mist. When completing this action occasionally an anti-progress-pedestrian, probably obese and a proud car owner will block your way and rant in your face about obeying the law. Is this person serious? Are they seriously suggesting that following an inappropriate law is more sensible then staying alive? Who made these laws? Presumably the same people who thought it was a good idea to fill our most densely populated urban settlements with metal machines that kill and pollute.

Cycling culture in London

If pedestrians have issues about not having enough space, which is totally valid, take it up with the corpses riding around in their motorized coffins. They are the ones using up all the space. I might add:

Yo freakoid! I don’t want to ride on the pavement, I want to ride on the road, but if you haven’t noticed it’s full of maniacs who think they look ‘sporty’ sitting in traffic in an SUV. If you are allergic to the odd cyclist getting to work using the pavement, take it up with the people in cars. If we get 90% of private cars off the roads of London, think how much space there would be. We could have more markets, and play grounds and sports pitches. There would be more space for inner city kids to get some exercise. We could grow trees and food, cleaning the air, cooling the city and reducing the city’s eco-footprint. The benefits of taking the cars out of London goes way beyond improving health, reducing congestion and saving lives. It is an absolutely crucial step towards building a climate change resilient city which will still be habitable centuries from now.

Unfortunately by this point the anti-progress-pedestrian has shuffled off to the high street to buy more plastic tat to hoard in their cluttered little warrens before sending it off to landfill and buying more.

Cycling in a group is safer

People who want to ‘crack down’ on cyclists are failing to see that the fossil fuel and industrial era is over (almost). Human powered transport (walking, cycling, scooting, whatever) will become the main way of moving around cities (after mass public transport). Eventually, we will have the appropriate investment in this mode of transport to ensure there are bike lanes and bike traffic lights and suitable infrastructure for the most efficient mode of transport yet invented. Until this point let’s give the people trying to get around London in a clean and safe manor a little leeway. Building a safe and sustainable future for our children is hard enough without having to fight a constant rearguard action against post industrial-luddites who are desperate to cling to their internal combustion engines. Step aside… or go suck a tail pipe, human powered transport is taking over this city!