Relaxed ride on a dry summer night over to Stratford.
The tenth anniversary of the London Olympics set the direction, but the tone could not have been more different.
A few veterans were peppered in the emerging mass on the South Bank from the already present throng of delux Street food consumers and promenaders.
The crowd was largely fans of a few years standing or newer. Critical Mass periodically regenerates itself and the rowdiness of the lock down era has gone.
The July and August masses used to attract hundreds of tourists as well as other visitors. It was unwieldy. This group wasn’t over 200 by my reckoning. Which has advantages. It’s compact, easy to cork and keep together.
A new sound system is so loud that people seemed willing to go along with the direction suggestion towards Stratford – but the fine details were fluid.
We didn’t test crossings north, like in 2012, but headed straight south down Waterloo road to go into borough road i think, to harper road, left onto new Kent road before the flyover and Newington Causeway to tower bridge, then taking Fenchurch Street all the way, along the A11.
We breezed past Bow Roundabout flyover where the arrests were made. It was 20:15, the sun was low and pretty – but on we went to the bus facing side of Stratford station and wiggled about into the edge of Queen Elizabeth park, Olympic avenue.
After some path looping like a dog settling on a place we came to a halt at 20:35
At some point an hour or so later the remainders returned to the south park following the sound system to his parked van.
The size of the mass reduced tension and people were overall friendly, but the words of one activist ex-arrested stuck “I prefer to slow the traffic”.
The route has it’s legacy cycling infrastructure – but out in Stratford there is a world of insane urban motorways. On 2 occasions in the return journey I had to back out of turns into roads that are just not safe.
While it’s fun to see other areas of London (these new Fight Club style, glass and cladding, anonymous urban mansions), I’d prefer to keep going. Stop to get beverages? Yeah sure. But not because people are more into music and chilling than riding.
I get that the sound systems are heavy. So it’s nice that they’re not abandoned in badly filtered traffic with an exhausted rider. The guy at the front was pretty good at slowing to regroup and turning off music to hear sirens as well.
There’s a stadium at the end of Olympic Way – with checkpoints and police. But no one came down to look at the mass. Maybe it’s good.
One of the kid officers asked what it was. “Critical Mass”
“Is that your church group?” He says
“No, it’s a cycling group. Meets around the world on the last Friday of the month at 7pm”
“Oh, that’s nice.”
Ah. I mean. Yeah. Nice.
In a London with absurd, bureaucratic nonsense cycling infrastructure supported by the Mamils of the London cycling committee – is no one passionate about good cycling set up in London anymore?
The corking on the ride was fine. But mainly because of the size of the ride. Lots of drivers will wait one loop of the lights. Most people in cars seemed to enjoy the display rather than get peeved.
Which is great in a way. If we’re not in the West end coming up to theatre show time – that’s usually good.
Even the Corkers didn’t seem that political. That’s usually the most engaged bunch – waiting to segue from Climate Responsibility to Tibetan rights in a breathe. More usual response was “I’M ALWAYS HERE AT MASS. LOVE IT. SO GOOD. SUCH FUN”.