London Critical Mass reports – Indymedia. 28.10.2005

Today is the first London Critical Mass ride after participants were informed about possible arrests at future Critical Mass rides. The Metropolitan Police demanded that the ‘organisers’ give notice of the route at least six days in advance [report]. The Rhythms of Resistance Samba Band has been practicing samba on wheels.

Solidarity rides are taking place simultaneously in Bristol and Brighton In this posting, we are collecting updates from the streets in London.


18:05 About 250 bikes have gathered at the Southbank outside the National Film Theatre, just under Waterloo Bridge [map]. The NFT is in the restricted SOCA zone, a new law which bans unauthorised demonstrations in the vicinity of Parliament. No police presence as yet. Lots of legal observers present, as well as a Samba band and a soundsystem.

18:25 Soundsystem started playing very quietly. Someone is handing out free food. A couple of mounted police on cycles have arrived.

18:45 Numbers have risen to about 800, about 100 in halloween fancy dress. Fliers about the climate change demo are being passed around.

19:06 Moving off towards Waterloo roundabout.

19:20 More than 1000 bikes are crossing Waterloo Bridge, 5 or 6 lines deep, taking the entire bridge. 2 small soundsystems have been spotted. Traffic at Trafalgar Square has already come to a standstill. “It is massive”.

19:35 The crowd keeps growing, the route from Waterloo Bridge to Trafalgar Square is full of bikes. “A massive mass”. In the Westminster area, unusually many police officers have been seen.

19:44 Now an estimated minimum of 1500 cyclists, the mass is moving down Pall Mall.

19:48 A taxi just clipped a cyclist on the Mall. The cyclist isn’t injured but the taxi driver is being briefed by a crowd of cyclists about road safety and cycle awareness.

19:58… Mass has arrived at Buckingham Palace. Rhythms of Resistance are giving it some welly. Drummers are playing in carriages pulled by bikes. 200 pedestrians have joined the mass.

20:20 Massive mass of more than 2000 has arrived at Parliament Square! Cycling around the square, cheering, ringing their bells, lifting bikes up in the air, while others are still arriving. People are calling into indymedia dispatch sounding “deliriously happy”. A cyclist from Birmingham says: “it’s a friday night, it’s like a fucking party, it’s like an RTS on bikes!” Some cops and a couple of police cars have been seen.

20:40 Moving up Whitehall… and there are a few hundred people on roller skates travelling in the opposite direction towards Parliament Square! Many arrived outside Downing Street. Great mood. Everybody is off bikes, holding them up in the air.

20:50 After 10 minutes at Downing Street, the mass moved on towards Trafalgar Square, then Leicester Square. Blue lights have been seen.

21:17 Fewer cyclists are now at corner of Oxford street and Tottenham Court Road. Rhythms of Resistance are still playing.

21:40 The Critical Mass is now halfway along Oxford Street and has re-grouped after briefly splitting in two. There are now more police and much less cyclists.

from imc london

London Critical Mass archive 04.10.2005

On Friday 30th September, those who joined London’s monthly Critical Mass ride, found themselves being issued with letters from the Metropolitan Police, threatening arrests at future Critical Mass rides, unless the ‘organisers’ give notice of the route at least six days in advance, and warning that the police can impose restrictions on the rides once the advance notice has been given.The letter stated that the police are reviewing their ‘policy’ towards critcal mass

Read Letter to Met Police Commissioner from Jenny Jones; Green Party Member of the London Assembly, The Mayor’s Road Safety Ambassador and Member of the Metropolitan Police Authority.

NEW: Audio interview with Jenny Jones (12th Oct)

A callout has been issued to make October’s London Critical Mass the biggest one yet.

Londoners have held regular Critical Mass rides for the past eleven and a half years, and those who have been on them will know that rides are escorted by coppers on bikes and mootor cycles. It seems unlikely that the police do not understand that their demands are an attack on the very foundations of Critical Mass itself, which can best be described as an “unorganised coincidence”. As the ride’s website FAQ notes:

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, or maintaining this website ;) . However, they only do the work, and don’t have any authority over anybody else – their only power is to make suggestions.

Critical Mass rides are held in many cities across the globe, and if there is any one aim, it is a shared wish to see less car-dominated cities and more people cycling. The hallmark of the event is the bringing together of a wide spectrum of cyclists in an spontaneous ‘disorganisation’ which is not dominated by any political ideology,party, organisation or individual. Any attempt to meet the requirements of the letter would mean that the basic foundations of Critical Mass would be threatened. London Critical Mass however is not alone in facing challenges.

For some months now, cyclists on New York’s Critical Mass rides, have been subject to mass arrests with police using tactics such as placing nets across the road and arresting everyone inside the nets.

New Yorkers have persisted with the rides in the face of the arrests and repression and many of those who have gone to court on the exonerated.

On a more positive note, Budapest has just experienced it’s largest Critical Mass ever, with 30 000 cyclists joining the ride on September 22nd, 2005. The last year has seen a mushrooming participation in Critical Mass rides in the Hungarian capitol. The initial breakthrough came on World Carfree Day in 2004, when 4,000 riders participated. This was followed by an Earth Day Critical Mass ride on April 22 of this year with a staggering 10,000 people. The trend is still in progress. Bicycle messenger groups are in a large way to credit for organizing and publisizing this event. Otherwise organizations like the Hungarian Young Greens (Zöfi) and Clean Air Action Group have also helped in the organization.