Apr 2024

Tonight’s ride left at 7:30pm as it usually does these days. Before this a crowd of approximately 500-600 riders gathered on the Southbank. Many in the crowd were coming for the first time, confused and excited, arriving on hired Santander or Lime Bikes, having seen videos on social media of the 30th birthday ride two weeks before. Other people came who had not attended mass for months or even years, but had come back to rejoin the ride after the 30th anniversary ride, which was a really positive development.

on waterloo road

The weather thankfully had held off and the sun was poking out between the clouds. Leaflets alerting people to the potential presence of phone thieves on the ride were handed out again to attendees, giving people information about ride etiquette. The text of this leaflet includes points about staying together, stopping at junctions, corking, and not filtering through traffic. Participants discussed beforehand, and a vague destination of Greenwich was agreed. Generally speaking, these days, a majority of participants prefer to avoid travelling in towards the west end for at least the first part of the ride, to avoid getting caught in rush hour traffic and breathing in fumes, and the ride sitting there, or else filtering through cars and become all broken up. Central London is thankfully better for individual cyclists (while still always needing improvement), with wider footpaths and narrower single lane roads; but for a mass group ride, which mimics vehicular traffic in some ways, central London can be difficult and slow moving. Going into parts of zone 2 and 3 for the ride generally means it is more freely moving.

april route

The ride went south from the BFI roundabout. At the junction of The Cut and Waterloo Road, a drinker at the Old Fire Station pub, diagonally across from the Old Vic Theatre, hurled a pint glass unprovoked at the Mass. Thankfully, nobody was hit or injured, the glass landed between riders and smashed on the ground. These sorts of incidents of random violence against the ride are rare. And participants did the right thing in not rising to the aggression shown by drunk Friday night morons just there to elicit a response. But aggression like this is a reminder of the coarse level of debate generally, where anti-cycling bias in the media emboldens people to do this sort of thing when they see a group ride.

The ride headed towards Elephant and Castle and out the New Kent Road, over the bricklayers arms flyover and south on the Old Kent Road towards New Cross. Thankfully the ride managed to stay reasonably together, having stopped at Elephant, again on the flyover, and then further down the Old Kent Road at the junction of Ilderton Road, and then again the intersection where the New Cross Road begins. These little pauses, even if they only take a minute or two, are really important for the Mass to stay together. The corking along the Old Kent Road was excellent, with people putting in shifts as the ride became a bit more strung out, which happens on long straight stretches. There were two reported incidences of drivers getting out of cars and challenging people, including one incident where a female rider who was corking was grabbed and was pushed out of the way, but was then supported by other riders. The driver wisely got back in the car and waited the extra two minutes they had to until the ride had fully passed. Another potential flashpoint with a BMW driver at the Greenwich Market was also firmly but peacefully dealt with. Any driver attempting this sort of thing is likely going to have to wait longer as more cyclists come and back others up.

stopped on bricklayers arms flyover

The ride then had a customary pitstop at the area near the Cutty Sark in Greenwich, where people played a bit of music as the sun went down, had a beer and a smoke. About 20 minutes later, the ride eventually reconvened and headed back towards Central London, heading in along the the northern route along Evelyn Street, passing through the top of Deptford and then along Jamaica Road through Bermondsey. Again, the ride is slowly getting better generally, stopping every so often waiting for people behind to catch up (including some wheelie riders near the front, who have been befriended over time and are slowly more on board with the message of Mass), so the ride moves together in a single bloc.


On Jamaica Road, the ride turned into Long Lane, heading towards Borough High Street, and then turning back in towards Newington Gardens MUGA area, where the London hardcourt Bike Polo crew were having some Friday night games and a party, as one of their players was leaving London for good. The Mass managed to catch the last 15 minutes of games there before the floodlights turned off for the night. Some of the Polo crew had helped out with the corking on the 30th Birthday ride, so they were very happy to see Mass come along and have a chance to watch some of their games in action. A small campfire had already been lit at Newington Gardens by the Polo crew, so it was a nice way for people to interact with each other from the two different scenes and warm up.

watching hardcourt bike polo

By 10pm, the ride had thinned out and approximately 100-150 riders remained. They rolled the small distance to the steps at Potter’s Fields next to Tower Bridge, where the ride finished up. People stayed there for a while having a drink and chatting. The security guards for More London are generally standoffish when the Mass arrives there on a Friday night, they see that we are peaceful, and are not interested in having any confrontation with us, as long as the music is at a reasonably tolerable level for the residents living in the blocks of flats nearby, some of which are not luxury apartments, but actually social housing for City of London tenants.

finishing at tower bridge

There were no incidences of any phone thefts or similar antisocial behaviour from balaclava riders on the ride tonight, which is a really positive thing to remember, and to take forward into the summer rides.

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