April 2023

29th Anniversary

Mass set off at 19:30 as per the current norm, soon after the curtain bell in the National Theatre. The second mass of the year to start in daylight, this felt like the first sunny mass – but not yet swelled by the TimeOut referred summer tourists. Didn’t recognise a soul, but a lot of these groups know each other – they seem directed by the eponymous telegram channel. FB is nearly as quiet with active users as this list. This April they wanted to go to Emmanuel Road, on the north side of Tooting Bec Common to support Lambeth Council in putting in a pedestrian crossing near Telferscot Primary School.

It seems that the blob of the mass follows the sound systems and as they set off at speed due south down Waterloo Road to hit into Elephant & Castle. Chaotic. Electrified mopeds with earsplitting sound system playing AI created house surrounded by a phalanx of teenage racers. No corking. Shedding the bulk of the mass as it pushed around onto the A3 passed Kennington to turn outside Stockwell Tube onto Stockwell Road, to Brixton, down straight through up the hill, take the side to New Park and down to the north side of the common. The instagram channel @critical_mass_london has the map and pictures.

It’s about 30 mins on the SatNav and it took about 40. Occasional people would cycle from the back and implore the kids to stop, but the volume of the Blasters is ear bleed, so there wasn’t much convo. Just cool Ninjas on the worlds biggest scooters nodding their heads. Little disruption to the traffic, accustomed as it is to 5mph driving, joining the mass at 15mph seemed acceptable to them. I was kind of impressed at the tolerant attitude (though it was insouciant) and the tension is normally felt at the back.

By 20:10, we’re at Tooting Common, skip passed the site and block the road by the corner shop. There had been a little pause at the top of the hill by one corner shop and here we were over 20 minutes. No annoucnement. People couldn’t get passed the systems and the gopeds parked in a circle. Vehicles just made to wait.

The sheer volume of the systems booming out crud to 500m2 puts the blob into glassy eyed acquiescence and even vehicles. What to do, what to do? The much reduced mass heads off by 20:35 and continues to the end of the road before turning back east on the hill to Clapham South Tube station, along the south of the common to turn up to hit Queenstown Road to come back into Battersea. I think people follow the mass of glympse and telegram because it reconstitutes itself before getting to Battersea park just before 9 to stay for 20-25 minutes.

It’s a more traditional stop, but I don’t think the cool electric warriors swanning about really understand about corking, hills, effort or why not to stop for 40minutes in the first hour and a half. It was too boring so I did some laps of the park before not joining in for the end of the loop – which we can follow online as going over Chelsea Bridge, east to Pimlico and up Vauxhall Bridge Road, to Victoria, up to Hyde Park corner, Marble Arch, down Oxford street and back to the South Bank where vans wait for the sound systems to go home.

As by the photos online, there were still at least 30-50 people to do a bike raise at Oxford Circus. 

All the chatter on their channel is that they want to do suplementary masses on other nights of the month and hopefully a lot of these people will drain out into that and lose interest. There were some real low points – from the kids scrambling all over the Buddha idols, to the lack of conversation possible, lack of coherence. But hey. The vibe always changes. A few years ago everyone would have been in costume for the coronation, a few years before there would be protests against it. Mini bikes, long boards, micro skateboards, it all comes and goes. It’s quite calm. Loads of weed smoking. Just loads. Dominant. But it’s dull. If there is a stop, then the men could at least think about making it near public toilets on the 2nd. But hey. Bike acrobats are making a bit of a comeback along with the oh so enjoyable wheelie acrobats running into people, there’s also on bike stuff, like planks. Which is nice.

If you go to mass these days, follow the telegram channel, then you can just dip into it when convenient. Bring ear plugs. Write your moped. Live tweet while moving to your friends.

1 thought on “April 2023

  1. From the list …

    Mass has always evolved but these days it has nothing to do with what it was even before covid – loud house music, electric motorbikes, filtering through cars, no corking, planned routes, faster than the average cycle commuter, no waiting at junctions or discussion, & always finishes back at south bank coz that’s where the leading participant parked their vans.

    A few years back I was listening to a podcast & the presenter mentioned CM – but did so in a past tense “CM was a grassroots cycling …” they were right it exists now only in name.

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