September 2021

There is now a Telegram group for real-time reports on where Critical Mass is at, in the evening of the last Friday of every month: Critical Mass Location update

First autumn ride with sunset before the start time. Actual start being somewhat late.

The Southbank was heaving with consumers getting in the last of the balmy days.
The bright lights of the boutique food vans pushed me to wait further away.

Eventually it moved. A soundsystem playing vintage house decided to take the left turn at the roundabout after the mass had gone to circle it.

Then convinced that front of the mass that that was correct. So the mass corked itself on Waterloo roundabout.

But stopped in order to get people through, but the people were waiting behind the bus.

High level thinking.

Still lots of massively agro teens pulling wheelies, splitting the mass and pushing through reds without corking.

We went East to tower bridge in a predictable way, filtering the traffic before breaking back West through the tunnels under the city to get to embankment.
I find the wheelie kids massively worrying. “Ha ha, look at our wheelie, maybe I’ll crash”. But it’s literally more stressful to cycle near than any other traffic.

As they split off from the mass, cars filtered in from the side roads to the embankment. By the quantity of cyclists, they could have comfortably been in the cycle lane.

They were unnecessarily aggressive to vehicles – who understandably did not get why these teenagers were pulling wheelies to just miss cars.

*Then trying to smack off wing mirrors for no great reason. Wing mirrors are how drivers see cyclists. After fixing the wing mirror on a cab, I agreed that I couldn’t be part of that.

They were going to go back south at Westminster bridge. The signal account shows them going on to Lambeth bridge, then back to the graffiti tunnel off lower marsh.

Where they seemed to stop.

Ok, so I’m unvaxed for political reasons & don’t leave my neighborhood much. So just being on the south bank seemed bizarre. A parallel world without covid. Random beautiful people. Strange.

I wasn’t feeling comfortable – and that’s just me – but it wasn’t chill. It’s anarchic – disordered & asocial – not an organic understanding of people creating a safe procession. Maybe that’s because a lot of the more experienced massers have not been there in the last year.

It’s evolved. Devolved.

I had thought there would be a political direction to it, as the police helicopter kept circling- but it disappeared. Can’t see news of one of the absurdist protest groups having a powwow.

More on the September ride. Not as big a crowd as you might expect for a dry, warm, summer-ish evening? Though – as noted by Hickster – starting after sunset at this time of year, so perhap putting off some people.

Only a few old regulars I recognised. (I’ve been too infrequently lately to recognise _new_ regulars!) Some people, at least, very friendly … seemed to be especially those on their first (or almost first) London CM. It reminded me I need to do a few more leaflets “about the mass” to distribute to new people asking “what’s this all about”, with details of a website and an e-mail list [ie this one] for people wanting to communicate. I did some a while back and still have a few tucked away somewhere.

Maybe a few hundred people by the time we got going – c7.20pm. It has been worse; but it’d be good to be better/earlier, especially with the colder weather coming.

Some did 2 or 3 loops of the Waterloo roundabout while everyone got up the ramp. But ill-“disciplined”, with no attempt to block access while still allowing egress at the start, so all very mixed up with stationary traffic.

Then people peeled off along Stamford Street (not over the bridge, as always seems commonest). Several sound systems on the go.

The pace was a bit fast really, leading to the mass being very strung out quite early on. A bit of decent corking; but (in my view) far too little consideration for pedestrians … no reason really not to let them across at their green lights, especially if we ought to have been slowing/stopping on and off to let people catch up.

On along Southwark Street, left into the top of Borough High Street. Then whoever were at the front swooped right onto Duke Street Hill, and along Tooley Street, to stay south of the river. There were some very dense crowds of all-dolled-up revellers crossing over Duke Street Hill en route from LB station to the bridge. Some massers got blocked and spread out; and combined with the fact that some people were far behind by the stage anyway, I think the mass split there. I was towards the rear of the ones heading east along Tooley Street. I don’t know what happened to those well behind me – perhaps they went somewhere else completely… The fact that some people rushed on without ever stopping to see where everyone else was demonstrated a real lack of awareness / collectivity on the ride this month.

And the pace was too fast for me to easily catch up the front and suggest a pause.

Then left over Tower Bridge – but no sense of waiting for our green, and then proper corking on the turn onto the bridge. Result – we were all mixed up with the traffic crossing the bridge.

Some aggro with motorists at the junction at the far end of the bridge’s northern approach road.

Then a left turn onto Tower Hill and at a great rate down towards and along Lower Thames Street, and on through the tunnel along Upper Thames Street.

I was near the back [of those not lost south of the river] as we were heading west, north of the river. I stopped a couple of times soon after Tower Hill (once in solidarity with some cyclists having a loud row with a car and a lorry, since I thought it might get nasty; and once for some seriously pissed-off pedestrians who I think had already missed one green light). Then I talked briefly to someone who stopped to talk.

By then, I could hardly see the rear of the mass in the distance. Neither I nor my bike was in a particularly dilatory mood, so although I wasn’t into belting along in the middle of all that fast traffic [Lower TS and Upper TS were both very busy] I was gong fast enough to have caught up with the tail end of most masses I’ve been on (I’d have thought). But I didn’t catch up, and in fact by the time I was through the Blackfriars Underpass and onto Embankment, there was no obvious sign of any large enough group of cylists to be the mass.

I can only assume that numbers were very diminished by then, and also that they were really belting along.

So I gave up looking for them part way along Embankment. So I was only on the ride for less than an hour. I wonder if there was another half, after London Bridge, who _did_ hold together and keep it together for longer?

I think a few more active and experienced riders, who’d proactively try to keep people together, would be good. I’m sure that was often the situation in the past. Maybe I just hit an unlucky month this month (my first ride for a while).

Thoughts anyone?

The Facebook posts look like they ended at Lower Marsh.

In the early years of the house arrest I attended a couple of near deserted winter masses, but since the ‘reopening’ – a new crowd seems to have emerged.

Like Albert says, they don’t seem to understand the basics. 

I stopped going first lockdown, went to a few since but not yesterdays.
mass has always been a bit different in the summer – bigger for a start but also more of a tourist ride than in the winter. Less principled and more hedonistic. However, it’s suffering from more than just youthful exuberance ATM, seems to lack a purpose (dare I say “lost its direction” ?)

The original start time seemed optimised for people to get there & still have a bit of commuter traffic to engage with but leaving later & just racing up & down oxford st or along cycle paths seems pointless.

And when the mass does claim a space recently it’s predominantly off road – I don’t need to cycle to primrose hill, hyde park or leake st of a Friday night and mass doesn’t need to squat somewhere like that for an hour.

The soundsystems all look ordered from Amazon, the rides are more Wish or Banggood, and the music is straight from the playlist of a Yates wine lodge –  London mass has lost its DIY edge but the aesthetic aren’t just shifted, it’s a different procession.

The wheelies are incessant, the pavement riding is only surpassed by the lack of corking but I could overlook all that if the mass would stop filtering through traffic. I guess it’s hard to wheely when waiting for the back to mass up.

Since all the battery powered rides have been going to mass the speed has just kept increasing occasionally it’s almost over before really getting much further than the waterloo roundabout. However, it was good to hear that a few circuits of the bullring were made yesterday, it’s a good tactic for massing up.

1 thought on “September 2021

  1. Just for the record – the September ride reports somehow ended up under “August”…. So see there for a couple of narratives/impressions/musings on the ride at the end of September.

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