Jun 2024

A crowd of about six or seven hundred gathered on the Southbank to leave at 7:30. The first desination was a return to London Bridge. After the trauamatic events of last month where an 18 year old rider was driven over and dragged across the bridge, his friends supported the Mass returning to the bridge and doing something as a show of solidarity with the rider as he still recovers from his injuries.

The City of London police showed up at the Southbank before the ride began which was unusual – some riders asked why they were there, and they said that they were there to monitor the ride to London Bridge and stop any phone thieves infiltrating the ride. It was unclear whether they were just there this month, as London Bridge is in the jurisdiction of the City; or whether this was going to be an ongoing thing. They remained with the ride until it headed into Westminster, where a Met van seemed to take over from them, tailing the Mass until it reached the old Battersea Power Station later on.

Despite being a bit cooler than the previous days, and overcast during the day, the sun broke through just as the Mass turned into London Bridge from Duke St Hill. The ride stopped on the northbound lane, occupying most of the bridge, and riders lifted their bikes in the air, cheering and ringing bells and horns. After a few minutes on the bridge, the Mass moved off again, this time looping around towards Monument, and heading downhill towards Lower Thames Street. The ride fractured a bit here as some riders went into the cycle lanes, followed by the police, but it joined back up again as people waited on the northern end of Southwark Bridge.

The ride then headed west towards Westminster and into Whitehall. Some cycling activists had created a banner that said “Tory Transport Policies Kill Kids and Cyclists / End Fake Culture Wars” and unfurled this at the gates of Downing Street. At the time of writing it appears that Rishi Sunak will lose the election later this week. Over the last year and a half, he has deliberately amped up a culture war against cyclists and councils attempting to make neighbourhoods cleaner and safer, in an attempt for votes in London suburbs. This has resulted in some councils being emboldened to remove LTNs and other cyclist and pedestrian friendly infratructure. The banner was a way for the cycling advocates to express their frustration with the policies and dangerous language in the media that has become the norm in recent months.

About a quarter or a third of the ride had shot ahead to Trafalgar Square and missed the banner display, but turned around and rejoined the ride as it waited in front of Parliament. The ride then headed out to Battersea area. It was stopped on Nine Elms (unclear why) and then headed in towards the area around the old power station, just as the Met van which had been tailing the ride stopped and the police inside starting walking towards the front. The old power station has been heavily gentrified into apartments and a high end shopping centre. This is another vague semi-public / private space (akin to More London) with security guards patrolling the outdoor area. They were panicky and agitated, and so some lead riders went down the pedestrian path to Battersea Park, and the rest of the Mass followed, stopping at the western end for about 20 minutes at Albert Bridge.

The ride then headed back towards central and ended at Tower Bridge. On the way back in, there was a minor altercation between some teenage riders and some older cyclists, near the northern end of Chelsea Bridge. A petrol motorbike was riding with the teenagers. While electric bikes and scooters are commonplace on many CM rides now across the world, petrol bikes are still a rarity and generally unwelcome with the fumes. The cyclists wanted the motorbike to leave, but the biker was with his friends who did not back down. The confrontation was eventually de-escalated and the ride moved on back towards central London without anyone getting hurt. For most of the evening, the ride stayed together and stopped and waited, so there was still a sizeable crowd on the ride after 10:30pm.

Later on when the ride had finished, out of the heat of the moment on the ride, the motorbike rider (also a teenager) was approached calmly and talked with at Potters Fields. The ride has started to regularly finish there as there is space to sit and talk with each other by the steps at Tower Bridge. Some older riders explained the history of the ride, and its genesis from environmental movements, to the motorbiker. Many teenagers on the ride, who are more from a bikelife/rideout/bikestormz background, are not necessarily conscious of the ethos of CM. Older cyclist activist type of riders who might have come before Covid have left London or WFH on Fridays and do not attend Mass regularly any more. It is only through talking with teenagers on a human level, and listening to them too, that they can learn about why Mass exists and still continues. The motorbike rider explained that his own bicycle was in need of repair, but he wanted to join his friends on the Friday night, but understood and would come along on his bicycle next time.

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