Perfect weather, smiling faces and part of the Rinky-Dink bicycle sound system greeted the best part of 100 cyclists who turned out for Friday's Critical Mass bike ride. Critical Mass is a regular feature in many cities around the world and has been celebrated in Bristol on and off for about 15 years. The object is to celebrate cycling and to show how different the city would be if cyclists were the dominant form of road traffic.
Of course not everyone sees it that way and motorists in particular can get frustrated that they are being delayed, although that's not the express intention of the ride. There have been unpleasant incidents in the past when motorists have tried to force their way through the cyclists, but yesterday seemed to go relatively smoothly. The general impression was of a bunch of cyclists taking over the road and enjoying themselves.
I broke off to take a few snaps from various vantage points like the pedestrian bridges over Rupert Street and Lewins Mead and it was an impressive sight. My feeling is that Critical Mass is becoming less confrontational and more celebratory over time, which is as it should be. There will always be motorists who object to being held up once a month, but they should reflect on their own Critical Mass, aka the rush hour, which brings most of the city to a standstill twice every day.
So it seems like the time is right to expand the appeal of Critical Mass so that instead of a hundred cyclists we have a thousand. Perhaps we might even get a more supportive attitude from the police, dealing promptly with any aggression from motorists. I'm sure they'd be welcomed by everyone if they came on bicycles. Critical Mass is about cultural change, something that we undoubtedly need and something that happens whether we like it or not.
As cyclists we are doing no more than motorists routinely do - taking to the streets and showing what our culture is about. Motorists are inconvenienced, but to a minuscule extent compared to what they in turn inflict on our city daily. Critical Mass gives us all the chance, just once a month, to have a taste of how different things could be, which is surely something we all need to explore.
Critical Mass starts at 6 pm on the last Friday of each month, starting at the Centre opposite the Hippodrome. See you on the 26th June.