Critical Mass

The Joys of Cycling

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I woke up this morning full of cycling zeal.

Picture the scene: 7am, hazy Scottish weather outside, bleary eyes trying to fathom who/what/where I am. However, somewhere just below the surface there’s this clear and palpable sense of joy that bicycles exist and that at some point later in the day I would get to ride one. It’s quite bizarre. Is this infatuation?

With Critical Mass rides happening all over the world tomorrow, perhaps I am just tapping into the collective excitement of the global cycling community… We’ve certainly got a big one planned for Edinburgh this month!

All I know is, I can relate to the kid in this picture:

critical fun
I loved riding a bike as a child, and of all the things that have changed as I’ve grown up, cycling is one of the few that has remained relatively pure. These days I ride with the traffic and in the rain, so it isn’t all fun and games like it used to be, but on those brief and glorious occasions when I find myself on a safe and car-free section of road, this is where I find happiness (even if it’s raining).

Anyway, this tune from Anthony’s Putsch really captures that special feeling, so I wanted to share it with you. Enjoy!

 

Given that one of my earliest memories is of being strapped into a child’s seat on my dad’s bike as he crashed spectacularly into a drainage ditch, it really is quite remarkable that I have such positive associations of cycling from my childhood. Do you have any funny/scary/happy memories from your childhood cycling experiences? I’d love to hear them, so don’t hesitate to share in the comments 🙂

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Has cycling become a part of British life?

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Has cycling become a part of British life?

This article from The Guardian’s cycling blog explores the question of whether or not cycling has become a part of British life, and, if so, just what sort of cycling culture the UK might be said to have. The author describes British institutions like Brompton and Rapha, and holds them up alongside our comical cycle infrastructure (examples herehere, and here), the numerous ghost bikes that line our streets, and the lack of legal protection that British cyclists have compared to our continental cousins.

strict liability map
At present, the UK is out of step with Europe as one of only five EU countries (along with Cyprus, Malta, Romania and Ireland) that does not operate a system of strict liability to protect vulnerable road users.

 

This article was published just over a week after myself and a few members of Edinburgh’s Critical Mass ‘Pedalled on Parliament’ in what has now become an annual tradition. Attracting thousands of participants from up and down the country, the ride is intended to highlight the need for greater investment if Scotland is to meet its cycling and emissions targets by 2020. At the end of the day it was a fun ride, and our sound-system proved to be a great success, but sometimes I think that it would be nice to live in a country where such rides were simply unnecessary.

party on parliament

Critical Mass Models

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Critical Mass is an important international movement that strengthens the ties between people on bikes. Although individual bike riders can be intimidated by other road-users, the spirit of the mass is that there is strength in numbers. Cycling should be fun and freeing, and Critical Mass cultivates this atmosphere and reminds us that bikes are legitimate forms of transport that deserve space on the roads. That said, the formula for mass rides isn’t a one-size-fits-all model, and so it is worth acknowledging that different strategies work in different places.

Edinburgh Critical Mass

Although there is something of an unofficial ‘formula’ for rides, it seems that in reality Critical Mass models tend to vary around the world.

Instead of meeting on the last Friday of the month, for instance, the Budapest contingent meets only twice a year. However, by concentrating their energies into just two rides, the cyclists of Hungary commit wholeheartedly to making these rides count: although the table below is a bit out of date, the statistics from 2013’s ride indicate that they had more than 80,000 riders at their Spring event – by the time the last cyclist had crossed the ‘start’ line, the rider at the front of the pack was already 13km away!

Staggering statistics Staggering statistics from Budapest (N.B. unrelated protests ruled out the possibility of a ride in Fall ’06)

The Prague ride has also become hugely popular over the last decade, primarily though appealing to families, but also…

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