London Critical Mass reports


All material on these pages is for informational purposes only, and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of myself or the University of Edinburgh. Nothing on these pages should be taken as an incitement to illegal actions.
London has been in the CM game longer than most British cities. It was going strong, with several hundred participants, already in September 1994. They have produced an excellent leaflet for participants, with lots of tips about what CM is about and how to make it a successful event. Their experiences with the police are also well worth having a look at.

There is now aseparate site for Central London CM

As well as the Central London event, there are now Critical Masses in South London, West London and North London.

  • March 1995
  • April 1995 - the anniversary
  • July 1995
  • Report from the "missing 200"
  • August 1995
  • September 1995
  • October 1995
  • November 1995
  • December 1995
  • March 1996
  • April 1996
  • May 1996
  • March 1995

    I was not on the ride but heard a report on a local radio station (GLR) that included an interview with an "organiser". The reporter stated that there were about 300 cyclists there for the ride. The ride starts at Waterloo and later on in the programme, it stated that cyclists from it had got as far as Hyde Park Corner, where a lot of congestion was being caused. Having cycled round that particular London landmark, the more congested it is, the better for cyclists. Usually motorists seem to treat it as some sort of Grand Prix track.

    It definitely seems that the campaign is getting more coverage in the media and with the weather improving, increased numbers can be expected to take part.

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    April 1995 - the anniversary ride

    London's 1 year anniversary Critical Mass 28 April was a storming success, with over 450 bikers taking part in a ride which lasted nearly 3 hours. The ride started with its traditional circuit of the Bullring roundabout at Waterloo and for the first time managed to occupy the entire roundabout at once. So now we know how many cyclists you need to do that!

    This mass was different in that it was slightly more organised than others lately, because CHARM had printed leaflets detailing a route from Waterloo to Park Lane in order that a dummy traffic light be erected at the location of the disputed cycle crossing. 2 weeks ago Westminster Councillors voted to reject the inclusion of the cycle crossing on Park Lane despite it being included in red route plans and having been more or less approved by the traffic director for London. Campaigners are now hoping that Westminster's decision will be over-ruled by the traffic director.

    The mass was therefore "pointed" at Park Lane with the intention of doing a photo stunt with the traffic light once we got there. We meandered over Waterloo Bridge, left onto the Strand, down Whitehall and into Parliament Square. I was right at the back when we got there and as I got onto the square I was joined from the right by bikers who had already been right round it - in other words, we filled that roundabout too! We spent ages in Parliament Square because the sun was out and lots of people wanted to take pictures.

    We then slowly made our way up Victoria Street, through Victoria and onto Hyde Park Corner. After a half hearted attempt to blockade HPC (forget it unless you've got 3000 cyclists!) we got onto Park Lane and made our way slowly up to the location of the cycle crossing. The traffic light was duly erected, the stop line was laid across the road and the banner was stretched out.

    The ride then continued northbound to Marble Arch where a few circuits of this roundabout where made (What is it about Critical Mass? - show it a roundabout and it just has to go round and round it!) before returning down Park Lane on the other side. It took ages to get back down to HPC because the traffic was completely wrecked. We eventually got onto Piccadilly and the home straight through Piccadilly Circus, down Haymarket and into Trafalgar Square.

    Although a success, the ride was not without its casualties, despite an increasingly heavy police presence towards the end. I don't think anyone got physically hurt, but a few bikes got bent by cars.


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    July 1995

    July's Critical Mass in London attracted upwards of 800 bikers (some say 1000) who enjoyed a 2.5 hour meander around the West End and a spot of fracas at Hyde Park Corner before finishing in Hyde Park.

    A route was hastily concocted before the start by a few CM "veterans" and the line I saw on a map led from Waterloo, over Westminster Bridge, Whitehall, Pall Mall, St James' Street, LEFT onto Picadilly, across Hyde Park Corner into Knightsbridge and down into South Kensington to greet all the open air cafe and pub goers down that way. The precise finishing point was not known as we set off shortly after 6 but as it turned out, that didn't matter.

    It took a full 5 minutes to actually get the mass moving: CM certainly has enormous inertia, but once we were rolling we kept together pretty well for a long time, though unfortunately not for the whole ride. Our numbers were such that as we reached the roundabout at the east end of Westminster Bridge, cyclists were still emerging onto the Bullring from the South Bank.

    The police were present on about 8 motor bikes and were extremely helpful. They were actually communicating with each other this time and making constructive comments about which way to go next. For example, when we reached Parliament Square it was grid locked and it would have taken half an hour to get round it into Whitehall, breathing exhaust fumes from the traffic in front all the way round. The police at the front suggested we turn right straight into Whitehall and after a quick discussion we agreed that would be best. Throughout the rest of the ride we would be stopped at junctions either by the motorcyclists or by other traffic cops to force us to wait and regroup before allowing us on our way. Some of us shout ourselves hoarse trying to keep the ride grouped together so this assistance was very welcome. It looks like we're finally starting to climb the learning curve we've been on for the last 18 months.

    We arrived at the top of St James' Street and despite efforts to coax the ride to turn left, it turned right, and the best laid plans of mice and men went out the window. It didn't help that the 5 people who knew the route weren't at the front (hint!). Anyway, that's half the fun of CM.

    We made it to Shaftsbury Avenue and turned left onto Charing Cross Road, heading north. We were making it up as we went along. Despite continual pleas to go down Oxford Street (why? so we can disrupt buses and taxis even more??) we managed to get onto Tottenham Court Road en route to Euston Road. Somebody realised then that we were heading straight for the Capital Tower and raced on ahead to alert them. 10 minutes later we were bawling down a radio mike and beaming out to London's Capital Radio listeners.

    After a quick consultation at the front the rest of the route was laid out: along Euston Road, down Baker Street and into Hyde Park. 600 people turned left onto Euston Road westbound. Where were the rest???

    It transpired later that a traffic jam on Shaftsbury Avenue held up around 200 cyclists so much that they lost sight of the front of the ride and never caught up. They then followed their own route through the back streets of W1 until most of them finally got to Baker Street, having learned the route of the main body of the ride from people who had come back to look for them. Many gave up trying to find the front group and went home.

    The main ride arrived at Hyde Park and changed the route again! Instead of going into the park at the north end everyone went down to Hyde Park Corner and caused considerable mayhem on the roundabout before finally retiring into the park at the south end. By that time a lot of people had left: they had either left on the way to the park, stayed in the park at the north end, or gone when they decided that cycling around SE England's biggest roundabout was not their cup of tea!

    As far as I am aware, there were only a couple of crashes, no injuries and no fisticuffs (although there were one or two nearly-fisticuffs).

    For the 600 people at the front the ride went very well and they had a good time. They kept together remarkably well and this was in no small measure thanks to police assistance. The 200 cyclists at the back didn't have such a good time though. There is a lot of confusion over how they got cut off so long as to lose sight of the front 600 people. It could be that for large rides we just have to accept that the back will lose the front, so maybe the route should be publicised beforehand so that everyone knows where they are going AND WE STICK TO THE ROUTE. For large rides we might have to accept compromises which tone down the spontaneity of CM in the interests of giving more people a good time. Or maybe a few more police bikes might have kept us together just that tiny bit better and the crack might never have happened. Apart from the split, this month's ride hung together much better than last month's. Maybe next month we'll get no split; in other words maybe we're still on the learning curve and don't need to do anything different. We just keep doing what we do now but get better at it. Who knows? Some people expressed concern that the last few months' rides (i.e. all the really big ones) have been a bit too chaotic and maybe a controlling committee needs to be set up. Perhaps we need to have marshalls directing the ride. There seems to be a feeling that things might get out of hand. There are even suggestions that the anarchists are having too much sway and causing too much disruption, that it is these people who stay at the back and force the ride to split by keeping others back with them. Then again, we've had four huge rides with very little incident and a huge amount of fun which all got to their destination eventually, so something must be working somewhere. Maybe it's just the nature of the event that no CM will ever be perfect for everyone: too much chaos upsets some but delights others, and rides which are totally incident-free might be "nice" but pretty boring. Each ride has its own character defined by the mix of riders on that particular ride and it might be mistake to try and force every ride to conform to what someone or a group deem acceptable or "best". CM is what it is, and that's that.

    What do others think?

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    "The missing 200"

    Speaking as one of the 200, what seemed to happen was that several cars had tried to cross Shaftesbury avenue, coming from side-roads at a traffic-light controlled junction. They were, of course, stopped before they could get across, but this left a very narrow gaps between two cars going in opposite directions. Many people hung around waiting to see what became of this situation, and this held up people behind. Eventualy, the police tried to get the cyclists moving on to try and keep the group together, but because the two cars were still in place, we had to go through the gap in single file. All of this wasn't helped by the evening's one miserable police motorcyclist - while all of his colleagues chatted happily with cyclists, and stressed the importance of keeping the group together and keeping cars out when moving us on, he insisted on maintaining an 'us and them' attitude, implying 'move on because I say so' and physically pushed along anyone who hesitated for more than a few milliseconds after he had scowled his order.

    The ride certainly was different from this point, until we re-joined the larger group at marble arch. We moved up Tottenham Court Road in small clusters, with traffic pushing around us and squeezing through any available gap. By the time we reached Marylbone Road, there may as well not have been any CM - we were reduced to squeezing alongside the normal hectic & dangerous lanes of motor vehicles.

    However, once our numbers started growing again, any thoughts I'd had of disappearing off home soon left me. The final lap of Hyde-Park Corner made my first CM seem well worth while. Next time, how about Aldgate Circus?


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    August 1995

    I joined the London CM last Friday for the first time and it was an excellent experience: if you've been thinking about attending your local CM, DO IT!

    A few observations.

    I was surprised by the eclectic groups milling around at the start: anarchists (distributing leaflets, which seemed a bit too organised..), someone plugging a vegetarian cafe, Socialist Workers flogging their mag, recruiters for the South London CM (see you at Clapham this Friday) and a variety of CND-ers.

    On the whole it went off very well, from my vantage point. The Police were occasionally grumpy but I must say didn't react too much to the more aggressive riders. I couldn't see what was gained by dis-obeying Police instructions to not obstruct traffic coming in the _other_ direction. In general the Police stopped traffic as the ride approached junctions and let the CM riders through in one go. Was this the general impression others had? I did spot a policeman videoing the ride from a bridge at the Embankment; probably common practise at demos these days.

    The ride ended at the French Embassy, joining a picket protesting at the recent nuclear test. Although I abhor France's nuclear testing I don't think the CM has a place in demonstrating against other social ills/world problems: the focus, IMHO, should be on cycling.


    yes, I agree the last London CM went off very well. The last one I attended was May, and the police were no where near as passive - at one stage a single policeman actually tried to arrest someone for stopping cars moving into a junction. Needless to say ~200 cyclists surrounded them and completely blocked said junction for 10 minutes until more heavies arrived and dragged off the cyclist with his bike. Great.

    I was a bit wary of attending this month, as I had heard that June's outing was much more confrontational, with CM'ers getting grief from people waiting for delayed buses as well as from drivers - but I guess we can put that down to the heat...the only violent act I witnessed last Friday was a guy threatening a crowd of cyclists surrounding his car with his anti-theft lock, and then trying to run people over. Fortunately he didn't make contact with anyone, but it was pretty frightening the speed at which he became enraged.

    I'd be interested to hear tales from other CMs around the country - anyone able to oblige?

    Oh, and one final point - the ride was last spotted heading north out of Islington on Essex Road at 9.15pm...


    Having completed my first Critical Mass ride I would like to thank all other riders on the route for a most enjoyable evening. The atmosphere was fantastic (ie no car fumes!) and the response from the majority of people we passed was great and very supportive. Taking Tottenham Court Road, Marlebone Road and Hyde Park Corner without traffic was wonderful and respect goes out to the majority of motorists who were very patient. The idiots who were not, found no respect and I witnessed several ugly scenes.

    One question several people on the evening asked was the legality of such a demo - could the police break it up ? What the implications of the Criminal Justice Act were and are the stewards correct in saying that you can remain in one spot on your bike (usually in the front of a black cab ;) for just two minutes then somebody else has to take over ?

    Anyway I for one am looking forward to next months ride, and am encouraging all bike riding friends to join me on the last Friday of the month at 6pm at the NFT South Bank.

    Cheers Dave :-Q

    I must admit I was shocked twice in 2 seconds when the chap in the blue 205 GTi ran over that kid at the roundabout hyde park corner. Then to see 15 cyclist beat-up the car- it was covered in dents and the lights smashed. Saying that - the chap in the car did rev-up his engine and run the kid down.

    >One question several people on the evening asked was the
    >legality of such a demo - could the police break it up ?
    >What the implications of the Criminal Justice Act were and
    >are the stewards correct in saying that you can remain in
    >one spot on your bike (usually in the front of a black cab ;)
    >for just two minutes then somebody else has to take over ?

    I'm not sure that is true. Obstruction is somethihg the officer decides at the scene of the crime.


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    September 1995

    Yes its on again this week - whatever the weather.

    In part this Fridays ride will be a tribute to Emma Cray, a CM rider who was killed by a lorry 13 days ago. Yet another case of a left turning lorry driver not checking his "blind spot" before crushing her to death. Again it was the type of 30 tonne tipper lorry that the Department of Transport exempted from European safety standards regarding side guards and mirrors. This type of lorry is very common in London and other urban areas and is in part responsible for the situation that in London lorries are 30 times more likely to kill cyclists than cars.

    Come to the CM ride this Friday to show there is safety in numbers and that the future can only be better when more and more people cycle together.

    Charlie Lloyd, London Cycling Campaign

    This months CM was dedicated to Emma Cray who was tragically knocked off her bike and killed on Burdett Road, Near Mile End.

    The Mass eventually moved off from the NFT, watched by a few TV cameras and a police helicopter, over Waterloo Bridge towards the East End - the feeling of unity nevers wears off when you enter the city from the bridge followed by 100's of cyclists...

    I did a rough count at the Blind Beggar pub, and got to 628 people - there could have been more stragglers behind the police vans, I don't know. Brilliant turnout though!

    A group of folks (from Reading?) had built this brilliant vehicle made from about 5 and a half mountain bikes. It contained an awesome sound system - powered by batteries continually being recharged by a pedal powered generator. Anyone know more about this?

    Another few folks had built sound systems onto bike trailers - a real attention grabber - not to mention all those air-powered horns. Watch out - Mine exploded and covered my hand in the liquid - resulting in cold burns and frostbite..!!!

    When the mass got to Burdett Road, someone spoke through the sound system asking for a couple of minutes silence. 600 odd cyclists in quiet - bowed heads. A policemen standing next to me said it all, "Nice crowd this, come to show respect to someone they don't know."

    Someone held their bike over their head, then someone else. Soon hundreds of bikes above heads, the silence then stopped with shouts, whistles, music - the mass moved on along a narrow street back onto Whitechapel Road back into town. I hope Emma's friends and family feel that others do care.

    The Mass then meandered through Trafalgar Square, up Charing Cross road. Then an unusual route along Old Crompton Street through the thronging Soho nightlife. Sorry about the weaving through Soho's backstreets, my fault, a policeman had to give me directions and sent us down some pretty narrow streets.

    Eventually we got to Whitehall. What lovely feeling. The huge width of Whitehall all to ourselves. A couple of bladers had joined us - those guys are mental - everyone was enjoying the car-free fume-free space.

    I eventually had to give up at 9.45pm at Westminster Bridge. My trip computer said thus.

    AVG SPD:	9.30 km/h
    MAX SPD:	51 km/h
    Favourite Quotes and happenings!
    1. "I love taxi drivers - I love you Mr Taxi driver" - the chap reckoned that taxi drivers are too used to being called w*nkers!
    2. The whole mass stopped to let a guy dressed head to toe in Black PVC cross the road. Mr blackpvc said to a biker,"you guys are wierd."
    3. Passerby on pavement; "I would have come today, but I had both my wheels nicked."
    4. Someone was shouting at all sports cars, "big car small w*lly."
    5. Someone in a little car started 'beeping' at a couple of cyclists. Within seconds was completely drowned out by a plethora of air-horns and whistles. The little car reversed back over the line!
    6. 'Are you counting?, there's over 100 cyclists in that off-license"
    callum wilson

    It was wonderful!

    Virtually no strop or aggro. (Partly us being cooler, partly cos the infernal combustion drivers know about us now, partly cos stewards "emerged"). Lots of motorbike cops being sensible, the most incredible totally pedal powered sound system called 'Rinky-Dink' which had four stokers, plus one pedalling the dynamo, speakers on stalks masquerading as flowers.... loads of support from the Strand and the West End on the way back, and a very moving silence at the spot near Stepney where a cyclist was killed recently. A few skate boarders, roller bladers and _runners_ joined us, motorbikes beginning to emerge as a nuisance (noisy, smelly, we cant keep them out - perhaps we should try talking to them).

    All in all, BRILLIANT. (and this is four days later).


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    October 1995

    This one was also covered in an article in Felix, the student newspaper at Imperial College.

    Amazing turnout - thanks presumably to breakfast TV's advert warning the coff-coff's about delays in west london.... How did they know thats where we were going???

    We all left Waterloo bridge and cycled off in a blaze of blue flashy lights with big bro' watching us from the helicopter... Bit of a dissapointment really - we should have gone through town - but some egit with a loud voice wanted to get to Earls Court quickly and damn well wanted to take the shortest route through the quiet backwaters of the southbank. - I did a rough count at waterloo station and got to 780 cyclists - very good indeed.

    We got to Earls Court, actually we didn't because some folks didn't believe the motorbikecop and we ended up getting to a dead end at the back off earls court - this took the police inside the perimeter fence by surprise and a few minutes later the cops came in very quickly - there were a couple of scuffles where cyclists got in...their glory was short lived.

    Turning the mass around was fairly difficult, we all went up some poshly terraced side street and appeared at the front of Earls Court. The police had barracaded themselves in quite well. Some guy had one of those hand drums on his bike - dead cool - the obligatory bike lifts followed - chanting singing - a guy got arrested for jumping over the fence. A few of the motor show people came out and watched - they got bored and went away. Sadly so did most of the ride - it was getting quite cold.

    The ride eventually left back for town - brilliant fun - although we lost half the ride who went back to 'do' south london...


    1. When 50-60 riders starting laughing at a young guy in a bright yellow ferrari. He looked a bit upset - ego must have hit a rock bottom.
    2. Cycling under Hyde park corner roundabout along the underpass - I clocked 57Km/h.
    3. Having a bit of a laugh trying to out-bunnyhop people.
    4. Seeing my self and loads of others on 'Passengers' on TV when I got home - I've got it taped - will endeavour to .avi it.
    5. When the good-humoured cyclecop thanked the hand-drummer for his entertainment in front of everyone at Piccadilly Circus- that's the spirit unlike some the moody cops at Earls Court.


    1. When our faithful cop outriders left us, a taxi driver decided to run someone down. Not very pleasant. Another taxi driver who was stuck behind got and became very aggressive.
    2. There were quite a few scuffles between cars/cyclists - a bit out of order - we are trying to make a point not create a bad name. For Example - The news reported 'Reclaim the streets' action at Earls Court really adversley - with lines like "6 people were arrested", "broke police cordons", "disrupted traffic", "ruining commerce" instead off "positive" information "the traffic jams created enough pollution increase the chance of asthma in our children -...

    callum wilson

    I think I have to agree about the highlights. The drum playing and bell playing outside Earls court was superb. The most fun bit for me was the ride home back along the Brompton road. About 100 of us were cycling along together, just like a mini CM all over again. One guy laid down in a box junction and pretended to be hurt. Motorists got very confused. One guy turning into a no entry where lots of cars were waiting to come out. The whole lot just blocked itself up with no help from the cyclists at all. Superb.

    See you all next month.


    It was the first night-time CM I have been on, and very good it was too.

    Loads of people, I was near the front, so it was difficult to judge whether it kept together or not, but it seemd to from where I was.

    A good route, which jammed up Victoria, and large parts of west London as a car driver later confirmed to me.

    Not sure I was in favour of the eco-warriors attempt to push down the gates of Earls Court, when your'e out-numbered by the police, and with approx. 10-15 vans, there is little point.

    I left with about a dozen at about 8.30 as it was getting cold, and we just seemed to be chanting at a few people in teh motor show, who I found out later, couldn't hear us anyway.

    Could anyone tell me what happened when the CM dispersed from Earls Court.

    Jon Johnson

    We moved on up to Cromwell Road and turned right to head back towards Knightsbirdge and Hyde Park Corner. The ride got split up quite widely for a while as there was an "acciednt" at the Warwick Road/Cromwell Road junction. Thanks toi a couple of speedies who rode up and down relaying news from the back, those of us at the front managed to bring the pace right down to a virtual crawl so that the back could catch up. I think that a lot of people drifted off around this stage. I stuck with the ride until Hyde Park Corner when it lurched off towards Buckingham Palace (probably going to give HM a call).

    PS: Does anyone know what happened to the policewoman who was knocked off her bike by the taxi?

    Rob McIvor

    Encouragingly huge as there was some fear that a dark start might reduce the big numbers built up over the summer. As last month, the ride had a focus and destination which generally meant a faster pace. I enjoy this as it provides the experience of what it's like to cycle in a bike dominated city (woop! woop!) On arrival at the back gate of Earls Court there was an inspiring gathering and bike lift outside the firmly closed iron gates. A few mainly matey police and security bods safely on the inside. Sensibly a call went up to shift round to the front entrance where a dense occupation of the street effectively blockaded the main entrance and exit to the show. On arrival I believe there was a skirmish (and an arrest?) as the gates were closed on us. There would have been sufficient bikes and people for a rearguard action as well at the back entrance causing a total blockade of the site, an opportunity which was missed. This might have brought more publicity but probably police intervention as well.

    David Job

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    November 1995

    A massive mass of cyclebods turned up at Waterloo for Novembers CM. This months CM seemed to be getting away from the stereotypical jaunt round the streets - this month we had a jaunt round various Shell buildings and petrol stations. I know that I'm not in the minority by saying that I was a bit confused as to why we were doing this in the first place. Personally speaking, I don't really see why a CM has to get involved with arms deals/nuclear testing etc...

    I know that you always find the political groups at these events but there was a guy who was handing out the arms to nigeria leaflet was defineatly trying to get people to follow him.... most massers act like sheep and will follow on not realising... I think the political groups that have nothing to do with environment/cycling shouldn't be leading other people to unwittingly demonstrate about something they don't know about, e.g. it looked like there were over 400 anti-shell demonstrators at the HQ on southbank - in fact there were less than 40 with 360 followers-on. I appreciate that everyone goes to CM for their own reason, but come on folks the scene at Islington Shell Petrol station was out of order.


    A strange CM this one, we left W'Loo bridge and headed along the south bank to Shell UK's HQ and the whole mass ended up in the square right in the middle of the building. The only people to hear us were some bewildered looking window cleaners on a crane.!

    The mass then headed over westminster bridge round parliment sq and then up whitehall and then up to angel/islington. I counted the mass at a pedestrian crossing near UCL - 424 people - cool.

    Skip the rest, Upper street Shell station. The mass ended up at a shell station in Islington. By this time the police helicopter was spiralling above our heads. At first, the mass diverted itself through the petrol station causing a small amount of trouble. Then things got stupid/dangerous.

    The mass divided: the people out to cause trouble invaded the petrol station chaining them selves to pumps, the rest stood well back on the street keeping out of the way.

    Then a Ford Granada tried to edge it's way through the mass only to be met with the throng of massers moving back from the petrol station. The granada then proceeded to rev up it's engine and rammed 3 cyclists narrowly missing myself. The car then stalled and the driver (wearing a jacket with L.B.I. letters on it - what does this stand for?) was hauled out and punched a cm'er in the face. A fight broke out and a bikerpoliceman lost his sense of humour and roughly put the driver back in his car. I was very close at this point - the motorbikecop said "just calm the f*ck down you stupid ba5tard..." to the driver. Then the cops came in force in paddy wagons to clear the petrol station. A girl was resisting and was arrested. When I say resisting - I mean that she was laying punches right left and centre and so the police got quite rough in taking her away.. The heli-cop-ter came down really low and the not-so-anarchist cm'ers stood back even more and watched. Then a cop-evil-kenival-motorbike jumped the kerb and broke his sump/exhaust sending a spray of oil over the forecourt throwing the copbiker sideways nearly taking out some cops and cm'ers.

    After all that excitement - the cm broke up and I ended up in a group being led to a pub where a benefit was being held for a courier who was knocked down by a truck turning left. The heli-cop-ter even hovered over the pub for a while....

    Wierd things:

    1. There were two girls from 'reclaim the streets' who had angels wings taped to their duffle coats...why? and they walked the whole time...
    2. The guy on the raleigh chopper mk 2.0 told me he had done nearly 60mph on it.!!
    3. A guy on the Strand started ranting at us and generally getting upset. I went up to him and asked if he minded explaining himself. "You stupid people, you are holding up technology...etc.." I replied holding my pro~flex in the air - "This is technology - this is the future" - I think he got the message.
    4. When everyone went into the shell building on the strand - the sound in the tunnelly bit was phenominal, amplified beyond belief...
    5. When the guy with the courier trolley bike played 'I like driving in my car...' and other driving related stuff..

    We left the South Bank at about 6.15pm.

    First stop was at the Shell building on the South Bank (we went into the courtyard - paved - stopped for a while, then left again via the car access road to the car park). Then round the big roundabout onto Westminster Bridge, round Parliament Square, up Whitehall (slowed down here because the mass got stretched out round Parliament Square) via Trafalgar Square into The Strand, stopped at Shells' corporate headquarters forecourt (on the Strand) for a few minutes (some chanting, noise making, bike lifting) then up Kingsway, round Russell Square, up to the Euston Road, east towards Kings Cross.

    Halfway along (outside the Shaw Theatre) a couple of cars tried to break into the mass at a set of traffic lights, damaged a couple of bikes, and were inevitably surrounded by other bikes. Could have been a nasty moment, and the first police who were there almost exacerbated it, but a cycle cop took charge and told the two cars in the road that they could leave by the immediately adjacent road to the left (and when one tried to continue along the Euston Road was quick to get the driver to go left).

    The ride then proceeded past Kings X along Pentonville Road to the Angel, where it commemorated a cyclist who had been killed there.

    I left before this because I live in West London and I wasn't sure how far east they were proposing to go.

    Three observations:

    1. I personally don't have problems with CM protesting against Shell, not because I'm a catch-all kind of left wing activist (or whatever the phrase was) but because it seems to me that the deaths of Ken Saro-Wiso (and the other Ogonis who were hanged) are as much a product of the great car culture as those of the cyclists who are killed on Britain's roads, and for all their protests Shell continue to promote the car culture, and acquiesce in political decisions which help it along). But I'm not sure that the objective was very well communicated; at the first stopping point, which is not labelled "Shell" there were people near me asking why we'd stopped there (and being told by those around them).

    2. The reason why the CM was heading towards the Angel wasn't very well communicated either. If I'd known we were going there to mark the death of the cyclist I would have stayed with the ride rather than peeling off at Kings X.

    3. The ride wasn't very well disciplined; people didn't seem very good at filling in gaps, unsure about what to do at lights, etc, and therefore cars were let in too often (and hence the incident on the Euston Road). Ironically, the police, especially the motorcycle cops, seemed more committed to keeping the ride together than the cyclists were sometimes.
    I don't know why this is: it may be because there are smaller numbers than there were in the summer, and therefore easier to get spread out, or perhaps because CM has been attracting new cyclists over the autumn who aren't so familiar with the protocol.

    Hope this helps.


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    December 1995

    The London one (29/12/95) didn't exactly not happen, but then again, no-one could say it really happened, either. About 30 people eventually turned up (about 1/30th the October count!) and not even the police appeared particularly interested. We did a few circuits of Waterloo roundabout, Trafalgar Square, and some little roundabout near Leicester Square, but nothing much. I left after an hour due to a broken brake cable, hoping to get back home before the shops shut. I didn't :-(

    David Burbridge

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    March 1996

    A veritable sunny afternoon suddenly turned into a cold rain at a quarter to five - typical. This didn't stop the masses from turning up at all. There was a film crew at Waterloo Bridge filming wet cyclists arriving - I spoke to the camerawoman who was saying that this was great commitment and would be included in their documentry...

    The mass headed off through town on a pretty well standard route through town - numbers were roughly 450-500 this time around.

    Highlights from Friday:

    Chris from 'Charm' handed out new leaflets. One idea is to have a gathering at the start to discuss routes so that some sort of plan can be drawn up of roughly where we are going to go and to organise a place to STOP. Nice idea - because at the moment we just ride till the last 12 ppl go to the pub.

    looking forward to the bright summer nights..


    The funniest thing about this CM ride was that it caused a whole bunch of cycling industry people who got stuck in a traffic jam trying to get to the MBUK awards ceremony!


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    April 1996

    Friday was sunny and hot in London until about 5:15, then it became overcast and dull. Fortunately it never quite rained though. We got to the meet up point a little early, so had lots of time to chat, blow up tyres and buy a new whistle from the entrepreneurial chap selling them.

    We finally set off at about 6:15, I think, up to the roundabout for a couple of laps just to get everyone together. I'd brought a camera this time, so this seemed a good point to get shots of people setting off while we were still all fresh and together.

    We then headed up past Waterloo and on to Westminster Bridge. The police were mainly helpful, though stopping all traffic does tend to make the mass move a bit quicker, which is not really the aim. There were, as usual, a couple of stroppy officers - more on them later. We crossed the bridge and went round parliament square and along the embankment road. The road here is terrible at the best of times, but riding very slowly seems to make it worse. The road works going on don't help either (and no, they're not making cycle lanes !).

    We headed up Northumberland Avenue to Trafalgar square, where we did a half circuit before someone took us up a back road, which was far too small and made us all have to stop for a while. Getting back into the main road also caused grief. A chap riding in a tin war helmet managed to get himself hit by a bus, no damage. He was then stopped by one of our less friendly officers of the law and accused of cycling dangerously. The officer in question however found it quite hard (to say the least) to speak into his radio while surrounded by a couple of hundred whistle blowing cyclists. After he'd given up trying to call for assistance the mass then started to chant "Let him go, let him go ..." over and over. I was up at the front at this point, almost back on Trafalgar square, trying to keep us moving, and get the mass back together. No such luck however, we had to spend about 15 minutes waiting for this officer to see the light of day and let our man go free. Hurrah.

    We managed to get going again, along the top of Trafalgar square, but we were so fragmented by now that it took all of 20 minutes to get everyone back together before we could set off up Charing Cross Road. In the meantime some BMX riders amused us and the tourists by doing wheelies along the top of Trafalgar square. Very mature I'm sure!

    We got going again up Charing Cross Road. Those of us at the front then decided that Oxford street would be a good route - lots of publicity, lots of shoppers to see us, and leading nicely into Marble arch. Unfortunately our other "nice" upholder of the peace decided that Oxford street was not for us. As I turned in there (still near the front at this stage), he shouted at me to not go down Oxford street. When I politely asked him why he charmingly told me to fuck off and not ask questions. I asked again why I couldn't go down there, to be told that he was a police officer (yes I had spotted that), and that he'd said no, so I couldn't go down there. Well explained eh ? I asked if the road was closed, he said it was, so I enquired as to why he was letting cars come out of the road if it was closed. He told me that the road was only closed to me ! Nice, so I asked if other cyclists could go down there, at which point he couldn't cope any more and had to return to shouting abuse at me. Nice to know that everyone is so friendly and articulate, isn't it.

    We gave up on that one, didn't want to upset him any more did we ?

    The mass had again fragmented a lot, some people were still back in Trafalgar square by all accounts, so we had to slow down a lot. In fact when we got to the Euston Road, we had to stop for 15 minutes until everyone caught up. I had a good chat with a police biker and a couple of cycle couriers, all very friendly.

    When everyone had caught up we headed off left down the Euston Road. The exit of the underpass was a bit worrying, but once a couple of bikes had got into the right hand lane, the traffic had to stop. We got lots of cheers from pedestrians on this stretch. Very encouraging. People sitting outside pubs also shouted encouragement. We got hassled by a chap in a flash car who claimed to be a surgeon on his way to an important operation, so we let him get through.

    Coming down Edgware road was one of my favourite bits - I use that route quite a lot when the mass isn't there to make it a nice experience. It's such a different feeling knowing that you can cycle happily along and not get some idiot running into you in a car.

    We did a circuit of marble arch, where we got some bemused looks from people outside one of the hotels. A pedestrian stopped and asked me if we were racing. Yes, 600 people (by this time) riding along at 4MPH - must be a race! I calmly explained to her - "Oh, good idea", she said.

    Park Lane was fun. It's normally completely chocka with cars and a nightmare for the cyclist who doesn't know that there's a cycle path up the side of Hyde Park. (or who can't work out how to get onto it because there's no access from HPC !) We had some abuse from a mini driver who got stuck behind us. He reckoned that as he was driving a mini he should be allowed through. Strange, no-one really seemed to understand that one.

    The police at this point came up to the front and told us that they'd be off soon. They suggested that we should end the mass in the middle of Hyde Park Corner on the grassy bit, which sounded ideal. They went off in front of us to have a chat or something. We got to Hyde Park Corner to see about 20 police bikers sitting in the middle waiting for us. I think they were ready to stop the traffic to let us into the middle bit. The mass seemed to have other ideas though, and ended up doing a complete circuit of the roundabout instead of heading for the middle bit. We were down to about 100 people at this point, and getting less by the minute. Someone suggested heading off down piccadily, which seemed to go down fairly well.

    I left at this point as I was starving - must remember to bring something to eat next time.

    Apart from the incidents around Trafalgar square I reckon this was one of the better masses. Huge numbers of people turned up, and managed to stay fairly well together for most of the way round. Not too much aggro either - I think more people are becoming aware of what it's about and realize that to try to antagonize the mass will get them nowhere.


    PS - anyone fill me in on what happened after I left ?

    report from London CM this evening...

    set off about 6.10pm, anything from 300 to 500 people when I left Trafalgar Square about 7.10pm, there were 50 to 100 people defiantly stopping traffic and seemingly going nowhere.

    I heard someone saying that this was the worst CM that they'd ever been on. certainly I have never seen a mass disintegrate into chaos so quickly. Does anyone know what exactly happened? I met one guy on the way home who had gone up Regent Street, and then realised that no-one was following. So where did everyone else go, and why?


    On previous masses the police strategy seems to have been to let the mass do its thing, but keep it together, and prevent motorists from barging in (which slows things down considerably). On this occasion, there were fewer motorbike cops, and also a lot of police vans flying around, sirens wailing, raising the temperature. As a result, everything got more confrontational, typified by the incident at Charing Cross Road/Cambridge Circus when a group of cyclists came to a standstill for ten minutes, giving a blocked (and irate) taxi driver gyp because he'd tried to push into the mass, and had left hardly any space for the rest to pass. This had two effects: motor traffic trying to cross Cambridge Circus was held up for much longer than it otherwise would have been, and the mass developed a large gap.

    If the cops aren't helping, I think that people should just move on and allow others behind them to take their place, diffusing any tension that has developed between individuals. CM should be a non-violent demonstration of the joy of cycling in a (temporarily) car free London; motorists may provoke, but it's ultimately stronger to meet anger with politeness.


    I would like to counter some of the negative accounts of last Friday's CM.

    Yes it did disintegrate as it went up Charing Cross Road and Tottenham Court Road where there were some ugly incidients. On the other hand because Central London was so snarled up anyway the Mass was frequently brought to a stop which allowed a lot of interaction between the Mass and pedestrians and car users, much of which was light hearted but with people making their point.

    After joining Euston Rd and turning west along Marylebone Rd the Mass reformed very effectively and dealt magnificently with the flood of traffic coming up from the underpass. The later move down to Marble Arch, Park Lane and Hyde Park Corner was a bit ambitious so late on in the ride when numbers had dropped off somewhat and the police m/cycles had withdrawn (they warned the front of the ride of their intention).

    The disintegration seemed to be initiated by the perfectly ethical step of stopping to allow pedestrians to cross at the frequent crossings in Charing Cross Road. The break up was compounded by the fracas at Cambridge Circus and things got even messier in Tottenham Court Road due to roadworks and single lane traffic. It was here that some car occupants of a decidedly thuggish disposition bundled out and assaulted a number of cyclists, having perceived apparently small knots of cyclists blocking their way. A route to avoid for the moment perhaps.

    I would favour some concensus route planning before setting off. How though do we then respond to approaches from the police to divulge our route? Regular faces are increasingly approached by the police for this information, ostensibly so that emergency services can be re-routed to avoid the Mass.

    CM seems destined to grow very large this summer and a degree of consensus would be desirable on some important issues.

    David Job

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    May 1996

    Tonight's Critical Mass ride in London was the best I've been on. The weather helped, especially as the wind dropped by the time we set off. At the front of the ride was the Rinky-Dink human powered mobile sound system. It was quite a sight with the four pepole pedalling to drive it along plus an adult and child powering the electrical generator.

    After leaving the river we went up to Waterloo roundabout and on to the bridge. There we stopped. After a short speech someone laid a wreath in the middle of the southbound traffic on the site where an unknown cyclist was killed by a bus on 7th May. (If anyone knows who he or she was and the circumstances of the death please let me know - this one needs further investigation).

    From then on the mood lightened, helped by the music. The route was circuitous, once around the Aldwych then the Strand, once around Trafalgar Square then Whitehall, once around Parliament Square and Westwards along the river. At this point a section of the mass was making nazi salutes. This didn't seem appropriate to what we are about, somebody explained that they had spied Michael Portillo being driven back from Smith Square.

    We went south of the river and out on Wandsworth Road. It was wonderful to ride the Mass along a largely residential main road. People were outside pubs and cafes or in the street with their families. Kids with bikes came out to join us, it was very good humoured and relaxed. I saw very little confrontation, our police escorts only got upset when too many cyclists took up both sides of the road, mostly we stayed on the left. One car with a young driver cut across the pavement and tried to rush through the Mass, the driver jumped out to argue but when he saw there were 6-700 of us and only 4 of them he changed his mind and reversed at speed.

    Finally after several hours and almost nine miles we arrived at the Eco-City (former Guiness site) by Wandsworth Bridge. The locals made us very welcome. Some people settled down for more music and dancing among the gardens while others set out for home in all directions as the light began to fade.

    Overall it was a really uplifting begining to Bike Week 96.

    Charlie Lloyd

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    Last modified: 1-Jun-96