Last night I participated in Aberdeen’s second ever critical mass bike ride. Technically I believe it’s not quite accurate to say it was the second as I’ve heard from members of the cycling community that it was previously done in the late 1990s. This was therefore the second in a recent resurrection after more than 20 years.
What is a critical mass you ask? No, I’m not referring to the amount of material needed to sustain nuclear fission. It’s a form of direct action or a social movement to promote cycling. It’s a grass-roots, informal arrangement to meet at a particular time and place and go for a bike ride. In this way it’s not a protest and therefore local authorities don’t need to be notified as you wouldn’t normally have to inform local authorities if you want to go for a bike ride. But by arranging to meet as a group it serves two purposes:
- People who might otherwise be afraid to cycle on roads can participate knowing that there’s safety in numbers.
- It shows local authorities what mass cycling looks like and this is after all at the heart of public policy .. at least that’s what they say on paper. The Scottish government specifically refers to planning and designing for “mass cycling by all kinds of people on all kinds of bikes”. This is a direct quote from the Scottish government’s Cycling by Design 2021 guidelines.
We must plan and design for mass cycling by all kinds of people on different types of bike. Cycling infrastructure should no longer be something that we
provide on the road network to only be used by the same people who are currently cycling. Instead it needs to be something that can be used by everyone.
What did I think of it?
It was terrific! I thoroughly enjoyed it all. There was a very jovial atmosphere despite the terrible news we’ve had recently in Aberdeen with the complete lack of cycling provision in their latest plans … but I’ll save this rant for another post.
Cycling with lots of people is fun. It did feel safer and it was so good to chat to people on the way and to see so many like-minded folks who just want to get from A to B on their bicycles safely. We are mothers, fathers, grandmothers, grandfathers, daughters, sons, sisters and brothers.
Critical mass is on the last Friday of every month now in Aberdeen, meeting at 6pm outside Marischal College. There’s a map of the route and a video on the Critical Mass Aberdeen website and a Twitter account with the latest information.
The Press & Journal were there last night and wrote a great piece about it in We want to have a cycling city. They took a photo of me in my Halloween outfit.
I hope to see you all at next month’s critical mass on November 25th!