Campaigning / Events

Critical Mass

I’ve attended a few critical mass events and each time I feel a sense of internal conflict and last Friday’s event was no different.

  • Do the other people share the same aims as me?
  • What does it achieve?
  • Does it just give a bad impression of cyclists?
  • Why do I see none of the other people who attended at the City Council Cycle Forum meetings?
  • Does any of that matter?

20130614_185100The group of people who attended were not greatly varied, out of 20 or so I believe there were three women and one minority, the rest were white men although of a good age range, from about 20 to mid sixties. There was a music system carried on a little trailer pumping out protest songs and a few guys drinking beer while riding!

20130614_185048Most people weren’t wearing helmets and were in regular clothes and on a variety of bikes. We set off at 1830 from the Chinese arch for an amble around town, the roads weren’t too busy. Across some of the big junctions the ‘leaders’ would block the cross traffic to allow everyone to get across together. On Dale St a few drivers kindly gave way to allow us all to pass while they were trying to manouevre. The one or two who didn’t got a talking to.


The ride ended for me at a rain soaked Pier Head, I think the others were carrying on to a pub.


Ultimately I was a bit disheartened, I saw nobody there from the Merseyside Cycle Campaign or attendees of the cycle forum, if the extent of the group’s political ambition is turning up once a month, making a noise and getting in the way of drivers, then it’s not really for me. To be honest the vast majority of drivers were extremely courteous and patient with a group of cyclists whose only purpose was to slow them down and make a nuisance, I actually felt myself sympathising with them.

I’d love to hear about other people’s opinions and experiences of Critical Mass events.


6 thoughts on “Critical Mass

  1. I am a member of the Merseyside Cycling Campaign. I have been to one Critical Mass ride years ago in London, and that was a critical mass with hundreds of cyclists, so the only save way for the group was to ‘break the rules’ and cycle through red lights, block of cross traffic, cycle on all lanes and so on. The Liverpool Critical Mass ride is not ‘critical’ – that is my first point. My second point is that I see these rides like the one in Liverpool as purely confrontational, not achieving anything but antagonizing car drivers and public transport users. It is not my idea of having a good time on a bicycle.

    I think more can be achieved by the ‘BIke-to-Work’ ride this morning (17.6.13) when a group of us met in Sefton Park to cycle into town, to work, in a group. I think we were showing that there is an alternative to sitting in the car to get to work in morning rush hour.

  2. Critical Mass has been running in the UK for how many years, 10, 15. more? So clearly the (dis)organisers should be able to point to some evidence of improvements as result of these rides?

  3. My experience was identical (including the rain!). I went once, last year sometime, but felt uneasy and never went again. I’m sure there’s a time/place for Critical Mass rides but, sadly, I don’t see anything constructive in the monthly Liverpool gathering.

  4. I have been on one CM ride in Liverpool and loved it. Whilst it is fair to say that not many people wore helmets or hi-vis I must remind previous posters that there is no requirement for adult cyclists to do so on public highways in the same way as there is no requirement for drivers of most classes of motor vehicles to do so. Everyone had lights switched on and reflectors attached as is required for night time cycling. I found the early march group of around 15 cyclists to be curtious and polite to other road users and likewise, asks from one or two impatient cabbies other road users were curious towards us. There was no drinking of alcohol (if I did see anyone drinking alcohol whilst in charge of a vehicle, motorized or not, then I would not hesitate to call the police as a matter of course).
    Afterwards they’re were libations for around 80% of the group in a couple of pubs off leece street whilst the poor for of us continued on our journeys alone.

    Liverpool critical mass is certainly not at’ critical mass’ yet but perhaps the shocking state of many of the roads and the mayors wonderful idea to decommission the city’s bus lanes (which were also shared cycle lanes in many cases) could help to explain that.

    Liverpool is a small City with far too many cars and not enough bicycles even after the token gesture of ‘city bike’ scheme. I am not a member of any cycling forums, instead I enjoy cycling and furthermore find the protection and visability of cycling in a group to be comforting, perhaps it is time to get involved with a local cycling campaigning group in addition to riding at CM Liverpool. Something that I agree with though is that there is no need for the practice of ‘ corking’ or blocking off junctions to let through any sized group, be out 20 or 2000.

    Perhaps a group should be started in Skelmersdale.. It is all traffic islands there!

  5. Last year I went to a few critical mass rides, It was a mixture of kids, women and men, cycling because they enjoy it. I felt more confident as a cyclist as a result of cycling in a mass of up to 50 cyclists around the city centre streets. We had skaters join us on roller skates and skateboards on one occasion and weve had a paralympic cyclist join us too. I found it good fun and empowering. cyclists out enjoying a ride on a friday evening. We had some colour themed rides too. Maybe the cyclists needing to have fun in a similar group have just drifted away? Ive just started a full time job and dont have the energy anymore, but each to their own…

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