On Friday I did what I do every day, I got on my bike and cycled through central London, only this time I did it with a few hundred others. I did it with Critical Mass. This isn’t an organised protest but it does make a point, that riding through London without feeling you’re about to die shouldn’t be something that happens once a month, it should just happen.
Critical Mass survives and grows because it shows us what our lives could be like if we just made it happen. They have no leaders, but every month, they (we) reclaim the streets just by doing something together. We really don’t need to surrender our (publicly funded) streets for the car-owning minority.
The reaction we get from others makes me believe that I’m not alone in thinking this. Cheers from pedestrians and high-fives from bus drivers tell me that people are fed up with the noise and aggression that comes from car ownership. They want their city to enjoyable and safe; they want to appreciate the fact that London is beautiful. Critical Mass is one moment every month where we see, clear as day, that rampant car usage (and the policies that allow it) does nothing for most people.
I know what this sounds like and I know that cynicism is the easiest response, but really it helps no one. Have you never wondered what London would be like without the constant beep-beep of car traffic? What we could do with some of the space we currently hand over for roads and car parks? It’s so easy to dismiss the status quo as something permanent, an inevitable tax on our quality of life but I promise you, it wasn’t for the people of Seoul or Copenhagen and it doesn’t need to be for us. It never does.
You really can change things. You don’t need to wait for Boris to (never) increase the congestion charge or your council to build more cycle lanes. For once a month you can join something that truly makes you feel empowered, so just fucking do it. Get on your bike.