Sunday, 7 March 2010

Critical Mass

Yesterday I took part in Cardiff's recently launched Critical Mass, where a group of cyclists reclaim the streets for whatever reason the feel is appropriate.

I've wanted to take part in one of these for years and was very excited when I heard there was going to be one in Cardiff. Personally, I did it to raise awareness of cyclists rights, that roads are our space too, and cyclists lead the way in sustainable transport despite poor local policy.

Here is a photo of us midway through the ride, I'm not sure who took it so I will credit the Facebook group:

I must say I was totally shocked by the intolerance and aggression of some motorists along the route. 'Holding the line' at the back of the group felt very scary and one driver rammed the cyclist next to me, bending his rear wheel. Lots of angry words were exchanged. Just round the corner, a white van drove over the pavement and into our group, accelerating so fast that the cyclists in front had to almost bail out of the way - otherwise they would have been hit. To top it off, the driver got out of the vehicle brandishing some sort of weapon (I'm not sure exactly what) and nearly attacked one of the participants.

I got some abuse myself toward the end, the car behind me threatening to run me down and shouting dismissively when told he would end up in jail if he did that. Luckily we were approaching red lights which meant the driver could do little, and the police turned up at that point, telling us to leave a clear route because the aggressive response of drivers had nearly caused an accident.

This is a brave act the participants do each month, and I'm grateful to the people who made me feel more comfortable when I was on the front line.

We ended the cycle on the next road and some others spent a long time talking with the police, making sure the dangerous driving we'd seen was reported.
After quite an unnerving experience we decanted to the microbeer festival in Riverside for a more relaxed afternoon!
It is crazy how people will behave when they have an engine in front of them....

1 comment:

  1. Oh dear oh dear oh dear.

    I have to say Sam that critical mass events like this do very little to improve cycle safety. If you block anybody they are going to get angry and treat all cyclists with the same contempt.

    I have been cycling in Cardiff for as many years as I can remember now and I never have any problems at all. You know why? Because I communicate with car users.

    If they are waiting behind them and I feel safe for them to overtake, I gesture to them in order to invite them to do so. If someone gives me room, I raise my hand to thank them. I look behind me as I approach turnings and eyeball the driver as I signal so they know what I am doing. And I never cycle more than two abreast.

    You and your critical mass friends, clearly still have a lot to learn about road diplomacy, and cycling in this city will certainly not improve by you "laying your claim" to the roads. Whatever means of transport we choose, we are all simply just trying to get somewhere.