Travellers' Tales: Situation critical

Julian’s first Critical Mass had a carnival feel

Travellers' Tales: Situation critical

Shortly before lockdown, Julian Bentley joined a Critical Mass ride in Nottingham about climate change.

Nottingham Extinction Rebellion had organised the ‘Earth Strike Critical Mass’ ride. It was my first such ride, so I didn’t know what to expect. There were about 60 of us, many under the age of 30 and the majority not wearing cycling kit.

Led by a sound-system bike, a sort of carnival float in bicycle form, we rode onto the inner ring road, slowing down traffic, making our presence felt and the message heard.

We were a colourful mass of pedallers, and the music gave a party-like atmosphere. Passers-by mostly smiled, waved, and cheered.

 Julian Bentley

We were a colourful mass of pedallers, and the music gave a party-like atmosphere. Passers-by mostly smiled, waved, and cheered. Some were curious; I was asked if we were a Brexit protest. Drivers responded well, though one or two had anger issues. Experienced Critical Mass cyclists prevented impatient drivers edging in from side roads. A police cyclist and van also shepherded us.

The pace was slow, about 6-8mph, but speed wasn’t the idea. We rode safely, en masse, and it was a sociable atmosphere. Reporters followed us. We even made the BBC News at One, with the tagline “Two wheeled protest in the city of cycling”.

Some people, even some cyclists, think negatively of mass bicycle rides, but this was a fun event with a serious message. It showed that getting more people on bicycles has benefits for all.

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