Critical Mass

This article was published in 1996, in Newsletter 6.

What follows is a very positive account of what Critical Mass is. Some people’s experience of CM is more confrontational and stressful than this description suggests. Many motorists, for example, are particularly resentful of the disruption.

It must also be emphasised that the Cycling Campaign isn’t in any way involved with organising Cambridge’s CM. In fact, CM’s are never “organised” by anyone to avoid possible legal problems with the Police.


Dan writes:Critical Mass is a monthly cycle ride for everyone. It started in San Francisco in 1993 and now happens in over 100 cities world-wide every month. The Cambridge event started in earnest in November 1995 and we are expecting over 50 people for the ride on 24th May.

Critical Mass does not have any single aim, everyone who joins in has their own reasons for coming along, but here are some of the main ones:

  • Raising the profile of cycling in villages, towns and cities
  • Campaigning for better provision for cyclists
  • Creating a car-free space in the centre of our cities and communities
  • Having fun
  • Meeting friends
  • Showing off flashy new bikes and clothes
  • Creating a vision and experiencing a possible future
  • Being able to cycle confidently and assertively
  • Highlighting hazardous locations and demanding action to change them

The idea is not to hold up traffic, but to celebrate cycling and look towards a better future. Car drivers do occasionally get stuck behind the procession for a while, but we let them through when it is safe. Critical Mass is just like any other procession, it may inconvenience a few people, but it only happens for less then one hour every month. The reaction of pedestrians is excellent as well, they love seeing relaxed and friendly people back on the streets who are enjoying themselves.

Critical Mass is not an organised event . Turn up with banners, balloons, musical instruments, anything you like to enjoy yourself and put you message across. There is no predetermined route, anyone can suggest ideas and places to visit, such as scenic places, interesting routes, hazardous junctions and a good pub for the finish. We then choose the most popular combination and set off at a comfortable pace for about 40 minutes..

Come along and give Critical Mass a try, everyone is welcome, slow or fast, young or old, campaigner or interested bystander. Cambridge has thousands of cyclists, but we are largely ignored. Join in, raise our profile and help to create a better Cambridge.

The next Critical Mass rides will be at 5.30pm by the lamppost in the middle of Parker’s Piece on 24th May and 28th June