London September critical mass - pics and short report

sept 30 critical mass. police allow motorist to leave the scene of an assault and refuse to take details despite witnesses. did you witness the assault?

the balmy indian summer weather ensured a good turn-out for the critical mass bike ride last friday evening, and hundreds of cyclists enjoyed a joyous ride round london despite the occasional psychopathic motorist and a couple of crazy cops. the critical mass bicycle ride, now in in its 17th year, takes place on the last friday of each month throughout the year.

the critical mass bicycle ride, now in in its 17th year, takes place on the last friday of each month throughout the year. cyclists meet from about 6pm on the south bank under waterloo bridge near the national film theatre, and normally set off on a ride by about 7.

the ride has no official organisers, and the route is never agreed in advance, relying instead on a 'critical mass' of front runners persuading the rest of the crowd to follow in any particular direction.

on friday, the convoy of four or five hundred cyclists (also including an increasing contingent of skateboarders) headed north over the bridge, and unusually took the underpass into kingsway before heading west and on to oxford street.

as the main purpose of the mass is to celebrate human propulsion over carbon, reclaim the streets, and show that cyclists have as many rights as drivers, it is sometimes a little contentious when the route includes oxford street so early in the evening, as it mostly disrupts public transport rather than general traffic (which isn't allowed onto oxford street until later in the evening). however, the mass kept up the pace and only stopped briefly at oxford circus before heading to marble arch and down park lane.

by this time, cyclists had spread out a little and so it was harder to take all four lanes of the road. so despite the neon sign at the start of park lane warning motorists 'delays possible', some of them were frustrated to find cyclists in their path (even though they were quite likely to get held up again at a traffic jam at the south end of the highway), and among these motorists there was a police car, whose driver recklessly kept changing lanes without signalling, and deliberately cut across cyclists forcing them to veer to the left, and seriously risking injury.

further down park lane, there had been some sort of altercation, and a woman claimed she had been assaulted and pushed over by a motorist. the police car had stopped and the officers got out, but instead of investigating the assault, one of them was making comments loudly that "you cyclists are pests". the young woman, along with witnesses to the assault, kept telling the police that she wanted to make a complaint and press charges, but the cops just ignored her, returning to their vehicle and winding their windows up. they also for a while refused to give any of their own details until several cyclists surrounding the car kept asking for their badge numbers, with which they eventually complied. they however refused to take any details of the alleged incident. the young woman is considering an official police complaint. if anyone witnessed the assault or took pics/video, please contact me and i'll put you in touch. i only have the clip of the police ignoring her requests.

sometimes after an incident like this, the mass gets stretched out or split, but this time, the front runners were cycling round and round the duke of wellington arch at hyde park corner, so everyone reconvened and hundreds of bicycles once again rode together east along piccadilly, completely trapping a red diplomatic police car at one point, and on into piccadilly circus, trafalgar square (where a couple of cyclists jumped into the fountains to cool off), and down whitehall to parliament square. there, one rider briefly hitched a lift on the back of a lorry before we all headed up to buckingham palace, back to hyde park corner and then down to sloane square.

two hours in, and although numbers were beginning to lessen, when i left the ride there were still at least a hundred riders heading west down the king's road.

the next ride will be 28th october.

http://www.criticalmasslondon.org.uk/main.html
More pictures and videos at http://london.indymedia.org/articles/10323

Check out if there's a Critical Mass in your town - or start one