Manchester Cyclogeddon Critical Mass / Papergirl Manchester Mashup


This Friday just gone I went along to the annual Halloween Manchester Critical Mass.

If you’ve never been to or seen a Critical Mass event in action before, essentially it is a mass participation ride that takes place on the last Friday of every month. The start of the route and start time are known in advance: the Manchester ride starts at 6pm outside Central Library. The end point is known only to the organisor/s and the route taken to get there is deliberately slow, random, and circular. The aim of the ride is to draw attention to cyclists’ use of the roads in the city, increasing visibility of cyclists, and celebrating pedal power.

The ride generally draws large numbers of cyclists and, in order to keep the ‘convoy’ of bikes together, participants practice ‘blocking’. If the front of the ride hits a red light, the ride stops obeying normal traffic rules. However, if the lights change whilst the ride is passing through it, the cyclists continue as if one entity. In order to prevent traffic trying to barge their way through the cyclists, more experienced riders block the side roads to prevent motor vehicles disrupting the ride.

This practice prevents the ride from becoming fragmented during the cycle around the often quite bewildering traffic system, maintaining the sense of festival and celebration that Critical Mass seems to promote. But the downside is that it often, not always, angers some drivers. Most are fine, understanding that their inconvieniance will last a few minutes. A lot of drivers wave and show support. However, some can become very irate. One driver got out of his van and became quite agressive during this last ride and it can be very intimidating. The first time I went to Critical Mass I was a bit uncomfortable with the disruptive element of it but since I gave up my bus pass a few years ago and made my Dawes Galaxy my primary mode of transport, I became more aware of the short shrift cyclists get from drivers in big cities like Manchester. I believe that the momentary, monthly, disruption to normal motor traffic is worth it if it helps promote cycling and cyclists.

I’ve been to Critical Mass before (last Halloween in fact) but this year the event hooked up with Papergirl Manchester, an inspiring project from Berlin. The Papergirl project invited artists from around the world to submit artwork that was then exhibited between the 1st and 21st October at Soup Kitchen in the Northern Quarter. The work was then rolled up American paperboy style and handed out during Critical Mass to members of the public free of charge. This is a beautiful idea and added an interactive dimension to the ride between Critical Massers and pedestrians. It was nice to see people excited to get their pieces of art, and I loved the comment from a slightly inebriated Yates’s type saying ‘yeah, but its not really art though, is it?’

This year’s Critical Mass was also kicked off by a special Halloween performance by The Spokes, or The Spooks as they were for the night. Again, this was a fun extra dimension to the evening. While the ride itself was sightly smaller than last year’s, the extra elements were great and people went to town on their Halloween outfits. The end location was The Boathouse in Platt Fields Park, Rusholme. There was a bar, food, music and dozens of home made Halloween lanterns that really finished off the night on a high.

I forgot my blasted camera so the only photographic evidence from the night I have are stolen from a friend’s phone uploads. I’m a mad scientist and that thing next to me is my human/worm hybrid.

Critical Mass / Papergirl MCR

Images by Hannah Wood.


Manchester Critical Mass

Papergirl Manchester

The Spokes

2 Responses to “Manchester Cyclogeddon Critical Mass / Papergirl Manchester Mashup”

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