The first time i joined Critical Mass was probably back in 2003 in Manchester, UK. I remember its exciting times when 150 cyclists joined and its quiet times when the attendance was 3 people (a ginger boy who fancied my ex, his silent best friend who became an extrovert once on the internet) and I; usually those critical mass rides were under the Mancunian clouds. Despite the uneasiness, of such situations I always felt critical mass was an important part of the cycling revolution. An autonomous group that "celebrates" and "promotes" the bike and acknowledges the need for change; the car culture and some drivers' "ownership" of the roads was and still is something i dislike. But I also felt that to truly incorporate the bicycle in cities, the "mainstream" had to embrace it, and i have been unsure whether critical mass could always reach the mainstream.
On Friday 30th July 2010, the same evening as the July London Critical Mass, cyclist (and London Mayor) Boris launched the Cycle Hire scheme, which i think will make cycling a more mainstream activity: we have suit-wearing mayor and chic celebrities, and hire bike docks taking over the city! The great thing about London's Cycle Hire is that it hasn't been done half-heartedly: 400 docking stations and 6,000 cycles is impressive.
...but something leaves a bitter taste! Boris's self-branded "cycling revolution" comes with a Barclays branding, and as you can see in the photo below people have already responded to the Barclays branding (click photo)
Barclays has also managed to paint the city in Barclays blue as the Cycle Highways are also sponsored by Barclays. Blogger London Cyclist highlights the Barclays take over: "The £25 million Barclays paid will give them branding on the bicycles, maintenance support vehicles and on the uniforms of maintenance staff. As well as on all marketing and communications."
So, maybe this is not the Cycling Revolution we were expecting...rather another corporate win despite their unethical record...
"Barclays is listed as the company most heavily embroiled in weapons manufacture and trading" John Hilary (War On Want's executive director)
(Thank you Mordecai for the photo above)