Sunday, 30 May 2010

Critical Mass

Friday night saw London cyclists gathering and going for a slow cycle ride round the city. I caught up with Critical Mass when they were in the banking district and joined them for a couple of miles.  As I have an interest in Slow living and thinking I particularly enjoy this free-for-all slow ride.  With no leaders and no direction the mass rolls its own direction, with the occasional splinter group breaking off.

When the mass reaches a junction some riders will cork it, blocking the oncoming traffic for the mass to pass.  I find the reaction of motorists very interesting - some turn off their engines, sit back and enjoy the spectacle of hundreds of cyclists pottering past them and some get very irate, shouting, getting out of their cars and sometimes trying to drive through the mass.  This kind of aggression feels odd to me as generally the mass will pass in under 10 minutes and to me 10 minutes does not seems like a critical amount of time to 'lose'.  However sat in the comfort of a vehicle a sense of (unnecessary?) urgency or disempowerment (as the motor vehicle is normally king of the road) seems to overcome some of the corked drivers and they become angry.

Within Slow principles is the thought of enjoying time to sit back and relax, and this unexpected moment of enforced stillness appears to me to be the perfect opportunity for those motorists to take a surprise break from their day.  Slow Food UK says "May suitable doses of guaranteed sensual pleasure and slow, long-lasting enjoyment preserve us from the contagion of the multitude who mistake frenzy for efficiency."  I think this little break from everyday motoring qualifies as a sensual pleasure, both for the driver who waits and watches and for the cyclist who can enjoy the ride in comparative safety and good company.

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