Some of the cyclists of Bengaluru decided to organise an event called ‘Critical Mass’ on the evening of 27th November in the city. They would like to reclaim the roads of their city for cycles and other forms of non-motorised transport.
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All over the world, the Critical Mass (CM) is done on the last Friday of the month. Even though it was a working day, the idea was to spread the message in a live form to a large commuter base. If it were to be on a weekend, it would simply be a weekend leisure ride. CM helps in recognizing the importance of respect that cyclists who commute daily deserve.
The first Critical Mass event was organised on 25th September 1992 in San Francisco, USA. Over the years, citizens of 300-odd cities across the world have embraced the concept. It is known by different names, such as bike-lifting, corking and mass-up in various cities. Some Critical Mass events across the world have participants not only on cycles, but also on skateboards and wheelchairs.For more about Critical Mass see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Critical_Mass.
India is still not convinced about promoting cycling as a means of urban transport but Amsterdam (Netherlands), New York, San Francisco, Chicago and Portland (in USA), London (UK) and Paris (France) boast of a flourishing bicycle culture. There are some Indian cities like Pondicherry, however, where cyclists form a large part of the traffic on the roads.
Bangalore’s maiden Critical Mass started out on rather a damp note, with the rainy weather making the twilight arrive earlier than usual. When I arrived at Lalbagh West Gate, I found several bikers (as these cyclists like to call themselves) already there. Many of them are young men who commute regularly from home to work and back on their cycles, and do long weekend rides for recreation as well at the weekends.
There were a variety of mountain and road bikes that they came riding to the venue on; brand names like "Trek","Merida", and "Strida" spoke of their owners’ commitment to serious cycling. I spoke to several of the young men, and the young woman, Nupur Sista, whose email on the Bangalore Bikers’ egroup had sparked off the whole event. "The momentum just built up," said Prashant Mohanty, who designed the poster for the event (see it at www.bangalore-bikers.googlegroups.com for the logo and details).
It helped that Delhi was also having a Critical Mass event simultaneously. Unfortunately, the Mumbai event was put on hold due to the terror attacks of last week.
One unusual supporter and attendee at the event was Nagendra Babu, the MLA from Mahalakshmi Layout. A keen cyclist himself, he wants to make his constituency the first one in Bangalore to have cycle paths, to popularise cycling among children. Several people who cycle, but not necessarily commute to work, and several non-cyclists, too, came along to show their solidarity with the event.
The police constables posted at Lalbagh took objection to the participants’ cycles being parked on the pavement before they cycled off. As more cyclists arrived, they shifted their starting point to the bus stop just past the Lalbagh West Gate. At about 7 PM, thirty cyclists took off, in single and double file, in orderly fashion, along a route that was only just made up!
The route ultimately taken was: Lalbagh West Gate – JC Road – Hudson Circle – Kasturba Road – Anil Kumble Circle – MG Road – Brigade Road – Residency Road – Bangalore Central – Garuda Mall – Vellara Junction – Adugodi – Forum Mall. The bikers dispersed, finally, at about 8.30 PM
The cyclists of Bangalore hope to make the Critical Mass a regular event, and hope that cyclists of all types will join in and help them succeed in getting the message over to the administration, that cyclists too, matter.
To see a list of other Critical Mass events, visit www.criticalmass.wikia.com⊕