I am just back from Oxford’s third recent Critical Mass bike ride. And what a fabulous event it was. I loved as we meandered on our bicycles throughout the city which I was born and spent all of my life in or around.
Anyone who knows Oxford will know that the car is king here with congestion and pollution around every corner. So for just one hour on one evening per month, to ride in a group and feel safe as a cyclist in your own city feels exhilarating – although on we all understand that this is how it should be every day.
Critical Mass in Oxford started with just 3 cyclists in December (2019), but last month saw over 90 cyclists take to the city streets and February’s ride, the one which I have just been on saw around 40 – this was really encouraging as it was pelting it down with rain as it had been all day. We were soaked, but in no way did this dampen our spirits.
The concept of Critical Mass has been around for a while now with rides happening all over the globe mostly on the evening of the last Friday of each month.
I was really impressed with how simple the idea was and how easy it seemed to set up a ride and get cyclists to join in. Below is the formula for how the Oxford ride was set up so if you would like to instigate one where you live you’ll have all you need to make it happen
Choose a time and date
I really like the fact that the one in Oxford along with many others internationally is on the last Friday of the month. This is easy to remember.
I also like the fact that it starts at 6:30 pm as this is after the rush hour which is good for two reasons. The first is that it’s generally not comfortable or fun cycling within the traffic. The thing I really love with Critical Mass is the way it seems to just swallow up the whole lane width and as the group steadily moves along, cyclists have time to chat with each other and socialise as they cycle without having to navigate between cars which are stuck in traffic.
The second reason is that if it’s at the same time and date each month and is after rush hour, people (motorists) become aware of the event and can choose in most cases to steer clear of the area. For me, it is important not to upset drivers as this for me is not a direct war on cars, but it is a declaration that we too as cyclists are ‘traffic’ and have a right to use and enjoy the roads of our city just as any road user does.
Choose a start location
In Oxford, Broad Street was chosen as it is wide and seems a reasonably decent place for potentially hundreds of cyclists to meet and mingle before the ride. It is also central to all parts of the city and is on a section on the National Cycle Route so is relatively accessible to all local cyclists – I usually cycle in 7 miles to get to this particular Critical Mass but have met people who came from Bicester, Witney and as far away as Reading to support the Oxford ride.
Decide what you are all about
You’ll need to also write a brief description of what you’re all about as well as adding in the meeting times, date and location. Keep this very simple. Here is what is used in Oxford which is kept to the length of a tweet for simplicity and used on Facebook to promote.
You could adapt this description or start from scratch, but do keep it simple as this will make it a lot easier when it comes to getting the information about the ride out.
Set up social media
Apparently, setting up the Oxford Critical Mass Twitter account and Facebook Page took all of a couple of minutes and using the Critical Mass logo which is easily findable online, this step is the step which really builds the Mass and quickly. There is a great local cycling community on and offline in Oxford so it was just a case of tapping into this great resource. With growing cycling communities up and down the country, it should be easy enough to find like-minded people where you are.
Once the Facebook page is set up. Use the description you’ve written as your page description and as the text for your first post. You can then pin this post to the top of the pages feed (you can do this on Twitter too), so it is the first thing people will see when they visit. Then through the FB page set up an ‘event’ adding your description again, a photo and the time and date you’ve selected.
Here is the event set up for March’s Critical Mass Ride in Oxford to give you some ideas.
Once this is done, you can send the link for your event out on Twitter inviting local cyclists to join the ride. Here is how this was done in Oxford for the January ride.
As with all things, perseverance is a large element of what makes a thing like Critical Mass a success. As I said before, this started 3 months ago in December in the rain with just three cyclists, then 90 on a clear night in January and then 40 odd in February in the rain. As the days get lighter and warmer, more people will come out to join in and this movement will grow.
Keep it real simple… Set a date and time to stick to every month. Write your description and keep it short and to the point. Set up the Twitter account and Facebook page – as well as the FB event page. Get promoting amongst local cyclists – watch it grow!
And most importantly pedal! Go along to your local Critical Mass and enjoy the camaraderie of your fellow cyclists. You’ll make friends and have so much fun and who knows, you may just change the world…
Are you going to set up a local Critical Mass or do you take part in one in your town or city? I’d love to hear all about it in the comments section below.
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