Critical Mass

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There's a movement that should be helped to grow.
It's called Critical Mass. It was created in San Francisco in 1992. Then it spread to the whole world. It's has even taken off in Italy. Where the most beautiful cities in the world have been reduced to 4 wheel drive parks and deposits of fine dust. With buildings beautifully coloured lead black.
Critical Mass is simple: cyclists make a weekly appointment to meet in Italian cities to take them back by blocking the traffic. In Milan, Critical Mass meets every Thursday at 10:00pm in Piazza dei Mercanti just a stone's throw from the Duomo.
The other evening, Piero Ricca participated in their gathering.
"There were people of all ages. Many have become friends thanks to their common passion for the bicycle. There was a contagious joy, the desire to stay together in a simple way. A rarity in today's Milan. Not being a slave to the metal box makes you feel better mentally.
I interviewed some of these people. Then one of them invited me onto a sort of 4 wheeled drive with pedals. And we went round the city for a couple of hours.
The local police, very discreetly escorted us. Some people handed out flyers against the incivility on 4 wheels. Others played music that was heard via stereo speakers attached to the bicycle frame.
At the end there was even a picnic in the square, with a toast and an exchange of email addresses. Much more fun than a happy hour in a fashionable venue. It wasn't possible to miss out on a confrontation with the owner of a black motorized 4 wheel drive.
Visibly over-excited he got out of his machine, furious because of an issue of who gives way to whom.
He started off against one of the group and then he understood that he wasn't going to get any benefits and he retreated into his starship to shout expletives. But it wasn't his fault. It's the advertising that indoctrinates car drivers. The PM10 public administrations love them.
But they are the past. Our cities are to be returned to the people."
The joke, written large, of the cycle paths that don't exist or that suddenly stop or that are blocked by a mass of metal.
The joke, written large, of the tiny little traffic lights with tiny bicycles in green and red and queues of cars, the pavements for pedestrians full of cars, the slipways for people in wheelchairs, clogged with cars. Most of our Italian cities are made to measure for bicycles.
They are not Los Angeles. They are Florence, Verona, Parma. Let's give the right of way to cyclists and not to the oilies and the automobile constructors.
Let's invade the city with bicycles with Critical Mass in the city. Today in Milan, tomorrow in the whole of Italy. Employee mayors, go to the office on a bicycle. We want to see you on a bicycle. To give a good example.
The Critical Mass appointments.

Posted by Beppe Grillo at 07:45 PM in | Comments (4)
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Fantastic Critical Mass. Keep up the good work!

Posted by: Perfida Albione | January 23, 2007 06:45 PM


During the time I've lived here, none of the cyclists I've seen in the Castelli Romani area use a bicycle for 'practical travel' that is, for work, shopping, etc. I wish that they did, but given how the present 'Tor Vergata bicyclists' behave on the road, I doubt that I will ever see the construction of a bicycle lane here.

The 'Tor Vergata bicyclists' are the 30-50 bicyclists bicycling in the circles around and near my workplace every morning. They look like professional racers, but those dilettanti riders in their brightly colored clothes have a bit of an attitude. When the Tor Vergata bicyclists ride, they *take* the road, giving no room to the cars, and generally promote an atmosphere where everyone, cars and bicyclists alike, are fighting each other for the little available space. Instead of adopting an tactical approach of sharing the space with a bit of commonsense and understanding and good will, the Tor Vergata bicyclists promote an atmosphere of aggression, daring the car drivers to hit them. I'm a cyclist too, and I don't like the impression that these other cyclists give to the car drivers. Would you want to contribute for to build a new bike lane to help such aggressive dudes? I wouldn't.

However, the Tor Vergata bicyclists redeemed themselves in my eyes one late evening in summer 2004. On that particular balmy summer night, I was riding my bicycle home from work, and was nearly there, at the traffic light in Frascati, waiting at the front of a line of cars to turn left. Another bicyclist of the dilettanti variety pulled up next to me, to also turn left. When the light changed, I moved to go, and the other bicyclist immediately grabbed me and yelled NO! Seconds later a car raced through our intersection, running the red light (as is usual here, but I forgot). If he didn't grab me, then I would be a flattened pancake and surely not writing this message now.

Posted by: Amara Graps | January 20, 2007 09:21 AM


You're excused!

Posted by: piero sanna | January 19, 2007 08:33 PM


My job requires me to have a car.
I would me more than happy to get rid of one of our 2 cars but now is not possible because of a number of different reasons.
I hope one day we will get more public transportation, only then the people will trust leaving their vehicles at home and get more happy rather than be aggravated from parking spot hunting, insurance, accidents and pollution.

I have one little sin, though: my motorbike.
And I will try until the last moment to keep it because it makes me feel free.

Posted by: Giovanni Principe | January 19, 2007 08:26 PM


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