Critical Mass in Milan

Critical Mass is a sort of spontaneous grouping of urban cyclists. It started in the States and in recent years has also sprung up in Italy. What’s the goal? To promote sustainable mobility in cities and establish the right of cyclists to use the roads in safety alongside cars.

 

Milan. Every Thursday evening, a small bunch of heroes and dreamers gather at the Loggia dei Mercanti, a stone’s throw from the Piazza del Duomo, ready to invade the streets on an assortment of different bikes.

Many are fixies, of course, but there are also a lot of vintage frames with leather saddles. The same sort you can usually spot on the white beaten tracks of the Eroica cycling event.

Passing by there at around ten in the evening takes you back to the ‘50s when two wheels were still the primary means of transport in cities, before the onslaught of traffic, smog and gridlocks.

Nowadays, we look at our gridlocked polluted cities and we hardly bat an eyelid. As if there were nothing wrong with one mass of cars blocking another mass of cars.

So what about a bicycle jam? Well, that might throw us. Actually, it would probably leave us speechless. Our world would be turned upside down: bicycles blocking cars.

This is what Thursday’s critical mass has in mind. Its mission is to promote our right to travel safely alongside cars. With the same amount of consideration, respect and the same rights. Including the right to block the traffic if there happens to be a swarm of us travelling together.

Critical Mass is a spontaneous movement. It is an “organised coincidence” which first occurred in 1992 in San Francisco when some urban bikers started to meet regularly and ride in groups through the city streets. The idea of bike transport being a better and more sustainable way to get around gradually spread.

In Italy, taking part in a critical mass event isn’t just a Milan experience. Many other cities have followed suit: Rome, Turin, Bologna, Brescia, Cagliari, Bari…and in fact it was in Bari on the weekend of the 26-28 May that the Intergalactic 2017 Critical Mass took place – a kind of world mass gathering. Three days of celebrations for cyclists all over the world, proving that another kind of mobility really is possible!

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