- Q: What is Bici Crítica madrileña?
- A: It's Madrid critical mass. We're a group of riders that get together every last Thursday of the month in Cibeles, by the Post Office building, at 20:00h. We ride our bikes on a daily basis and once a month we pedal together in an organized coincidence, a celebration of an alternative and more friendlier means of transport, a vindication of another way of moving around and living the city.
- Q: What is a critical mass?
- A: It's a march --a monthly cyclists celebration held in many cities around the world to celebrate and champion the bike as a mean of transport. IThe idea is to have fun while we stand up for our right to safe city riding. It's some sort of fun vindication --to stand up for our rights to safe city riding.
Some of our mottos are: 'We're not blocking traffic. We are traffic' or 'Ride daily. Celebrate monthly'.
The term originated in the bike documentary 'The Return of the Scorcher' (1992) where it was used to define the accumulation of bike riders in uncontrolled crossroads until a critical mass is reached that allows them to cross safely. That same year in San Francisco critical mass began to be organized. Within a year, 500 cyclists had gathered. From that moment on the movement spread, first through the USA and then to the rest of the world.
- Q: Why Bici Crítica [lit: critical bike]?
- A: Because, from the bike rider perspective, it aims to feature a critical view to the current city planning and urban mobility, based on private motor vehicles. Cars jam the traffic, pollute the air, weary both pedestrians and drivers, and they are expensive and selfish.
- Q: When? Where?
- A: In Plaza de Cibeles, by the Post Office building, every last Thursday of the month at 20:00h (give or take 30 minutes). We say hello, inform the rest of the route and set out. Sometimes we hang out after the ride in order to talk about the ride itself or bikes in general.
- Q: What's the route?
- A: The route varies each time, but it always starts with a ride to Neptuno or Atocha and then back to Cibeles again. If there's time, we ride around Plaza de Cibeles. It's usually a 5 kilometres ride and it takes about an hour to finish it, but everyone is free to join or leave whenever he/she wants.
- Ordinarily, the route is decided on the eve of ride in the distribution list. Anyone can suggest a specific itinerary, which should have some significance (potential bike routes, dangerous areas for riders, reaching an area where urban biking is encouraged...).
- Q: What should I bring?
A: Well, your bike (or skates, if you are a skater) and your enthusiasm. Try carrying some lights since it is dark at 20:00 in the winter.
There are also fun-themed bicicríticas (Halloween, Christmas, Carnival, Spring…) and more political ones (calling for more bike lanes or traffic reduction in our neighborhoods …). In any case, you can wear whatever you want. Some of us like to wear costumes; some don't. Some wear a helmet and reflective vest; some don't. Some carry signs and banners; some don't.
- Q: How do we ride?
A: The only must is to create as tight a bunch as possible, since mass is the watchword. Here are some recommendations: ride thisclose, keep cars outside to increase the group´s safety; ride fast to speed up the tour and minimize the trouble we might cause; if possible use every lane except for the bus lane; traffic lights are obeyed only by the leader. The rest of the riders must try not to stop at crossroads as this breaks up the group; blocking side streets makes this easier -- everyone must help to block side streets and keep the bunch together. Give way to pedestrians as much as possible.
These guidelines are not written in stone but are accepted by the majority. For our own safety it's good to keep the group together --just follow the wheel of the cyclist in front of you and make sure the rider behind you is doing the same.
It's a fun ride. Violent behaviour is not welcome. Drivers are potential riders... smile and explain to them what Bici Crítica is.
- Q: Who's behind this?
- A: Bici Crítica has no leaders, only common goals. The internet forum is intended for communication, but anyone can participate. There are no political groups or associations behind, alhough some participants are involved in other movements. It's a coincidental ride, no more, no less.
- Q: How does it promote itself?
- A: By distributing fliers. You'll find them on the web. Download some, photocopy them, cut them out and share them out among the bikes, parked or in movement. Mouth to ear (bike to bike) allowed this initiative created by few people to grow stronger into a mass monthly meeting.