Have you ever attended a protest ride?

A moment of silence outside Kings Cross train station

The recent ride to parliament gathered 2,000 cyclists according to police estimates. The ride is just one of many that has recently been organised either to remember a cyclist tragically lost on London’s roads or to campaign for change.

I’ve attended a couple such rides myself. It was a chance to show my support and of course to cover it for London Cyclist. I’m not entirely sure how much of a difference they make but the fact that they have been receiving coverage on BBC London and the Evening Standard suggest the call for safer conditions for cycling is spreading.

I’d like to hear off you guys – have you attended such rides before? How was the experience? Do you think it has a positive impact?

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16 Responses to Have you ever attended a protest ride?

  1. Steve Biggs 24/02/2012 at 8:50 am #

    I’ve taken part in the ‘Critical Mass’ bike rides a few times which I’ve generally enjoyed but I’m not completely sure about the ‘blocking’ of roundabouts/junctions that takes place, i.e. when cars have right of way but cyclists stand there forming a barrier. Also when pelican crossings are ignored so not even pedestrians can get about! Maybe I’ve been driving too long and can’t not obey the Highway Code haha 🙂

  2. Kevin 24/02/2012 at 9:40 am #

    I have been on both end of this having served in London for several years. The vote here on this blog will obviously be very pro and I also follow that being a very keen and enthusiastic cyclist.

    However there are thousands of motorists out there who hate cyclists as we well know and they will not give way unless they really REALLY have to. If they have a right of way they will do all they can to move you.

    If however you are a very large group then it stands to reason that you will succeed in your objective no matter what the motorist thinks.

    As long as no one is seriously injured by a driver I would be happy to attend as we well know that the cyclist gets a raw deal in London and most other major cities.

    The experience is excellent but you need to be prepared to close your ears as you will get slated by cabbies and motorists who want to get from a to b without any major obstacles. They are not impressed by cycle demos.

  3. Tim Benson 24/02/2012 at 10:37 am #

    History proves that improvements to society and it’s social fabric only improve when people join together and put pressure on the decision makers. At the moment we are seeing a remarkable resurgence in passion and enthusiasm for cycling in London. It has not always been the case and old blokes like me remember the days when cyclists were generally ridiculed and ignored.

    We now have a chance and I would argue a responsibility to join forces and help the excellent cause for change currentlly being promoted by the likes of the Times and LCC. We should not sit in the pub and bemoan our lot, but join our fellow cyclists on the streets. I was so proud to protest this week and not so long ago at Blackfriars. Proud to improve matters for all cyclists.

    • Beth A 24/02/2012 at 8:23 pm #

      That’s a lovely comment Tim. Think you’re absolutely right.

  4. Big Softy 24/02/2012 at 10:56 am #

    I attended the Westminster Protest Ride on Wednesday, and had the pleasure to meet the delightful Anna whilst helping marshall the event. (BTW Anna, still waiting to see those pics on your blog.)

    We did block junctions as we went through red lights, but that was for safety reasons on the instructions of our helpful and friendly Police escort, who requested that we act as one vehicle once the light had changed to green.
    The only problems I saw were from a few bullyboy taxi drivers who as usual believe they own the road.
    Why is it that taxis, who make up less than 1% of all London journeys, feel they have the most rights? But that’s another post.

    I’m not sure that we made much difference, as like any call for change, it takes time. But at least they were reminded that we’re still here.
    It would have been nice if the few MP’s who showed up to give support had joined us on the ride instead of just just using it as a photo opportunity. My apologies to any politician who actually did make the effort.

    We need more of this type of event until we cause enough inconvenience, and dare I say disruption, until we effect change. It’s sad to say, but that’s the only way Westminster will listen. Unless of course, Boris gets left hooked by an artic.

  5. Mike Cavenett 24/02/2012 at 11:17 am #

    I work for LCC, so have played a part (as well as many, many others) in organising the protests at Blackfriars and the recent one at Parliament Square.

    The above poster is absolutely right, that we have to go on the streets to get our voice heard. That’s what the media want to see (ITN and BBC TV were both there on Wednesday) and mass movements are what politicians react to… (like The Times debate this week)

    If you want to know more about mass movements for change, you can read about the Dutch experience here:


    However, the first poster is also right, that we must be very wary of antagonising motorists when we demonstrate.

    For a start many cyclists are also public transport users and motorists, and vice versa – so the ‘us versus them’ thing is far too simplistic.

    Second, there are doubtless many people in cars and buses who would happily cycle if the conditions on our streets were more pleasant, so we should remember that every road user is a potential cyclist (in the Netherlands, 80% of people cycle once a week).

    For that reason, when we demonstrate we make sure all rides are marshalled by well-trained and polite people who are willing to take some time to explain why motorists might be experiencing some delay. We also hand out flyers to pedestrians and motorists to explain what’s going on around them.

    Of course, we can’t reach everybody we inconvenience during a protest ride, but we find that when we do explain why we’re riding together (to prevent loss of life and serious injuries in the future) people are very receptive… even taxi drivers.

    Anyway, LCC’s message is “please join in” … even if you’ve never been on a protest ride before – because it takes thousands of people to make politicians listen, but it is possible to create pressure for more people-friendly streets.

    LCC has just announced potentially our biggest ride ever: rather cleverly called “THE BIG RIDE”. Timed to take place on Saturday 28 April, just a few days before the mayoral election, we want every Londoner who wants to see a more liveable city that’s safe and inviting for cycling to come along. More details below:


    maybe see you there?

  6. Tony Parrack 24/02/2012 at 11:40 am #

    Thoroughly enjoyed the flashride on Wednesday. Wished I had a bell on my bike (I find it easier / faster to shout than ring a bell) to tinkle it like the others. Loved being waved thro red lights by the very friendly and helpful Police. Surprised that we didn’t carry on going round and round Parliament Sq instead of heading off across the River?

  7. Sam Carrington 24/02/2012 at 12:15 pm #

    @Steve – CM riders need to block intersections in order to ensure that the ride stays Massed up and isn’t filled up with cars causing potentially lethal problems to groups of riders. It’s called corking. For a while when CM was more heavily policed (before the Met lost their court case attempting to squash CM) the police often corked junctions, and on this week’s ride, marshalls and police took that role.

    There are no marshalls on CM, and fewer police than before. It’s beholdent on riders to behave courteously but to assure their own safety and that of other massers, therefore it’s vital that intersections into the ride are corked – but only while the ride passes.


    It’s always unfortunate when pedestrians aren’t given right of way at crossings by the mass and when I’ve been on rides in the past I always try and get folk to let peds cross.

    Critical Mass meets today at 6pm under waterloo bridge on the south bank

  8. taffy 24/02/2012 at 12:27 pm #

    I have attended over 20 WNBR protest rides as well as a few critical mass rides. Important to me to remind the general public of my concerns for not only the environment but my vunrability as a cyclist. Join a ride near you this year to show that you care.

  9. George Lund 24/02/2012 at 6:41 pm #

    The ride on Wednesday was fun and there was a massive feel-good factor: many many people want this issue sorted, we aren’t an insignificant minority.

    The police were great. Taxi drivers will never get it, but then their closed shop means that we should always outnumber them as a lobby.

    Parliament square should be for peaceful, democratic protest, so I’m very comfortable with the idea of a little disruption for a good cause. Occasional delays are a small price free freedom of expression, to be factored in by anyone with business in that part of the capital .

  10. Amoeba 24/02/2012 at 8:16 pm #

    I have attended the Blackfriars flashride, the CEoGB launch, the Tour du Danger, the King’s Cross vigil and the Westminster Protest Ride.

    Each one has been enjoyable, and I believe these have been instrumental in ratcheting-up the pressure on TfL and Parliament.

    All but one of the rides have been completely incident-free, save for one incident with a taxi during the Tour du Danger. I didn’t see the incident, but I saw the aftermath and the cyclist was clearly very upset and since he seemed to be such a sensible sort, I can only conclude it was something very bad that the Taxi driver had done to trigger such an angry response.


    Hints for those considering their first attendance. Apologies if these seem very obvious.

    Ideally, bring a means of making a noise, preferably bicycle-related. Note: In London’s incredibly noisy traffic, ping-type bells are simply nowhere near loud enough. A proper ring-ring bell, horn referee’s whistle, or some other loud noise-making device is useful.

    It may be useful to bring a printed message, suitably weatherproofed to be mounted on a pole at the assembly point.

    Know where you’re going and the way home. Remember some parks, e.g. Richmond close around dusk. Cyclestreets route-planner is handy.

    Toolkit, pump and means of fixing a puncture. [On the way to Wednesday’s ride, I passed a cyclist in the process of repairing a puncture in Richmond Park]

    Food, drink and mobile.

    Lights are advised if cycling after dusk is likely [batteries]. Fluorescent colours are ineffective after dark.

    Be careful on the way to and from the mass ride. You are then likely to be on your own. The euphoria of the event is great but it soon subsides.

  11. Beth A 24/02/2012 at 8:34 pm #

    I’ve been a regular participant in bicycle demos for a while now and agree with others that say it’s really important to be visible in society. On many occasions there have been some difficult moments with other road-users but these situations almost always come from people that think cyclists shouldn’t be on the roads at all.

    The most important thing, for me, about demos isn’t that there is a direct response to that particular event but that it reminds people that there are many of us. Often I’m sure we feel very alone on the roads but banding together to share a common goal is a very powerful thing!

    I’ve heard many people say “Nothing will change” but things do change. Not overnight, but they do. It’s also during demo rides that I feel safest on London’s roads. Cycling around Parliament Square the other night was the first time I’ve ever actually been able to look around me and enjoy the place itself. Usually I’m pedalling fast, trying to avoid cars and potholes and getting round in one piece.

  12. George 25/02/2012 at 3:45 pm #

    I hadn’t demonstrated about anything for the best part of 30 years, but I got so fed up with the contempt shown by the Mayor and TFL for cyclists’ safety that I joined the Blackfriars ride and then last week’s Parliament Square ride. Good fun, and I was struck by generally supportive comments from passing pedestrians. They are our allies in this – just as much in danger from cars as cyclists – and we need to try harder to make sure we don’t turn them against us.

  13. PaulM 25/02/2012 at 7:26 pm #

    I used to do CM but began to feel uncomfortable about it as it became quite confrontational – by motorists against cyclists mainly – so stopped.

    Since then I have joined two of the Blackfriars flashrides, and would have joined the others had work commitments permitted. I went to the first Kings X flashride but left before it started, partly because it was taking too long to get started and I wanted to get home some time, and partly when I got handed a “bust card” – I work in a regulated profession and having to disclose a conviction on my annual “fit & proper” could be a problem. Now I know that they are properly marshalled with Met Police in attendance, I’ll get to the next one I can, having missed this week’s due to illness.

    I did however manage to drag myself from my sickbed for the Parliament Square flashride and was blown over by the attendance. Somehow the numbers always look much lower when you are hanging around before the start – do people emerge from cracks in the pavement? I thought it went tremendously well although I was disappointed at the behaviour of some cycle commuters who were passing the same way, not as part of the procession, who blew straight through a pelican crossing on red right in front of the public entrance to the Palace of Westminster. How stupid was that? They didn’t even have the usual excuse (which I normally accept) that they do it to get clear of impatient following cars, because on this occasion all they had behind them was very patient slow-riding bikes.

    I plan to be on as many flashrides as I can get to, because actually I do think we are starting to see a sea-change in attitudes at last. “Stop der kindermoort”? Perhaps not quite yet (and I do think we really need to capture the entire streets-for-people-not-cars zeitgeist, and not just the bike elements) but from little acorns…..

  14. skippy 27/02/2012 at 8:01 pm #

    People Power is a useful tool when conducted properly as this ” Flash Ride seems to have been ! THe BMW incident , reported in the media ,shows that the Police were fully supportive of the objectives of the gathering .
    Being in Austria , i am unable to enjoy the comaraderie of these events but hope that the ” Critical Mass “events get proper Police Support so as to encourage ” Public Support ” rather than be antagonistic .
    Printed material with ” Links ” to further educate the public are a definite must !

  15. Goonz 08/06/2012 at 11:37 am #

    Not really been part of any critical mass myself, but after seeing a youtube clip of a crazy guy in his VW Golf mowing down cyclists in a Brazilian CM i’m not too sure I would want to either!

    I know no one in the UK would be crazy enough to do this but still when all you want to do is get home after a hard days work you dont really want to have to put up with hundreds of cyclists delaying you in getting home.

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