27 June 2008

'Critical' commuting...

Today is the last Friday of the month... it's 'Critical Commute' - cyclists gather at choice locations around the city at 8am, then converge on to a central spot (usually Albert Square - Peace Gardens today as there's a market on in the square) by 8.30.

I turned up fashionably late (not entirely my fault) to find that only one other fellow was there - an old hand, let us say, on these rides. So the two of us cycled into town, to meet a handful of other cyclists. I can't help thinking that the impact of the whole activity is negligible. Even the far more successful 'special' critical commute last 18 June (during Bike Week), which gathered larger numbers and had sponsors with tents offering coffee and free bike tagging and water bottles was, relatively speaking, small beer.

Now, considering how much time others spend promoting cycling and campaigning for it, I do not mind at all joining in these rides and trying to get more visibility. I do it in part to make a minute, microscopic contribution to the cause, but also for networking purposes - to get to know other cyclists, pick up a few tips, let off steam with people who understand you, etc. Today though - save for the chap from Prestwich - all the sociable bods with whom I usually end up chatting seemed to be absent, and the group seemed to be made up of the usual 'core' lot of hardened 'campaign' veterans. I'm sure it is not their intention, but I always feel a bit of an 'us and them' atmosphere when they arrive from Chorlton or other South-Manchester locations.

As for the 'campaigning' claim, I have to wonder. Surely 'campaigning' is about taking a target group of people from awareness to persuasion - and yet much of what I hear (in the GMCC discussion list, in their newsletter, at rides like today's) is hollier-than-thou preaching.

Again, I'm very conscious of the fact I do not devote the time to engaging with the campaign - and so I can hardly fault those who do, if like today I feel excluded from their number!

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