Bedford Green Party organised the town’s first ‘Critical Mass’ cycle ride at noon on 1st August 2020 to promote better cycling infrastructure in the town and to celebrate the fact that every cyclist on the road is potentially one less car journey, creating less congestion, fewer climate wrecking emissions, better air quality and improved health.
Critical Mass is a movement that originated in San Francisco in the nineties and happens monthly in many larger towns and cities all over the world, highlighting the need for safer cycling routes and celebrating the bicycle. It is based on the idea too that there is safety in numbers, cyclists being safer in towns and cities where there are really good, joined-up cycling routes, their numbers are high and therefore drivers are used to not always having priority, with cycles being ‘part of the mix’.
Organised at short notice, the ride which involved two loops of the town centre and Embankment was joined by over forty local cyclists, wearing face masks and hi-vis, and practising social distancing.
Green Party councillor for Castle ward, Lucy Bywater, who helped organise the ride said, ‘Government announcements around cycling in recent weeks are really promising but the funding for local councils needs to be there. And with the upcoming deadline for council applications for the second tranche of council funding from the Government’s active travel grant, we really need Bedford Borough’s application to be ambitious to help towards the shift to greener travel needed. In the first tranche of funding, we were disappointed that the Council only got about £30k for the temporary changes to encourage active travel (walking and cycling), and was in the bottom four of councils who applied. The Department for Transport wanted ‘radical’ proposals which would enable both more, safer walking and cycling. Temporary changes to the High Street have allowed social distance for shoppers but have not been good for cyclists.’
Mark Brown, who joined the ride and cycles daily for work, commented, ‘The cycling infrastructure in Bedford is not fit for purpose, and is often little more than a splash of paint near the gutter’.
With reference to the current higher than average COVID-19 infection rate in Bedford, Lucy added, ‘We’re really mindful of the need to keep people safe, and so we stressed the need for masks and social distancing. I was so impressed with how considerate everyone was’.
The organisers are hoping to make the event a monthly one and for Bedford to be truly ‘cycle friendly’ town.