Saturday, September 6, 2014

Critical Mass in Stuttgart: Quite different

My first and only Critical Mass (CM) until yesterday had been in Berlin, sometime around 2007 I think. It wasn't all exactly great: The police had a history of being assholes, leading to a low turnout and a confrontational atmosphere. In the cities I've lived in since there either were not CMs, or they had similar issues as the ones in Berlin. When I saw that there would be a CM in Stuttgart, I thought I'd give it another try.

Because I currently live almost 50 kilometers from Stuttgart, I had to leave quite early to make it in time. The weather forecast predicted rain, but I was determined to go—and the rain never materialized anyway. When I arrived at the meeting point, it quickly became clear that this CM experience would be quite different. The crowd was way larger and it consisted of a quite different demographic. There were kids, there were lots of middle-aged and older folks, some of them on very fancy bikes, and the hipster-on-a-fixie ratio was pretty low. 

The political situation and the attitudes of drivers apparently makes it necessary to not follow the principle of “CM is not a protest” but instead run the ride as a political manifestation with a fixed route and a police escort. The upside is that this reduces confrontations and makes the ride appealing to a wider audience; the downside is that it also reduces the spontaneity and led to constant stop-and-go when the police escort made us wait at many intersections.

 It's hard to estimate how large the crowd was, but I guess it was well over 500, maybe even close to a 1000 people.
Shaft drive bike completely wrapped in inner tubes...
One of the few hipsters, or: me

One of two awesome mobile soundsystems!

Stuttgart is pretty hilly

It's not Critical Mass if there aren't any tallbikes

Approaching the Schwabtunnel connecting Stuttgart West and Stuttgart East

It was nice riding on some roads that are usually off-limits to cyclists, including two tunnels and one of the main arterial going through Stuttgart. Corking worked pretty well and the amount of angry honks wasn't too bad.

Making a U-turn and occupying both sides of the road
At around 9:30 we reached our final destination, the warehouse of Fahrräder für Afrika, a charity that upcycles donated bikes and ships them to partner organizations in different African countries. Their shop is huge and literally has heaps of bikes in it! There was beer, music, pizza, and a presentation about biking in Copenhagen. All in all, I had a great experience, despite having to bike another 50 kilometers back home on my dad's bike that's way too small for me.

Edit: had a nice segment (in German), too:

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