Bicicrítica in Madrid

Everyone was super friendly... lots of waving!

Madrileños, probably almost 3,000-strong, take to the streets on the last Thursday of every month for their Bicicrítica, or Critical Mass... it was wonderful!

Got to ride in Madrid’s Bicicrítica last night, a long luxurious ride all over town. It was very familiar of course, as Critical Mass rides are from place to place. Lots of “types” that I know from San Francisco, New York, and elsewhere… But here in Madrid they did two things that I haven’t seen for a while, or ever before: 1) they stopped a helluva lot to keep the mass tight. The most surprising part of this was the regular stopping for pedestrians to flow across the street, even when it divided the ride a bit and left it open to infiltration by cars. Mostly it didn’t happen, although I did see two different cars sneak across the ride in clever ways, one by weaving behind one of the small breaks quickly, and another by having the passenger get out and convince a bunch of cyclists to let the car that his wife was driving through. I don’t know what he told people, but it worked. They let that car through, and none others, in the Plaza de Bilbao. One time we waited at the front of the ride for a good 10 minutes at a crosswalk and every time a pedestrian, or a few, would cross, everyone would burst into wild applause. It was hilarious!

Applauding pedestrians in Madrid!

The other thing I hadn’t seen before was not just a bike lift, but a full-on bike wave. From the very front of the ride, everyone at a pause would squat down low and then at a certain moment the front would rise up with bikes in air, followed by the next group and next one and so on, just like a “wave” in a stadium…. it was quite fun! Here’s a video:

La Ola Madrileño

We presented the new book “Shift Happens! Critical Mass at 20” at Patio Maravillas a couple of nights ago to an interesting and engaged audience (the book is being printed now and will be available in September). There were five of us who spoke, myself and Adriana giving excerpts from our respective pieces, Elisabeth Lorenzi from Madrid, Carlos Diz Reboredo from A Coruña, and Fabio from the People’s Bike Kitchens of Rome. A good discussion followed, allowing for more stories and argument. Most of what comes up here is the same as everywhere, problems of young men being jerks, how to keep the etiquette and self-organization, internal communications, etc. As Eli’s article describes well, the connections here in Madrid between Critical Mass and the okupied social centers, the DIY bike shops in them, and the wider asembleas movement called M15 (from last May 15’s widespread public occupations of plazas) is pretty dynamic and adds some serious political depth to it that is quite an advance on what’s going on these days in San Francisco.

Anyway, it was great to actually be in the ride, thanks to loaner folding bikes from Jorge and Pedro, and it was wonderful to be in the mix with such a friendly and well-mannered crowd! The politeness was striking… Here are some shots I got during the ride.

At the Plaza de Cibeles, the traditional starting point in Madrid.

The ride took off from Cibeles and went down the long avenue past the Prado museum, before doing a u-turn around the plaza at the further end and heading back towards Cibeles... this is just after the u-turn.

Looping by the iconic fountain.

Seeing Madrid by bike for the first time, I have to admit I cannot name most of the gorgeous old monuments we passed along the way.

We stopped regularly and often, which made for a slow ride, but given the last throes of a severe heat wave, it was all fine. We were all quite parched by the end...

I found several tongues hanging out among my photos!

Thumbs up!

Blind shot over my shoulder got these guys...


Cute bike glasses!

Nice flag!

Lots of kids and families too...

After about two hours we arrived back in the center on Gran Via where another Ola bike wave was held...

The wave just ending...

After all that we ended in an outdoor lot that the Patio Maravillas Okupied Social Center has a few blocks north of here. There was food and drink and hundreds of folks hung out into the late night. A glorious evening in Madrid… thanks to all the new friends here!

Last image: Iago of the band La Malarazza had the SFCM20 handbill taped on to the back of his trailer already!

Our flyer taped on the back of the trailer towed by Iago, the local pedal-power rock musician...


3 comments to Bicicrítica in Madrid

  • Ey!! That’s me and my 2 girls!! 😀 It was a great evening! Next one: 26th of July. Looking forward to repeat the experience!! ^^

  • bookchin

    And a very wise presentation of “Nowtopian” in Traficantes too. Adriana did a helpful/generous job there with translation, really ;).

    “I have to admit I cannot name most of the gorgeous old monuments we passed along the way.” Oh!, Monument into picture is Puerta de Alcala 😛


  • Jym

    • Frequent stops to catch up is a thing I like about Bike Party, but then they stay stopped longer than I’d like. I want to ride!

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