Another awesome Saturday not to be indoors
“Critical Mass, what is that?” I have been asked that many times before by curious city dwellers whenever I and 200 plus cyclists cruise along the roads of Nairobi City
Critical Mass is a non competitive cycling fraternity that seeks to educate the general public to take up cycling as a means of transport in the city. Attached to its core purpose, Critical Mass advocates for road user discipline and courtesy from the cyclist, the driver and the pedestrian. Adding to that, CM also advocates for the construction of cycling lanes and paths to further encourage Nairobians to cycle safely. Cycling has many benefits that supersede any other sport worldwide. From building the person within to the person outside to building the community around as well as protecting Mother Nature, cycling is the most noble sport if not the only. Lets face it, it is surely hell taking a bicycle through the streets and major roads of Nairobi without being harassed, threatened or being hit by drivers who care less about your safety. To drivers, a bicycle is a poor man’s means of transport and anyone cycling is not worthy of respect. A bicyclist is an obstacle to be run over quickly without thought (I feel hurt pointing this out behind my keyboard).
The Journey begins
It is because of this apathy among drivers that led a group of cyclists not more than 12 to come up with an idea to sensitize the road hogs into respecting the human being on a bicycle. This was back in 2015 when the monthly event was birthed. By 2016 thanks to social media and word of mouth, CM was attracting cycling crowds from the economic divide. The rich and poor were united under spoked rims, fighting for one course,that cyclists are people too. That the road is for everyone, with funky and bold messages pinned on cyclists’ backs such as ‘It burns food not fuel’ ‘put the fun between your legs’ and many more. Soon a network of cycling business individuals opened up, here was proof of an untapped market. Thanks to CM, many jobless individuals found a source of honest income selling cycling accessories, kits, bikes, spare parts and so forth.
“Hallo guys, thank you all for coming today. In case you have not heard about this, there shall be a race at a certain place on this date. Registration fee is this amount, check our Facebook page, come one come all, asanteni.” I remember a few times that a race was announced to the cycling public this way. Go to that race and you’d find a multitude of participants and spectators at the start/ finish line. Other events such as weekend rides or tours were announced this way. This is still the best way to get noticed and be heard for before you is a interconnected web of individuals who will share the word out to many more individuals who were not present.
Emancipation of the Nairobi Woman
Ingrid and Carol showing that is is a ride for both genders
African women in the city will cause a stare and arise questions of conflicts from onlookers unlike their upcountry counterparts. Questions such as, “Hauogopi kugongwa?” (Don’t you fear being hit), “Hii ni njaro za wanaume!” (This is a sport for men only) and the wicked one of them all, “Baiskeli itakuharibu!” (The bicycle will damage your private parts). This last claim has been said to both genders. Our women are strong, and they have come up and out strong with Nairobi Women’s Representative Esther Passaris leading the all female superhero team in lyca on awesome two wheeled steed. In case you did not know, the leader of Critical Mass is a woman, Mrs. Cyprine Odada Mitchell. I say power to the woman to save the planet.
Partnership with Local Authority, Institutions and the Media
Big dedicated cycling lanes just for cyclists is what they are advocating for
Come 2018 and Critical Mass was gaining a lot of positive reviews and views for the office of Nairobi Government. Its marshalls have sat down with political, authoritative and environmental officials in mapping out shared activities such as bike shares in the city, planting trees and making and maintenance of dedicated cycling paths. A couple of times, UN-Habitat approached Critical Mass to help promote environmental conservation programs in the city. CM has been featured numerous times in Kenya’s television networks with television personalities taking up cycling as a recreational sport and or raising awareness about ailments or the suffrage of special groups of people. CM’s biggest event has been the Grand Nairobi Race held at Uhuru Gardens on December 1st 2019. It was advertised weeks before, notifications were disseminated through various media channels, and roads were closed on the day of the event. Never has cycling taken the capital city by storm like this, for a sport unfamiliarised, Critical Mass familiarized competitive cycling in the city.
All in all
See how happy a cycling capital can be
Cycling is the future despite its simplicity; it is the way to go if we are to cut carbon emissions because, as a cycling nation, we can cut it by 40%. That is a fact. You get to see the city and outskirts on a bottle of water and a 200 shilling meal. You cannot do that in a car or on a motorbike. You get to exercise and rid your body’s cells off toxins after every ride. You actually become smarter, stronger, fitter, disciplined, and more analytical in your life choices and you get to be environmentally caring.
So join Critical Mass every last Saturday of every month; a well serviced bike and a fully charged phone to capture the moments with individuals you would have never ever have met in ordinary fashion.