Reaching a Critical Mass in Vienna

Participating in a critical mass (CM) ride can seriously change the image you have about your own city. This May's Critical Mass was eventually the biggest ever held in Vienna and brought up some interesting aspects about Vienna and how cycling in Vienna can become more popular. This post is a mix of thoughts on a CM ride and images by krumpelwumpel which I was allowed to post here (THX!). 
Setting out from Schwarzenbergplatz along Belvedere. Image by krumpelwumpel.
Critical mass rides are taking place all over the world in about 300 cities with the aim of claiming more space and respect for the bicycle within urban traffic. It is interesting to see that Vienna's CM seems to steadily grow over the last years which it should as bicycle culture in Vienna has and should flourish further. And, as you experience as a cyclist in this city every day yourself, there has to be more space dedicated to bicycles if there should be more people using the bike.
In this process the CM rides are a great happening and a powerful strategy which demonstrates a lively and diverse bicycle culture of Vienna and which can show that the city may develop unexpected qualities if we reduce the emphasis on motorized transport. It is also a demonstration of how cyclists are able to organize themselves in a collective which (re)claims the streets in a respectful way. I was stunned by the easy and nice way in which the police accompanied the ride. There seems to be a good understanding between the CM and the police which is not a given in other cities.
Critical mass entering Wien Favoriten. Great way of showing off bicycle culture! Image by krumpelwumpel.
In Vienna, CM rides are traditionally started at Schwarzenbergplatz, right next to the, in summertime wonderfully cooling, fountain of the Russian Victory monument. This CM set out in a spontaneous way towards the 'Gürtel' (outer ringroad in Vienna) and then entered Wien Favoriten. This was a nice thing to happen as daily bicycling in Vienna is more frequent among more educated and wealthy fractions of the population. In this sense - with the aim of winning more people for using the bike - the lively CM crowd was for sure a nice demonstration about individuality, health and fun which you can (only) get from riding a bicycle. 

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Critical mass successfully conquered the roundabout at Schonbrunn castle. This was instantly celebrated. Image by krumpelwumpel.
As spring finally had hit Vienna, May's CM was dedicated to team up with Vienna's guerrilla gardening scene. The ride was scheduled to stop at the community garden at Längenfeldgasse where people met up in a nice atmosphere to have a drink and talk after the CM.

May's CM flyer. Critical mass meets guerilla gardening. Flyer via CM Austria.
Bike becoming a habitat. Image by krumpelwumpel.
"One exhaust less!". The environmentalist reasoning is still common over here. Image by krumpelwumpel.

One really stunning experience about riding in a big CM crowd is how the cityscape changes if only bicycles are using the streets. Suddenly it became quiet the residents must have been thinking. Along the most busy roads people suddenly look out of their windows, usually closed to avoid noise from congested or busy roads. With a CM ride passing by there is suddenly at most the noise of a few bells. For you as a rider it is a unique experience to let yourself fall behind to ride among the cars again which follow the CM ride in a grumpy overpowered manner. Among the cars and trucks again, the city becomes the usual noisy busy with traffic environment which we are so used to. Pedaling into the CM ride again one can experience what a city and its streetlife could look like if we reduced the emphasis for the car a little.
Residents which we passed during the ride were stunned by this as well. In almost every house people looked down from their windows or even came to the street to look at the cycling frenzy. It is a perfect moment for distributing flyers to explain the aims and justification for the CM ride.
CM is a good opportunity to see how diverse a city's bicycle culture is. Also in terms of bicycle hardware. Image by krumpelwumpel.

Finally arrived at the community garden in Längenfeldgasse. Image by krumpelwumpel.
Activities to reclaim a previously neglected and unused space within Vienna's urban fabric. Community garden Längenfeldgasse. Image by krumpelwumpel.

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