And now for some non-commercial links between people around the globe…

September 8th, 2012 by LisaRuth

For our second installment* of excerpts from Shift Happens!: Critical Mass at 20, as we count down to the 20th Anniversary Ride on 28 September and the week of events from 24-28 September to celebrate, we travel to Paris, the city that Italian Giuso Ciclocuoco now calls home. His contributions to bike culture and getting more cyclists on the streets have been many, and I’ll let him tell you about them: (from “The Great European Bike Love Link”)

Since my first participation in the Critical Mass movement, I saw the great potential hidden beneath the practices of self-organization, do-it-yourself, and most of all, free and non-commercial links between fellow people around the globe. This was to become my personal motivation throughout all these years: share love and knowledge, cook food for enormous numbers of cyclists, and most of all, recycle bikes.

The French Velorution [what Critical Mass is called in France-ed.] needed a little boosting.  As you might know, Paris has a great bike culture, and bike lanes are growing everywhere, but less than 100 people were riding together monthly. So in May 2009, in Rome for the Ciemmona [the “big CM”, a yearly anniversary ride], some Parisians told me we could and should do this in Paris, too. I thought it was a great idea.

So in July 2010, we did it. We invited everyone to Paris, and held a four-day experience that was really marvelous and unexpected even for Parisians. Bike games, bike jousts, movies shows in an artistic squat, big masses around the Eiffel Tower, you name it, we were doing it. More than a thousand people showed up, and for the Velorution, that is quite impressive!

What all these huge Critical Masses around Europe made clear to me was that we had something in common, all of us, and that we had to share experiences, in order to create a European culture of Bike Utopia. And that’s precisely my goal now. My involvement in Critical Mass led me to accept an even bigger challenge: the construction of community bike workshops.

In France in 2006, there were something like ten bike workshops…Today there are 50 self-organized workshops. Some are co-ops, some are associations, some are in squats. They have around 30,000 participants each year, and have created 35 full-time, self-organized jobs, and with more than minimal wages.

In Paris I started a bike workshop with some friends called cyclofficine (“the bike pharmacy”, an infection from Italian bike culture). We provide support to those banlieues (suburbs) you probably saw burning some years ago. We donate bikes, sell some in public auctions, and provide information on self-repair.

If you’re curious to hear more about the cyclofficine and Giuso’s description of mega-Critical Masses in Spain, Italy, and France, plus his reflections on the bike-share program in Paris, buy a copy of Shift Happens! for yourself–either as an old-fashioned book or the Kindle version.

Our excerpt journey will take us to Chicago and Baton Rouge tomorrow.

*Check out excerpts from SF authors posted yesterday.

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