High-vis, low-conflict: Kampala gets its first Critical Mass cycle ride
Uganda’s first ever Critical Mass is missing the air of protest normally found in Europe or the US. This may be for the best in a country where dissent is often quashed with rubber bullets and tear gas
“Do you know what is going on here today?” I ask Annette, the banana seller I’m buying a quick breakfast from. She doesn’t, so I explain that people are gathering here to ride bicycles together. We’re standing on Luwum street in central Kampala, looking out at a completely alien scene. With the usual sea of cars, minibus taxis and boda bodas (the city’s famous motorbike taxis) absent, the whole road is visible and looks 10 times more spacious than usual. It has been adorned with colourful paintings – including green cycle lanes – and we can see people walking, talking and cycling, while children run around playing.
It is a playground in the middle of a city where people rarely stop to play; there is too much work to be done. “I don’t know how to ride a bicycle, but I’d like to learn,” says Annette as she observes the scene, sighing: “But how can I learn? Are you going to teach me?”