From guest blogger Dena Driscoll
Kidical Mass is a great way to help get more families biking. This kid-friendly, family-loving bicycle ride originated in Eugene, Oregon in 2008.
Although the name may imply the lawlessness of Critical Mass (just pint size) Kidical Mass rides are actually fun, law-abiding rides that are more parade then protest.
The grass roots initiative is spreading in biking communities in the United States, with well over 30 cities and towns hosting rides.
This is a ride that anyone can start. In 2012, along with a former neighbor, I decided to throw our very own Kidical Mass ride here in Philadelphia. Over time and many rides since, I have learned a thing or two about how to build a successful Kidical Mass ride, and how to expand the family biking community in your town.
My biggest piece of advice is – don’t overcomplicate it. If you want to start a ride, check to make sure no one is currently doing one in your town (start by Googling), find a friend to help, pick a date to do it, and then let other parents and friends know all the details on Facebook, listservs, and through school contacts. Here are the answers to some common questions:
What day should you pick?
I highly recommend Saturday mornings, traffic tends to be lighter and families tend to have off from school/work. I find afternoons tend to conflict with toddler naptimes, and weekday evenings seem to be the worst time to hold rides.
Where should we meet?
Kidical Mass Philadelphia (KMPHL) always meets in some sort of park. This gives families the chance to let little ones run around before the ride. We also aim for parks that have bathrooms! Prior to the ride we provide instructions to the park by all modes of transit and let parents know where they can park if they choose to drive to the location.
How long should the ride be?
Try to keep the ride between 1-4 miles. It isn’t always about the distance but rather the very slow speed possible with a group of bikes. 3.5 miles can take up to an hour, which may be enough for little bikers on 12-inch wheels.
How do you keep everyone safe?
Biking is a safe activity! Riding in a group makes you very noticeable to other road users. Parents must watch their child’s behavior, and we remind parents of that before our rides. We always ask parents to bike on the traffic side while kids ride adjacent to the curbs.
We have ride leaders that children are NOT allowed to pass, and a “sweep” who rides the end of our ‘train’ in order to keep everyone together. Leaders and the sweep are always in communication with each other. We also use hand signals and shout to the group to let them know what is coming up next, like “LEFT TURN!” “POTHOLE!” etc.
Are helmets required?
Helmets are required by law for children in most states, but we encourage all riders to wear them as it is great behavior to model to our littlest riders. And yes, we see lots of Little Nuttys on our ride. ; )
Do you need a permit?
In Philadelphia, as in most locations, you do not as you are just riding as a large group which follow all laws.
Finally, I suggest reaching out to partners to help you. In Philadelphia our local advocacy group has supported us in lots of different ways including providing insurance after our initial year of rides, promotion and even pizza! Local bike shops are also supporters of our rides.
If you have more questions, check out the national Kidical Mass website which includes a wonderful FAQs section: http://www.kidicalmass.org
Dena Driscoll is a family biking advocate who lives with her two kids, two cats, and husband in Philly (all of whom have ridden in her cargo bike). When not riding or writing about family biking she can be found working at Smith Memorial Playground & Playhouse.