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The youth-focused events bring people together to get more families comfortable riding bikes.
In 2008, Shane MacRhodes and Paul Adkins attended a talk by Ted White (whose film Return of the Scorcher inspired the term “Critical Mass” within the bicycle advocacy movement). After the talk, they found themselves thinking: Could they combine the passion and advocacy of the Critical Mass movement with something family-friendly and fun? Both long-time advocates and bicycling instructors, MacRhodes and Adkins wanted to encourage more families to ride together – in a legal and organized way. Kidical Mass was born.
Kidical Mass brings a large group of people of all ages together and travels the town or city streets on bicycles. This youth-focused event takes to the street on routes that the average parent would feel comfortable traveling on by bike with their young children. Rides tend to start and end at playgrounds and can include treats and rewards for little riders at the end. The goal of the event is simple: to bring families together to inspire one another and gain confidence at a different mode of getting around.
Parents have the opportunity to meet others in their community, learn about gear, and sometimes try each other’s bikes. “I think it’s important that parents and would-be parents know they don’t have to commit to a 100 percent car lifestyle,” said Marni Duffy, Kidical Mass Philadelphia co-organizer. “Biking builds family strength, community, and a healthier city: physically, mentally, and environmentally.”
For MacRhodes, Kidical Mass “shows the community at large that cyclists aren’t just flashy riders on fast bikes or kids on a bike path, but people of all ages riding bikes all over the community.” The list of benefits is so much greater than the ride itself, including encouraging a whole new generation to consider bicycling.
In the last seven years, the movement has grown to include over three dozen organizing groups across North America, all supporting each other through active Facebook pages. Gillian Burgess frequently rode in DC rides but wanted events in her hometown of Arlington, VA. With support from the local advocacy group, BikeArlington, Burgess started Kidical Mass Arlington and even helped launch other groups in Northern Virginia. “We’ve been growing by leaps and bounds ever since and now even have rides in the winter,” said Burgess. “People love the idea and want to have rides close to them.”
As more families explore non-car ways of getting around with their children, Kidical Mass events can play a big role in encouraging parents to try cycling together. “I’ve learned that a group of families on bikes can bring huge smiles to people,” said Duffy. “And that it’s nice to have community and support to keep riding with your kids.”
Melissa Bruntlett is the co-founder of Modacity, a multi-service consultancy focused on inspiring healthier, happier, simpler forms of urban mobility through words, photography, and film.