Living Streets North Tyneside is taking the lead in organising North Tyneside’s first Kidical Mass ride on Sunday 15th May.
Kidical Mass is a worldwide movement of relatively short, safe, social, family-friendly rides, which emerged in Oregon in the USA in around 2008, born out of the wider Critical Mass movement. Like Critical Mass, these aren’t just social rides. They are rides with a message, focused on encouraging and enabling people of all ages and abilities to take to the streets to cycle, wheel and scoot.
The idea is to inspire children and their families to ride more and have fun, but also to raise awareness of how tricky it sometimes can be for families to cycle for everyday journeys, to school, to friends, to the shops etc., and to make the case for child-friendly cycling.
Kidical Mass is a ride with a message; in the words of Kinder auf Rads, who are leading the recent European revival, these rides are about creating “space for the next generation”.
Kidical Mass has the vision that all children and young people should be able to move around safely and independently by bike.Kinder aufs Rad
The first Kidical Mass ride in the north east of England was organised five years ago in Newcastle to celebrate new cycling infrastructure in Heaton and on John Dobson Street and to ask for more to be delivered.
Like many movements that focus on young people’s place on our streets, one of the cornerstones of Kidical Mass’ campaigning is that children have a right to our streets – to move safely on them, to play on them, and to be increasingly independent on them. Many adults, especially those over 40 or 50, probably have fond – and almost taken-for-granted – memories of cycling to see friends and family, to go off on adventures, or to get to school or college. Making these kinds of memories – and these kinds of journeys – is increasingly difficult.
A survey by Sustrans in 2021 found that just 2% of 6-15 year olds travelled to school by bike, but 14% wanted to. Decades ago, these figures were much higher, and they’re high today in countries like Denmark and the Netherlands. A recent tweet from Melissa and Chris Bruntlett (authors of Building the Cycling City and Curbing Traffic) highlighted that Dutch teenagers cycle, on average, over 2000km a year, and that, coincidentally, they’re the happiest and healthiest teenagers in the world.
Who wouldn’t want that for our children?
In this context, we’re seeing a renewed and growing demand from families to be able to cycle safely, with children on their carers’ bikes and with children cycling on their own bikes, as they grow older and more skilled. For this to happen, across North Tyneside and beyond, we need more, better, accessible, segregated cycle routes, to schools, sports centres and public spaces, between our residential areas, and to high streets and shopping centres.
Kidical Mass also responds to the growing awareness amongst our younger generations to take environmental crises seriously. The Sustrans survey cited above also records that many schoolchildren are worried about the impact of motor vehicles on both climate change and air pollution. If we enable children to cycle – safely and enjoyably – when they’re growing up, chances are they’ll be more likely to cycle as adults (I’ll add a link to some research to support this argument when I find it), so the potential positive impact on our environment is not just in the present but also in the future.
As we’ve already argued, the creation of a permanent seafront cycleway – promised for later in 2022 – will serve our young people well, but we’re starting Kidical Mass rides in North Tyneside to lobby North Tyneside Council to do more to enable (not just just encourage) our young people to cycle safely around the borough, and beyond.
Our first ride will be on Sunday 15th May, as part of a global weekend of Kidical Mass rides, coordinated by Kinder aufs Rad. There will also be a Newcastle ride that weekend, on Saturday 14th.
If you’re interested in joining us, follow us on Facebook at Kidical Mass North Tyneside and/or on Twitter at Kidical Mass North East (a joint Twitter account with Newcastle Kidical Mass). If you’re interested in helping out, as a marshal or in any other way, drop us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Some European and global links to explore:
Twitter feeds from around the world – Germany, Lahore, the US, Uganda, the UK, and elsewhere – discussing #kidicalmass.
The Kidical Mass UK Facebook page, with all sorts of ideas and suggestions for developing Kidical Mass rides.