More than 270 riders of all ages and abilities, from tiny children in trailers to grandparents on ebikes, and everyone in between, joined our first ever North Tyneside kidical mass ride on Sunday (15th May).
We were expecting maybe 100 to 120 riders and were blown away by the local excitement and enthusiasm for this event. Approximately 100 rode from North Shields through Tynemouth to Cullercoats, and around 170 from Monkseaton and Whitley Bay. This was one of the largest rides of 14 organised across the UK the same weekend, with similar numbers to those riding in Edinburgh and Exeter. In North Tyneside, we were clearly punching above our weight, real evidence of the appetite for change here.
Notwithstanding the unexpected numbers, the rides went off very smoothly, assisted by twenty marshals. Drivers were mostly patient and understanding, though perhaps a little surprised by seeing so many cycling along their streets, and those we passed by were mostly curious and supportive.
The sight of hundreds of cycles – hybrids, Dutch-style bikes, road bikes, mountain bikes, trikes, recumbents, tandems, cargo bikes, ebikes, bikes with children’s seats and trailers, and, of course, kids bikes – was a little overwhelming, but simply joyous.
And the atmosphere at Cullercoats was fabulous, as riders tucked into cake and ice cream (despite the chill in the air!) and caught up with friends and family from across the borough, chatting, playing in the play park, admiring each other’s cycles.
These were families and friends brought together in support of child-friendly cycling infrastructures, all wanting to ensure that children and families are able to choose to cycle – to school, to shops, cafes and bars, to work, and to see each other – and to do so safely. Kidical mass is all about campaigning for safe space for everyday cycling for children and families of all ages, and it was clear that there’s enormous support for this across North Tyneside. We hope the council, mayor, and councillors are listening (and we’re pleased that five, possibly six, local councillors joined us on the rides – thank you; one (Matt Wilson) has written about the ride in his own blog).
Riding from Monkseaton was a dad with three children – one on a bike, one on a scooter, and one in a buggy. From North Shields, one dad ran alongside his wobbly but enthusiastic and committed daughter the whole way, watched over by one of our marshals. Another dad only agreed to join the ride the night before, persuaded by his children – he hadn’t been on a bike in 20 years.
Hannah Jary, riding with her daughter Alba, took to Twitter to enthuse about kidical mass giving her the opportunity for her “first proper bike ride” (and enjoy an ice cream), while her sister Emmeline got a ride on the “throne” on a parent’s bike.
Alex and her daughter were very enthusiastic riders, eager to get going and upfront on the ride from Shields:
Aidan, who was riding with his 6 year old daughter, reflected on the ride:
“there was an overwhelming sense of calmness in the chaos of riding with 170 other people. Calm, because I knew my 6 year old daughter was on a safe route and I no longer had to spend energy on thinking about where the next road to cross or dangerous section of our ride was. Instead, we could all just relax and enjoy the ride.”
We had three groups of children, parents and staff from North Tyneside schools – including from Redesdale and Hadrian Park primaries. Both these groups had already cycled about 5 miles to get to the starting points, ably supported by our friends at Bike4Health.
There was a moment of particular joy as we all celebrated the announcement that Active Travel England will be funding North Tyneside Council’s Sustainable Seafront Scheme to the tune of £3.5 million (follow this link for the council’s announcement, and this for Living Streets North Tyneside’s preliminary response). We’re clear that this can only be the beginning of the council’s plans for a borough-wide high-quality walking and cycling network, quieter neighbourhoods, and people friendly town centres, but we’re also clear that this is a real step forward in creating a fairer, greener seafront that will give everyone in North Tyneside the chance to see that things can be different.
But this wasn’t just about local issues. As we’ve suggested, Sunday’s kidical mass ride was one of about 14 in the UK, and over 200 across Europe. Our friends in Newcastle led a ride of 140 the day before, and it’s estimated that almost 1800 cyclists joined the rides across the UK and a massive 40,000 Europe-wide.
All these campaigns believe that “space for the next generation” will not only make life better for our children and young people, but also for all those living in and moving around our towns and cities – better for our health, for tackling the climate emergency and air quality, for our communities, and even our economies.
On Sunday, North Tyneside had its say. Living Streets North Tyneside is committed to campaigning for living streets across the borough and for space for walking, cycling and wheeling, to support a range of social, environmental, health and wellbeing benefits. We were pleased to see so many local residents come out on Sunday in support of these aims.
And we’re planning to do this all over again – on Sunday July 10th to Rising Sun Country Park for a longer summery ride from various points in North Tyneside to meet Newcastle kidical mass, and on Sunday September 25th for another set of short rides along the coast, once again in a coordinated weekend of kidical mass rides across Europe, following World Car Free Day (Sept 22nd).
For more on the background to this ride, read our earlier blog. To keep up with plans for future rides, follow Kidical Mass NE on Twitter and Instagram, and Kidical Mass North Tyneside and Kidical Mass Newcastle on Facebook.
Beyond the north east, if you’re interested in joining or starting a kidical mass ride in your area, follow Kidical Mass UK on Facebook, where you’ll find lots of ideas, support and guidance.