Carrying Hope For A Safer Future

Kidical Mass Event

by Dee Jackson

A panoramic view of a cycling event, showing a large group of cyclists of various ages riding along a city street, with tall buildings and trees lining the route

On a sunny Saturday morning, over 400 families and kids gathered at Lake Merritt with bikes, trailers, and cargo bikes in tow. The air was filled with excitement as the East Bay Kidical Mass got rolling. As we prepared for the ride, I saw firsthand the incredible organizing efforts - volunteers trained on radios, decked out in orange visibility vests, and doing final briefings. The family turnout was staggering, with young and old ready to spread good vibes through Oakland's streets.

A person in a safety vest with 'More Kids on Bikes' printed on the back assists a child seated in a bike trailer, while other children and adults on bicycles are nearby.

The ride itself was a beautifully coordinated spectacle. Our 400+ strong rolled along a 5-mile loop around Lake Merritt, with organizers manning every intersection to ensure everyone's safety. Kids waved to cheering bystanders, hooting and ringing their bicycle bells - it was a really uplifting sight to see.

The ride convened at the park, where families and children socialized over ice cream and snacks, making new friends and getting activated by the fun community atmosphere. Among the riders was organizer Marc Hedlund, a passionate lifetime cycling advocate and board member of Bike East Bay. After the ride, I had a chance to ask Marc about his experiences with family biking here in the Bay Area.

Marc Hedlund, Kidical Mass Organizer
Pictured above: Marc Hedlund, Kidical Mass Organizer 

Have you seen an increase in families using cargo bikes or bikes with child seats/trailers in the area? What has been your experience with cargo bikes making it easier for parents to transport kids by bike?

"Yeah, for sure. I got a cargo ebike about five years ago and at the time it felt like there were a lot fewer people riding them around—I would see someone go by and recognize them most of the time. Now I see people go by on cargo bikes all the time!

We've been living on the 9th Street Bicycle Boulevard in Berkeley and the amount of cargo traffic in the morning is intense, especially with several schools along the road. For our family, my wife and I each got a cargo bike and we each carried one of our kids, until they started riding on their own bikes. We've had so many fantastic rides together.

Our younger daughter talked about how much she likes interacting with people walking by, which she can't do sealed up in a car. She also became a young anti-car advocate: "Don't these cars know they're spewing exhaust at me? Show some respect!"

In your opinion, what are some of the biggest advantages of cargo bikes over regular bikes when it comes to safely carrying children? Are there any downsides or challenges as well?

"We've tried a bunch of different approaches, including a trailer bike with one wheel for a child, having them ride on their own bikes, and having them ride on our cargo bikes. The cargo bikes make it possible to do far more kinds of trips together. Especially when our kids were younger, they'd get tired on their own bikes and that would limit our range. When we knew to plan for that and take the cargo bikes instead, we could travel farther and do far more things together on bikes.

We also could carry them in more situations—when our older daughter had a broken foot, I carried her and her crutches to the doctor's in the rain! We like showing them that it's possible to travel without cars in as many situations as possible.

The only real drawback to our cargo bikes is that they are hard or impossible to carry on public transit. It's great that BART allows bikes on escalators now, since our larger bikes would never fit in the elevators. But still, there's no way to carry one onto Caltrain or Amtrak, nor on most buses. I've wound up getting a smaller, folding bike for taking on public transit, and that works great for many needs (though not for cargo or kids, obviously). The folding bike plus both our cargo bikes still cost way less than a car, though!"

As protected bike infrastructure expands, do you think we'll see more families adopting bikes as a way to replace car trips for school, errands, etc? Is there anything else you see that could help encourage the use of bikes by families?

"I hear all the time from families that want to bike more but don't feel it's safe. Some of them have ridden with their kids on the road for the first time at a Kidical Mass ride, because they feel safer in a large group. I want all these families to have confidence that their kids can bike safely to school and elsewhere, and we know that's possible based on examples in other countries like the Netherlands and Denmark. We just have to decide to build roads that protect people by default, rather than prioritizing car speeds and throughput over safety for people outside of cars.

I firmly believe that protected cycling infrastructure—concrete-protected, separated lanes on larger streets, and streets that do not permit high-speed driving for smaller streets—combined with ebike incentive programs would have the greatest impact in increasing cycling mode share in the United States. Not only that, the combination of safe infrastructure and ebike incentives would be *by far* the most cost-effective way to fight climate change in our country. There are tons of benefits to be had if we encourage safe, affordable cycling for all. (Only the oil and gas companies would lose out!)"

What roles can companies like Xtracycle play in aiding this shift?

"I'm astonished by how many different kinds of bikes have emerged over the last ten years. A while ago it was far less common to see anything beyond the standard "safety cycle" form in the US. Now, we have all kinds of cargo bikes—longtails, bakfiets, and so on—as well as an explosion of different forms of ebikes. Xtracycle has done a ton to help foster that growth, and I think looking at different ways people like to bike would help more. Some practical things like locking "trunks" for cargo bikes and built-in lights and locks could make bikes feel more practical for people who wonder how they'll run errands on two wheels."

A panoramic view of a cycling event, showing a large group of cyclists of various ages riding along a city street, with tall buildings and trees lining the route.

As stated by Kidical Mass: "The vision of Kidical Mass is that all children and young people can safely and independently use cycles as a mode of travel. We demand child-friendly, green places where there are many and varied open spaces for play and social interaction between all generations."

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If you'd like to get involved and support safer riding for children around the Bay Area, you can find more information on EBKM's website: