"The bike movement has grown up, and now it has kids."
These are the words of Shane MacRhodes, founder of Kidical
Mass - a national program designed to "provide a safe environment for kids and
their parents to learn and practice [bicycle] safety skills" while creating
awareness of the growing number of cyclists-including youth-in local areas.
Hence the tagline: kids are traffic too.
The first ride took place in Eugene, Ore., in 2008, and
today, more than 33 cities in the U.S. and Canada play host-one of them being
the great capital city of Tallahassee, Fla.
Since late 2011, avid cyclist and stay-at-home mom
Marie-Claire Leman and her husband Will Hanley, a history professor at Florida
State University, have been organizing Kidical Mass rides in and around their
neighborhood in an effort to encourage more family-wide bike use.
According to Leman, while bike-friendly infrastructure and
bike advocacy are on the rise in Tallahassee, the overall makeup of the city
can act as a deterrent for some who might otherwise choose biking for
"Tallahassee is really improving for cycling...but
connectivity is still a big issue here. Neighborhoods are separated from each
other by large boulevards...and there are very few controlled intersections and
pedestrian crossings," she affirms. "We were inspired to create Kidical Mass
Tallahassee so parents could see bikes as more than just toys...and start to
imagine trips they could take with their kids. As the city becomes more
connected, we hope that [our efforts] will help encourage more families to ride
Name-played on the Critical Mass bike-riding movement, in
which events are designed to celebrate and assert the rights of cyclists,
Kidical Mass events do not focus their impact on those witnessing the rides,
but on the riders themselves.
"Critical Mass is often more political...it's about changing
other people's minds about cycling," Leman explains. "Kidical Mass is about
changing the minds of those who participate. We are educating from within."
The rides organized by Leman and Hanley run three to four miles
on average, with each event drawing between 35 and 50 children and adults of
all experience levels. After meeting in a designated spot-usually nearby
Optimist Park-the organizers provide a careful overview of the rules of the
ride, which naturally coincide with the rules of street biking.
Children ride in a line on the right side of the street, and
adults ride in a line to the left as a layer of protection against passing
In the past two years, events have taken various shapes and
forms: an edge-of-the-neighborhood ride and milkshake stop; an Earth Day
excursion with a series of stops at neighborhood gardens; and a holiday Tour of
Lights (yes, there was hot chocolate!).
When a park project two miles away from the organizers'
neighborhood is complete, Kidical Mass Tallahassee will do an inaugural
out-and-back event, departing for the first time from one neighborhood to visit
As more people become involved from other areas, Leman
anticipates-and hopes-more events will pop up around Tallahassee. But, she is
quick to note the impact the rides have already had on families in just two
"We've seen kids motivated to leave their training wheels
behind," she proclaims. "A number of children have asked their parents to
remove them from their bikes after seeing others their age riding without
She continues, "I think more parents are starting to think,
'Let's ride to the park today. Let's ride to our friend's house instead of
drive.' They know the streets in their neighborhood now, and they are saying to
their kids, 'I know you are capable of climbing that hill on your bike because
you did it during the Kidical Mass ride.'"
Photos courtesy of Kidical Mass Tallahassee