Kidical Mass calls for safe streets for kids
By Alison Hill
Alison is Chair of Cyclox
On Sunday 24 September you may have encountered a colourful group of kids accompanied by their grownups cycling around the city centre, ringing their bells and waving.
This cheerful sight was Oxford’s fourth Kidical Mass, and the third this year. Kidical Mass is a marshalled family-friendly ride to give children the opportunity to cycle on the roads of their home city, streets that would normally not be considered safe for them.
A celebratory day
On hundred and thirty people, young and not so young, converged on Broad Street at 2 p.m. from four points around the city: Headington, Florence Park, Summertown and West Oxford. Thanks to Oxford City Council we were able to use the space outside Blackwells – a perfect spot to gather. From there the whole group made a celebratory loop of the city centre.
There was a huge variety of bikes on show – balance bikes for the tiniest, pedal bikes, e-bikes, cargo bikes carrying kids, trailers, a recumbent bike with a sail, even a unicycle. And two dogs in cargo bikes joined in the fun.
Passers by waved and took photographs of the riders, while drivers beeped their horns in support.
Back in Broad Street the kids were entertained by a magician, Jamie Jibberish of Magic for Smiles, who engaged the young audience with tricks which amazed and delighted everyone. Jamie is a humanitarian magician, working with asylum seekers and refugees in the UK and overseas. He, more than many, knows the value of laughter for young audiences. The magic over, the riders returned to their starting points.
A worldwide movement
The Kidical Mass is a worldwide movement with one aim – safe streets for kids. Its vision is a world in which all children and young people can safely and independently use cycles as a mode of travel. Our joyful group of Oxford cyclists joined 3,500 other riders in the UK and thousands upon thousands of others across the world in marking a weekend of action.
These rides provided colourful noisy calls for child- and cycle-friendly streets in cities and towns and local communities.
The rides are led by experienced marshals who know how to manage a disorderly cheerful group of riders of all abilities, many with little experience of cycling on city roads. They keep the riders together as a group, waiting for the slowest to catch up, shepherding them safely along streets, holding up traffic at crossing points to let the riders across, sorting out technical problems, engaging with drivers to explain what is happening and why.
The problem of the Plain
Planning the Kidical Mass rides into the city centre demonstrates how much the Plain roundabout remains a massive barrier to safe cycling from the east of the city. The East Oxford Kidical Mass ride came over the Plain going into the city, as the route from Iffley Road to Magdalen Bridge is straightforward. On the return ride though, to avoid having to go three-quarters of the way round the Plain, the East Oxford group made a long detour via South Oxford. The Headington ride leaders nearly abandoned their ride because, with Marston cycle path closed, they could not find a safe route avoiding St Clements and the Plain. Fortunately, the Curators of the University Parks gave permission for the riders to push their bikes through the Parks in this exceptional situation.
But all this shows how much families in East Oxford and Headington wanting to cycle together into town are cut off by the Plain roundabout. There is still so much to be done to make the Plain safe, and until that time, to find safe routes into the city avoiding the Plain.
Which is why Kidical Mass riders in Oxford are adding their voice to the demand:
safe streets for all
Main photo: Robin Tucker