Published on June 4th, 2013 | by Kate Albert Ward


Kidical Mass: Making Room for Families of Cyclists

Photography courtesy of Lisa Hepfer.


I vividly remember riding my bike straight into a bush as a child– the foliage became more distinct as I zoomed in until it completely filled my vision, and I found myself in its uncomfortably twiggy embrace. I’d like to think that this was shortly after my training wheels were removed, but I can’t say that for certain.

Other than the occasional scraped knee or bush mishap, as a child I had the joy of riding bikes safely and freely with my friends all around our neighborhood.

As times have changed, so too has the freedom kids have to ride wayward into relatively harmless stationary objects. In response to the diminishing liberty with which kids can take to the streets by bike, organizers in Eugene Oregon held the first Kidical Mass, a family-friendly bike ride, in April of 2008. The name of the ride references the international series of Critical Mass rides that have been taking place regularly for over two decades.

By gathering in a group, families can feel more secure about the safety of their children as they ride on streets shared with car traffic. The Kidical Mass slogan, “Kids are traffic too,” reminds adults of their responsibilities as drivers and fellow bike riders, and encourages kids to become enthusiastic and empowered cyclists.

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Other Kidical Mass rides have popped up all over the Northwest, and Tacoma’s first Kidical Mass, spurred and documented by Matt Newport of Tacoma Bike Ranch, took place this past May. The inaugural ride attracted 55 cyclists of all ages who rode a 2.7 mile loop that included a stop at Jefferson Park.

The first ride was such a success that its organizers were happy to turn around and plan a second Kidical Mass just one month later. At 10:30 am on June 8, riders will gather in Peoples Park, located on the corner of South 9th and Martin Luther King Jr. Way. Participants can decorate their bikes with craft supplies and collect giveaways, such as bike bells and slap bracelets, thanks to the City of Tacoma and the Tacoma Wheelmen’s Bicycle Club.

Riders will set out at 11am on a 1.8 mile route through Hilltop with a twenty minute stop at Zina’s Playground in McCarver Park before returning to People’s Park. As in the last ride, volunteers in neon vests will flag down traffic to assure safe passage across busy arterials. Helmets will be required in accordance with Tacoma law, but with the wide array of creative styles now available, helmets provide an opportunity to show loud and clear that “safe” can still be fun!

Like a free-wheeling kid, rolling with his or her posse, Kidical Mass riders will surely experience the feelings of happiness and confidence inspired by belonging to group, an awesome force for whom onlookers know they need to make way.


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About the Author

A writer for Post Defiance, Kate has done freelance writing for the Museum of Glass, The South Sound User's Guide, and 19th-Century European Paintings at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute. Kate’s previous experience includes working as the Kress Foundation Interpretive Fellow at the Portland Art Museum, and as an Adjunct Assistant Professor for Portland State University. Kate currently works at Hilltop Artists, a youth development program that uses glass arts to connect young people from diverse cultural and economic backgrounds to better futures.

One Response to Kidical Mass: Making Room for Families of Cyclists

  1. Matt Newport says:

    We had over 30 kids and parents join us for the Hilltop Playground ride! If you missed it, the next ride is July 13. We’ll be riding through Central Tacoma from UPS to Franklin Park. Details are on the Tacoma Bike Ranch blog. Ride on!

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