Is this just like Critical Mass but with kids?
Absolutely not. We are a family friendly law-abiding ride. Our purpose is to teach kids, parents and caregivers safety skills and provide a ride in which to practice them. We are creating awareness for the growing presence of kids and families on bikes and the need for all road users to respect other users of the road. We are also bringing together families who bike in an effort to provide a positive community experience that will show children how much fun riding your bike can be!
How do I start a ride in my community?
Every community does it different. Some day we’ll create a nice little ‘how-to’ booklet to help you get started, but in the meantime here are the basics:
1- Pick a date/time to meet (weekend afternoons seem to be the most popular).
2- Pick a good meeting point (generally a park)
3- Pick a good ending point (a park, ice cream shop, special event, or any cool kid-friendly spot)
4- Choose a safe, family friendly route between the start and the end (using neighborhood streets, streets with bike lanes, etc.)
5- Announce the ride (email lists, social media, traditional media, flyers, etc.)
6- Show up, ride, and have fun (don’t forget to take pictures for the Flickr group)!
Let us know about your ride and we’ll put you in Locations and on the sidebar when you have a web presence.
Are we required to have a parade permit to ride in KM?
No. We are riding as a group, following all traffic laws and are not required to have a permit since we are not purposefully stopping traffic or blocking traffic. It’s true we may be slow as snails and therefore slow traffic, but bikes are allowed to ride in traffic and other road users can pass or take an alternate route as they see fit.
Is it really that safe to ride as a group?
Absolutely. The more cyclists the safer the roads, so keep on riding!
What if I have more than one kid to keep track of on the ride?
Ride leaders encourage all parents to take responsibility for all young cyclists so you should feel comfortable in knowing there are many eyes and ears on the road helping out. We sometimes have volunteers to ride with us who do not have kids as well as a ride ‘sweeper’ who stays in the back of the pack. However, you should still be very aware of your own child’s location and behavior as you are ultimately responsible for your child’s safety.
Speaking of ‘liability’, is there a waiver to sign?
Some communities are using liability waivers, others are not. Not having them keeps it a little less formal. We are organizing a meeting spot and a fun event at the end but when we ride “together” each family is responsible for their kids and surroundings (stop at all stops, ride with traffic, stay to the right, and no swerving).
Will my kid get left behind?
No. We have a ride ‘sweeper’ who stays in the back of the group to make sure no one is left. Also, the ride leader will stop as many times as necessary to make sure the group stays together since it’s safer and more fun that way! Since we are not stopping traffic or blocking traffic this may mean it’s the slowest ride you’ll ever take- but it makes it more fun and festive!
How long are the rides? Also, are kids on training wheels or tricycles allowed?
Some communities do very short rides around a park or a few blocks but generally the Kidical Mass rides are 1-4 miles and are more for kids able to ride two wheelers. Some families will bring along a “balance bike”, trike, or small bicycle for their kids to ride around the park with but then when it is time for the ride they will use a trailer, cargobike, or child’s bike seat. See this great post from Totcycle on “Family Biking, Ages & Stages” for some ideas on different kinds of family bike set-ups.
What if we need to stop or leave the ride?
You can stop at any time and walk your bike to the end location. Riding on the sidewalk is not always legal in downtown areas and not often as safe as riding in the street. Let the sweep rider know you’re leaving the ride so we don’t think we lost you! Sometimes meltdowns happen and you just have to tend to it. We understand! We’ll do our best to let you know the best route to meet up with us at the end point and maybe even find an escort/ambassador to ride along with you if we can.
Are helmets required?
Yes. By law in many states (including Oregon) all children must wear a helmet, and the ride leaders strongly encourage all riders to wear helmets. We like to see parents and caregivers modeling that behavior as well as safe riding practices for the kids.
Do we have to ride in the bike lane if there is one?
In Oregon, yes. By law in Oregon, if there is a bike lane you may only leave the lane if it’s unsafe for you to remain in it, or if you are turning. Other states vary.
We will ride single file in the bike lane on these roads. Other state laws may vary.
Are we allowed to ‘take the lane’?
Absolutely. When it’s the safest place to ride, take the lane. Otherwise, ride as far right as ‘practicable’ unless you are making a left turn, avoiding hazards, or the lane is too narrow to share. Also, ride in the lane furthest to the right, unless it’s safer to ride in a middle or left lane. Your ride leader will give clear instructions on where you should be.
For more detailed information on the laws that protect cyclists and how to ride safely contact your local cycling club or advocacy group.
In Oregon GEARs and the BTA have a wealth of resources. You can take a free legal clinic, we can provide a family commuting workshop to your school or organization or we can work with you to provide Safe Routes to School information and resources.
We encourage you to join your local bike advocacy organization since these organizations rely on a growing membership in order to continue to provide effective advocacy and programs to make our roads safer for everyone, especially cyclists.