This spring, expect to see more toddlers blazing DC’s most popular trails and safe streets, cycling independently or riding along behind their parents in a trailer.
Since 2011, about 25 parents and children have been a part of Kidical Mass DC, a kid-friendly bike movement with chapters in multiple cities across the country. Megan Odett, founder of Kidical Mass DC and a mother of two who tows her children to school and daycare everyday, hopes that Kidical Mass DC can be a catalyst to further push cycling infrastructure in the city, while providing a fun and safe family activities for the cycling season.
Odett reveals how Kidical Mass is becoming the go-to source for kid-friendly cycling in the city.
What made you decide to start a Kidical Mass chapter in DC?
I’d been living in DC for a few years at that point and I noticed more and more people biking with kids, and as a parent I noticed more and more people asking questions about biking with their kids on the neighborhood listserv. But there wasn’t really a central place where people could meet or talk about what equipment works best or where they can go to find equipment. So I decided that since DC’s biking community was growing and becoming much more widespread, it was time for us to also get a family bicycling community going in a more formal way.
Describe the types of events and activities that Kidical Mass DC hosts.
Our main activity is doing fun family bike rides. These are typically easy bike rides of 3-5 miles in length and we ride on a combination of streets and separated cycling infrastructures like trails. Usually the rides end at some place fun like a splash park or place to get something to eat.
In addition with Kidical Mass DC, I also do one education event every year called The ABC’s of Family Biking. It is a kind of expo or celebration of family biking that involves parents who bike with their kids showing off how they bike with their kids and what kind of bikes they use; bike shops getting together to demonstrate what equipment they sell for biking with kids; and some teaching activities and workshops that are run by the Washington Area Bicyclists Association and the local Safe Route to School coordinator.
What are the best kid-friendly trails, parks or roads in the city?
I am a huge fan of the Metropolitan Branch Trail that runs from Brookland down close to Union Station and I also really love the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail. They’re both really beautiful trails that are off the streets but offer a lot of really interesting things to look at.
What’s the most difficult part of organizing rides that incorporate children?
Probably finding places to ride that are both fun to get to and easy and safe for kids to ride on, since we still don’t have a whole lot of cycling infrastructure on the streets.
How do you feel about the progress that the city has made in accommodating cyclists?
The city has made a lot of progress and I’m really happy to see that DC is becoming a national leader in building cycling infrastructure.
I think that the next big steps are going to be connecting all the different pieces of cycling infrastructure together so that you can really go all the way from one place to another place on really safe roads rather than having a safe road here and having to jump over the to the next piece of really safe cycling infrastructure.
And also making sure that the cycling infrastructure that we have accommodates young riders and people riding big bikes that tow their children—so having infrastructure that accommodates non-stereotypical cyclists is going to be a big step for DC
If more children are seen riding, will there be a push for safer streets?
I sure hope so. I think that in other cities, demonstrating that children and families are riding bikes has done a lot to make cycling seem like something that ordinary people do and in turn that helps generate more support for good cycling infrastructure and facilities.
What can people expect from Kidical Mass this year?
This year we are going to do an even bigger and better ABC’s of Family Biking and they can expect to see more great rides ending at fun destinations with good food.
Kidical Mass’s first ride of the year, and its ABCs of Family Biking event, will be May 3. Learn more here.
This interview has been edited and condensed. Crossposted on ElevationDC.