In 2021, I organized two “bike rally” events with the Kingston Coalition for Active Transportation with the goal to create a Critical Mass-like event with children and those with mobility devices leading the way. The first rally became the largest group bike ride in Kingston.
Designing streets and mobility infrastructure for All Ages & Abilities (AAA) is part of the fundamental changes needed in to improve a transportation system.
Recently, many groups have started to create guidelines that speak to AAA designs such as the Urban Bikeway Design Guide, while organizations like 8-80 cities explicitly aim to create cities for all ages (ages 8 to 80!). These are great steps forward, but how might the intention of AAA apply to the design of an event? Specifically, how might AAA apply to an event that aims to promote its vision?
When I moved to Kingston with my family, I saw a poster “Everyone Out!” for a Critical Mass – where cyclists meet up and take over the street for a group ride. Part-party, part protest. I love Critical Mass events, and have been lucky to join many rides in Toronto, Ottawa, and even helped organize one in Yellowknife! Of course, I joined them! Or, more like I was very able to join them. Although I may not have been aware at the time, Critical Mass events were designed for people like me – able-bodied, over-confident, and without kids.
With AAA in mind this time, and gaining major inspiration from the highly successful Bells on Bloor, I organized two “bike rally” events in Kingston with the help of the Kingston Coalition for Active Transportation (KCAT) with the sunny ride becoming the largest group bike ride in Kingston (so far!).
The Sunny Ride
The Rainy Ride
I wanted to ensure that these bike ralleys had a different flavour and intention than other Critical Mass events. I also wanted to make sure that children could take part and lead the way!
Here are a few things that worked well to make that happen:
- Work with as many networks and relationships and involve them right from the beginning.
- Find a time and route that is appropriate. For kids and their parents, this might mean weekends and starting before 5 pm. It might also mean a very short loop – more like a parade – with a clear start and end.
- Assume no one has been on a group ride before. We gave instructions to everyone involved about how to signal and how to travel as a group before we started.
- Go slow. Go very slow. Have dedicated people in front, in the middle, and in the back, and ensure the ride moves together. Have planned times when you come to a halt to check-in.
Critical Mass-like events have a purpose, essentially as positively framed protest, but they can also be unwelcome spaces to many. Even with AAA in mind, the Kingston Bike Rally is not for everyone. Moving forward, I would love to transition these events into something that looks and feels more like Toronto’s Open Street or Ottawa Bike Days.
By formally closing a street to vehicles, these events will become much more inviting, welcoming, and accessible. It’s important to note that AAA is not an end state. AAA is a vision, a process, an intention, and a practice that we can improve!