Setting up a Kidical Mass event
Kidical Mass is a growing movement of people fed up with the lack of safe spaces for children to cycle. In this article we'll look at how you can set up a Kidical Mass if there's not already one set up in your area.
If you're not sure what a Kidical Mass is, read this first - What is Kidical Mass?
If you're not sure, find out if there already is a group in your town.
This article is all about how to set up your own event and has been kindly written by Kat Heath (Kidical Mass Reading and Inverness), Vipul Patel (Kidical Mass Bath/Exeter) and Saskia Heijltjes (Kidical Mass Bath).
DISCLAIMER -This advice article has been written and published in good faith, to help people wishing to set up a Kidical Mass Event in the UK. Neither the authors of this article or Cycle Sprog Ltd can accept any liability for any prosecution, accident, injury or fatality arising as a result of setting up or attending a Kidical Mass event.
how to organise a Kidical Mass Event
There are 7 stages to setting up a Kidical Mass Event
- Get a group of like-minded people together
- Pick a date
- Sort out a route
- Get volunteers
- Talk to the police and council
- Take out insurance
- Promote the ride
- Arrange coverage of the ride
- Do the ride
- Tell people all about it
1. Get a group of like-minded people together
Get a few people together who can help you organise the ride, because it will be good to get some help, and other people also bring in new perspectives.
You don’t need any prior experience, you just need to enjoy cycling.
You might want to decide who is leading this ride, in terms of the public face of the ride. Is it an individual, a group of individuals, or the local cycling campaign group?
2. Pick a date
Pick a date and check if it works for families.
If your preferred day and time coincides with lots of sport clubs/nap times etc, consider running your next ride at a different day/time to allow more people to participate.
Also check if there are no major events taking place in your town on that day, e.g half marathons, rugby matches, food festivals.
Have a think about whether you want this to be a one-off event or a regular thing. Decide what works for you.
Under UK law you must notify the police 6 days in advance, but it's best to give as much advance warning as possible so you have plenty of time to publicise your event.
You also might like to think about whether you want to co-incide with an international Kidical Mass day of action - the next one is 5-8 May and 22-24 September 2023.
3. Sort out a route
Come up with a route that fits with your aims; think of the size of your town, the age of the participants, and what you’d like to achieve (i.e. would you like to encourage underrepresented groups to take up cycling or would you like to highlight the lack of cycling infrastructure?).
Kidical Mass rides in smaller towns can be as short as 2-3 miles, while rides in larger cities are usually longer, up to 5 miles, with the possibility to join only for part of the route.
Think about where you’ll start and end your ride. You’ll need to start somewhere a few people on bikes/trikes can gather. Parks are great if you can get to them safely.
It’s nice to end your ride in a place where there’s lots of space, so people can park their bikes and chat. Space to have a picnic and for children to run around is also important!
If you can, get people to bring cake, cake makes everyone smile 🙂
Extra Route Advice:
- Make sure you test the route, preferably at a similar time/day to the actual ride, to find out if there are any things happening around that time that may cause a risk or even block your route. Remember people with non-standard bikes might need wider spaces between bollards, and dropped kerbs to get on and off the pavements.
- Check this site to see what road restrictions are planned for your chosen date and route: https://one.network/
- Create a map of your route so you can share it with volunteers and participants. Google maps, Strava, etc all have great tools to do this for free
- For evening, low-light, rides make sure bikes are road legal - especially children’s as they don’t usually come with the necessary reflectors.
- If you’ve got very young riders, have a think about if a slight gradient to you will feel like a huge hill to them, and if you have a steep downhill, do you trust everyone to use their brakes?
- Do a risk assessment; write down what locations will need action from volunteers. This could be cycling past a busy junction, or places where lots of pedestrians are crossing. Think about where you might need some safety marshals, a ride leader to guide the group.
4. Get volunteers for your Kidical Mass event
Get at least 10 volunteers together to help to keep riders together and safe. You’ll need the following roles:
- Ride leader x2
- Marshals front x3
- Marshals side x2 (at least)
- Marshals back x3 (one of these should cover for the sides when needed)
Ride leaders will set the pace and will need to know the route well. They are also the face of the ride, and need to make sure everyone stays behind them.
The marshals at the side will need to be quite agile and fast, because they might need to ‘leapfrog’, i.e. cycle to a side road to take over traffic management from a front marshal, so they can go back to the front of the group. People with trailers and cargo bikes will find it difficult to be the side marshals. They should also, with the help of parents, shepherd children from straying out of the group and into other lanes and oncoming traffic.
Marshals should be prepared to ask (possibly impatient) pedestrians not to cross through the group, explaining that it may cause stress to the children.
Side and front marshals will need to use their bikes to stand behind at busy junctions where you think an impatient motorist might not wait for the group to pass. They should put their bike between their body and the cars. They’ll need a smile and a thick skin - most drivers we’ve met have been really happy to see the children riding past, ringing bells and laughing but some have been a bit rude. Explain the ride to anyone you’re stopping, give them a leaflet if you have any, and thank them for waiting.
The marshals at the back are important to ensure the group stays together and to encourage those that are a bit slower than the rest, or help anyone that has a problem with their bike, or falls behind for some reason. They are also important to manage motorists not driving into the group, or trying to overtake the group when it’s not safe.
Brief the volunteers through email, Whatsapp or a meeting before the ride, so they all know what their role is and can ask questions.
Don't forget volunteers for publicity:
- Assign someone, preferably a couple of people, to social media and agree on a “tone of voice”, the tone of your messaging.
- Use the hashtags #KidicalMass and #ThisIsWhatACyclistLooksLike to leverage and amplify the national (and international) visibility.
- Give the volunteers (and other riders) leaflets to hand out as they pass pedestrians and also to drivers if possible. Marshals should have a few in case they also have an opportunity.
5. Talk to the police and council
You must tell the police about your planned ride, at least six days in advance and, if you’re happy to, let your council’s event office know.
A note of warning: the police might be supportive or they might not. There have been very mixed responses in the past, and traffic management in particular is a complicated issue.
If your ride is being classed as a protest, police might not provide traffic management but it does mean they can’t shut it down as it’s your right to protest.
A bit more on the legal situation is at the end of this article.
6. Take out insurance for your Kidical Mass ride
If you are in the UK you can affiliate your ride to Kidical Mass UK to get your events covered by their group insurance policy. It is currently free of charge (kindly supported by Friends of the Earth Scotland) and you need to reapply every year to keep continuous cover in place. For more information join the Kidical Mass UK Facebook Group.
7. Promote the ride
Create some posters/images to share your event. Make sure the date, time and starting point are on it, and a link to find out more.
Getting people to RSVP to a Facebook event might help you gauge numbers.
Promote it on social media, including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Use the hashtag #KidicalMass to get some support from other Kidical Mass groups around the world.
Print out posters if you can, and put up at local cafes, community centres, bike shops, etc.
Create a list of local schools, look for a contact there to promote your rides to other parents and teachers. You might want to ask which ones have a particular cycling issue, this opens a conversation that will help promote your campaign and may even help decide on future rides. Use this connection to ask the school itself to share the event in their newsletter, posters, flyers, or in their parent’s social media channels which is usually the most effective.
Reach out to local journalists, or write a letter to the local newspaper. You might get their attention with something that stands out, like ‘the first Kidical Mass’, or if it’s related to something happening in local politics, etc.
Make sure people understand that it’s for ‘family and friends’, so also those without small children in their lives are welcome to join the ride.
8. Capture the event
Try to get a (semi-)professional photographer or videographer to capture the ride, as well as friends and supporters to take photos and videos with their phones. The friends and supporters footage will be useful to post during or very soon after the ride, to tell people about the ride and how successful it was. Make sure you ask the photographer/videographer if and how they’d like to be credited.
If you can, get people to send you their photos and video clips - you can use them as they are or create a compilation video.
Ask people to take photos and video in landscape format if they can it’s more natural to view, easier to compose the frame, and makes it much easier to share, and crop, the images
Think about your route and make a list of the important views and elements you want to capture.
- A group shot (maybe from above)
- Specific stretches of road (the notorious ones!)
- A video of all the riders approaching and passing (maybe on a corner) which is also useful for counting the riders afterwards
- Shots of the public, pedestrians and motorists, waving and cheering the riders along
- Landmarks passed that add context (aesthetically pleasing or maybe politically important - the council offices or police station!)
- The picnic or activities afterwards (videos of children playing), photos of the activity
If you don’t capture the event, it basically hasn’t happened for those who weren’t there. Getting great photos will also really help you to promote your next ride and to get others on board.
9. The Kidical Mass ride
Make sure all volunteers know what they are doing. Wearing hi-viz or something else that is easily recognisable will help others to identify who is involved in organising.
The start of the ride can be quite chaotic and overwhelming, because many people will be arriving at the same time and some may have questions for you.
Unless you’ve asked people to sign up to attend, you probably won’t know how many people will show up. This is part of the fun!
Try to have a speech prepared for the beginning of the ride - thanking people for turning up and telling them who to follow. A megaphone might help with this.
Make sure people know they are participating at their own risk.
Have the marshals at the front briefed on riding slowly and what signs to look for and how to communicate with the ride leaders.
It’s very easy to underestimate how the people at the back are struggling to keep up even though the front feels they’re stopping a lot.
Children at the front are sometimes very enthusiastic and will try and go faster; make sure you keep them behind the ride leaders and not to go too fast.
10. Share your success
Once your ride is over, don't forget to share your photos and videos - it'll help inspire more people to come along to your next one!
Was this a one off? Or do you intend to make this a regular occurrence?
Some Kidical Mass groups hold rides on a set day every month. Others convene annually to mark the big annual event. For others it may just be a one off - it's totally up to you.
If you're going to repeat the event then having a Facebook account or webpage helps keep people informed of your plans.
Don't forget the Extras
Here's some tried and tested ideas from Kidical Mass veterans. You don't need to do them all, especially on your first ride - but it's always good to know what's worked for others.
- Flags! The kids love them to wave and hold, they look striking in photographs, and it tells pedestrians and motorists what the group is.
- Leaflets - hand out stacks of leaflets to marshals and other rides to hand out to pedestrians and motorists.
- Capture comments - hand out slips for people to write their comments: reasons for joining, their wishes, their feelings on the ride - you can tell them to think about it and, at the end, have volunteers go round and collect them (they should be armed with paper and pencils). These are invaluable for social media, probably giving you enough for daily posts - the comments with a photo do all your work and eliminate the need to think up posts.
- Sticker cards for children - create sticker booklets for children to collect a sticker or stamp at each ride and when their booklet is full (after 3-6 stickers) they will get a prize.
- Cake and cookies - having homemade treats at the end can give little legs back their energy for the ride home. Ask your organising group the first time and you’ll be surprised how many others bring it for the next ride. Or buy a tub (or two) of chocolates and ask volunteers to hand them out to the kids (and parents) after the event.
- Sound system - for a large group two speakers, front and back, are best as neither speaker will reach the other end of the group. For that reason it’s perfectly fine to have out of sync, or even different(!) playlists for each speaker. Please note this might make the ride less suitable to some families, due to sensory issues.
- Themed rides (Halloween, Valentine’s, Christmas, etc)
- Mountain Bike Ramps - talk to local bike groups about if they want to come down to the start / end of your ride. Most people who run groups like this are really passionate and will volunteer for free, and it’s a great way for them to spread word about their business.
- Security bike marking - ask the police if they can offer this at the end of your ride.
Legal situation around Kidical Mass rides
PLEASE NOTE THIS IS NOT LEGAL ADVICE, AND CYCLE SPROG LTD AND THE AUTHORS OF THIS ARTICLE TAKE NO RESPONSIBILITY FOR ANY LOSSES, DAMAGES OR INJURIES INCURRED AS A RESULT OF SETTING UP A KIDICAL MASS EVENT
THIS ADVICE HAS BEEN WRITTEN WITH A UK AUDIENCE IN MIND
- Stopping Traffic
Be aware of the legal situation. If you have a police presence they have the right to fine deliberate, prolonged, traffic obstruction.
this is the law:
Wilfully obstruct the highway:
This offence is committed when there is an obstruction of the highway (the slowing down or stopping of vehicles). The obstruction must be wilful (not accidental) and there must be no lawful excuse for the obstruction. Lawful excuse would include express permission or situations where the obstruction is fleeting and limited in terms of space.
For example, if a group of taxi drivers are protesting over the price of petrol and are driving slow through a city centre during rush hour traffic.
Penalty - a fine only.
- By law you must tell the police in writing 6 days before a public march if you’re the organiser.
Tell the police the:
- Date and time of the march
- Names and addresses of the organisers
The police have the power to:
- limit or change the route of your march
- set any other condition of your march
If you arrange a march at short notice, you must still tell the police as soon as you can.
The police can also:
- change the location
- limit how long a rally lasts
- limit the amount of people who attend
- stop a sit-down protest if it blocks road traffic or public walkways
further Resources about setting up a Kidical Mass event
There is a Kidical Mass UK Facebook group where you can link in with other ride organisers and get advice and inspiration.
You can download a printable version of their advice here, which is really useful for ticking off what you have and haven't done!
Please do share your own tips and experiences in the comments below to help others!
Photo credits of Kidical Mass in Bath - Jamie Bellinger @jmblgr
Other articles you may find useful
- Kidical Mass: What is it?
- Fight Putin Ride a Bike - download your poster now!
- FREE Guide to Cycling to School
- How to get more children cycling safely to your school
- Kids cycling to school shouldn't be rocket science
- Kids bike trailers that cost less than 2 tanks of fuel
- Family Cycling Podcast: Fight Putin, Ride a Bike
- Round up of Kidical Mass weekend May 2023
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