The Ottawa-Gatineau For Our Kids chapter recently co-hosted a family-friendly bike ride and rally asking the city of Ottawa to make sustainable transportation and safety for children a higher priority.
More than 250 kids, parents, and community members came out on a beautiful Sunday morning to decorate and ride their bikes toward city hall.
The event, called Kidical Mass, is part of a growing international movement that calls for safe streets for kids, which are, in turn, safe streets for everyone. Across the world, more than 230,000 people participated in more than 890 actions during the key action week in September. In Canada, similar Kidical Mass rides are taking place in Halifax, Toronto, and Edmonton.
Ottawa’s ride was a showcase of people of all ages and abilities riding on all sorts of bikes. Many families came with kids riding in cargo bikes, on long-tail bikes, with front or rear child seats, or with kids in bike trailers. These families use these bikes as transportation to get to school, daycare, swimming pools, and other locations across the city.
It was an inspiring gathering for parents to meet and see others dedicated to protecting our kids and their future. In the City of Ottawa, transportation accounts for 42% of community greenhouse gas emissions. We must change the ways we get around, particularly for the large number of short trips that could be done by walking or biking. But, for many of us that will require the city to truly invest in making safer streets. For our kids, who are at greater risk of injury or death in a traffic collision, even more so.
We identified six key actions and priorities that our community wants addressed:
- A true Vision Zero strategy that focuses on proactive design action to eliminate road deaths and serious injuries. A key tenet of Vision Zero is that street design can ensure that when mistakes happen, they don't cause life-changing impacts.
- Separated and wide bike lanes that provide access to children’s destinations like schools, libraries, parks, and community centres.
- Traffic calming features and reduced speed limits on arterials and residential streets.
- Car-free streets including parkways and school streets.
- Elimination of right-turns on red lights.
- Streets that address climate change by reducing private vehicle use.
At the event, volunteers collected data from attendees about where they want to travel by walking or biking, but don’t feel safe doing so. They drew pictures and shared personal and evocative messages like “Bronson before canal bridge = death trap” and “Vanier needs more sidewalks!”. Responses from people unable to attend the event were also collected so that voices from across the city could be heard.
The initial data was presented to Ottawa city councillor Sean Devine at the event and a more comprehensive report will be made at a future Transportation Committee meeting.
The Kidical Mass Ottawa event was a collaboration between For Our Kids, Bike Ottawa, and School Streets Ottawa. These groups share the interconnected interests of climate action, children, and safe streets and were able to reach different folks and introduce many people with those shared interests to other groups doing relevant work. We are building a strong and engaged community that shares our concerns and can advocate for change.
Host a Kidical Mass Event in Your Community!
Have you been inspired? Do you want to see some of your local streets taken over by joy, colour, music, and kids too? Do you want to start changing minds and making sure leaders and community members see parents, families, and everyone else who are trying to travel in more sustainable ways?
- You can start small! Even a few families will start to create a buzz. The Ottawa team built momentum for the idea with smaller events called We Bike For Our Kids over the summer before Kidical Mass
- This is a great event for For Our Kids chapters or individuals to host, possibly in collaboration with other local groups. Work with parents and these groups to spread the word through schools, community groups, and other methods to reach families.
- There are many resources available online, including promotional videos and images, and regular workshops at kidsonbike.org
- Canadian hosts have recently started a digital community of practice to work together and share ideas, resources, and work through challenges. We would be thrilled to welcome more folks from across the country! Contact us at [email protected] to join.
Photos of Kidical Mass bike ride participants credit: Gabriel Rivett-Carnac
Photo of kids with city councillor Sean Devine courtesy Sean Devine