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Edmonton Kidical Mass

Edmonton Kidical Mass

Considering that we woke to a downpour that morning, and we were competing with Fathers’ Day for peoples’ time, we think the first Edmonton Kidical Mass was a roaring success!

We had bubbles and sidewalk chalk, which were a big hit with our littlest attendees.

 

Pedalheads-Booth
Pedalheads’ booth had information about the bicycle camps they run for kids from preschoolers through to teens, and had some prize giveaways.
The craft table was stocked with star shaped cardboard and foam, washable glitter glue, and sequins, with the intent that they could be used as spoke cards. Mostly they didn’t dry in time to be used, and I suspect wouldn’t stay in spokes without an assist from some tape.
Some of the older kids created elaborate bicycle decorations with the supplied crepe paper ribbon while waiting for everyone to have faces painted and balloons made.
Janice from Wonderstuff making magic with her paintbrush.

Matching face-paint and balloon animal. Cool!
Elaborate balloon art on Erin’s helmet. It was fascinating to watch him at work.
Robert was so excited about his dragon, with spiralling flames and knobs all down his back. (Note the print on his shirt. I want it in my size!)

Big thanks to all the families who joined us for part or all of the event, Wonderstuff for the fabulous face painting and incredible balloon art, our guests Pedalheads (the bike camp people, not the local LBS) for the safety talk before the ride, and our sponsors at Bikeology! Thanks also to local radio station NOW fm and the Danone people who unexpectedly dropped by our picnic site with tunes and treats.

Signal demonstration before the ride.
Helmet fitting check, led by the rep from Pedalheads.
And we’re off! We rode around the park to the playground. This shot was taken over my shoulder and you can see my helmet balloons in a corner of the frame.
Pulling in to the playground area at the other side of the park.
The grownups’ bikes at rest beside the playground. (You can see my huge balloon hat in the bucket of the Madsen.) Unfortunately none of my playground photos turned out, so you’ll just have to take my word for it that the kids had fun and we stayed longer than intended.
It’s a smidge blurry, but I love this shot of Karen with 2-day-old Charlotte in her sling, standing by as the boys get bundled into the Madsen. (Karen didn’t ride, but came down to the park just to hang out.)
My daughter Audrey on the ride back around the park to our picnic site. (This was meant to be another group shot, but taking photos over your shoulder as you ride makes it really hard to frame things properly. This is actually the only one of about 10 photos I took on the way back that turned out.)

A few things we learned:

– Face painting and balloons take time to do well, so we ended up only having time for a single loop around the park, instead of two or three as originally planned. Playground stops with small children also always take longer than you think they will.

– Balloon decorations on helmets look fabulous in photos, but even the slightest breeze will make the decorated helmets very uncomfortable to wear. My tall balloon hat actually moved the helmet around a lot on my head, which was distracting and felt unsafe. Balloon art that strapped to handlebars or wrists worked great, though.

– Kids on balance bikes or training wheels travel at speeds low enough that some cargo bikes will feel unstable and need to pass, so choose which adult will act as the sweep accordingly.

– We heard from a few attendees that they knew families who had not been able to come because they didn’t have the time to ride to the event, or a vehicle that allows them to transport their cargo bikes or kid-haulers across town. Of course organizers in other cities have had the same issue. Our solution will be to move the ride around the city, and so we have created an Edmonton Kidical Mass page on Facebook where we can run polls to figure out which neighborhoods to visit next. Please join the conversation there! Our next family ride will be in September or October.

Do. Want.

– There is now a company in Montreal who are importing bakfietsen and other Dutch bicycles to Canada, and that’s how Karen and Mike came by their beautiful bakfiets. It’s fitted with two seats, so all three kids (ages 5, 5, and 7) (or, as Mike pointed out, one tipsy adult) can ride in the box. Sometimes the eldest child gets out and helps his Mom push it up the river valley hills, but otherwise they find it well suited to Edmonton’s terrain.

PS: we are trying something new by posting all the photos on Flikr (you can see the whole set here), then adding images to the posts using the URL. Let me know in the comments how that works, ok? 

 

Planning our first Edmonton Kidical Mass

Planning our first Edmonton Kidical Mass

The Kidical Mass logo, via Totcycle.

We’ve been talking among our circle about organizing a Kidical Mass ride in Edmonton for ages now, and decided that this is the year it’s going to happen! Our planning team includes me and Angel, and our friends Karen (who might not be able to come to this one since she’ll be caring for a newborn, but will be a regular in the future) and Erin (who has just moved here, and was an enthusiastic participant at Victoria’s Kidical Mass events).

Kidical Mass is a lighthearted family- and kid-centred group ride that is now running in most North American cities. For more information, check out their About and FAQ pages.

When: June is Bike Month in Edmonton, so it seems like the best time to hold our first one. Since the 3rd Sunday was clear of rides last year, we chose June 16th and checked with the Bikeology Festival organizers to ensure we wouldn’t be overlapping with any of their major events. They gave us the all-clear, and search engines gave us nothing to be worried about on the date, so: Sunday June 16th it will be!

Where: We wanted a central location, so we chose Hawrelak Park. It’s nice and big, there are picnic facilities and a playground, any vehicular traffic moves at a speed slower than typical residential roads, and there are lots of unpaved bike trails if anyone wants to take their kids for a different sort of ride, in addition to the official KM ride. For anyone who needs to bring their bike quite a distance, there’s parking, and the ride there from the closest LRT station is pleasant (well, hilly, but pretty!) if you prefer to go multi-modal. Before we announced it, a couple of us met at Hawrelak to try out the route and do some brainstorming.

We have booked Picnic Site #1 for 11am-3pm, with the intent being that our route around the park includes a stop at the playground beside site #3. The whole loop is 2.53km, and takes about 20 minutes total, with the playground stop about halfway (so, 10 minutes of riding, stop and play for 30 minutes, 10 minutes of riding). Here is the park map with our picnic site and route highlighted:

hawrelakmap

Promotion: We will be promoting it on Twitter using the #yegbike hashtag, a Facebook event page the Bikeology festival organizers created, fliers made by our kids (see below), and getting our rides listed with the official KM page and the Bikeology Festival page (where all the fantastic local events during Bike Month are listed) and maybe a couple of the local parenting blogs (update: City and Baby kindly included us in their roundup of Fathers’ Day events!).

A poster my daughter made, which we're photocopying to post in a few key places.
A poster my daughter made, which we’re photocopying to post in a few key places.

Food and Activities: We agreed that the best idea this time around is to keep it relatively simple. Bring your own picnic; we’ll provide some fresh fruit, bottled water, a lemonade stand, and peanut-and-tree-nut-free ice cream and popsicles. We will also have a craft table for making sparkly spoke cards, a bike decorating area, and face painting! Update: there will be face painting and balloons by Wonderstuff, and a booth by Pedalheads childrens’ bicycle camps.

Safety Thoughts: For liability insurance purposes, all participants (not just children) are required to wear helmets, and we’ll go over how helmets should fit. We’ll also remind everyone how to do hand signals. We will assemble for the ride in the parking lot beside Picnic Site #1, which we will close to traffic while we’re getting ready. We will be riding on the road as a group, but traffic within the park is restricted to a 20 km/h speed limit, so it will be a very safe introduction to riding on the road. Our ride leader will keep our speed moderate, and our ride sweep will make sure nobody gets left behind; both will have signs and flags on their bikes and high-vis sashes.

Other Housekeeping: Picnic Site #1 does have shelter and washrooms. We will doing the ride rain or shine. Need to find the organizers? We’ll be wearing high-vis sashes and balloon hats, and I’ll be the one in the polka-dot helmet.

Followup: During the event, we will also do an informal survey of our attendees to gauge interest in a smaller monthly Kidical Mass ride and in an annual Fiets Of Parenthood event, and to get a sense of the proportions of new vs experienced cycling families in attendance. If we get enough interest, we will do a second family event in the fall, then might set a monthly schedule starting next spring.

Want to organize a Kidical Mass in your community? Check the Kidical Mass site to see if one already exists, then read this how-to post from Simply Bike.

Kidical Mass rides in Novembrrr!

Kidical Mass rides in Novembrrr!

After following the Totcycle blog for a couple of years, I finally had a chance to join his Kidical Mass ride last week.  The occasion was the grand opening of the Ship Canal Trial. It’s a great piece of bike infrastructure as it lets people get from Magnolia and the Ballard Locks to the Fremont bridge, without having to take a confusing and not-particularly friendly interchange near the Ballard Bridge.
The forcast was for chilly, with a possibility of rain and/or snow. Chilly by Seattle standards, of course, which translates to 35-40F (2-4C). I hadn’t taken Spencer for a winter ride before, and I was a little concerned about how to dress him. I started digging through the closet to find last year’s winter gear. The snow pants fit great, but were probably unnecessary. Tried to find toques without pompom that would fit under bike helmets. The good mitts were left at karate class. And Spencer’s winter coat looked awfully short in the sleeves. This is when I began to feel like a lousy mother and a lousy Canadian. Didn’t I know that winter was coming? Has it ever skipped a year? In the end, the best solution was to wear last year’s coat and a warm pair of my mitts that were long enough to cover his wrist, even with the somewhat too short sleeves. Extra sweaters, scarfs and toques were added, I packed the pannier, and we were ready to roll.
When we got to the end of the driveway, it became clear that I had overreacted and we were both terribly overdressed. So, we stopped to strip off layers, and my pannier was then stuffed with fleece for the rest of the day. Still, I’m glad we had the mitts and scarf – little bodies get cold quickly. Especially, when they don’t help much with the pedaling. Finally, we were on our way and were only a little bit late to our meeting place at the Ballard Library. 
Spencer was ready to go.

Despite the chilly weather, there was a great turnout. I didn’t get a complete head count, but suspect it must have been about 40 people. And the bikes! There were at least three Madsens, one Bakfiet, a couple of trailers and two trail-a-bikes. Clearly, this was a very bikey crowd.

We rode west on NW 57th St., one of our candidates for a neighborhood greenway. It’s always fun riding with such a big group. We can chat with folks, admire the different bikes and swap stories. Of course we’re still careful about traffic, but we don’t really have to worry about visibility with a group of this size! We took 28th Ave NW and then Market St. to the Ballard Locks, where we had to dismount to cross the canal. There is no denying that this was a production. The walkways across the locks are relatively narrow – there’s just enough room for a bike and pedestrian to cross each other. A group of cargo and family bikes takes a long time to cross. Fortunately, traffic was very light – there aren’t many tourists out on a chilly November morning.

The locks were still pumped dry for their annual maintenance. We could see a few folks working away at the bottom, which gives a sense of how big it really is. The barnacles clinging to the wall were starting to get rather stinky by this point. It didn’t seem to bother the crows and gulls, though – they were still enjoying their sushi.

See the three white dots? Those are the workers in their white hard hats.

After many photos and three separate bathroom breaks, we were finally ready to continue on our way. We rode along Commodore Way and through Fisherman’s Terminal. It’s a light industrial area without a bike lane, but the road is relatively wide and there was hardly any traffic. We arrived under the Ballard Bridge just in time for the opening ceremony. A good sized crowd of cyclists and walkers had gathered by this time.

Peter Hahn, the head of SDOT, gave a speech and cut the ribbon with very big pair of scissors.

However, for our group, the big attraction was Julian’s thermos of hot apple cider to warm those chilly fingers.

Before too long, we were on our way. I don’t have any photos of the new trail, yet, but there’s a nice one here. It’s a pleasant ride that I’ll definitely check out again and will be my preferred route between the Pier 91 trail and the Fremont Bridge. However, there is a rather annoying double 2-curve to cross the train tracks. I know they need to slow bike traffic down and direct folks to cross at a right angle, but this really seems excessive. Still, it’s a minor flaw in an otherwise great trail.

After crossing back across the Fremont Bridge, we split up to get food and then met again at the Fremont Brewery. This was my first time there, and I’m delighted to discover such a cool place. It’s a local microbrewery which makes absolutely delicious beer. It’s a tasting room, not a full-fledged bar and they don’t sell food, but allow you to bring your own it. It’s really a big room with picnic tables at one end and big, shiny vats at the other, but seemed cosy and friendly. It’s also remarkably family-friendly – they even have a couple of baskets of toys! Only in Seattle. Sadly, I have no good photos from this part of the trip, so you’ll have to take my word for it until you can go there yourself.

After food, a beer and lots of chatting and tracking down stray children, it was time to go. We’d had a full day and I knew we were in the pre-melt down phase. Plus, Spencer was getting tired too. We weren’t the only ones who’d had enough. Thirty seconds earlier, this little guy had been flopped over the edge of his bucket seat. If only I’d been able to get my camera out earlier…..

It was a great group and a terrific ride. I hope we can do it again soon! And I did buy my son a new winter coat the next day.