Kidical Mass Continues to Grow as Kids and Adults Take Over with Their Bikes

KidMass 01

Photos by Allan Crawford. More pictures below.

Blair Cohn—Bixby Knolls’ reinventing guru and head of the Bixby Knolls Business Improvement Association (BKBIA)—had a brilliant idea two years ago: take the hardcore cyclist concept that is Critical Mass and hand it over to the kids like they did in Eugene, Oregon.

Hence, Kidical Mass in Long Beach was born. It was even stolen by Santa Monica (though they don’t want to admit it).

Critical Mass, founded slightly over two decades ago in San Francisco, is a simple concept: to congest streets by cruising through with their bikes. The social commentary was two-fold, with one side being advocacy—to show that, indeed, people do commute by bike, a concept that in the 90s was baffling for most—and the other side being a physical display—to show cars what they continually do on a daily basis: take over 80% of the public space by driving. Everywhere. Even a block.

When Critical Mass made its way down to Long Beach along Ocean Boulevard, our city’s moniker of being the most bike friendly was inverted as several bicyclists had their bikes confiscated and were handed citations.

“I thought it was bizarre that such a thing was happening our ‘most bike friendly city,’” said Cohn. “So Krista Leaders (BKBIA Project Manager) and I flipped the script and thumbed our nose at the issue… Charlie Gandy had asked me, ‘Would you like Bixby Knolls to be a bike-friendly business district?’ and I said, ‘Of course.’ But we hadn’t found the right formula until then. Promotes bike safety for kids and community rides; it was the answer to our question of what we could do to promote the cycling agenda and further activate our business district.”

The first Kidical Mass was massively successful with over 300 participants, including Mayor Foster, then-Councilmember Rae Gabelich, and the LBPD—“so the City and police could be represented as well,” Cohn said—leading little cyclists from Los Cerritos Park to Georgie’s Place for a celebratory ice cream.

It has since become a monthly event, with a 4.5 to 5 mile route that always starts and ends at Georgie’s Place.

“We try to theme out the months to keep it fun and interesting,” Cohn said. “In June, our Father’s Day Ride encourages all participants to wear a tie. We’ve had Zombie rides, Tweed rides, Bike Messenger rides—to name a few. Each August we give out the Iron Man Award to the kid who has progressed the most over the previous year and/or who has attended all the rides. The first two recipients were 4 and 5 years old.”

If you haven’t partaken in the event, you should—despite your age. And don’t worry: every month there is plenty of ice cream and reggae music awaiting you every third Sunday of the month.

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Brian Addison has been a writer, editor, and photographer for more than a decade, covering everything from food and culture to transportation and housing. In 2015, he was named Journalist of the Year by the Los Angeles Press Club and has since garnered 16 nominations and two additional wins for Best Political Commentary for his work at KCET and Best Blog for Longbeachize, a section of the Long Beach Post. Brian currently serves as a columnist and editor for the Long Beach Post.
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