More than 300 children and their parents took to the city’s streets at the weekend as part of a peaceful protest promoting safer cycling and aiming to inspire more people to ditch their cars for more urban journeys.
The group joined together as part of the international Kidical Mass movement, which aims to give the younger generation the chance to have their voices heard when it comes to travelling safely and sustainably in their city.
The event is a junior equivalent of the regular protests staged by Critical Mass, a global organisation that unites cyclists from across the world, which sees large groups of sometimes hundreds of cyclists riding en masse through the city.
The group rides are designed to create a safe environment for less confident road cyclists and to reclaim space from cars.
The rides have attracted some criticism for ‘blocking the traffic’, but the organisers respond by saying: “We’re not blocking the traffic. We are the traffic.”
Hundreds of children participated in the bike ride from Harrison Park to the Meadows on Sunday afternoon to voice their concerns on climate change, sustainability and creating safe, alternative routes for cyclists.
The group also uses the strengths of social media to get noticed by their local councils. One participant, Jon Burke, said on Twitter: “If you invite more cars, you get more cars. If you make more streets better for cars you get more traffic...If you invite people to walk more and use public spaces more, you get more life in the city. You get what you invite”.
Ewan Maclean, organiser of the event, said: “These events are happening all over Europe. The exercise is to demonstrate that our children need a safe place to move around in our city and it needs to be progressively and sustainably. What I don’t want is for our children to be going around in cars, polluting, damaging the roads, creating traffic accidents and contributing to century lifestyle problems and illnesses.”
Whilst the overall turnout of the event was successful, Ewan said “part of the problem is that we did this primarily on the Southside, but the irony is lots of people from Leith, Portobello and various other places that wanted to turn up don’t have safe ways of getting here with their children, so subsequently they couldn’t join.”
Now Ewan is keen for “political bravery” to identify road safety for non-car travellers as a priority. He said it should apply “especially when it involves our children”.
Every month, Critical Mass plans to create cycle events that create unwanted car traffic on the roads until local MSPs listen to what needs to be changed. The group is keen to tackle the daily issues associated with traffic volume through introducing new established safe cycle routes and pedestrian walking areas to create the option of alternative travel and stop car dependency growing.