300 children and adults bike through Brighton & Hove, calling for better cycling provision

300 children and adults bike through Brighton & Hove, calling for better cycling provision

Around 300 cyclists of all ages took to the streets of Brighton & Hove on Saturday, 23 September, in the city’s first major Kidical Mass bike ride. The event, part of a global campaign inspired by Critical Mass, calls for safe cycling infrastructure, especially for children and families.

Nick Sayers, one of the organisers, said: “We’re delighted – we had hoped for a hundred riders, so to get three times that number powerfully demonstrates how much people want safe routes for riding on bicycles, not just sitting inside cars.”

Almost half of the riders taking part were children, some pedalling their own bikes, others riding with friends and family on child seats, cargo bikes and trailers.

Matteo, aged 5, joined on his bright green bicycle. He said: “I loved it because I got to ride on the road for the very first time. It was great feeling safe on the road. I can ride on the cycle lanes to stay safe but there aren’t very many of them. I had to get to the start but there weren’t any cycle lanes so I stayed on the pavement and that wasn’t very good and a bit scary.”

Thirty volunteer marshals helped ensure the ride ran safely and smoothly. Some of these were professional Bikeability trainers, who teach safe cycling skills.

The ride turned out to be one of the biggest such events in the UK outside London. Elsewhere rides took place in cities including Birmingham, Manchester and Glasgow, with many more in the United States, Germany, Portugal and other countries.

In Brighton & Hove, two feeder rides from The Level and Hove Park joined with more riders at the Peace Statue. The entire mass then looped around the heart of the city, and paused for a symbolic photo shoot outside Hove Town Hall, the seat of local government. The ride calls on Brighton & Hove City Council to reconsider its back-pedalling on safe new cycle routes, including those along the seafront.

Councillor Sue Shanks (Green Party) joined the ride, and said: “It was a great event and lovely to see so many children able to cycle safely on the road. Wouldn’t it be great if that was always the case? They are the road users of the future and we need to prepare the highways so everyone can cycle easily and safely – including older people like me.”

Councillor Bharti Gajjar (Labour), waving the ride off at The Level, said: “Cycling is definitely very important for children, so lessons and safer junctions will certainly help.”

The event was organised by local cycling campaigns Bricycles, Brighton Bike Hub, and Old Shoreham Road (OSR) Bike Train, with funding from The Big Bike Revival.

Iliana Koutsou from Bricycles said: “The huge turnout shows how passionate families are about building a better Brighton & Hove. Cycling improves children’s and young people’s physical and mental health. In a cost-of-living crisis, bikes provide cheap transport for those who need it. But getting children on bicycles requires more cycle lanes to be installed, such as the urgent improvements along Valley Gardens and Kingsway. We’re calling for bold action to change our city for the better – our children deserve nothing less.”

Duncan Blinkhorn of Brighton Bike Hub said: “This ride has demonstrated the enthusiasm for city cycling among children and families. One day soon, I hope we will see the investment and political courage to create a properly joined-up network of cycle routes, enabling everyone to get around safely, confidently and easily by bike.”

Daren Callow of OSR Bike Train said: “The ride was joyful and uplifting. It was encouraging to see so many different types of bicycle – from kids’ bikes to cargo bikes – on the streets of Hove. We hope it’s a sign of better things to come.”

The organisers plan to run more Kidical Mass rides next year.

For information on future events, follow Bricycles on social media or visit bicycles.org.uk