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Little ‘Radical’ Cyclists Invade Oakland

Some Oakland motorists may have been slightly delayed Saturday by hordes of children having fun biking around Lake Merritt

Tiny radical cyclists on the protected bike lane on Lakeside at Lake Merritt. Photo: Luke Bornheimer

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Some 400 children and parents joined an organized bike ride around Lake Merritt in Oakland on Saturday morning. "It's hard to look at a bunch of kids riding their bikes and feel anything but joy," said Marc Hedlund, the advocate who put together the event.

This is the fourth Kidical Mass event Hedlund has organized in the East Bay. He said he was inspired to start doing large rides with families after a project to build protected bike lanes on Hopkins in Berkeley was shot down by merchants. "A lot of the older residents of North Berkeley felt like we were trying to take over their neighborhood or destroy what they like about their neighborhood," he said, adding that opponents spread the misconception that protected bike lanes are for "sports cyclists who don't live here and don't care about us."

Kids riding on Oak Street, where there's no protected bike lane. Photo: Marc Hedlund

In his experience, Hedlund said, most cycling advocates simply want streets to be safe for their kids. "I know so many parents and kids who love biking and want it to be safer," he told Streetsblog. "And I know so many parents and kids who want to bike but don't because they perceive it as unsafe."

The idea of Kidical Mass, of course, is to give families an opportunity to bike safely—and to show them what streets could be like every day with some simple modifications such as protected bike lanes or significantly calmed streets. As seen in the lead image, the ride took advantage of the short section of protected bike lane on Lakeside Drive on the west side of the lake. Where there is no protection and no path, the event took over streets, such as on Oak. "We had about 25 ride leaders, all with Walkie Talkies and orange jackets." They rode ahead and stopped cross traffic, explained Hedlund, "corking streets like critical mass does and coordinating with radios."

The assembly point at Lake Merritt BART. Photo: Luke Bornheimer

Hedlund said most motorists seemed patient and happy to let the group ride pass. The ride leaders had flyers to hand out to explain what the ride was all about:

He said the ride used the mixed-use path on the Lakeshore Avenue side of the lake, specifically not to trigger parents when they passed the area where four-year-old Maia Correia was killed by an inattentive driver in an unprotected bike lane last summer.

Of course, advocates are working hard to get protected bike lanes installed all around the lake. A project is underway on Lakeshore, but there's still no coherent project to ring the entire lake with real protection.

Bike East Bay's Robert Prinz explained in an email that there are other projects to add protected bike lanes on other segments, "but even after all this work there will still be several gaps," he wrote. The gaps are shown as dashed red lines in the Bike East Bay map below. "Continued attention is needed to win a fully protected loop all the way around the lake."

From Bike East Bay's Lake Merritt loop page.

Hedlund, meanwhile, said he was inspired to put these events together after participating in "bike buses"--organized rides of 15-20 kids and parents going to school. He's also spent time in the Netherlands where he saw how much freedom children have to get around on their own. "I want kids to have that freedom here."

Click here to support the vision of a protected bike lane ringing Lake Merritt.

Two more pics of the event below.

The ride starting off from Lake Merritt BART. Photo: Hedlund
An EMT joined the ride just in case. Photo: Hedlund


For more on Saturday's Kidical Mass, check out Jose Fermoso's coverage in the Oaklandside. Or visit the Kidical Mass web page, which includes photos of past events.

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