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ACTIVE OUTDOORS: Children in Inverness join others across Europe in Kidical Mass calls for safer streets


By John Davidson


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People gather at the start of the Kidical Mass Inverness event at Bellfield Park. Picture: John Davidson
People gather at the start of the Kidical Mass Inverness event at Bellfield Park. Picture: John Davidson

There was an international feel to the latest Kidical Mass Inverness event as children and grown-ups got on their wheels to call for safer streets.

The event coincided with around 200 similar rides across Europe, with riders here taking a short route from Bellfield Park over the River Ness and through Ballifeary before gathering at the Northern Meeting Park.

There was a great atmosphere in the fine weather at the finish, with snacks, stickers, face painting, bubble machines and biking fun with mountain biking coaches from 42 Cycling.

On top of that, I also met a man who is taking cycle touring to a whole new level.

Asahi is a 34-year-old from Osaka in Japan, and he is currently touring Europe on his obviously well-used bike.

Asahi is four years into a cycle tour of Europe. Picture: John Davidson
Asahi is four years into a cycle tour of Europe. Picture: John Davidson

When I asked him about his current trip, he explained: “I’ve been travelling four years in Europe, so it’s a long, long story! I’ve been to 36 countries in Europe but in Europe there are 50 countries, so I have 14 countries left where I’ve never been to. After Scotland, I take the ferry to France again, then go to the countries where I’ve never been.”

He reckons he has covered more than 10,000 miles in that time – though he is not recording the distances. He is more interested in the places, their cultures and languages.

On his tour of Europe, he has not yet visited war-torn Ukraine. “I want to visit but it’s a very difficult situation now,” Asahi concedes.

This is the second time he has visited Inverness.

“Three years ago, I came here from Shetland and Orkney then I took the boat to Scrabster and cycled to Inverness,” he explained. “Finally, I came back to here to go to Lewis and Skye, so after this I’m going to cycle there.

Asahi's bike has an international look to it! Picture: John Davidson
Asahi's bike has an international look to it! Picture: John Davidson

“Highland is the best scenery in the UK! I miss Highland scenery, this is beautiful nature and I’m very much looking forward to seeing the remote islands.”

Asahi’s nomadic lifestyle sees him busking on his travels to earn some money. He intends to spend another month in Scotland before visiting north Wales and Cornwall, then heading back to the Continent.

He added: “I want to continue travelling another five years. Maybe this year or next year I will finish Europe trip, then I will go to outside of Europe, maybe Middle East or Africa.

“It’s very interesting to see various countries and touch the culture, languages – it’s makes happy memories for me.”

For most here, there were memories being made closer to home. Many of us have seen our children develop from sitting in buggies and child seats, progressing onto balance bikes and trailers and then riding their own bikes.

It’s wonderful to see them gain that freedom as they grow up, and then see a new generation of little ones joining rides like this as they tootle along on their tiny bikes!

Balance bikes and more could be seen riding through Inverness. Picture: Callum Mackay
Balance bikes and more could be seen riding through Inverness. Picture: Callum Mackay
John Davidson and his family at the Kidical Mass ride. Picture: Callum Mackay
John Davidson and his family at the Kidical Mass ride. Picture: Callum Mackay

The serious point behind all of this is that there need to be ways for people of all ages to get about safely on our roads. If we build them so that children can be safe, that means that everybody else can be too.

That means separate bike lanes, places where kids can cross the roads safely – including at roundabouts where there is often no provision – and routes that connect up so that journeys can be completed from A to B in safety the whole way.

According to organisers, the Kidical Mass Inverness event attracted 110 bikes, three trikes, four cargo bikes, seven trailers, one tag along (that was ours!), five balance bikes, two unicycles, one wheelchair, four scooters, five child seats and two pushchairs. There was also a penny farthing at the end which I had a go on – it’s not as easy as it looks!

That’s a wide range of users looking for space to get around safely on our streets. It’s now government policy in Scotland and the UK to prioritise more vulnerable road users, so we’re looking to see that translate into real change on our streets.

Keeping our kids safe and giving them the freedom to travel safely around the town – whether that’s to school, the park, the local shops or into the city centre – is surely something that everyone can get behind.

Bubble fun at the Northern Meeting Park where the Kidical Mass ride ended. Picture: John Davidson
Bubble fun at the Northern Meeting Park where the Kidical Mass ride ended. Picture: John Davidson
Fuel for thought at Kidical Mass. Picture: John Davidson
Fuel for thought at Kidical Mass. Picture: John Davidson
Flying the flag for Kidical Mass. Picture: John Davidson
Flying the flag for Kidical Mass. Picture: John Davidson
Matthew enjoys his bike-powered smoothie. Picture: John Davidson
Matthew enjoys his bike-powered smoothie. Picture: John Davidson

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