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Planning a Better Cycling Community

Planning a Better Community
By Olena Russell

Our family is involved in cycling advocacy and placemaking in our community with our children, who are currently seven-and-a- half, five, and two-and-a-half. We have biked with them since each was an infant, and are currently a car-free family, so bikes are our main transport. We began the group KidicalMassYYJ to encourage families to cycle more, and to emphasize that “kids are traffic too.” We also became involved as board members in our local advocacy group, the Greater Victoria Cycling Coalition.

The children have been integral to all of these activities, from helping with set up, talking to people, to simply enjoying various events. As we have become more involved and better known in our community, our family has been invited to various consultations with the municipalities, and the Capital Regional District. 

Again, the children are involved, and have had the opportunity to provide their own input, including the eldest presenting his drawing of a cycling plan to city councilors and traffic engineers. We have expanded our advocacy to focus on community and place, and are founding members of the Greater Victoria Placemaking Network.

The children are asked for their input during planning meetings and discussions. Our children attend meetings, tactical urbanism events that they have input in, and various presentations put on by our colleagues. Although the activities we are involved in are often seen as adult ones, our children happily join us, and are welcomed by the community.

Although initially suggested by us, as the children were very young when we started our involvement, we now collaboratively decide what to be involved in, based on the children’s interests. Activities often start with the children asking questions or offering ideas.

The main purpose of these activities is to make our community a better and more welcoming place for children and families. Not only do the children learn about the civic process and issues that our community faces, but they have an opportunity to be heard by and interact with other members of our community. Through our involvement, the children learn about the world around them, and their part in it. That includes planning, conflict resolution, diversity, compassion, environment, and many other facets of the world we live in. Finally, they learn that they matter, and that their thoughts are important.

Our advice to other families is to be involved, share your passions, listen to your children, encourage their passions, connect with people who respect their thoughts, and show them that their voices matter, because they are an integral part of the community.

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