Just like apple pie and ice cream, kids and bikes should go hand-in-hand. I say, “should” because it is a declining phenomenon! Here are the facts: In 1969, 48% of American kids walked or bicycled to school. By 2009, the percentage dropped to 13%. (Source: Momentum magazine Sept/Oct 2010)
When I was growing up, my first instinct when I got home from school was to jump on my bike and head over to a friend’s place. In the evenings, all of the kids on our street had bike races (weather permitting). If you wanted a quick snack from McDonald’s, you’d never dream of bugging your parents for a drive, you’d simply jump on your bike and head over.
What’s happened? There are several reasons parents are reluctant to let their children ride their bikes:
• Neighborhoods and roads are busier.
• Parents are concerned about their kids’ safety if they’re biking alone.
• Our lives are faster paced and people are often racing from one activity to the next.
• People are worried about theft of their bicycles.
Isn’t it sad though?
Let’s consider the benefits of biking:
• Fresh air and exercise.
• Kids gain a sense of community when riding around their neighborhood.
• Children learn to be independent and gain a sense of autonomy.
• There’s less traffic congestion when parents aren’t driving their kids to and from school, appointments and play dates.
How can we find a better balance that addresses the concerns of parents but also encourages children to ride their bikes more often?
• Create more neighborhood bike paths.
• Ensure our kids learn and follow the traffic safety rules for cyclists, for example, turn signals and dismounting bikes at intersections.
• Insist your child wears a bike safety helmet.
• Encourage children to ride to school in a buddy system.
• Provide bike racks at schools, community centers and parks.
• Buy a proper bike lock.
Let’s reverse the trend: Encourage your kids to hop on their bikes the next time they want to go somewhere in the neighborhood. Once they experience the freedom, they may get hooked!
by Karin Climans