January 16, 2014

by Zoe Kircos, Grants Manager

Do you remember the first time you rode a bike?

If you?re like most people, you probably do. Your mom or your uncle or your brother held the handlebars while you climbed on and then ran alongside, shouting instructions and encouragement before finally letting go. In fact, I bet somewhere in a drawer or a box in a basement, there’s a picture of you on a bike. For many of us, learning to ride was a rite of passage.

Why is that? Why was riding a bike an important part of our childhoods, and why is it something we are committed to imparting to our children? I mean, we know all the very good arguments: bicycling gets kids active, prepares them for the school day, improves brain function, creates healthy exercise habits, reduces costs from driving everywhere, the list goes on. But somehow, I didn’t think that was all there was to the story.

So, I asked around. Here’s what I heard:

?Even on the worst mornings, once my kids and I get on our bikes to ride to school, the complaining stops. Maybe it’s because they’re breathing too hard to talk. Maybe I can’t hear them because of the wind in my ears. But it’s the most peaceful part of my day.?


?I didn’t want my children to grow up without ever having to transport themselves anywhere. To think that the car was the only option and my job as a parent included taking them everywhere.?


?When I was a kid, my bike was my freedom. I want my kids to have that same freedom.?


?My son doesn’t look out the window when we’re driving. But when we ride, he tells me about every squirrel, every funny thing in someone’s garage, every blade of grass that he saw.?


I?m going to sum up here with Laura Baker. I spoke to Laura a few months ago after her town opened their first biking/walking path. She was very clear about why this was a big deal:

?I imagined living out in the country to be a freeing experience for all five of my children, but instead we were completely car-bound. I found myself driving constantly to practices, rehearsals and meetings. The irony of driving my children so that they could get a bit of exercise was never lost. 

Now our path connects us to school, the local grocery store, the farmer’s market, bank, everything our tiny downtown has to offer. It provides the simple, childhood freedom that I had envisioned for my children. I want them to enjoy the outdoors and view exercise as a part of their everyday experience: biking to the grocery for a loaf of bread or meeting friends for ice cream on a summer day. This path (pictured below) has made a huge impact on our family.?

We all have our reasons for riding, and for teaching our kids to ride. What’s yours?

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