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!
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