Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Get Em While They're Young

Bicycles were popular when I was a kid. I remember that the high schools in Vancouver had a lot of bicycle racks and they were nearly full to capacity every weekday. Now, what I see in highschools today is just the opposite. Even if a school does have a bike rack there are hardly any bikes there.

What happened? My guess is that over the years, more and more parents thought it was safer to drive their kids to school. So kids fell out of the habit of riding to school and then they stopped using bicycles to get from A to B.

Things are now reversed, so that more adults than kids use bicycles as a means of transportation. Sure, lots of kids have bicycles, but they use them more for tricks and dirt riding, than anything else. Riding your bicycle to school is considered uncool because it suggests that you're family is too poor to afford a car, or that your parents don't care about you enough to drive you. This is just a conjecture on my part, but the fact is, that for whatever reason, kids are not using bicycles as a means of transportation as much as they used to.

I find this unfortunate because if we want our society to become more sustainable we've got to start with our children. Many adults are lost causes when it comes to persuading them to bicycle more and drive cars less. They've gotten too used to the comfort and the convenience of automobiles. It's too late to teach an old dog new tricks. But children have open minds and they actually enjoy being outside if they're given the opportunity.

The bicycle is really an ideal means of transportation for a child. A bicycle doesn't cost a lot, it's easy to ride, it keeps a person fit, it's something they can do together or alone, it gives one a sense of independence and yet it does not require a lot of responsibility and upkeep the way a car does.

Plus, if you start em young, then they are more likely to use a bike when they grow up. And that's the key. Start em young. I'm dedicated to using a bicycle as a means of transportation, but I've been doing it all my life since I was six. I can see why other adults can't do what I do because they may be out of shape and not used to being exposed to the weather. But I enjoy it in all kinds of weather. I love the fresh air, and the burst of muscular energy that it takes to climb a steep hill. I love flying downhill with the wind whistling by me.

When I was a kid, I associated a bicycle with independence, with exploring the world, with meeting and beating every challenge. Those positive associations with childhood made it easy for me to choose biking over driving as an adult in spite of all the pressures to conform. If children associate bicycling with positive experiences than they will be more likely to bike instead of drive as adults.

Let's face it, people are not likely to use their cars less and bicycle more because of worries about global warming and carbon dioxide emissions. Switching from driving a car to riding a bicycle is not like switching to another brand of toothpaste. It's a major lifestyle change. You've gotta be really motivated, and abstractions like global warming are not that motivating.

Not all of us can make the switch from automobiles to bicycles. But if we encourage our kids to bicycle and have fun doing it, they will be in a much better position to make that choice when they become adults. As for how to make cycling for transportation more cool and attractive for teenagers, I really have no idea, but I'm sure that someone out there does. Times change and things come around again and maybe one day in the not too distant future bicycling to school will be all the rage.


  1. starsiIt is true. The children are our future. They grow up so fast but with thier young unbaised and un jaded minds, they see truth and share it in a way that makes perfect sense. They are our greatest hope.