The people, experiences and emotions involved in a bicycle’s search for new purpose are eloquently told in “The Bicycle“, a short film by Chris McCoy & Adam Neustadter.
I was 8 years old, my sister was 5, when Santa Claus surprised us with two shiny and new bikes under the Christmas tree. Our first ride! It was exciting for the entire family. Mother and Dad took us both out early the next day and taught us how to ride. I remember being a little nervous about getting on a big bike, but it didn’t take me long to get the hang of it, and then I wanted to go fast and ride forever. What a thrill to ride all day long —cruising the hood in search of solo adventures, going to the library to hang out, testing my racing skills against any challenger (bikers, dogs & cars), visiting neighbors, and finding new friends. Many years later, my mother revealed the bikes were not exactly “new”. Dad had found rusty old, beat up bicycles, and spent weekends repairing and restoring them in my grandparent’s home cellar. That, of course, made a special gift and cherished ‘first bike’ memories even more dear.
As a kid I had a dream – I wanted to own my own bicycle. When I got the bike, I must have been the happiest boy in Liverpool, maybe the world. I lived for that bike. —– John Lennon
A kid with a bicycle is empowered with the ability to travel and explore, building confidence and independence, and learning valuable lessons and lifelong skills with each ride. However, many children are not able to enjoy the benefits of bike riding as there are obstacles, financial as well as safety issues that have resulted in a shocking decline in the number of children who ride bikes or walk to school in the US (48% in 1969 to 13% in 2009). Addressing these problems are community and global organizations dedicated to making bicycles accessible to every child and creating bike-friendly cities and neighborhoods, offering ‘build & earn a bike’ programs, bicycle give-aways, mechanic, repair and safety classes, group touring and activities as well as citizen advocacy projects for walk & bike safe streets. You can participate in efforts to get kids on bikes by donating time, money and/or used bikes. Sometimes it’s the smallest thing that can make a big difference in the world.
Here’s a short list of community & global bikes for kids programs and information on bike safety:
Austin Yellow Bike Project in Austin, TX
The Oasis Bike Workshop in Nashville, TN
Free Bikes for Kids (Minnesota, Utah, Georgia)
Safe Kids Worldwide (bike safety tips)
League of American Bicyclists – A non-profit organization that works to create safer roads, stronger communities, and a bicycle-friendly America through information, advocacy and promotion. Established National Bike Month in 1956 to showcase the benefits of biking and “encourage more folks to give biking a try”. [May is National Bike Month, May 14-18 is National Bike To Work Week, and May 18 is Bike To Work Day]
Smart Cycling – safety guide, tips and videos, League of American Bicyclists
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Feature photo of “My first bike, first ride” is courtesy of Zeester Media LLC, CC BY-NC-ND