Bike racks in front of Blankner Elementary School in Orlando, Fla. are filled with
bicycles. It’s an image I remember when I lived there in the 1990s; beautiful tangles of chrome and paint glimmering in the sunshine.
It was more than just steel and rubber, though, as those bicycles were a taste of freedom for little seven and eight-year-olds. They were rolling machines of excitement, they were stepping stones to independence, and yes, they were even physical fitness.
Outside our schools in Whiteville I never see bicycles. We don’t even have bicycle racks.
I am not a parent, but I can think of some reasons why children don’t ride bicycles to school; it’s too far; Mom or Dad can easily drop them off on the way to work, (and that ride can be a beautiful and functional bonding time); they have too many books to carry; and it’s really freaking dangerous.
If I were a parent, I’d have to think long and hard about that last one. But surely, the parents in Orlando have the same concerns, don’t they? They have crazy traffic there, narrow roads, and areas with no bike lanes just like we do. So, what is the big difference between there and here?
I think it’s the environment.
Here, virtually nobody rides their bike to school. So, the perception is that it is unreasonably dangerous, and also that only children of poor families whose parents don’t love them or want to be with them must ride.
But visit that other environment in Orlando, (which I did recently,) watch all the children ride their bikes to school, and you won’t think that way. You’ll see the neighborhood children riding bicycles, and that will be the norm. Your child will want to join them.
So above all, we are cursed here with a powerful force working against a tradition that could help build stronger bodies and minds for our children, and we cannot get out from under this without courage, desire and a bit of creativity.
Yes, riding bicycles can be dangerous, and as much as I feel they are ultimately ideal for children and adults, I am not about to recommend that parents just send their children off on two wheels. But some creative parents have a great idea; they ride with their children.
Surely everyone can’t do this every day, but maybe you could once a week, or a few times each month or semester? If you’re fortunate enough, you could even ride your bike from the school to work.
Families could team up, borrowing the “walking school bus” concept. Neighborhood children wait in their driveways for others – escorted by a parent – to ride by, and they join them. Simple.
Again, not every day, but more than we ride now. And speaking of right now, this is an exciting time, right here, as it is time for Pat Fatmucket!
Look at the front of today’s Living section for details on a great family opportunity of bike riding around beautiful Lake Waccamaw. “It’s the most fun you can have with your clams on,” our beloved mascot, Pat Fatmucket, likes to say.
You can ride either 8 or 22 miles because, according to Pat; “we have two routes to suit every fanny!”
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