It was a fabulous spring day and I was pedalling along Bank Road in Westsyde when I saw a sight I haven’t seen in years! I actually had to stop, dig my phone out of my pack and take a picture. And I wasn’t the only one to notice. One woman in a trio of cyclists passing by commented “Look at all the bikes!”
Now why, you may ask, were we surprised at the sight of bicycles? It wasn’t that the bikes themselves were particularly unusual, it was that they were parked at an elementary school and there were LOTS of them…dozens! I haven’t seen that many bicycles at a school since I attended 50 years ago!
In the 70s – that’s 1970s for you young readers – it was typical for a kid to ride their bike to school. We all did it. In fact if you were a bit late getting there it was hard to find a place on one of the multiple bike racks to park your ride. And I don’t remember even locking up my bike; everyone had one, no need to pinch someone else’s.
Bikes were so much a part of kid culture that back to school outfitting usually included the purchase of a new basket for the handlebars. My basket hauled so many loads, I would wear out at least one a year.
I didn’t just ride to school, I rode EVERYWHERE! My bike was essential to my mobility. It was my main source of transportation. It would never have occurred to me or my Mom or Dad to drive me to school, or to my friends house, or to the store. My bike provided me independence and gave me freedom – a luxury apparently denied most kids today, except those fortunate kids at Arthur Stevenson Elementary.
I sure hope this is a sign that childhood bicycling is making a comeback. I hope that what I saw recently in Westsyde wasn’t an anomaly. I hope today’s young parents see the benefits of encouraging their child to ride as I did. Not only will those children benefit personally from the freedom and independence of pedalling themselves around their neighbourhood, but our society will benefit from a whole new generation of young people who are not enslaved by car culture. Even more important, our whole planet will benefit from the zero emissions of millions of young people raised in a culture of self propulsion.
Deb Alore, Bicycling Enthusiast and Activist