The changing urban landscape
In a way, it is a continuation on the point of mobility, but here we have a more long-term cultural aspect. Cycling has its own culture surrounding it, and as with any activity, it is best to recruit them while they are young. Over the last hundred years humanity has been experiencing a trend towards urbanisation, making it highly likely that today’s kids will grow up to live in densely populated cities. Cars are the least efficient way of getting around in such an environment. Cities like London, New York and San Francisco are investing into cycling infrastructure in an effort to tackle the increasing traffic and pollution problems by giving an additional transportation alternative to their residents. While these efforts vary in eagerness and success, they reflect a larger trend that is gaining momentum across the western world. Add to this advances in bicycle technology, with electric pedal assistance, foldability, lightness and connectivity, and the bicycle begins to stack up as a genuinely attractive commuting option. And by getting your child used to getting around on two wheels means they will be more at home on future bike lanes of our cities, influencing how infrastructure develops as a result and making cycling around town the norm.
Apart from the unsupervised freedom, kids with bicycles get exposed to another aspect of life that is missing from the sterile environments of organised activities that go on in kids’ sports clubs, whose method of organising children is driven by their multiple layers of insurance as much as the requirements of the sport itself. I’m talking about problem solving. Granted, many sports are challenging by themselves, requiring sharp attention, discipline and dexterity. But they lack the probability for the unexpected. When a kid has a bike, they don’t just have a vehicle and a destination, they also have flat tyres, chain breaks, gear slippages and annoying squeaks that might be coming from absolutely anywhere. And there is no coach to ask for help, apart from the few peers that they’re likely to take the journey with, who may have more experience. The issues that come with a bicycle mean that the kid will have to think on the spot, or at the very least learn that having some tools on a trip is valuable. Addressing unexpected adversity, however minor it may be in the grand scheme of life, develops within a child a certain attitude to problems, where they become a normal aspect of any worthwhile activity, and that dealing with them is an essential skill to have. Lastly, bicycles are just plain fun. It’s a good reason for the parents to finally get their act together fitness wise, and engage in an activity that will help the family get out of the house, bond and justify having purchased a full-size SUV. Who knows, maybe you don’t need to enroll them in the local soccer league just to keep them out of the house.