Use these simple strategies to develop a lasting love for bike riding as both recreation and transportation.
Photo: D. Sharon Pruitt
You can start with young children by fostering their sense of pride in their bikes. Let them personalize bicycles with paint, stickers, rhinestones, glitter, or even beach glass scavenged from a day at the shore.
Photo: rittyrats on Flickr
Choose a car-free zone where kids can have the experience of riding independently, like a backyard, playground, open basketball court, or even an empty parking lot. Then, create an obstacle course with miniature traffic cones, ramps, and natural obstacles like rocks and logs. Clearing the obstacles will help them improve balance and bike handling, and the focus will be on their accomplishments instead of riding their bikes. Invite other children and their parents to play on your obstacle course and encourage the kids to design their own.
Photo: conbon33 on Flickr
Plan an outing by bike. It could be as simple as riding over to a friend's house or pedaling to the local coffee shop for a snack. Check with your local zoo or theme park to see if they allow bicycles on their grounds and bring along the bike instead of the stroller. If your city or town promotes bike-friendly events like Ciclovias, Sunday Streets, or Healthy Saturdays, take advantage of those to experience a different riding environment and strengthen the message that your community moves by bike and not just car.
Photo: gemsling on Flickr
Rainy days provide cycling opportunities too. Indoor activities like reading have cycling built in with books like the classic "Curious George Rides a Bike." Use snack time and a toy bike to design an "edible obstacle course" using raisins for rocks, carrots for logs, and sliced cheese or fruit leather to build ramps and jumps. There's also nothing wrong with using art supplies to build a miniature bike park where children can practice in theory what they'll want to try later in reality.
Bicycle and pedestrian safety education courses, as well as youth bike-riding clubs and bike-safety rodeos, have been around for years, and schools that offer courses in the spring and fall help put school-age children in charge of their own mobility. If your child's school doesn't already offer bicycle safety education, why not learn how to become an instructor? Riding together in cycling "school buses" are another way for secondary school children to engage in riding a bike safely while at the same time promoting the bike as fun transportation.
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