Keeping Kids On Bikes



Keeping Kids On Bikes

I joined a fellow cyclist during the commute home last night as he picked up his daughter from day-care.  The kids were outside playing in a fenced in area.  As he went in to get his daughter, I stood by the fence to wait.  Before long, I had attracted most of the kids in the play area.  Many of them were eagerly telling me about their bikes, who had training wheels, who road a tag-a-long, and peppered me with questions about my bike.  It was great, but it got me thinking.  What happens between this age, when almost every kid is interested in riding a bike, and adulthood?  Why do we stop riding bikes?  According to a recent New York Times article, it could be part of a much larger trend

Young children spend an extraordinary amount of time moving about: an average of three hours a day at age 9, new research shows.

But in just a few short years, all that childhood energy disappears. By the age of 15, daily physical activity is down to just 49 minutes on weekdays and about a half-hour on weekends, according to the research, being published Wednesday in The Journal of the American Medical Association.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I was astonished by these numbers.  A 15 year old kid is getting just 50 minutes of exercise per day and even less on weekends!  No wonder our national childhood obseity rates are so high.  We, as a cycling community, need to figure out how to harness this childhood enthusiasm and keep kids on bikes as they grow older.  If we can manage to introduce them to an alternative transportation mode at an early age, perhaps society in general will gradually shift away from being so car centric.

I’m up for doing what I can over the long haul and hope you are too!


  • Carole
    Jul 17, 2008 at 10:21 am

    Bike riding is just a joy, a way to release any negative energy and be fit, just for starters. I’ve loved it since I was a kid and love still being able to fly like I did then. The joy of biking needs to be shared with kids, but many adults that I encounter don’t bike anymore, and its from the family that we initially learn such habits. At 51, I’m delighted I can still do it and delighted to also see many, much older folks than I, biking as well.

  • Jul 17, 2008 at 1:00 pm

    Maybe PBC, perhaps in partnership with the local bike shops, could help start some sort of city family ride days during the warmer months. visit different neighborhoods. some of the streets around here are nice and wide and safe as long as there is a critical mass of adults to shepherd younger children. I know some people are totally opposed to kids on bikes on city roads but as long as we are careful it can be done. we need to be protective but we don't need to shelter them from everything. i do it with my kids quite often and they are learning about the danger of cars, biking safety and more. it is a joyful experience and we should help keep those kids engaged with biking as much as possible, and maybe it is more appealing /likely to happen by getting a bunch of parents to join together. power in numbers/solidarity.

  • Jul 17, 2008 at 3:13 pm

    Does anyone know who, if anyone around the area, is involved with the Safe Routes to School program? This seems like an obvious partnership and could help keep kids riding over the summer months.

  • Barry Schiller
    Jul 19, 2008 at 9:38 am

    As for safe routes to school programs, for info I suggest calling Ronnie Sirota of Statewide Planning, 222-1233, who is the state's coordinator of the entire program and knows what is going on in that program in RI and who the local contacts are.

    Unfortunately, my town, North Providence, does not have any such program.

    Thanks Mark for raising this important issue about kids and biking and being active.