I was 12 years old and it started out as just another spring weekend with my Dad in New York City in the 1980s.
My Dad was a bike commuter and he decided that it was time to take me on a ride. Little did I know that this would transform my life forever. We started out in Central Park, but soon we were riding all over Manhattan. He taught me about staying out of the door zone, watching the lights, making eye contact with drivers, being alert and staying safe. At the end of the day, we had ridden about 20 miles. I was exhilarated and amazingly happy.
When I got back to New Jersey my Mom was making plans for the summer; she was going to drive me to summer camp each morning on her way to work. I was just about to graduate from the sixth grade, and thanks to my NYC bike ride, I had a radical new idea. Instead of camp, I proposed using my bike to get around on my own to summer school and the town pool. My mom agreed – it was a deal! And it was the beginning of a completely new phase in my life.
That summer was absolutely fantastic – my bike gave a new found sense of freedom and through attending summer school I got a head start in math for seventh grade too! Bicycling made me stronger, more mature and confident. After the summer, I started bike commuting to school and soon after that, I started bicycling to babysitting jobs.
On Wednesday May 8, the United States will celebrate Bike to School Day which coincides with National Bike Month. The Safe Routes Partnership encourages parents to take their children for a bike ride during May – bicycling is a fabulous family activity which provides the opportunity for an adventure while also spending quality time together. There are so many health and academic benefits related to children bicycling too:
- Adolescents who bicycle are 48% less likely to be overweight as adults. (Menschik, D, et al., 2008)
- A Danish study of 20,000 students showed that children who actively commute to school perform measurably better on tasks demanding concentration at school than do children who do not actively commute to school. (Mass Experiment 2012, Denmark)
- A California study showed that schools that received infrastructure improvements through the Safe Routes to School program yielded walking and bicycling increases that were often in the range of 20 to 200 percent. (Escholarship.org)
It’s time to celebrate National Bike Month and Bike to School Day during May, and I guarantee you that bicycling will put a smile on your face.