“Blessings of a Skinned Knee” author, Wendy Mogel, gave a talk in Atlanta to a consortium of private school families. She posed the question, “How many of you were out on your bikes until dark and your parents didn’t know where you were?” Approximately two-thirds of the hands went up in the full auditorium. Then, the follow-up question, “How many of you have afforded your children the same privilege?” A meager seven hands went up, feebly, to the collective sigh of the audience. How is it that all of us rode our bikes everywhere, even until dark, but many of our children have never had the same opportunity. How in one generation did we go from bike-riding all over the neighborhood to having bikes in the garage that aren’t really enjoyed?
Research shows that bike-riding provides many benefits to the children who ride and their families. Cycling Weekly boasts that not only is it fun, but the physical activity is beneficial for cardiovascular health. The mental and emotional benefits are also great.
The Heart Foundation states that the aerobic workout cycling provides can improve overall fitness, decrease likelihood of depression and anxiety, and aid in better sleep. That’s something parents can get excited about!
How about it? Plan a family adventure on bikes. If you have your own bikes, it’s time to make sure they are tuned up. YouTube provides an abundance of quick videos on “Bicycle Maintenance for Beginners” if you need a refresher.
If you don’t have bikes, you have a few options – purchase bikes from a local shop, check thrift stores for used bikes, or rent bikes for the day. Check out one of these apps for finding a route to take a fun ride. Pack a backpack of snacks or a picnic and bring everyone a water bottle. Don’t forget sunscreen and bug spray and your helmets. A safe ride is a fun ride!
As your children develop bike-riding skills and you teach them how to safely ride in various circumstances, you may consider letting them venture out on their own. A ride to a play date a few streets away is a good first foray -where you can send them off and know when they arrive. As they mature and show responsibility, consider loosening the “chain” and allowing them the opportunity to run an errand or grab an item you need for dinner from a nearby supermarket. As your child becomes a tween and then a teen, not only is it empowering for him to be able to go places on his own, it is also a great time-saver for his former chauffeur, namely you.