Bikes: Man’s Simplest Machine

simplest machine

Blair's kids pic

“The bicycle is a simple solution to some of the world’s most complicated problems.” I’m not sure where I first heard that, but that quote has always stuck in my head.

And it’s true; bikes solve problems. Big ones too, like obesity (1 in 3 US adults are obese), or climate change (9 of the 10 warmest years on record have happened since 2000), and of course congestion (In the 15 biggest US cities, drivers average 63 hours of delays per year).

If we want a healthy lifestyle and more sustainable future, we should start with our kids. Get ‘em biking to school. When kids are used to biking to and from school, the bicycle becomes their first transit option, whether it’s to friends’ houses, soccer games, or just for fun.

Biking to school provides much-needed daily exercise, and they arrive more ready to learn. Check out this issue’s article, “Can Bikes Make You Smarter?” for more. I used to joke with my kids that they were way better off than the kids who arrive at school in the back of an SUV with a Pop Tart in their mouths. It turns out that science backs me up!

Environmentally, reducing unnecessary car trips and replacing them with bicycle trips is one of many ways we all can contribute to a greener, healthier tomorrow.

But the benefits of bikes aren’t just on a societal level. According to the federal Safe Routes to School program, in 1969, 48% of kids walked or biked to school, in 2009, that number was just 13%. To me, bikes are a great tool for promoting independence in our children and helping them grow into self-sufficient adults.

So, what can you do? Get your kids on bikes. You can start by riding with them, but recognize that they will grow more if they ride on their own. If you need more peace of mind, advocate to local governments to invest in family-friendly infrastructure like off-street paths, protected bike lanes, and adequate bicycle parking at popular destinations. The more kids we get on bikes, the more problems we solve, and the more they have the opportunity to grow. Let them ride that simple machine that can solve so many problems for all of us.