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“Forced To Use” A Bicycle? I’d Gladly Volunteer-Choose Freedom

For yesterday’s post, Safe Communities Raise Courageous Children, I sourced an image from the National Archives that has a data base of images for non-commercial use.  It is addicting to peruse through the 1000’s of historical images. It led me to the image below.

Looking for images filed under “children + school ” the image below jumped out at me. In 1974 there was a gas crisis and kids were asked (“forced”) to ride not only to and from school more often, but also on field trips. Oh, the humanity! Still, they bundled up, rode with barely a shoulder and pedaled some sweet rides for a field trip.

Original Caption: “School Children, Were Forced to Use Their Bicycles on Field Trips During the Fuel Crisis in the Winter of 1974. There Was Not Enough Gasoline for School Buses to Be Used for Extracurricular Activities, Even During Dark and Rainy Weather” (Photo by  David Falconer)

With $5/gallon gas around the corner, and likely higher in years to come, is this something our school systems and parents are ready to support, promote, encourage and build infrastructure for?

Local Resiliency

In Japan (Urban Country), we’re seeing the resiliency a bicycle provides (Grist) in times of crisis. The bicycle has shown its value time and time again throughout the last 100 years. In the two images below we see two men pushing their bicycles. One, in Japan post quake/tsunami from over this past weekend and the other, in 1945 Japan post-bombing of Nagasaki. Powerful stuff.

(Images via copenhagenize.com)

That same advantage and common sense solution is just as valuable in everyday life. There is true freedom being under one’s own power to get from one place to the next. In a sense, despite the patriotic claims, freedom is free. Just add calories and you’re off; no oil wars needed.

Yesterday’s post was about building courage in our children. Freedom leads to courage and a sense of autonomy; it also leads to increased resiliency and a safer community. I don’t think we need to “force” anyone to walk and/or ride a bicycle. Hopefully, we won’t have too many more natural disasters that “force” the issue either, although they are likely.

If we provide and encourage it for it and build a culture that views self-powered movement (walking and pedaling) as the norm, we may slowly stop being dependent on the gas pump. No one will be forced. The reality is that common sense will just win out. One result will be a preparedness for the worst case scenario that preserves freedom.



Quick Facts From Safe-Routes To School: Changing Habits of an Entire Generation

  • Within the span of one generation, the percentage of children walking or bicycling to school has dropped precipitously, from approximately 50% in 1969 to just 13% in 2009.
  • While distance to school is the most commonly reported barrier to walking and bicycling, private vehicles still account for half of school trips between 1/4 and 1/2 mile—a distance easily covered on foot or bike.
  • As much as 20 to 30% of morning traffic is generated by parents driving their children to schools.
  • A California study showed that schools that received infrastructure improvements through the Safe Routes to School program yielded walking and bicycling increases in the range of 20 to 200 percent.

Plenty more where that came from.

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