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To deny children the simple joy of riding a bike is an abdication of our parental responsibilities | Steven Herrick | Books

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To disclaim youngsters the straightforward pleasure of driving a motorbike is an abdication of our parental tasks | Steven Herrick | Books

I acquired my first bike after I was 9 years previous, an iridescent purple Malvern Star Roadster with Marlon handlebars, a pink banana seat, white-walled tyres and three gears. I christened it “Jimmy” in honour of a relative who was a stock-car racer and caught catfish within the river. Jimmy, the bike, was my old flame.

I rode this beast all over the place and, to shamelessly paraphrase Susan B Anthony, I understood: “The bicycle has carried out extra for the independence of youngsters than anything on the earth.” The suburb, the again lanes, the fields and forests, the river paths and swampland had been way more thrilling than any journey novel or tv collection as a result of they had been only a brief pedal away.

Jimmy the bike and I roamed our patch of filth each afternoon till darkish and all weekend, in search of out the steepest hills to check our legs, the wildest downhill forest paths and the overgrown tracks beside Secure Swamp Creek. Mud and blood and bruises had been the markers of a day properly spent.

There’s nothing fairly like the connection of a kid to their bicycle, the countless adventures two wheels and a pair of robust legs presents. No online game, Covid-19 lockdown or laptop simulation can exchange the liberation of being alone on a bicycle, the senses tingling with chance.

As mother and father and as a society, to disclaim youngsters the straightforward pleasure of driving a motorbike is an abdication of our tasks to lift unbiased secure younger residents. We needs to be providing our little children a wholesome various to hours in entrance of a mesmerising display screen. Research have proven that biking promotes not solely muscle progress however mind progress – I child you not. Guess which nation has youngsters and youngsters with the perfect psychological well being outcomes and is repeatedly top of listings of happiest younger folks? No shock it’s the bicycle-evangelist Netherlands.

Our dependence on automobiles has degraded the general public transport system, polluted our skies, led to the premature demise of 1000’s yearly, and denied youngsters protected entry to their suburbs. For those who suppose I’m exaggerating, have a look at the figures. A latest examine discovered {that a} whopping 69% of youngsters had been chaperoned to high school. The identical examine discovered {that a} related variety of mother and father drove themselves to work. I think about the figures could be very related at weekends as mother and father transport youngsters to sports activities occasions.

I not often see youngsters alone or in teams of associates any extra, not and not using a guardian hovering. The one time youngsters are alone is of their bed room with a pc, the place the actual hazards are lurking. But exterior within the recent air? Nah, too harmful.

In some regions of Japan, when youngsters begin their first yr of college mother and father are anticipated to stroll with them for the primary few weeks, introducing them to residents and shopkeepers alongside the chosen route, enlisting the neighborhood within the care of their little one. After that, it’s forbidden for folks to drive their youngsters to high school. Youngsters can experience a motorbike or stroll to high school, and it’s the neighborhood’s function to maintain them protected. That sounds civilised to me.

The perfect resolution is, in fact, higher infrastructure. Construct separated cycle lanes, lower pace limits, and design streetscapes that favour folks over automobiles. The consequence can be much less air pollution, quieter suburbs, a more healthy inhabitants and, better of all, completely happy unbiased youngsters.

Cover image for the children’s book Zoe, Max and the Bicycle Bus by Steven Herrick



{Photograph}: UQP

Many a long time after my first exhilarating rides, I’m nonetheless extra more likely to be discovered within the saddle than behind a wheel. After writing 24 books for youngsters and younger adults, I’ve lastly honoured my love of biking and the independence a motorbike delivers in literary kind.

Zoe, Max and the Bicycle Bus is a novel a few class of 10-year-old youngsters within the inner-city and their new trainer who has the temerity to experience a bicycle to high school and to encourage the scholars to comply with in her path. The mother and father complain concerning the hazard of biking as a result of “there’s an excessive amount of visitors”, as they drop their little children exterior the varsity gates, a four-wheel-drive conga-line of contradictions.

Aided by the aged bloke who holds the cease signal on the pedestrian crossing to forestall absent-minded mother and father from endangering their very own youngsters, the category determine to take issues into their very own arms. They encounter resistance from mother and father, the principal and the hotchpotch of council bike lanes that not often hyperlink, white paint on bitumen providing doubtful safety towards two tonnes of rushing metallic.

Zoe, Max and the Bicycle Bus is a mild reminder that childhood needs to be a time of limitless chance and journey, when being alone, or in a bunch of friends, on a bicycle is the place we study the that means of independence and pleasure. Are these easy pleasures to be denied to our kids as a result of it’s simpler to hop in a automobile and sit in a visitors jam every morning? The youngsters and their trainer in my novel perceive there’s a greater approach to begin their day – on a motorbike and in management. We might all comply with their instance.

Zoe, Max and the Bicycle Bus by Steven Herrick is out through UQP on 29 September

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