Imagine a future where bicycles in elementary schools are as fundamental as whiteboards, racks of balls, and rows of desks.
Imagine a nation where every child is taught in school, along with reading, writing, and arithmetic, how to ride a bike.
Imagine a country where all school children possess the self-confidence bicycling provides, not to mention the stimulation to their hearts, muscles, and minds.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends children participate in 60 minutes or more of physical activities each day1. Bicycling helps achieve this while allowing children to develop their muscles in addition to building aerobic fitness levels.
Childhood obesity is more common in children after the age of 52. By teaching children a lifetime skill of riding a bike at an early age, we are instilling a healthy habit they can use to maintain a healthy body composition.
Not only does bicycling allow a child to reap the psychological benefits of playing outside and in nature, but the act of bicycling releases feel-good endorphins that help counter stress and make you happy. A 2010 Study from the American College of Sports Medicine showed that just one 30-minute exercise session can boost your mood and tackle depression7.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advises children be limited to 1 hour of high-quality programs on screens per day. In 2017, Common Sense Media found that children ages 2-4 spent an average of 2.39 hours/day using screen devices, and 27% of these children use a mobile device at least once per day3.
A 2017 study by DJ Case and Associates in conjunction with multiple state and federal wildlife and park agencies has found children 8 to 12 years old spend three times as many hours with computers and televisions each week as they do playing outside4. American adults report spending 5 hours or fewer outside in nature each week. With all kids possessing the ability to ride a bike by first grade, children can return to outdoors and enjoy the numerous benefits of outdoor play.
Half of U.S. schoolchildren are dropped off at school in the family car. If 20% of those living within two miles of school were to bike instead, it would save 4.3 million miles of driving per day9. Over just one year, this would prevent 356,000 tons of CO2 and 21,500 tons of other pollutants from being emitted.
During the 2012 Danish Mass Experiment, researchers from the University in Denmark noted, “The results showed that having breakfast and lunch has an impact, but not very much compared to having exercised…As a third-grade pupil, if you exercise and bike to school, your ability to concentrate increases to the equivalent of someone half a year further in their studies.”
In 2009, only 13% of kids walked or biked to school, down from 50% in 1969. Increasing the number of children riding to school allows for boosted oxygen levels once at school, positively impacting a child’s academic performance5.
By using bicycling as a tool to increase children’s participation in physical activity, the potential for numerous economic benefits become a reality. Using a computational simulation, researchers concluded if US children ages 8-11 received 25 minutes of high-calorie-burning physical activity three times a week, it would result in EACH YEAR a net present value of $1.1 trillion in direct medical costs and $1.7 trillion in lost productivity over their lifetimes6.
In 1969, approximately 50% of children walked or biked to school. In one generation this number has plummeted to just 13% as of 2009. Private vehicles now account for half of school trips between 1/4 and 1/2 a mile8. Imagine a commute where children were empowered with the ability to bike safely to and from school without the need for a car or bus to fill the roads to drop them off and pick them up. Now, imagine these same children as grown adults who are committed to the benefits of cycling. When all kids have the ability to ride a bike at a young age, we’ve vastly increased the likelihood of bicycle commuting throughout their life, changing the landscape of transportation from being auto-reliant, to self-reliant.