More Kids’ Bike Rodeos = More Adults on Bikes

Via SLO Bike Coalition/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Want to see more adults on bikes? Encourage communities to hold more kids’ bike rodeos.

And it’s not just about “raising little cyclists,” although indoctrinating educating them young as to handling skills and traffic navigation is a lovely contributor to the goal of putting more adults on bikes in 10-20 years. I’m talking about right now, this week.

Consider the merits of a bike rodeo:

  • How do kids get to a bike rodeo? Adults bring them. Very often, the family/caregiving unit all arrive on 2 wheel transport.
  • What are the messages of a bike rodeo? Safety and fun. Rodeos, properly run, are the least preachy of bicycle education sessions.
  • What is the time commitment? One heck of a lot less than a 9 hour Smart Cycling course via the League of American Bicyclists, or even a 2-hour Commuting course. And the adults don’t need childcare to attend a kids’ bike rodeo like they do those other events.

An enthusiastic child can do more to get the casual adult with a bike out on his/her bike than any preaching about bikes as transportation, earnest blog posts about the mom who drops her 2 kids at daycare and bike commutes to an office job every day (rain or shine!), or putting in bike parking at the grocery store. Because to the casual adult with child responsibilities, all of that is grand and noble and sounds completely unworkably like ideas come up with by spandex-clad urban hipsters who have never procreated. (Yes, even the daycare mom story. Yes, I know there are people who do it, but the average suburban parent would read that piece and mock it as fiction.)

As communities, we need to be building our streets to accommodate many uses — transportation to and from core destinations, certainly, but also a sense of neighborhood, and recreational purposes as well. Allowing families to bike to soccer practices, or to grab a cone, may not sound like contributors to grandly advocated transportation visions, but they do reduce congestion, increase community fitness, and encourage people to engage in their communities and environments that making the same trips by minivan just don’t.

And that’s why the bike rodeo is such an awesome piece of outreach. By including some parent activities and info, and creating a realistic context for bicycle use by adults who work full time and have kids, you get more butts on bike seats. And as the children grow, don’t be surprised if that recreational cycling becomes a gateway drug for the adults to tackle more utiliarian cycling. Because that’s how bike rodeos roll.

About Julie Kosbab

Julie Kosbab is an online marketing consultant and active transportation advocate living in Anoka County, Minnesota. She was one of Minnesota's only League of American Bicyclists Certified Instructors when certified in 2005, and is no longer lonely in that calling. A past member of the National Bicycle Tour Directors Association, she has 2 children and a garage full of bicycles. Find her on Twitter as @betweenstations, or read her (seldom updated) blog at Ride Boldly!