Some of you may have seen this recent Washington Post article about the decreasing number of kids riding bikes that has been making the rounds on social media. If you were like me, you thought about how you spent your summers as a kid and how a bicycle or Big Wheel or pair of sneakers played a huge role in your daily routine and then silently cursed technology and social media.
Certainly times are changing, but every time I start to lament, I see something that gives me hope that all is not lost. I don’t have to look far to see amazing examples of parents and community leaders working to create opportunities to encourage kids to get outside ride their bikes.
For several years now, volunteers with Omaha DEVO (short for “Developmental”) have been teaching kids mountain biking skills on Omaha’s single track trails. I was a DEVO coach for a few years when it started, and I have very fond memories of teaching and encouraging the “littles” (generally 5-7 years old). Some nights we spent as much time riding as we did taking bathroom breaks, checking out the cool caterpillars on the trees and eating fresh mulberries from the bushes along the trail, but it was a blast. The DEVO champions recently have expanded the program to Lincoln and rebranded as Nebraska DEVO; it won’t be long before it pops up in other communities.
As I noted on our Facebook page recently, though, if you think the only cool stuff happening in Nebraska is in Lincoln and Omaha, you’d be sorely mistaken. I want to lift up a couple that have inspired me recently.
The Dark Island Trail in Central City has spawned a weekly, kid-friendly Taco Ride that has been wildly successful. They have an upcoming Bike Rodeo and I’ve seen references to Spider Man movies and ice cream, too. Kudos to Jason Buss, Chuck Griffith and others in that neck of the woods for not only championing the creation of this trail, but for encouraging kids to get out and ride it.
Bike Walk Nebraska board president Katie Bradshaw and the Western Nebraska Bicycling Club has been busy in Scottsbluff bringing Katie’s vision of a bicycle playground to life. They found sponsors and found a summertime use for the space otherwise occupied by an ice rink in the winter. If this had been around when I was a kid, the 4th Avenue squad would have been there on the regular!
I hope these snippets of stories will inspire you to get outside with your kids or grandkids, or to volunteer with a group or race that gets kids out on bikes. Don’t worry if your kiddos aren’t the competitive type - you don’t have to participate in a fancy event to make a difference. Ride to the library, the park or to get ice cream. These short trips remind kids (and adults for that matter) that many short trips can easily be taken on bike rather than in a car. Tag Bike Walk Nebraska in your social media photos so that we can see all of your fun adventures, too!