I haven’t posted on this blog for a while and it’s time to get back to it. Partly, my absence has been to the usual things: work, family obligations, the busyness of life. On the other hand, a couple of weeks ago I’d penned an angry rant about the average suburbanite’s laziness and unwillingness to get their fat asses out of their cars—even for their kids’ sake, but ultimately decided not to post it. I wrote it at a low point, mostly as therapy.
My frustration stemmed from the low turnout at a bike festival I had put together to provide a free bike skills class at the local middle school. After busting my tail to put this thing together, the turnout was anemic, and I couldn’t get any parents from the middle school to step up and help boost turnout. A parent advisor for one of the student clubs who’d agreed to have some students paint a banner to publicize the event completely flaked out on me, and I wound up paying for flyers out of my own pocket. Other parents to whom I’d appealed to bring their kids were no-shows. I felt angry.
I’ve decided to look at the bright side, however. The bike safety event at least provided an opportunity for a small number of students to learn safe bike skills and, while we had more instructors than students, it was still a fun event. Jim Shanman of Walk n’ Rollers, a Culver City-based organization that puts on such events, and volunteers like Jackson, Nikki, Andrew, and Chris from Bike San Gabriel Valley, a local advocacy organization, put together a great program. The students who did participate really got a lot out of the experience, and I enjoyed watching them gain confidence handling their bikes, learning some basic maintenance and riding safely. The compliments I got from the local Rotary Club that funded most of the event, the local PD, and the school principal helped ease the frustration of dealing with apathetic parents. And, at least there are a couple more kids in town who know how to ride safely and have more confidence doing so. A follow up email from Jim Shanman lifted my spirits, too. Really, if anybody wants to put together a youth-oriented bike event, contact Walk n’ Rollers. They’re terrific.
The morning of the event, when I saw how few kids had brought their bikes to school, I swore I’d never do it again, but I’m at the point where I’m willing to consider trying again. Maybe getting an earlier start with the local PTA and the student body leaders at the school. Maybe I’ll take a different approach and make it a community event next year. At any rate, I’ve decided I’m not going to give up.
It’s going to take a long time to break the stranglehold of the automobile on our suburban culture, but the change is necessary for so many reasons and youth are integral to changing the culture. Next year, I’ll build on what I’ve learned and the event will be better. It’s like learning to ride a bike. If at first you don’t succeed ….