Summer cycling, a relic of the past | Staff/guest columns

Sitting in my home office, I’m greeted by a cool breeze coming through my open window and the sweet sounds of summer outside.

It’s late June, which used to be high season for kids’ bike rides – but now it’s mostly adults doing long rides on their expensive high-tech bikes.

The bike has come full circle, I guess.

Since its inception in the 1800s, the bicycle has been produced primarily for adults.

In the early 1900s, it provided an inexpensive way for working-class people living in urban areas to get to and from work.

As America prospered—as the automobile became the primary mode of travel for the masses—bicycle sales plummeted.

Sales did not start to rise again until millions of baby boomers living in open suburbs drove up demand.

I got my first “spyder” bike, a red Murray single-speed, when I was nine and rode the wheels in just a few years.

The 1970s were the era of Evel Knievel, you see. Every kid with a bike sought to emulate the iconic daredevil.

We constructed ramps from warped pieces of plywood laid on uneven blocks.

Then we took our bikes to the top of Marilynn Drive – so steep it might as well have been a cliff – and raced down the hill, turned left onto Janet Drive and pedaled like crazy to the lift-off.

Our parents didn’t make us wear helmets or pads back then, which is why the average kid was covered in more scratches and bruises than an NFL player on a Monday morning.

When a landing went wrong – when a child fell particularly hard and wouldn’t get up – his family was alerted, a wood-paneled station wagon arrived, and the whimpering child was rushed to St. Clair’s Hospital for points of recovery. suture or a cast.

Despite the risks, or perhaps because of them, our love affair with spyder bikes was common to all children in every community across America at that time.

There were three reasons.

First, we were surrounded by wide roads and a county park – we had plenty of places to ride.

Second, parents weren’t yet terrified of the 24/7 news media to keep their kids out of their sight and we were allowed to go on long bike rides as long as we were at home. home for supper.

Third, as the post-WWII economy continued to boom, our parents had just enough excess dough to buy us new bikes—something their parents could never afford to do for them.

None of us kids back then had any idea how lucky we were to have bikes and the freedom to make the most of them.

It’s a shame that today’s children are no longer interested in bicycles.

As a Washington Post article put it, “The number of children ages 6 to 17 who ride their bikes regularly — more than 25 times a year — has dropped by more than a million from 2014 to 2018, according to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association.”

Bicycle sales have increased during the covid pandemic, but it’s mostly adults buying and riding them now.

Adults have picked up all sorts of activities – dressing up for Halloween, adult summer camp, re-doing the prom – that only young people used to do.

Add bicycles to the list, including e-bikes that more adults are using to commute to work to offset the high cost of gas.

Meanwhile, today’s children interact with their electronic devices.

I hope, at the very least, that they are sitting near an open window, enjoying a cool breeze and the sweet sounds of summer.

Copyright 2022 Tom Purcell, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Newspaper Syndicate. Tom Purcell, creator of infotainment site ThurbersTail.com, is a humor columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Email him at [email protected]