If you had asked me what was the most common shared experience had by young people in the United States (after finding out the bad news about Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, I suppose) I would have immediately spoken up, “Learning to ride a bicycle.” When I was growing up in the Chicago ‘burbs in the 1950s and 60s, every kid over the age of, say five or six had a bike. When I’d go visit my grandparents or family friends, every kid I’d meet there had a bicycle. Even the rural kids in Southern Indiana where my maternal grandparents owned a farm all had bikes. Getting your first 24 or 26 inch bike was the nation’s equivalent of a coming of age ritual. But apparently no longer.
A recent survey undertaken by YouGov and reported by FiveThirtyEight here [linkie] confirmed what I had already believed to be true- that a little over half the country isn’t currently riding a bike. I can see that- up ’til a month or so ago I hadn’t been on a bicycle in a decade. But I was shocked to learn that almost 10 percent of young people nowadays have never learned to ride a bicycle at all. That’s three times as many as the cohort that includes me and my generation. I almost can’t comprehend being a kid and not having a bike to ride. Is it because of the decline of “free range” parenting? The ubiquitous availability of video games and other non-active entertainment? The growing racial and ethnic diversity of the USA?
Whatever it is, I think it’s a damn shame.