Opinion: When kids rode bikes

The bicycle was once the transportation of choice for Chilliwack students. Not anymore.

Image from the front page of the Chilliwack Progress

Image from the front page of the Chilliwack Progress

Oh, how things have changed.

Fifty years ago the bicycles were lined up thick outside Chilliwack elementary school. A photograph that ran on the front page of a 1964 edition of the Chilliwack Progress shows nearly a hundred bikes neatly stacked in bike racks.

Today, we’re sponsoring a special week to encourage people to bike to work or school.

Bike to Work Week had its beginnings in Victoria in 2005 as a way to encourage people to leave their automobiles at home and opt for a two-wheeled commute.

The program has enjoyed success. Last year more than 25,000 people from 44 communities took part. Collectively, they saved an estimated $61,000 in gas, burned 28.6 million calories and prevented more that 207,000 kilograms of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere.

This year, organizers hoped to expand the program to include schools.

“Riding to school builds physical activity into kids’ daily routine, supports in-class concentration, and provides a foundation for healthy lifestyles and a lifelong love of cycling,” they argue. “More students cycling to school reduces traffic congestion and makes your school a safer place. Plus, it’s fun and also helps the environment!”

In 1964, Chilliwack students didn’t need to be told that. All they knew was that cycling was an exhilarating and liberating way to get to and from school. It was quick, convenient, and a graduating step to maturity.

Today, nary a bike can be seen on most school grounds. Those students brave enough to bring one have them locked inside steel containers on site to prevent theft.

Instead of bikes, cars and trucks are the vehicles that choke the approaches to school. They line up early, vying for position as dismissal time approaches.

There are, of course, many reasons for this shift. But it’s not until we take a look back that we see just how far we’ve come – and how much we’ve lost.