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Old 07-05-05, 01:15 PM   #1
John E
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an apolitical A&S thread

... Richard Louv's column this morning! Excellent PR for bikes and bicycling.

The bicycle as a learning machine
Richard Louv, San Diego Union-Tribune

July 5, 2005
What do Lance Armstrong, Dan Burden, John Eldon and Albert Einstein have in common?
All would agree with Burden's description of the bicycle as "the learning machine." Armstrong, of course, is racing for the Champs-Elysees crown on July 24; Burden is director of Walkable Communities, a Florida-based national organization; Eldon is a digital design engineer in Carlsbad; and Albert Einstein is the guy who came up with the Theory of Relativity - while riding his bike.
"As a child, I suffered from excess weight, severely impaired physical coordination, scoliosis, myopia and shyness," recalls fifty-something Burden. His physical and mental condition began to change, however, when he bought an old balloon-tired Schwinn 2-speed middleweight from a friend for $15. The bike's extended range, he says, "broadened my mind, introduced me to people and took me many places, deep into the Ohio countryside."
The learning machine transported him "to distant places never seen by car, foot or any other means."
It allowed him to learn "the precision skills of well-directed, underhanded tosses of fast-folded papers (while riding no handed) to exact, center porch landings, how to collect money from deadbeat or busy customers, how to accept semi-threatening but friendly teasing of customers in a very different neighborhood than where I lived, such as a beer-drinking cop sitting on his front porch who called my dad (a firefighter) a 'nozzle squeezer.' "
By age 21, Burden was exploring the neighborhoods of Harlem and Bedford-Stuyvesant "with a growing hands-on interest and experience in sociology and geography." Burden later led an Alaska to Argentina bicycle expedition for National Geographic, became an urban planner and emerged as the leader of a national movement to make cities pedestrian-and bicycle-friendly.
As a boy growing up in Los Angeles, John Eldon often cycled 4 miles round-trip to visit one of his local friends. "On the long uphill ride home, I quickly realized that first gear was too low and second gear was too high," he says.
Then came salvation, courtesy of bicycle racer Keith Kingbay who, three years earlier, had convinced Frank Schwinn to introduce the company's first derailleur-geared road bicycles, the Varsity and the Continental.
Soon, Eldon was asking his father for a 10-speed learning machine. "My Christmas present that year, a red, bottom-of-the-line Bianchi, greatly expanded my horizons by enabling me to take 10-to 20-mile rides."
When he entered UCLA, he met other cyclists who had formed the Earth Action Council to promote bicycling and recycling. This, in turn, solidified his decision to pursue his doctoral degree in the newly created Environmental Science and Engineering program. Eldon, now 54, rolled right into the future.
Such testimonials to the brain-pumping power of bicycling stand in sharp contrast to the current silliness and superstition of school boards.
Districts these days are prone to dropping recess. Physical education class attendance declined significantly between 1991 and 1995 and has never recovered.
More to the point, as San Diego Union-Tribune staff writer Chris Moran reported in April, "the two-wheeled school commute has virtually disappeared." Some administrators, fearing traffic or strangers, have banned bike-riding to school.
The liberating learning machine has been replaced by the five-block SUV commute and the spine-twisting 40-pound backpack. In a 2002 national survey,
71 percent of adults said they walked or rode a bike to school when they were children; only 22 percent said their children walk or bike to school now.
Meanwhile, the Center for Health and Health Care in Schools at George Washington University reports that schools offering intense physical activity programs "see positive effects on academic achievement, including increased concentration; improved mathematics, reading and writing test scores; and reduced disruptive behavior, even when time for physical education classes reduces the time for academics."
Indeed, when it comes to exercise, Burden, Eldon (and probably Armstrong if he were asked and Einstein if he were alive) want us to think beyond physical health, to mental acuity - and more.
Burden argues passionately that free-range exploration, on foot or by bike, expands our civility, confidence and our humanity. He now helps cities improve their traffic-calming practices, intersection design and other methods of creating or retrofitting communities with the neural pathways we can only reach on foot or by riding a learning machine.
And Eldon, who describes himself as "still your basic klutz," reports his excellent cardiovascular health. He has some of his most creative ideas while biking to work. His midlife crisis gift to himself: a 1981 Bianchi road bike, "which is my healthful, economical alternative to an Italian sports car."
"Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing." --Theodore Roosevelt
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Old 07-05-05, 07:42 PM   #2
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Thanks for the info. I've just added a topic on Walkable Communities to my OPAC site's knowledge base.
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Old 07-05-05, 08:12 PM   #3
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So true, as a kid, I absolutely loved my first bike...a "team murray" bmx...chromed out, full was a very nice bike....also rode great for a cheap bike...however it was incredibly heavy, and I had a hard time going fast on it.
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Old 07-05-05, 08:44 PM   #4
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That's a good article. I liked it a lot.
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Old 07-05-05, 11:20 PM   #5
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Great article!!

There are some trips I'm making on foot, as well as most others on bike these days, and you sure see more. I grew up on bikes, from tricycles on up, and I'm still amazed how great they are.
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Old 07-06-05, 04:02 PM   #6
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The article made me smile. And frown. C'mon, banning bike-riding to school? What kind of crazy place are we living in? I think if anything we should ban SUVs within a 2 mile radius of any school and then force kids to ride to school.
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Old 07-06-05, 05:30 PM   #7
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You could also add Alan Turing (one of the fathers of modern computing) to the list...
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Old 07-06-05, 11:36 PM   #8
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Chrome BMX is cool, but in 20" bikes, nothing will ever be as cool as the Sigma. It was heavy and slow, but it had white tires, white plastic discs over the spokes, and washed-out gray paint with awesome 80's-style "high tech" graphics (think Miami Vice or the old Diet Pepsi logo that looked like it was spray painted on through venetian blinds.)

Awesome. Man, I miss that piece of crap.

Created by - Free Calorie Counter
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Old 07-07-05, 03:15 PM   #9
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You build schools with no sidewalk or footpath access

Your planners allow developers to build new housing estates with no sidewalks (I've quoted before an HBO programme about Houston where a mother drove her son 50(!) yards to the school bus stop because there was no sidewalk, only grass(!))

And we too have idiot parents who:
a) drive their kids 1/2 mile to school because of the dangerous traffic (i.e. themselves)
b) have bought into the equally idiotic SUV syndrome (turn over more easily and stop more slowly)
c) are convinced that ravening paedophiles lurk round every corner
d) put tvs in their kids' bedrooms
e) complain that their kids never get any exercise and get fat themselves

There, I feel better for that
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