By KATE HUNTER
For someone like me – a child of the seventies whose scarred knees tell the story of poorly judged corners, the idea of an Australian kid not being able to ride a bike was inconceivable.
Riding a two-wheeler was considered a skill as essential as walking.
Today, it seems riding a bike an optional extra, like tennis or gymnastics.
I heard of a high school in Brisbane that offers bike riding lessons before the year 8 camp. Mountain biking is one of the activities on offer and a fair percentage of kids CAN’T RIDE A BIKE AT ALL. Their parents didn’t teach them. They never had the chance to teach themselves.
These kids can probably perform a complete restore on an iPhone without losing a single contact, but they can’t pedal down a driveway.
I get that it might not matter. Plenty of people never learn to ride a bike and their lives remain rich and fulfilled. I understand that parents worry about cars and crazies and bike riding isn’t a priority.
But I think those kids are missing out.
My first bike was a gold dragster with a long, glittery gold seat and an upturned u-shaped ‘sissy-bar’. I learned to ride it on the rooftop of Indooroopilly Shoppingtown, which closed at noon on a Saturday, leaving the carpark a perfect arena for bike riding. The metal speed-bumps were excellent jumps for more accomplished riders.
I don’t remember my parents teaching me to ride. I don’t remember training wheels. I do remember being left to learn, and feeling so desperate to be like the bigger kids that I ignored the pain of scraped ankles and the embarrassment of a sideways tumble and I worked it out.
Then my bike meant freedom. It was how I got to my friends’ houses and riding around the streets was what we did after school.