in The WASHINGTON POST
White House Task Force Issues Report on Fighting Childhood Obesity
"Donovan said, so sidewalks and bike paths are included in the planning"
A Letter to the First Lady...
The LET'S MOVE initiative...
a persuasive essay...
and legal mountain biking in Rock Creek Park.
One day last month I went to my older son Dean's third grade class so that I could watch his biography presentation of Nepalese mountain climber Tensing Norgay. While waiting for my son's turn I had the pleasure of watching some of the other children give their biography presentations. One of the most memorable productions was of Michelle Obama by a third grader named Kayla.
The Michelle Obama biography by Kayla was not only informative but also entertaining. Before the start of the presentation each of the children in the class was given a brown bag with a healthy snack of cheese and baby carrots then Kayla took her spot in the front of the class. Standing in front of her audience Kayla took her position, then just before she started to read her biography on Michelle Obama she started to hula-hoop. YES! KAYLA GAVE HER ENTIRE SPEECH WHILE DOING THE HULA HOOP! The pink hula-hoop with gold sparkles oscillated at a slow speed while Kayla read. Never did Kayla's voice alter its rhythm due to the task of spinning the hula-hoop... never did the hula-hoop threaten to falter. It was really quite remarkable.
Kayla's biography presentation was more more than an impressive hula-hoop performance, her presentation was also a well written and well presented biography about the life of The First Lady Michelle Obama. Within this presentation of Michelle Obama there was mention of the LET'S MOVE initiative. Although I had heard of the LET'S MOVE initiative... I had not really given it much thought, so when I got home I GOOGLED the topic.
In the following weeks the notion of the LET'S MOVE initiative and its objective of guiding children to live more healthy lives through exercise and proper dietary habits occupied the recesses of my brain. One day when the kids were out of school I took advantage of the day and took the boys to Chesapeake BMX in Anne Arundel county Maryland. On the slog through heavy pre-rush hour traffic on the way home I could not help but think... having to drive to get my children to natural surface trails is really a barrier. There should be bicycle facilities in The District so that children can get their sixty minutes of exercise on the bike off road. Take the car out of the equation and use the time that would be spend driving on more riding. People all over the district could cycle short distances to get to various tributaries of Rock Creek Park. The the families lucky enough to live in the neighborhoods that border Rock Creek Park... imagine if they could just put on their helmets and get on their bikes and roll down the street into the woods... THAT WOULD BE AMAZING!
The bike to drive ratio is not good when dealing with children and cycling. While an adult can drive a three hour round trip and ride three hours in between, well... that is not entirely practical for the average child. The stamina and attention span of a child just is not such for such an epic. To drive a 2-3 hour round trip with an hour of riding in between just is not cost effective. This sort of bike to drive ratio is a barrier from keeping kids from becoming better cyclist or even just riding enough to stay fit.
But if it were legal to mountain bike in Rock Creek Park it would be Amazing!
Yes, it would be amazing if there were dirt trails for bike riding in The District. It would be amazing, but it would also be practical. It is just not practical for a family to put the bikes on the car and drive a 2-3 hour round trip so that they can do an hour of exercise. If the trails in DC were open to bikes it would changes many young lives for the better. Riding a bicycle is a sensation of freedom that no child should be without. But riding in the city is dangerous business. It is not possible for kids to ride with the freedom that they deserved with all the dangers presented by the cars around them.
With the thought fresh on my brain I spoke with my third grade son Dean's teacher. Dean's teacher had mentioned that she was working on a persuasive essay project with the class. I made mention of bicycle advocacy and the notion of mountain biking in Rock Creek Park. It was discussed... it was agreed. The kids would each write a letter to Michelle Obama and the LET'S MOVE initiative on the topic of mountain biking in Rock Creek Park. They would each write a letter after I gave a presentation to the class.
My presentation did not follow a strict script. There were some bullet points that corresponded with my flash drive slide show. As I spoke I introduced concepts and terms and tried to involve a decent amount of questions and answers.
I spoke to the children about mountain biking and how the sport of mountain biking has been misrepresented by the media as being some Mountain Dew fueled experience that involved big air and yard sale crashes. I lead them to understand that mountain biking does not even need a mountain. But instead mountain biking is really just riding a fat tired bicycle on natural surfaces... surfaces like the dirt hiking trails in Rock Creek Park. I spoke about the myths of mountain biking where people wrongly believe that biking on dirt trails causes an excess or erosion and the second classic myth that mountain bikers and hikers can not share the same space. The children all grasped these ideas quite well. The pictures of my boys and other children riding on singletrack trails helped the children realize that mountain biking is really like running or hiking in the woods... but on a bicycle.
The presentation went on with concepts of sustainability and advocacy groups like IMBA and MORE, but I could tell that there was the risk of too much information erasing the core vital energy. So... with a little more Q&A we ended things with an effort to reiterate the simple point that bicycling is great exercise. For a child to fulfill the LET'S MOVE initiative's objective of exercising for a minimum of sixty minutes a day on their bicycle... they would either have to contend with the dangers of city streets and car traffic or put their bicycle on a car and drive a minimum of an hour to get to a park that allows bicycle on dirt trails.
Later that week the kids each wrote their letters. Although I never got to read any of the letters I am confident that they were able to state their points in a way that only a child can. This weekend past I scripted a cover letter to Michelle Obama to accompany the class's letters.
What will come of this?
that is yet to be known
will the letters make it to the intended recipient?
will Michelle Obama use her powers to speak to the National Park Service on the topic of mountain biking in the park?
we will see
honestly... mountain biking is greatly misunderstood
the sport of mountain biking really is more similar to hiking or running in the woods than anything else
the people who are against mountain biking just do not understand it
much like the car culture that does not understand the bicycle and its place on the street
there are those that do not understand the bicycle and its place in the woods on natural surface trails
Gwadzilla Archive... mountain biking is greatly misunderstood
the photos of my boys on the bikes are from our Mother's Day Mountain Bike Ride at Laurel Hill in Lorton Virginia
these multi-use trails are the new trail design
sort of trails for any level of rider...
we had a blast
there was some sweating and some grunting
we brought water and snacks
everyone had a great time
everyone asked when they could go back to laurel hills