Did You Know?

Only 0.7 percent of federal transportation funds are spent on improving pedestrian facilities.

Violet, then and now

Some—a handful of you—will recognize his picture (top, right) of my daughter Violet.

Violet in 2000

It ran on the cover of the February-March 2000 Active Trans newsletter (then called the CBF News). The article focused on bringing up kids within cycling culture.

Last Tuesday, Violet's new Electra bike came in. The next photo is Violet last week, riding the bike home from our local bike shop. 

It's her second Electra cruiser. Her first bike, at the age of 4, cost 385 euro, because I bought it in Amsterdam and flew it back as luggage.

Violet is 12. This Electra—the Blanc Et Noir—is her fifth bike.

Violet in 2011

My wife Laura and I have worked so very hard at raising a child who views transportation very differently—to see it as a choice that must be made within a sensible context. And by worked so very hard, I mean buy her whatever bike she wants.

My wife and I both thought that Violet developing a love of cycling—given the parental units assigned to her—was a safe bet. We were wrong.

Because she doesn't love it. At all. The joy her dad and mom experience while cycling no place in particular strikes Violet as absolutely unpleasant and pointless.

I think I've got only ourselves to blame. What we've raised is a child who could have passed the League of American Bicyclist's Traffic Cycling course at age 10—two years ago. She has almost complete autonomy in her travels around our (admittedly pretty bike friendly) Southland community.  

Her bike extends her walking range to every corner of our community, and her training as a cyclist—which, I must disclose, was more rigorous than most children's—offers her safety and comfort where many, many adults fear to tread.

She rides a bike wherever she wants to go. I am so grateful to be in a town where this can happen, and to have the knowledge and skill to have taught her. But I think it's totally killed the magic of cycling for her.

Violet never wants to go for a ride. She never wants to just pedal around and enjoy the breeze, the movement, the exercise. Her bike stirs her heart as much as getting in the car stirs yours.

That brings us back to this new Electra, bought last week. I'm still obsessed, in an entirely healthy and not-awful-parent way, over igniting that spark of bike love in Violet. This obsession manifests in a reflexive Let's buy it! when Violet expresses any interest at all in a bike.

My goodness, look at that bike—a girl is going to express an interest. Last night, Laura and Violet rode their Electra cruisers—Laura has the Daisy—to Kohls for back-to-school clothes. Now that's a picture: mom and daughter, on their totally and completely rad bikes, pedaling home with baskets full of whatever pre-teen fashion the world is bombarding me with this year.

I thought it might, maybe, make her finally interested in riding it around just because. Nope. For Violet, it's not about the journey and how she's getting there. As cool as she feels she looks on that Electra, it's not about the bike. When they got home, I was so smitten with the image of both of them riding up the driveway that I stepped outside and asked Violet if she wanted to go cruise around.

Why? she asked.

I think we've won. But I thought winning would feel different.