This ad, found in a weekly circular of major home improvement center, is frankly insulting.
It is insulting to bicycle riders, bicycle advocates, bicycle shops, bicycle manufacturers, and all of us who have worked relentlessly to raise the profile of urban cycling. This ad undermines the very notion of the bicycle being a legitimate human-powered vehicle worthy of being used on the road.
Unfortunately, the people the above ad insults the most are those consumers who get lured into buying one of the items being advertised. It cheats them into thinking they're getting the real thing. It turns the noble Bicycle into yet another cheap and disposable thing, that brings only superficial smiles at Christmas, and can be discarded along with the heap of other unnecessary stuff before the wrappers have even made it to the recycling bin.
Now, it is true that a Bicycle, a real Bicycle, with a capital B, such as the Kona Makena pictured below, may cost as much as ten times the item being peddled in the ad above.
But you get so much more than an item to be shoved under the tree! A quality, professionally assembled Bicycle is a piece of finely tuned mechanical artistry that is powerful, reliable, durable and safe. And, there are many ways in which a real Bike can make your child a better human and better citizen.
- It will teach your child independence. It is the first vehicle many children ever ride on their own. Don't treat it like a toy. Let your child learn about the freedom and responsibility associated with controlling a vehicle.
- It will teach her autonomy. It offers a way to get from point A to point B without relying on the automobile. Children from a very early age can appreciate the difference, and older children can actually use the bike to chauffeur themselves around.
- You can help your child learn the rules of the road using your Bikes on quiet streets around the neighborhood
- You can sign up for a bike repair class with an older child to learn practical skills, and further boost the sense of responsibility and autonomy in your kid.
- You can use the Bike to illustrate some principles of physics (many online resources are available).
- A Bicycle is a vehicle for social change. You can discuss how Bikes are used around the world to alleviate poverty and and offer mobility solutions in developing countries (for some ideas, click here).
- A Bike will help your child build awareness. Unlike a car, which isolates us from our surroundings and fellow humans, the Bicycle puts us in touch with the environment & people around us. It's hard to space out on a Bike. You have to pay attention. And when you are not looking out at the world through a smoked glass window, you notice things like prowling cats, sparring squirrels, dragonflies, homeless people under a bridge, the weather, nasty smells exuded by cars, and other interesting things you might otherwise miss.
- It will teach your child about health and fitness. He will learn how using his own body, and the food he has consumed to fuel it, can produce the energy to propel him efficiently from one place to another. We would all enjoy better health if we committed some of our daily travel to a Bicycle.
- The Bicycle can teach your child economy. The cost of a Bicycle and its maintenance, spread over the number of years the owner will enjoy it, adds up to a very affordable annual expense. If we use a Bicycle in place of a car or bus, the savings increase dramatically.
- The Bicycle can teach your child the value of unstructured exploration, and how to unwind and relax.
And, as Christmas gifts, Bikes are unbeatable. A bike doesn't need batteries. A couple of strong legs, and a little air and oil once in a while. That's all. It won't scatter small parts all over your house. And it is the most fun your kid will have without being plugged in.
For most kids, it is simply THE BEST gift you can give. A Bicycle, especially The First Bicycle, is different from any other gift. It represents a coming of age, a new independence, a right of passage. Owning a Bicycle creates new transportation options, and your child will instantly recognize the new independence. Because of this, a Bike is a gift that will keep on giving. It will not be discarded or forgotten. Your child will use it enjoy it for a long time to come.
But, you say, it's winter. SO? Your child will actually WANT to go outside in the cold. Trust me, I've been there. So a Bike is really a gift for your whole family. Now you can enjoy cycling outings together. Or you can walk or jog, while your child cycles along.
It is a fancy gift that's worth it's price. Think of a price of a popular doll with a couple outfits, a fancy box of Legos , or a video game system, and you will see that the price of a quality child's Bicycle is actually quite reasonable. Plus, it makes a very effective presentation. Imagine this giant package under the tree!... Or rolling it with great fanfare from the garage... wow!
And that's the best reason for putting a Bike under the Christmas tree: the expression on your child's face. As they say: priceless.