The Bicycle: Social Impacts, Past & Present

The Surprising Social Impact of Bicycles
and Local Learning Opportunities

Did you know that before inventing the world’s first successful airplane, Orville and Wilbur Wright owned a bicycle shop? They repaired and rented out bicycles and eventually went on to build their own bicycles and invent small improvements to the machines. In addition to gaining practice in engineering skills, this business funded their aviation experiments.

Simpler and less expensive than cars, bicycles can be a fun tool for tinkering. The fact that the parts of a bicycle are exposed can help people understand the physics driving the machine. Plus, owning a bicycle can give you an immense sense of freedom. Bicycles obviously do not travel as fast as cars (depending on traffic flow!) and can’t take you as far, but at the same time they are affordable to more people and they are driven by human energy. Biking allows you to take a closer look at the world around you and get exercise in a fun way.
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Two Bike Tours of Holyoke Mills & Canals and Mansions

Bike Tours of Holyoke Mills & Canals and Mansions: June 1st & 8th

Teens & adults can take to the streets via bike and join Wistariahurst Museum for two historical bicycle tours around Holyoke. Tours will be led by historian Craig Della Penna who will share his insights of historical buildings, landmarks along Holyoke’s streets.

The Wistariahurst Museum is holding two bicycle tours around the city of Holyoke, one exploring the city’s mills and canals, and the other exploring the mansions of the Fairfield Avenue Historic District.  Teens and their parents can spend quality time together while learning local history and developing a greater sense of place by becoming better acquainted with the history and current landscape of this first planned industrial community in the U.S.

The first ride, taking place from 11am-12:30pm on Saturday, June 1st, leads cyclists along the many mills and canals of Holyoke.  Local historian Craig Della Penna will be there to teach you about the history of these waterways, as well as the historic buildings built along them.  The ride begins and ends at Holyoke Heritage State Park (221 Appleton Street).

The second ride is on Saturday, June 8th from 11am-12:30pm.  Cyclists will ride around the Holyoke Highlands and Fairfield Avenue Historic District while learning about the architecture of the area’s Victorian mansions, as well as the architects, builders, and families connected to them.  This tour begins at Kennedy Park (Waldo Street) and ends at Jones Park (Oxford Road).

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Q&A: How Are You Teaching Your Kids to Ride A Bike?

Question and Answer

Bike safety is an important issue for kids both learning and already riding. Click on the photo for bike safety tips. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Anyone have kids just learning to ride a bike, or transitioning out of training wheels? How are you teaching them to ride their bikes? Anyone have some great advise to lend to parents and kids learning to two-wheel it?

  • Amanda Saklad suggests: “Ride on grass – falling is less painful.”
  • Laura Hoffman suggests: “Yeah, it’s great to find a grassy small decline that they can coast down without pedaling, then when they see that they can do that they can start to learn the pedaling part.”
  • Jeff Wagenheim suggests: “Not much of a decline, though. You don’t want them to go too fast. Better that they struggle with pedaling through the grass on level ground than be frightened by speed they can’t control. I took my kids to a baseball field that was level but had recently been mowed, so the grass was short and easy to pedal on.”
  • Kate McCarthy Roy suggests: “Raise the training wheels gradually. My daughter crashed once and bent one training wheel all the way up – it was the best way to show her she could do it without them. Or, you get lucky in my son’s case… he wanted them off at age 3 because he saw his 5 year old sister riding a two-wheeler, and he just took off!”
  • Tish Serrani suggests: “Training wheels are too dangerous. Balance bikes (without pedals) like Scuut and Zuma to name just two on the market. Kids will be able to ride a real bike younger and safer.”
  • Beth Caissie suggests: “We went the balance bike route too–just took the pedals off a small kids bike. Our son rode without pedals for a month or so. Once he could balance for 50′ or more without touching the ground, we put the pedals back on. I ran behind him holding his shoulders (read that it teaches them to balance more) for another week or two and he was off. This was right around his 4th b-day.”
  • Jennifer Mitchell Martin suggests: “Both our kids learned after riding with my husband on our tag-a-long. I think it helped them learn balance.”
  • Rebecca Dejnak suggests: “Agree a balance bike is fabulous. We have a strider and my daughter was on a regular bike around 4.5 yrs only needing a few days of support, I held onto the back of the seat as she felt safest there and occ the center handle bars initially.”
  • Jennifer Neiman Gottlieb suggests: “Our kids had a lot of success learning to ride on grass first (softens the blow!), though my son actually used one of those “like a bikes” without pedals and went to two wheels easily and early. Those things are great!”
  • Sara Karz Reid suggests: “My daughter started on a push bike (no pedals), and went right to a two-wheeler without too much difficulty when she was four. There are a lot of bikes out there designed without pedals, but you can also just take the pedals off of a regular bike and put the seat down low. If you don’t have the tools to do it yourself, any bike shop should be able to do it for you.”
  • Desiree DuBois suggests: “Runner bikes (no pedals) are the bomb- worked like magic for both our kids. They learned balance and control first and then when they had that down the transition to pedals was quick smooth and easy.”
  • Ellie Newman Petrov  suggests, “Try a pedal free bike!”
  • Susan Countryman suggests, “Pedal-free bikes weren’t on the market when our girl was little and now we are struggling with teaching a tall 8-year-old to ride. The proper sized bike is big so its harder to balance and there’s farther to fall. Anyone dealing with teaching older kids to ride?”
  • Sarah Buttenwieser replies, “Grassy slope, don’t pedal (even could take them off for a bit), get the balance going down incline. Balance is the issue. Pick up feet. Feel that & then with the pedals it’ll work (like the pedal-less bikes for tots).”
  • Gillian Daley replies, “Lower the bike seat so her feet can touch the ground (or borrow a smaller bike for a bit) and remove the pedal crank (lots of videos on YouTube). This makes a balance bike that is more appropriately sized for an 8 year old. When you put the pedals back on, after much balance play on the bike, keep the seat low so she feels safe enough while adding in the pedaling skills.”

HFVS Bicycle Episode (Radio Show/Podcast)

Listen to Podcast:


Saturday from 9-10am
Original Broadcast: June 6th, 2009
WXOJ LP – 103.3 FM – Valley Free Radio
Northampton, MA

 Archived Podcasts Radio  Facebook Twitter


Kids just learning how to ride a bike? Our readers have great advise to lend parents in our post, How Are You Teaching Your Kids to Ride A Bike? Need a bike? Our readers also have recommendations on Where to Get New/Used Bikes for the Family in Western MA. – Can’t get enough bikes? We have another episode of the HFVS from 2007, Summer Bike Riding Episode!

  • Parker Bent – “Charlie Davidson’s Tricycle Club” [Charlie Davidson’s Tricycle Club]
  • Lunch Money – “Tricycle” [Silly Reflection]
  • Asylum Street Spankers – “Training Wheel Rag” [Mommy Says No!]
  • Justin Roberts – “Taking off My Training Wheels” [Meltdown!]
  • Hot Peas ‘n Butter – “Different Spokes for Different Folks” [The Pod Squad]
  • The Pop Stars – “Your Life as You Know it is Over” [The Pop Stars (Pink)
  • Joe West – “If the World Was Upside Down” [If the World Was Upside Down]
  • Tom Paxton – “Ride My Bike” [I’ve Got a Yo-Yo]
  • Recess Monkey – “Pedal Power” [Tabby Road]
  • Ralph Covert – “Banana Seat Bike” [Ralph’s World Peggy’s Pie Parlor]
  • Station Id: Steve Weeks []
  • Mr. Saxaphone – “Go Go Go” [Songs from the Treehouse]
  • Gwendolyn and the Good Time Gang – “Bicycle Ride” [Get Up & Dance]
  • Artichoke – “Rattlesnake” [26 Animals]
  • Ani DiFranco w/ Missoula Coyote Choir & Friends – “The Great TV Rebellion” [Ask the Planet]
  • Herbie Tree – “Change” [Putumayo Kids Presents European Playground]
  • The Jellydots – “Bicycle” [Hey You Kids]
  • The Hipwaders – “My Green Bicycle” [The Hipwaders]

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