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Annual Student Bike Essay Contest





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2009 Student Bicycle Essay Contest Winners

We are pleased to present the winning essays from the 2009 International Bicycle Fund Student Essay contest.  Overall, this year's entry strongly reflected the issues of the times; safety, climate change and the economy of bicycling.  We received a lot of strong essays and it was difficult to pick the best.  We send our praise to everyone who entered and shared their ideas with us. The winners are:  "Bicycle Safety" by Delaney Murphy, age 8, Carrollwood Elementary, Tampa FL; "BMX Racing" by Andrew Klug, age 11,St Matthais Parish School, Milwaukee WI; and, "Morning Ritual" by Connie Shi, age 16, Okemos High School, Okemos MI.

Each writer receives a cash prize and certificate.  Congratulations to the winners and thank you to all the students who submitted essays. A number “honorable mention” essays are also posted so you can appreciate how many excellent writers and interesting topics are out there.

Bicycle Safety
by Delaney Murphy, age 8

Making sure you are riding your bike safely is very important.  The right equipment and following the rules of the road makes your biking safe and fun. The first thing you need is your helmet. It protects your head when you fall off your bike.  You must also make sure your helmet fits properly.

When you are riding, always stop and look before you ride into the road.  Always stop at intersection look left, right and left again.

Never ride at night a car could hit you, even if you have a light on your bike.  It is safest to ride during the day.  Practicing good bike safety habits will help you enjoy you enjoy your bike each and every day.

BMX Racing
by Andrew Klug, age 11

Bicycle Motocross, also known as BMX, is a sport created by kids for kids.  It all started in the early 1970s.  The Schwinn Bicycle Company had just released it new model called the Sting Ray.  Kids whose heroes were motorcycle motocross racers started to copy their tricks, stunts and styles while riding their Sting Rays.

Eventually, the kids began to modify their bikes, making them stronger and better at surviving the hazards set up on the tracks they built.  These early racetracks were usually built on empty sandlots and neighborhood trails.  They included mud hazards, jumps and other obstacles.  Kids were now seen on their modified bicycles not only tearing through the dirt, but also creating their own tracks.

The next step in the growing sport was organized races.  In 1976-1977 two bicycle organizations were born.  They were the National Bicycle League (NBL) and the American Bicycle Association (ABA).  Their job was to set up track operation standards, schedule events, make sportsmanship and racing regulations, classify racing classes, and keep track of individual racers’ standing.  With the support of these two organizations BMX racing became a sport mainly focused on fair play and family fun.

Those first few tracks of the early BMX riders in California have evolved into permanent courses located everywhere around the USA.  Those early tracks were mostly just downhill spaces with used tires and hay bales for hazards and a rope to hold back the onlookers.  Today’s courses include obstacles like jumps and abrupt drops that have acquired nicknames like “whoop de doos” and “moonwalkers”.  These hazards test riders’ skill and wits by sending them flying, through the air.  According to some spectators, this is the most thrilling thing to see while watching a race.  Races now require an entrance fee to watch.  Those fees help pay for the track.

New challenges and obstacles called for faster, stronger and overall better bikes.  Today’s bicycles are a far cry from the old Sting Ray that started the BMX craze.  Riders’ bikes have to be durable, lightweight and maneuverable.  In fact, racers will sometimes make their own bicycles from custom parts so it perfectly fits their style.

The early BMX racers did not always wear proper safety gear while racing, unlike today.  Now racers must wear a helmet, mouth guard, long-sleeve shirt and long pants to race because of strict safety rules.

Being safe is very important, but if you want to win, you have to take risks and know your plan.  You also need to have a plan B, meaning you need to adapt to different situations during the race.  The leader obviously has a great advantage, but it takes strong legs for power pedaling to stay in first place.  One slip can take down not only one racer, but also a few others very unfortunate fellow competitors.  Remember, even though there is only one winner each race, the main focus of bicycle motocross is to have a good time.

 The kid inventors of BMX probably never anticipated how huge the sport would become, or imagined that you could become a pro.  It is truly amazing what a couple of kids, their bikes, and their imagination created.

“Morning Ritual”
by Connie Chi, age 16

Nothing compares to the simple pleasure of a bike ride
~ John F. Kennedy

 Coffee and a newspaper do the trick for most people. My wake-up call is much different.

I’d never really been too attached to my bike. As a five-year-old, I liked biking a lot, but only because of the nice streamers that came with it and the chance to ride it, in all its decorated glory, in my annual neighborhood Independence Day parade. As I grew older, the streamers mysteriously disappeared, and so, somehow, did my enthusiasm. It wasn’t just taking a ride around my street anymore. Middle school and high school were miles away – it simply became impractical to bike there every morning. And so I left my bike at home, nearly forgetting it entirely as it was tucked away in a dark corner of the garage after years of disuse. I only rediscovered it again last year, when I decided I would try to start riding a lot more. I was working in a lab for the whole summer, and as I hadn’t yet had my license, felt it most efficient to bike to work each morning. It took me some time to get reacquainted, but it was definitely worth it.

Riding my bike every morning, I became my own pathfinder. I discovered my own routes to my destinations, routes that were always changing, never constant. No longer confined to following the smooth white lines along strictly paved roads, I delighted in seeking out secluded footpaths and overgrown forest walkways. Today, I decided, I would take the short route up the hill, but maybe tomorrow I would try the long, winding route I’d spotted yesterday. My bike rides gave me the first chance in a long time to really soak in the joys of mornings. I heard the birds chirp as the sun bathed the sky in swirling hues of pastel pinks and yellows. Had I driven, I would have missed all of that, too absorbed in the radio and sectioned off from the outside. I felt the morning breezes, surprisingly cool for an August day. Had I walked, I would have moved too slowly to experience the feeling of that crisp wind whipping against my face. Only as I biked could I reach that perfect tempo, that perfect balance between motion and stillness, where I was actively going somewhere and could take the time to appreciate the panoramic scenery around me. For those glorious minutes every morning, I was alone to wonder, to question, to dream, accompanied only by a muted harmony of my bike’s mechanical clicking, surrounded only by an silently illuminated landscape.

            Biking was not always so enjoyable, however. Twice in my cycling adventures I was unfortunately caught in a thunderstorm. Entirely vulnerable to Nature’s maniacal cackles of laughter as rain poured down, drenching my bike and me, I realized that riding my bike had left me exposed to the elements. But surprise thunderstorms and near-floods weren’t the only problems. I had no defense against incessant flies and mosquitoes, nor could I deflect the sun’s intense rays on particularly hot days. I longed for windows that I could roll up and cower behind, but I had nothing – nothing except my bike and myself. I realized that, having learned to depend on machines, I could no longer stand on my own. Dealing with the mini-crises that came with biking regularly re-taught me the valuable skills of self-reliance and grace under pressure and gave me back an independence I’d almost lost.

I’m no professional cyclist. I’ll never set any world records and have no plans to ever enter a bicycle race. I ride a normal, everyday bicycle – nothing fancy – and besides wearing a helmet and braking at appropriate times, I probably don’t even have good cycling “technique.” Why, then, do I bike? The environmentalist will insist it’s because I want to make the world a cleaner place. The personal trainer will say it’s because I want to live a healthier lifestyle. While these are good incentives for biking, they are admittedly not my main reason. I bike because in that brief moment when I’m flying down the hill at a breakneck speed, I have found freedom from the tedium of everyday life. Biking grounds me, forcing me to take a step back from my chaotic life and appreciate everything beautiful about it, showing me that once I set my mind to it, I can stand on my own.

Today’s society moves lightning-fast with no chance to take a breath. So often the emphasis is on the highest speeds, the greatest efficiency, and the fastest outcome. Why is my Internet connection so “slow?” Why can’t this traffic move along? Which road is the least time-consuming way to work? Caught up in our never-ending list of appointments and obligations and constantly rushing from place to place to yet another place, we sadly forget how to slow down. I know from personal experience that the perfect remedy to this unfortunate case of perpetual busyness is a leisurely bike ride. It is a cure-all panacea and a great addition to any morning routine.  

Annual Student Bicycle Essay Contest

Honorable Mention

Mom and Dad Taught Me
by Taylor Reese, age 8

My mom and dad taught me how to ride a bike.  I was almost 5 years old when we were out on my big hill.  So I got my bike out.  My dad and mom took my training wheels off my bike, and they gave me a push so I could go faster.  I wrecked a couple times but I am OK. When I was riding my bike I had to have a lot of equipment.  I had to have a helmet and shin guards even though I was in the grass.

Bicycling may occur again in the summer with the sun shinning and the bright blue sky, and hopefully my brother won't be around.  It could also happen when we are camping.  When we go camping we bike everywhere.  We go for a very long ride.  It takes one mile to reach the swimming hole.

I know my idea is good because it is good to exercise for my friends and me.  It is also not polluting the air.

Bicycle Safety
by Alexandra Thrower, Age 9

Riding a bike can be really fun and it gives you good exercise.  It can also be dangerous if you do not practice bicycle safety.  It's important that you know all the safety rules for riding before you get on your bike.  When you ride a bike you need to follow the three main rules.  These rules include wearing a helmet, using hand signals and making sure your bike is in good condition.

Rule #1: Wear a helmet
One of the most important rules is wearing a helmet.  When you are crossing a long and curvy intersection, in you car, you spot a man riding his bike with no helmet on.  What could happen to this man.  He could fall off his bike and badly damage his head.  Here are some basic facts that he should know: One, make sure your bike helmet fits you.  Two, never wear a hat under a bike helmet.  Three, always make sure the straps are fastened.

Rule #2: Use hand Signals
Helmets are not the only part of bicycle safety.  There are also hand signals that are just as important.  You can use hand signals to tell drivers what you are going to do.  Here are some hand signals:


You can use all of these signals as you are riding a bike. Just like drivers, we can show left turns and right turns with our arms.  We can also show that we are slowing down and stopping.  These are important signals for riding single file on a street.  These are universal signals that can be used anywhere.

Rule #3: Make sure your bike is in good condition
The last rule is to make sure that your bicycle is in good condition.  Before you can do this, you need to learn all of the parts of the bike.  The parts of the bike are brakes, spokes, pedals, seat, chain, tires, reflectors and lights.  Before you take a bike ride, you should check each of these eight parts.  One of the parts that needs the most attention is the tires.  Tires loose air over time so you need to make sure that your tires are full of air before you ride on them.

Bicycle safety is important to know when riding your bicycle.  If you follow the three rules above, you will improve your safety on the road and have more fun.  Since we have pretty weather in Tampa, you can ride your bike often.

I Like to Bike
by Connor Mehlenbacher, age 9

Do you like bikes?  Well I do and I race in BMX! It's a game where you go on a track and go as fast as you can and ride up and down hills and on jumps!  I also like to just ride for fun! I have a bike with gears and love to ride every day for an hour!

I really love to ride all bikes and learn about it to.  The first bikes ever made didn't have gears.  They were really just regular old bikes.  Now they are with gears and are a lot more tricked with stuff.  They cost more and even have different spokes.  I am really, good at it and I have friends that live far away from here and they let there dad or mom drive them over in a car and ride bikes with me! It's certainly trae that I love bikes!

The Apple Cider Century
By Nathan Kies, age 12

The Apple Cider Century (ACC) is an annual one-day bike ride in Three Oaks, Michigan.   Bikers can choose to ride 15, 25, 37, 50, 62, 75 or 100 miles in one day.  Thousands of people ride through the town, down country roads and up and down hills.

Each year, my boy scout troop participates in the ACC to work on their cycling merit badge.  Several of my leaders and fellow scouts have ridden 50 and 100 miles.  One year, my mom, dad and I chose to ride 25 miles.  We camped out the night before at a friend’s backyard.  The morning of the race began with a pancake breakfast.  After putting on our helmets and grabbing a water bottle, we set out for the 25 miles.

The ride was very long.  There were only two stops to get something to eat and take a rest.  There were hardly any port-a-potties along the route.  After a while of riding, my hands started to hurt from holding on to the handlebars.  My butt also started to hurt from sitting way too long.  Experienced riders kept passing us up.  We were probably one of the last few people to finish.

Even though it was a tough ride, we enjoyed the beautiful sites of Three Oaks, Michigan.  There were forest preserves, hills and dirt roads.  We also met a lot of nice people.  At the end of the 25 miles, we were served a spaghetti dinner.

I was glad the race was over.  So were my parents.  We needed a shower and a nap and my butt needed to take a rest.  A short time later, my boy scout troop decided to go on a bike ride down the Plank Trail.  We rode our bikes from Frankfort to Joliet and back for a total of 33 miles.  Biking the Plank Trail wasn’t as bad because this was a straight route compared to the Apple Cider Century, which had hills.

I’m now half way through earning my Cycling Merit Badge.  I only need to bike 50 more miles!

The Tour de France
by Nathan Passinault, age 11

When people think of going on a bike ride they think of a warm summer day with the sound of the bicycle's chain clinking together as they ride.  Competitive cycling, however, is nothing like this.  Competitive cycling involves grueling courses, hours of training and physical endurance.  The Tour de France definitely covers all of these characteristics and more!

The Tour de France is made up of 200 or more cyclist divided into 20 or more teams.  Its course changes every year, but always goes around France and sometimes into neighboring countries, ending in Paris at the Champes Elysees.  The terrain ranges from mountains, to hills, to flat stretches.

The Tour de France is a stage race.  This means a new race takes place every day for about three weeks.  The three types of stages are the time trials, the flat stages, and the mountain stages.  In the time trials, each racer rides individually on a course that is about 30-50 kilometers long. In the flat stages, the cyclist ride in a peloton, or a group of closely packed racers.  Within the flat stages, sprints take place.  This is when a rider breaks out of the peloton and tries to get one or two minutes ahead of everyone else.  The mountain stages occur in the mountains when the cyclists are required to ride up and down multiple hills.  The hills are ranked 1 to 4, with one being the steepest. Some of the hills are too steep to rank.  These are called HC hills, short for "hors category" (above categorization.)  Stages with a lot of one to HC hills can be pivotal to win the race because very few riders can do well in these conditions.

Even if one person is an incredible cyclist, it takes a team to win the Tour de France.  The teams start out with nine people but only one is trying to win the entire Tour de France.  The teammates help the leader in many ways.  For example, they bring him food and water throughout the race.  They also stay in front of the cyclist trying to win and absorb the wind resistance for him.  This is called drafting and is a key factor to winning the race.

The Tour de France is not an easy race, nor is it a one man effort.  But if you have strategy, good teammates, and are willing to train your body and mind, you might have a chance!

Bicycling is Important
by Natalie Estrada, age 12

Many people ride bikes to school, the store, a friends house, etc.  Most people just like to ride their bikes as a way to get around, but riding a bike can help the environment and yourself also.

Cars and truck put many harmful chemicals into the air which eventually cause global warming.  But bikes don't send out those harmful toxins into the atmosphere.  If everyone were to ride a bike to places close by the earth could take a break and breathe.  Not only do bikes help the environment, they also help your health and fitness.

Bike riding is an excellent physical fitness activity.  When you ride your bike you are using certain muscles in your body.  By riding your bike you can help those muscles grow stronger.  And riding your bike can also keep you physically active and fit.  Another reason that riding your bike can help your health is that while you are riding your heart is beating fast and your heart can get stronger and can lower your risk of heart disease.  Getting a nice workout, like a bike ride, is always nice.

Not only is riding your bike good for your body and environment, it is also good for the economy!  At times like these money is tight and you spend hundreds of dollars each year on gas alone.  Cars, and especially trucks, need plenty of gas to get you moving to the place that you need to get to.  If you were to ride a bike you will really cut all the money that you spend on gas each week. Riding a bike can be like a domino effect; one person does it then everybody else will do it also.  Saving money that you would usually spend on gas would bring happiness to you, your family and your wallet.

In conclusion, bike riding is very important!  It helps your heart health and you mind.   Oh, and also the planet you live on.  Oh, and, your wallet!

Celebrities Bicycle
by Callie Ritchie, age 11

"Everyone should rid bikes!", says many celebrities.  It doesn't matter what size, shape, or how much money you make to just hop on a bike and ride!  Here are some celebrities who do just that. They ride them for fun, sport and to show people an eco-friendly example.

Generally most celebrities have a reason for bicycling.  These famous ride just for fun.  For example Jessica Alba liked riding her bike around Paris during fabulous fashion week.  Barack Obama on the other hand, rode his bike in Chicago for pure fun.  Lastly, the newest couple in Hollywood, Brad and Angelina Pitt, rode around with their newest of six children.  Those are some examples of celebrities that bicycle for fun.

Furthermore not all famous people ride for fun. Some ride for sport. Jennifer Lopez did just that at the Nautica Malibu Triathlon.  Other participated too, like Matthew McConaghey and Ann Kournikova. Lance Armstrong is also a very famous bicycling athlete.  Lance competed seven times in the Tour de France and won five!  Also Zara Phillips, famous equestrian for the Olympics, competed in bike polo.  Those people did biking for the fun of the sport.

Finally the other celebrities do it to set an example for others.  Miley Cyrus becomes a role model as she rides her bike places instead of driving.  Jennifer Aniston bought a bike for exercise and to set an eco-friendly example.  On the other hand Miss Universe rode a bike through Mexico City to promote their campaign to encourage commuters to stop driving and start cycling!  Celebrities just don't bike, some have their reasons.  Those three did it to set examples.

In conclusion, it doesn't matter what size, shape or how much money you make to just hop on a bike and ride!  These celebrities showed that through riding for fun, sport and setting example.  Jen Aniston does it to set an eco-friendly example, but Brad and Angelina ride for fun!  Unlike those celebrities Lance Armstrong rides his bike for sport.  So hop on a bike and ride just like the celebrity role models.

So Many Problems Bicycles Can Answer
by Gabby Vallejos

There are many problems in the world.  Pollution, our troubled economy and obesity are a few of the many issues.  These issues can all be helped by one thing, bicycling.  Bicycling is not only a form of exercise and fun, it is a money saver and pollution reducer.

The greenhouse effect is one of the more significant problems in the world today.  Cars are polluting the atmosphere with gasses that are harmful to the atmosphere.  The gasses get trapped inside the atmosphere, causing global temperatures to go up.  Higher temperatures mean big problems for wildlife, especially the one's who live in the Artic region.  These high temperatures melt ice and glaciers that animals such as polar bears and penguins live on.  People are looking for a solution to this problem.

People use cars for everything.  Our society has become very dependent on automobiles for means of transportation.  Often, people use a car to go very short distances, just because it is easier.  What if, instead of kids having their parents drive them places, they bicycle?  Imagine if every kid in America rode their bike to go places within close proximity to home.  It would be like taking millions of cars off the road, thus reducing the amount of pollutants in the atmosphere.  What if kids rode their bikes to school, or if people road their bike to work.  I live on Long Island and a lot of parents commute to the city for work.  The other adults who live close to where they work can bicycle to their workplace.

Obesity is also a major problem in America.  About 30 percent of Americans are overweight or obese.  Factors that contribute to obesity are diet, exercise and heredity.  Most children and teens do not get the daily amount of recommended exercise; sixty minutes a day.  We can strive for a healthier America by increasing the amount of exercise children get.  The children, teens and adults of America can get this needed exercise by bicycling.

Bicycling is a family sport, people of all ages can learn to ride a bicycle.  Bicycling is not only great fun, it also is an excellent form of exercise.  Bicycling strengthens the leg muscles and increases cardiovascular endurance.  If everyone were to ride a bicycle for an hour a day, America would be a fitter, healthier nation.  People need healthy hearts, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States.  Our heart is the most important organ in our body, it is also a muscle.  Fast-paced exercise, such as bicycling, can make our hearts stronger, reducing our risk of heart disease.

Our nation is in a recession, the American dollar is worth less.  Families all over the country are feeling the pinch.  President Obama has lots of stimulus packages to help get our economy back on it's feet.  What if the government were to buy every child in America a bicycle?  Government spending can get our economy back on track.  If children were to ride bikes instead of driving places, American oil consumption will decrease.  Fossil fuel is a non-renewable resource.  Currently, we are consuming oil faster than the earth can create it.  If we do not do anything soon we will run out.  If Americans were to ride bicycles more often they would use less gasoline.  Less gasoline usage means less money spent on gas and more on things that can help the economy.  Most oil is imported, buying foreign oil will not help our economy, but the economy of other nations that we buy the oil from.

As you can see, just by riding your bicycle, you can save money, reduce pollution, get exercise, prevent heart disease, help the economy, spend time with your family and have fun!

Cycling Through Time
by Kyle Banks, age 14

The bicycle’s history is a long and interesting one.  There were many kinds of bicycles before they got to what they are today.  The bicycle was started in 1817 and evolved year after year until we got the modern day bicycle.  People have used the bicycle for many things, such as quick transportation, racing, and just plain old fun.  The bicycle was a significant invention in our history.

Bicycles got their start in 1817 Germany when Baron von Drais invented a “walking machine” to get around the royal gardens faster.  This invention consisted of two same-sized in-line wheels mounted on a frame.  The front wheel was steer able.  You would straddle the device and propel it by pushing your feet off the ground, making you glide while you walk.  This machine became known as the Draisienne or hobby horse. The entire contraption was made of wood.  The Draisienne was short lived, for it was not practical for traveling other than on straight, smooth paths.

The next appearance of a double-wheeled machine was in 1865.  This machine had pedals applied directly to the front wheel.  This invention was also made entirely of wood, giving it the popular name of “Boneshaker”, because of the bumpy rides it provided.  It was also known as the velocipede, or “fast foot”.  These were also short lived, but in large cities, indoor riding schools, similar to roller rinks, could be found.

Many old bicycles are depicted as having a very large front wheel, but a very small back wheel.  This was the High Wheel bicycle.  It was the first all metal machine and was introduced in 1870.  The front wheels got larger and larger as people realized that with larger wheels, the longer distance you would go with one rotation.  People would buy wheel sizes according to leg length, for the pedals were still attached directly to the front wheel.  This was the first machine to actually be called a bicycle or “two wheel”.

These bicycles, however, were extremely unsafe.  Since the rider sat very high above the center of gravity, if the front wheel was suddenly stopped by a stone or rut in the road, the whole contraption would rotate forward on its front axle.  The rider, with his legs stuck under the handlebars, would then fall directly onto his head.  This birthed the phrase “taking a header.”

Most bicycles belonged only to men, but while they were busting their heads on High Wheels, ladies rode around parks on an adult tricycle.  This High Wheel Tricycle had a smaller front wheel and two larger back wheels.  It was also useful to dignified men such as doctors or priests.  Many mechanical innovations, now more known for their use in the automobile, were originally invented for the tricycle.  These include rack and pinion steering and band brakes.

Improvements on the design of the High Wheel bicycle started popping up, mostly with the smaller wheel in the front to stop the “headers” problem.  One of these models was promoted by its manufacturer by riding it down the front steps of the United States capitol building.  This design started being called the High Wheel Safety bicycle.  The bicycles began to be known as “ordinary bicycles” and later on as simply “ordinaries.”

Time went on and two similar models, the Hard-Tired Safety and the Pneumatic-Tired safety, were created.  They both had same-sized wheels and were improvements on the wooden designs.  With stronger metal, there was also the ability to install a small metal chain and sprocket, light enough for a human being to power.  Also introduced was the gear system, which allowed the same-size bicycles to go just as fast as a High Wheel.

Just after World War I, the “kid’s bike” was introduced.  This bike incorporated many motorcycle or automobile parts to appeal to children.  As time went on, the designs got more and more complex.  Kids were able to do the same tricks kids do today on those sixty-five pound machines.  These kids bikes were built until the 1950’s, and incorporated parts to look like aircrafts and even rockets.  By the 1960’s, the designs got thinner and simpler.

Today, we still use bicycles as a form of fast transportation, racing, and even just for recreation.  Since the time of the Walking Machine, bicycles went through many significant changes.  The designs got safer and eventually more complex.  The invention of the bicycle changed our history forever and our world would be a different place without it. 

Annual Student Bicycle Essay Contest



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The International Bicycle Fund is an independent, non-profit organization. Its primary purpose is to promote bicycle transportation. Most IBF projects and activities fall into one of  four categories: planning and engineering, safety education, economic development assistance and promoting international understanding. IBF's objective is to create a sustainable, people-friendly environment by creating opportunities of the highest practicable quality for bicycle transportation. IBF is funded by private donation. Contributions are always welcome and are U.S. tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law.

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