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Annual Student Bike Essay Contest





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2010 Student Bicycle Essay Contest Winners

We are pleased to present the winning essays from the 2010 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.  It was difficult to pick the best.  We send our praise to everyone who entered and shared their ideas with us. The winners are:  "The Amazing History of Bicycles" by Nikita Tejwani, age 8, Challenge Charter School, Glendale AZ; "What a Bicycle Can: Unique uses of Bicycles" by Polly Jalia Nakyanzi, age 11, St Paul School, Masaka, Uganda; and, "Ding, Ding. Ding, Ding" by Taylor Herrmann, age 12, Summit Hill Junior High School, Frankfort IL.

Each writer receives a cash prize and certificate.  Congratulations to the winners and thank you to all the students who submitted essays.

The Amazing History of Bicycles
by Nikita Tejwani, age 8

The bicycle has evolved through many versions to become what it is now.  It started with what is called ‘the walking machine’ and evolved into ‘the velocipede.’  The velocipede then developed into ‘the high wheel.’  There were many other models invented and the list is too large to mention here.  The objective of developing the bicycle remained on having a mechanical device that would enable mankind to move faster from one place to another.

The walking machine was the very first bicycle known to have been developed.  It was also known as Draisienne or hobby horse.  It was made entirely out of wood and had two wheels of the same size.  The front wheel was steerable.  To use it, one needed to push it forward with the feet and then glide.  However, it could only be ridden on smooth surfaces.

The next device that was developed for mechanized motion was the velocipede or the boneshaker.  It was very much like the walking machine, but there were pedals attached to the front wheel.  It was later made with metal tires.  With cobblestone roads, this machine made a very uncomfortable ride.  Indoor riding academies were built.

The high wheel was designed in 1870.  It was the first all-metal bicycle. The pedals were on the large front wheel.  The wheel was made larger and larger because riders realized the larger the wheel the farther you could go with one pedal rotation.  People bought the bicycle that was as long as their leg length would allow.  It was the first machine to be called a bicycle.  When it was stopped suddenly, the rider would fall on his head.

People started making improvements to the high wheel by making the rear wheel larger.  The large wheel was at the back and the pedals were still on the larger (back) wheel.  It became known as the high wheel safety.

The next improvement to the high wheel safety is called the hard tire safety.  It had a chain and rubber tires.  It was much more uncomfortable ride than the high wheel designs.  However, the speed was the same.  It had front and/or rear suspensions.

Thereafter, the pneumatic tire safety was invented by an Irish veterinarian who wanted his son to have a comfortable ride on his bicycle.  Many working men use the pneumatic tire safety for transportation.  Women used adult tricycles.

The various models mentioned above are not the only models that have been invented.  These are just a few important ones that illustrate the challenges that the bicycle inventors of those years faced, before we could see the bicycle of today.  It is a machine that allowed mankind to move faster and is powered by man.

What a Bicycle Can: Unique uses of Bicycles
by Polly Jalia Nakyanzi, age 11

I never knew bikes could play such a vital role as reducing poverty of households especially in Uganda. I never knew a bike could change people’s livelihoods. I never knew a bike could give peoples life meaning! People look at cars, motor bikes and other auto mobiles as the only ones that can easily reduce poverty levels of individuals. Last year, I witnessed two young men and one boy child of the school going age whose life has been greatly changed because of the bikes they received. I learnt that a mere bike can change people’s lives. In fact it is very easy to maintain it since it needs no fuel at all.

The two young men belonged to two ‘chronically poor’ households. They grew pineapples but they could not access markets for their pineapples. A newly established NGO [Community Based Initiative for Rural Development (CBIRD) in collaboration with a USA based charity Wheels4Life] came to work in this area and they saw the state of the households where the two young men lived. They decided to give a bike to each of the two young men to help them access market for their pineapples for them to earn a living. 11 months later, one of them had already managed to buy a cow while the other had bough a motor bike (second hand bike)!

The one who bought a cow was lucky. His cow delivered this year and he is able to sell milk every day. On top of that, his family gets a liter of milk in the morning and evening for their tea. Moreover, the cow dung is used as fertilizers for the pineapple garden while the bike is still in good condition and is being used to transport other agricultural items to the market. From the money this young man earns from the milk sales, one of his children has been able to join primary school while the family can afford two meals a day (they can buy food when it is needed)! The family members look healthier; they have at least two pairs of clothes and a blanket each, which was not possible before! The family is capable of saving at least shillings 3200 (US $ 1.6) per day. This is great and amazing. Can you see how a bike can change people’s lives?

The young man who bought a second hand motor bike (from the pineapple proceeds) also has two important assets: a bike, and a motor bike. He uses the motor bike to transport people every day and this gives him money each day. The young man shared that he can save shillings 5000 (US $ 2.7) each day. He opened up a savings account and thinks with these savings; he can be able to buy a piece of land in the near future! His bike is still in good condition and he still uses it fetch water at home, to carry pineapples to the market, and do other domestic work. With the proceeds from the motor bike and those from the pineapple the young man pays fees for all his three children and the family can afford to buy food, access medication and other life’s needs without encroaching on the savings! A mere bike has lifted this young man and his family from dust to decent life! Surely a bike can do wonders.

The young boy got his bike to facilitate his studies. This young boy was from a distance of 7Km away from the nearby primary school. He used to reach late at school. In 2008, this boy missed a semester because of transport. He did not perform well since he used to reach school very tired and so spent most of his time sleeping. When he got a bike, his performance at school greatly improved. He was able to sit for the primary leaving examinations and was counted among the best pupils.

This boy, having passed well his examinations (thanks to the bike donated to him), was able to join secondary school which was some 11 Km away from his home. He not only uses the bike for traveling to school but also for making some money through fetching water, carrying agricultural outputs in the nearby markets for money. He uses the money to buy the school needs like: he bough a school uniform, he buy books and all the stationary from the money made using his bike as his parents help him with school fees.

This boy says, the bike is his dearest friend because it has changed his life. The boy is sure that he will perform well at secondary school and he is sure he will make a good economist at university after secondary school. He trusts the bike will make it for him. He promises to advocate the use of bikes in his local area because he trusts a bike can greatly changes life for the better 

Besides those three people whose life has greatly changed by a bike, I have seen a bike as the best means to reduce pollution. Using a bike is cheap and very effective. A bike is manageable even by the poorest of the poor. A bike can do wonders if the poor can access them. Many people in my village die simply because they cannot access medical services given the long distances within which health units are located. Many households that engage in agriculture would have members living a decent life had they been availed with a single bike to access markets where they can sell the surplus.

Bikes can educate children. They can be used to transport goods for money; they can be used to transport people from one place to another cheaply. Bikes can change people’s way of life.

What can a bike do?

  • A bike can change one’s life.
  • A bike can reduce peoples’ poverty levels.
  • A bike can do more than what one can think of.
  • A bike is cheap to maintain.
  • A bike is friendly to even the poorest of the poor.
  • Every one can use it.
  • A bike is a real knight in shining armor for those might have lost hope.

“Ding, Ding, Ding, Ding”
by Taylor Herrmann, age 12

Ding, Ding. Ding, Ding. People keep getting in my way. If it weren’t for the bell on my bike I know I would have hit into someone by now. Apparently, I’m even invisible on a fire engine red street bike. I mean, I’m invisible most of the time but it is a very flashy bike. You would have thought someone could spot it a mile away.

I’m Kalian Caoimhe. If your wondering how to pronounce that, your not the only one.  Kaliyah is pronounced kah-LEE-yah and Caoimhe is pronounced KEEV-ah. My parents like to make everything harder than it has to be. I, personally, loathe those names. People call me KC because of this.

As you have probably insinuated by now, I’m a biker. On a bicycle of course. I see motorcycles as gas guzzling monsters. I’ve always loved biking. I learned how to ride a two-wheeler by the time I was four years old.

At the moment, I am on my way to my friend’s house from work. I work at a bicycle shop. It works out nicely since I love bikes and it is one of the only places that will hire a sixteen year old.

My friend’s name is Susan. Everyone calls her Sue. She is also sixteen and has been my best friend and neighbor since before we were even born. Our moms grew up together and then bought houses adjacent to each other. Sue and I may be best friends, but we are polar opposites. She wears tight, stylish cloths and I wear baggy, out of style cloths, unless I’m in a bike race. She is popular and I’m the girl in the background. She can have any guy she wants and I don’t even think guys know that I’m alive. She is tall and I’m short. She is naturally blond and tan and I’m a brunet and pale skinned.

There is one major thing that brings us together though. That thing is bike riding. It is nice to have someone to train with. We’ll train for months whenever and wherever we can. Then we will enter in a bike competition.  That’s what we’re doing today. There is a ten-mile bike race tomorrow and we both have entered. I beat her in the last race and I know she wants vengeance.

After about 15 minutes, I see Sue’s house up ahead. It is a red brick, Victorian style home that has four stories. It also has an arch over the white French doors, a white rap around porch on the ground level, and white balconies scattered throughout the second through fourth levels. The doors going out to those balconies are also white, French doors but they have windows in them, unlike the front door. There is a white, four-car garage attached to its side. About a block away, I see the house next to it. It’s an exact match but the bricks are tan instead of red and the doors, porch, garage, and balconies are all black. That’s my house.

I get into the driveway of her house, and she must have seen me coming because one of the garage doors are opening and she is riding out on her hot pink street bike. She is wearing tight, light pink, track pants with a thick, white stripe down the outsides of her legs and a tight, white, short sleeve shirt. It does not go at all with my baggy, navy blue, track pants with black stripes down the outsides of my legs and black T-shirt. The only thing that’s the same is we are both wearing our hair in ponytails.

“Hey KC! How was work?” she asks cheerfully.

“It was cool. We got a new stock of bikes in and I sold five of them. How about you?” Sue works at the hottest teen boutique in town. She spends her days helping customers pick out outfits and folding cloths. She loves it just as much as I love working at the bike store.

“That’s awesome KC! Work was really fun! I got to help twenty customers pick out entire outfits!”

“That’s great! So what trail are we taking today?” I ask with excitement.

“How about that one that goes through all of those neighborhoods. What is it called again?”

“Umm… You mean Neighborhood Trail?” I ask with a laugh.

“That’s the one! I can’t believe I didn’t remember that,” she says laughing a little too.  And with that we ride off laughing and joking around. For a moment forgetting about tomorrow’s race.

*  *  *

Sue and I are in the car with our parents, driving to the race. Our bikes are in the very back of the car. The starting line takes an hour to drive to. Then our parents drive another hour, through traffic, to the finish line.

“Your going down this time! I’m gonna be the one holding that first place trophy in the end!” Sue taunts me.

“I think not, my fellow biker. I think we will have a repeat of last time. Me holding the first place and you holding the second,” I playfully shot back. I can hear our parents quietly laughing in the front. Sue and I have been doing this for as long as I can remember. Before every race, big or small, we will be good naturedly taunting each other. It didn’t really matter to us. We just did it for the fun of it. It helped that we always get in the top ten placements. At least we have so far, anyway.

An hour goes by and I can see the starting line. Forty-eight other kids our age are already there. We get out and position our bikes at the line. What seems like an eternity later I hear the announcer.

“On your mark, get set, GO!!!” Every kid shoots out of their stationary spots and are all in motion. Sue gets in front of me, looks back, and raises her eyebrows at me. I am completely focused on her as I peddle harder and get along side her. Once there, I raise my eyebrows at her. Still focused intently on each other we peddle harder and harder trying to get in front of each other. We spend the whole ten miles this way.

When we hear cheering, we look in front of us for long enough to see the finish line fifty yards away. No one is in front of us. I peddle as hard as I can and I can tell that Sue is too. We cross the line and they declare it a photo finish.

The announcer then says, “For the first time in history you have both come in at exactly the same time!” Sue and I scream in excitement and give each other a high five, but the announcer isn’t finished. “Congratulations! You both have tied for forty ninth place!”

Sue and I loose our smiles and look at our surroundings more closely. To our amazement, there are forty-eight other kids there with their bikes. We look at each other for a moment with frowns on our faces. We had been so focused on each other that we hadn’t even noticed the people passing us. I can see that she realizes this to and we both begin to smile and celebrate again, but this time louder. People look at us like we’re crazy, and maybe we are. We don’t care though. We had just had the time of our lives.  

Annual Student Bicycle Essay Contest



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