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Annual Student Bike Essay Contest





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2011 Student Bicycle Essay Contest Winners

We are pleased to present the winning essays from the 2011 International Bicycle Fund Student Essay contest.  This year's entry strongly reflected the issues of the times; safety, climate change, benefits of bicycling and the economy of bicycling.  It was difficult to pick the best.  In fact we settled for two winners in one category.  We send our praise to everyone who entered and shared their ideas with us. The winners are: "Mountain Biking History" by Eric Tran, age 12, East Prairie School, Skokie, Il ; "Changing Lives with Bikes" by Alexandra Kung, age 13, Seven Bridges Middle School, Chappaqua, NY; and, "Bicycle: A Machine To Treasure, A Machine To Promote!" by Namayanja Joelia, age 14, Rugaga School, Kampala, Uganda.

Each writer receives a cash prize and certificate.  Congratulations to the winners and thank you to all the students who submitted essays. An “honorable mention” essay is also posted so you can appreciate another interesting writer.

Mountain Biking History
By Eric Tran, age 12,

While many sports and activities use bikes, the development of mountain bikes brought biking to a whole new level.  Before bikes were used for leisure riding, traveling, and light exercise.  As technology advanced, racers wanted stronger and lighter bikes that could change gears for off-road biking and racing.  They wanted bikes that could handle harder environments. The mountain bike has changed how other biking sports are played.

Companies that make bikes changed the structure and traits of an average bike because clients wanted their bikes to meet their needs.  Manufacturers gave the tires tighter grips to be able to handle slippery terrain.  Instead of smooth tires, bikes were given bumpy tires, which have wide threads for traction. They also made the bikes lightweight and sturdy by making the frames out of aluminum and titanium.  These materials were used because cyclists must be able to carry their bikes in places where they cannot ride.  Manufacturers gave bikes adjustable gears so that they can go faster. The changeable gears also help the riders go up and down hills.

After the bikes were manufactured, mountain bike racing began in the 1980’s in California.  In 1983, mountain bicyclists formed the National Off-Road Bicycle Association (NORBA). They also developed rules for mountain biking races and planned the first official races.  Mountain biking became really popular in the 1980’s

When racers compete, they are divided into four classes. Racers are divided by their age and ability.  Inexperienced racers compete in the beginner class.  When beginners gain more experience, they advance to two semi-professional classes. After the semi-professional classes, racers would move to the pro or elite class.

The cross-country, dual slalom, hill climb, downhill and endurance races are different mountain biking races. Cross-country are on dirt roads that have obstacles such as mud holes and bumps.  In dual slalom races, two cyclists race against each other on a down hill course. Hill climbs are slower races than the others.  Cyclists either race in groups or one at a time to climb a hill.  Downhill races are similar to hill climbs but are faster and start at the top.  Endurance races are the longest. The races can be as long as several hundred miles.

As mountain bikes have been modified, the sport itself evolved.  Mountain bikes were changed by adjustable gears, better tire traction, and aluminum or titanium frames.

Today, there are thousands of mountain biking races each year that include different racing classes and types of racers. Instead of bikes being used for leisure riding and traveling back then, they are used for competitive racing.

Changing Lives with Bikes
by Alexandra Kung, age 13

When I was very young, I remember trying to keep up with my older brother, me on my tricycle and him on his two-wheeler.  When I became older, we would spend the whole summer biking everyday on the North County Trailways, me now on his hand-me down two-wheeler and him on his gear bike.  I have such happy memories biking with my brother.

Biking is the rite of passage for all children.  In some ways, it is the freedom to explore more of the world outside the confines of parental supervision.  Biking to me means “freedom.”  I experience total exhilaration as I fly down a hill, hair flying behind me underneath my helmet.  It is ironic that half way around the world, in Africa, a bicycle could also mean “freedom.”

I became aware of the World Bicycle Relief from a New York Times editorial written by Nicholas Kristof.  He wrote about an orphan named Abel whose only wish was a bicycle to enable him to reduce commute time to school – he spent six hours walking to and from school each day.  His wish came true through this organization.  World Bicycle Relief donated bikes to Abel and other children in his village. These were not your ordinary bikes but specially engineered 55 pound, one-speed bikes that could specifically handle the rough terrain.  They also kept the bike design simple so that if the bike was in need of repair, it could be easily fixed.

The bicycles were not only given to boys, but to girls as well.  This is very important.  Prior to receiving their bikes, girls who were interested in furthering their education did not walk the long distance every day, but instead lived in boarding houses near their schools.  However sadly, these girls were often being attacked or raped when they were in town so many parents ended up keeping their daughters home. If a girl wanted to have a high school education they had to endure sexual abuse.  So these bikes have been instrumental for girls to receive an education.

To this date, the World Bicycle Relief has distributed over 75,000 bicycles in Zambia, Zimbabwe, Kenya, and Tanzania, helping more than a quarter of a million people.  Each bike is shared among 10 individuals.  This makes the reach and impact in terms of dollars donated enormous.  While it is admirable that there are many organizations in existence that build schools for African children, let us not lose sight that the children need a way to actually attend these school.  In addition, the bike also increases productivity.  When the children return home from school, the adults use the bikes as a mode of transportation to carry things to the market.   Prior to having bikes, everyone needed to be enlisted to help with this chore.  Through the World Bicycle Relief, these children are now able to receive an education and focus on school work.

Now that World Bicycle Relief has been brought to my consciousness, I knew I had to do something.  Since May is children’s mission month at my church, I convinced the Pastor to approval a fundraiser to benefit World Bicycle Relief.  Next month, we will have our 1st annual “Bicycle Sunday” Fundraiser.  The congregation will have opportunities to contribute at different levels.  “Spokes” will be sold for $10 each.  For $70 dollars they can purchase “a wheel.”  For $135 they can acquire “a bike.”  Even though we have a small congregation, I am confident that we will raise enough money to buy at least 6 bikes for the children in Africa.  Additionally, I have already pledged to donate “a bike” to World Bicycle Relief from money that I have saved up.  On “Bicycle Sunday”, the Sunday School children will also participate in activities that will highlight the advantages of biking over walking.  I am so joyful that my love for biking will allow others a taste of freedom.

Bicycle: A Machine To Treasure, A Machine To Promote!
by Namayanja Joelia, age 14

I am a young girl born in a rural village. I grew up seeing my dad riding a bike as his means of transport.

I asked him one day, “Dad every time I see you on a journey you are riding, are you not tired of riding?”

“My daughter,” replied my dad, “this bike you see is my everything. I have paid your school fees because of this bike, I have built this house you sleep in because of this bike, I have married your mother, because of this bike. In fact, I educated all your elder brothers and sisters because of this bike. My daughter, I have been using this bike to take good to the market; you have been seeing me carry sugar canes, banana, papaws, and many other agricultural goods to the market and from all those I have been able to feed you , provide medication and everything good for you.”

My dad said all that while I was listening. In fact all he said was not new because I was seeing him now and again going to the market to sell different product using his old bike. I went on to ask him, “Dad, what do you think about the motor bikes or cars?

“My daughter,” said my dad, “all auto mobiles have their disadvantages and advantages but the former out weigh the latter. With my bicycle, I do not need to buy fuel; it is very cost effective for a poor man like me your father. Motor cycles and cars are good polluters. Do you see how our environment has changed nowadays? It is because of the auto mobiles. So I do not want to add to the destruction of this environment. I want you to remain safe.”

My dad is an old man, but when he discusses things, he says sensible things.

From those stories, my dad narrated a story of Mr. Kalema our neighbor who has very nice plantations, cows and many other nice things. He said that that gentleman managed to get all that wealth because of his bike. I was not aware that the bike can do great things.

When I went around, I visited a friend whose father is a bicycle mechanic. My friend’s father has a newly constructed 6 roomed house made of brick, iron sheets, and cement. As we chatted, my friend told me his father had got the money to put up such a nice structure from the bikes!!!! This was unbelievable. During my holidays, I have been on the road; I have seen many young men carrying pineapples on their bikes. Some say they have riches they never thought of before that they were able to get using their bicycles. I have so many friends at school whose transport is the bikes.

For sure bikes are great. My dad will have to get me one. Bikes are good. They save our environment. Bikes are good, they are cost effective. Every one can manage to maintain a bike. People’s life has changed because of bikes. We need to sing the greatness of a bike. We need to promote bikes.

I will get one instead of an auto mobile. Bikes are great means of transport. Let us cherish it.

Honorable Mention

The Wheel on the Bike Keeps on Turning
By Trey Gomez, age 12,

Honk! Honk! Beep! Beep! Bicycles can be used for many different good Samaritan activities like saving the environment, getting good exercise, feeling happy.  If everybody in the world rode bicycle instead of driving cars then the environment could be saved.  That would be awesome! Bikes can get people to exercise. The whole world could be fit if everyone rode bicycles. The last thing that would happen is that you would feel happier because of all the endorphins. Cool! These are things biking can do for the world.

Smog from cars can kill the earth.  Bicycles, unlike cars, don not need gasoline and they do not leave a trail of smog.  If everyone on earth rode bicycles then we can save the environment, save the North Pole and we will never have an oil spill again.  Saving the environment will be no easy feat, the North Pole is melting, it is getting warmer every year, but if we use fewer green houses gases then the atmosphere will heal and we can save each other.  That would be awesome! The North Pole is in crisis.  Ice melting everywhere, animals dying and worse if the North Pole melted then the water would flood everywhere.  That would be terrible.  If we rode bicycles instead of driving cars then we would never have an oil spill again. Oil spills are terrible: they can wipe out a whole ecosystem.  But oil spills only happen because cars are the primary use of oil so if there were not any cars then there will not be any oil spills. Radical!  This is how if everyone in the world used bikes instead of cars then everyone would be fit.

Weight lifting, running laps, playing sports, like those examples, bicycling is an amazing way to stay fit.  If everyone rode bicycles to stay fit then obesity would be at a low, people would have more energy, and it will lower the chance of disease.  Biking is great for losing weight, not only does it work out your legs but it would keep you healthy and tones your body. Exercise Rocks!  Another thing biking is good for is getting more energy and if you build energy then you are never tired.  Cool!  When you bike you can lose weight and when you lose weight you have less of a chance of getting diseases.  Coolio!  This could happen if everyone in the world rode bikes.  If everyone exercises then everyone would be happy.

Smiles, laughter, if everyone exercised then everyone would be happy.  When you exercise you get endorphins and endorphins make you happy.  If everybody in the world was happy because they exercised on bicycles then they would be happy and if the world was happy then, I believe violence would go down, people would work for their dreams and bullies would be a thing of the past.  Violence happens when two angry people attack each other. If everyone in the world was happy by getting endorphins then violence would never happen again.  That would be great, no violence, no murder, no gangs, life would be great.  Dreams can come true.  If everyone in the world rode bicycles and got exercise then got endorphins from the exercise then people would not have as many doubts about themselves so they would believe they could do anything.  PUNCH! KICK! If endorphins make people happy then bullies will not have to express their feelings by attacking people emotionally and physically.  That would be great.  This could happen if people rode bicycles, rode bicycles to exercise and get endorphins.

Ring! Ring! Bring! Bring! Bicycles can save the environment, get you exercise and make you happy.  Riding bikes could save the environment; they do not need gas to keep them going.  Awesome! Bikes get humans good exercise.  Exercise rocks! The exercise you get from biking makes you happy because of endorphins.  Happiness is just a pedal a way.

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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