21 August 2009

Happy Bicycles Normal Bicycles

Hello Bicycle
We have a library book at home at the moment, which Lulu and I read quite often. A pointing book where the kid has to find various items. It's originally German, translated into a Danish version. Komm mit uns durchs Jahr by Annette Fienieg, 2008.

We've read it about 50 times and Lulu loves it. I say "show me the bird/ball/umbrella" and she points. There's bicycles in the book, too, and Lulu's particuarly good at finding them. Not because her dad has a couple of bicycle culture blogs, just because she's a Danish kid. She sits on a cargo bike on her way to daycare each day and from her perch she is presented with a constant parade of human-powered movement. Not bad marketing at all from such an early age.

In her current, albeit rapidly-expanding world view, bicycles are all around. So much so that they don't register. They just are. If we lived in the woods, she wouldn't really think trees were strange. Her dad's certainly not a bike geek, so she doesn't see bicycles in the flat or see her dad oiling, adjusting, polishing bicycles in the back yard. She does hear "come on, Lulu, time to get into the bike..." or "we have to go... you can finish your banana on the bike". And other everyday references to our most used transport form.

Midsommer Children Boy and Dad Cycling to the Bakery
She shares the cargo bike with her big brother - her role model in many ways - and she sees him riding alongside. We don't talk about bicycles, we just use them.

She just sees bicycles and people moving about on them every time she steps out of the door into our city. Soon she'll be joining their ranks on her own bicycle. Quite nice that. A new instrument piping into the organic bicycle symphony that is Copenhagen.

Egon the Cycling Mosquito Childrens Book
I've posted about Egon The Cycling Mosquito earlier. At right is another book I grabbed from the bookshelf in my boy's room to illustrate other good examples of marketing the bicycle postively.

Lars Peter's Bicycle
The list of books for children featuring the bicycle in a leading role is long. I'll get around to blogging about them in the future.

I think it's brilliant that the bicycle features in so many Danish and European books as a normal feature on the urban landscape. Literature, even childrens' literature, reflects society in many ways, so it's natural that bicycle books for kids abound. It is, however, very important to keep portraying the bicycle as normal in literature and TV for children. We're battling car-centricism even here in Denmark so positive marketing of the bicycle must be continued now more than ever.

Not only for continue to strengthening our bicycle culture, but also as a symbol of enivironmental responsibility. Something that is and will be so much more important in my childrens' lives than it was in my childhood. Not to mention fighting the Culture of Fear and the frightening, negative societal consquences that it entails.

There is a show on Cartoon Network - don't know the name - that my son watches and the cast of characters includes a kid whose parents are quite afraid of... well... everything. Their entire home is fitted out with padding and then force the kid to wear the full range of safety gear... constantly. Needless to say these parents are frightfully uncool and ridiculed. A small step towards fighting The Culture of Fear, served with humour and irony.


Anonymous said...

Where does prudence end and fear begin?

Which of the following are prudent, which are fear-based?

immunizing children
wearing sunscreen outside
taking blood pressure medication
wearing condoms
wearing seat belts in cars
wearing a helmet while cycling
using hearing protection at rock concerts
obeying traffic signs on little traveled roads
wearing a life vest on a sailboat
using a seat belt on a airplane
unloading firearms that are kept in the home

Adrienne Johnson said...

Hands down, the best way to stop the fear- read! Turn off the television, ride your bike to the library and pick up some Dickens, or Bowles, or Morrison, or.... Fear disappears when you use your mind, just like weakness disappears when you use your body!

Adrienne Johnson said...

Oh, and anon 01:43- having a firearm in the home is fear manifested times 100.

Anonymous said...

Some people would agree with you, Adrienne, some would not. But what about the others?

kfg said...

The answer, as always, is . . . it depends.

Life is one uncertain risk factor after another until you, certainly, lose it. It requires judgment; and the better the understanding of the facts as they stand in each particular instance, the better judgment is likely to be.


Anonymous said...


I'm a hunter. Are you suggesting I shouldn't have an unloaded gun which is locked up in my home?

Mikael said...

hunting is soooo 18th century.

Gorka said...

Adrienne is right in that TV is the biggest fear generating tool there is. TV is there to sell us stuff (most of which we don't need)and fear is one powerful way to make us buy that stuff. I got rid of my TV a couple of years ago and use my computer to watch the films/TV shows that I choose to watch when I choose to watch them. I really recommend it.

Anonymous said...

I should tell you that I live on a ranch and also use firearms to protect my stock from predators.

Mikael said...

and i should tell you that I was joking.

Anonymous said...

One obvious fear-based program is immunization. The so-called "immunization program" is a scam by big drug companies to increase profits. All the medications have casualties and some children will die. Science is divided on the effectiveness of the drugs. There is no proof they do anything useful.

Don't let big Pharma and big Govt medicate your child!

Mikael said...

"science is divided" hmm. I've heard that somewhere before. :-)

Anonymous said...

Here is a link showing the science on the dangers of Vaccines, especially to children. This definitely isn't a question of "fear." It's a reality.


JPTwins said...

Unfortunately this comments section has been derailed, but I'm willing to bring it back on track. A while back, I compiled a very cursory list of English language (mostly American) childrens' books about bikes:


would love more suggestions in English and German!

Anonymous said...

Strange that your examples of fine European children's literature includes a North American author.

kfg said...

No stranger than lists of American Children's literature so prominently featuring a Danish author.

dyrlægen said...

I agree with anonymous: vaccines are terrifying.
Oh for the good old days, with a healthy dose of smallpox for everyone, and fatal measles epidemics!
Those were the days!
Load your gun, anonymous! An Uzi a day keeps the doctor away!


Anonymous said...

"Load your gun, anonymous! An Uzi a day keeps the doctor away!"

As I said, I live on a ranch and use guns to protect my stock and hunt. I don't own an Uzi but I do enjoy the guns that I own.

I use a mountain bike in the hills and to cross creeks. Rattlesnakes and various predators are active in the area so I ride with a loaded sidearm and have taught my children to do the same when they go far from home on bikes or on foot.

Kevin Love said...

The only time I have ever had a firearm in my home was when I was living in places that had a sign out front that included the word "Barracks."

Anonymous said...

Good for you, Kevin. You don't live on a ranch. If you did you would learn how to use firearms responsibly. They are essential tools.

lagatta à montréal said...

This is a wonderful topic - I loved the first illustration, though it would have been even nicer had Oma been on her Omafiets, going to market or something.

I just loved Lotta's bicycle on JPTwin's list! http://tinyurl.com/lottas-bicycle

Leseo said...

What a delightful find. You have given me some great ideas and make me miss Copenhagen. I am from across the Pond, but we, too, yearn for more love and less fear. I was just thinking of how the "best tools" in an article on the Fountain of Youth may very well be bicycles! And lifelong learning can help reduce the need for so much fear.
I do love our bicycles!

Leseo said...

Sorry, forgot to say where the Fountain of Youth article is:
P.S. Love Mikael's video.