World Bicycle Day: Precious memories on two wheels

By Eugene Clark
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, June 3, 2020
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Children ride bicycles on the National Mall in Washington D.C., the United States, May 18, 2020. [Photo/Xinhua]

Many events will be held all over China to celebrate World Bicycle Day, which falls on June 3. World Bicycle Day reminds us that the bicycle has been a major form of transportation throughout much of human history. Bicycles have played and will continue to play important roles in most societies. They have enabled people to transform their lives economically. On bikes, people have explored new worlds, found new friends, launched new adventures, and shared precious memories with friends, lovers, and family.  

Bicycles are experiencing a renewal as cities around the world are encouraging cycling as an environmentally friendly way for people to get to work, stay fit, and pursue daily tasks. The bicycle is also a symbol of simplicity and a past where the pace of life moved more slowly and when human activity was more in harmony with the environment around us.  

Personally, like most readers, the wheels of my various bicycles roll on in my memories. I got my first bike when I was eight years old when our neighbor's daughter graduated from high school and kindly gifted her 26" girl's bike to our family of six children.  

My first "boy's" bike was another old one my dad brought home from his gas station workplace. The bike had huge handlebars, fat tires, painted flames, and no fenders. I thought it was cool, though my friends would say different – an assessment I shared on rainy days as water flew up, soaking my clothes. 

I have painful memories of my worst accident on a bike – age 11. We had a trailer on the side of our house. I thought it would be daring to ride as fast as I could down the street, turn into our yard, and shoot between the house and trailer. Unfortunately, I was going too fast and did not account for the slick grass, which prevented me from turning sharply enough. The result was that I rode at full speed into the side of the house – the front tire rebounding off the wall and treating me to a handlebar sandwich. I was sprawled in agony on the lawn – my bike, body, and ego all totally wrecked. Exhibiting so much common sense, I was destined to be an academic.

My first geared bike was a black "English Racer" which I bought for $5 – cheap, because it was stuck in high gear. It was hard to pedal, but when I got going, no one could catch me. I could only dream of the high tech to be found in bicycles today.

As a parent I have wonderful memories of teaching my two daughters how to ride a bike and watching their frustration and ultimate joy and pride at learning a new skill. I watched them overcome their fears, fall down, pick themselves up, and keep trying until they succeeded--valuable lessons for life.

I also have many pleasant memories of long bicycle rides, especially through parks and along country roads – no better way than to take in nature's beauty or spend a sunny day.

Bicycles permeate many fond memories of my time in China. On my first trip in 1998, I watched for hours as people from all walks of life and all ages rode their bikes in what seemed an endless morning and evening procession of humanity making their way to work, shop, and school. When I was in Beijing between 2012 and 2015, I much enjoyed a 2001 film I saw on TV, titled "Beijing Bicycle." It is the story of a young country boy, Gui (Cui Lin), who comes to Beijing and finds a job as a bike messenger. He is paid per delivery and granted so many credits so that he could eventually purchase the bike. Gui's bike is stolen by a city boy who seeks to impress his friends and girlfriend. Both boys fight for the bike, and there are chase scenes all over the older parts of Beijing, many of which are now replaced by modern office buildings. It's a wonderful film, and the Beijing setting of older traditional neighborhoods is amazing.

Last November, I was fortunate to visit beautiful Amsterdam, where it was a wonderful experience to be surrounded by bikes of all sizes, descriptions, and purposes. As Iris Murdoch wrote in "The Red and the Green": "The bicycle is the most civilized conveyance known to man. Other forms of transport grow daily more nightmarish. Only the bicycle remains pure in heart."

Eugene Clark is a columnist with For more information please visit:

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