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CITIZEN COLUMNIST: Psychology and the art of bicycle riding | Columnists

I know we are in a pandemic. So, let’s teach a child how to ride a bike! You can do it safely at or near your home with nobody around.

Bike riding is important, too, a veritable rite of passage for children and parents alike. The child moves light years ahead in mobility and independence. The parent no longer has to push the child around in a stroller or drag or coax them as they amble along. Instead, parent and child can now ride together as equals, side by side, and for long distances in a reasonable amount of time.

And to top it off, you can teach them in about 15 minutes with this method.

The old-fashioned method

Here is what bike-riding teachers have done for time immemorial: Get the child up on the seat of the two-wheeler, his or her hands on the handlebars, feet on the pedals, and then you hold onto the seat so the child doesn’t tip over immediately. Then you walk alongside while telling the child to turn the handlebars a little left and right to keep the bike upright and going straight.

At some point you take the leap of faith, give the bike a little push, let go of the seat and holler at the child to pedal and steer, somehow thinking that divine intervention will keep the kid upright. Of course, God does not intervene, and the poor child falls over and gets skinned up and cries.

So, what do you do but try again with the same method? You give the child another push and pick the boy or girl up crying again, and you do it repeatedly maybe over a period of days.

What really goes into riding a bike

The essential element of bike riding is balance. Therefore, balance should be taught first before ever thinking of feet on the pedals and pedaling.

To teach balance, find an extended, gradual downward slope, I mean, just a little more than being flat. It could be your driveway, a nearby parking lot or even a fairway on a golf course with nobody around in the evening and the grass cut short enough that the bike can roll through without pedaling. The main thing is to reduce the fear of going too fast or of falling.

Now, put the seat down all the way and have the child sit on the bike with his or her feet touching the ground on both sides of the bike. The instruction, then, to the child is as follows: “Give the bike a little push with both feet and see how far you can go with your feet off the ground. If you start to fall to one side or the other, just put your foot down momentarily to catch yourself, and then go back to trying to keep both feet off the ground.”

With the assurance that they can always put their feet down to catch themselves, they can try coasting without fear of