D.C. Is Teaching Second-Graders How to Ride Bikes. Why Don’t All School Systems Do This?

All school systems should teach kids skills as useful as bike-riding.


In an age in which kindergarteners regularly sit for “high-stakes” tests, one system is taking steps to teach kids actually useful life skills that can’t be graded. Back in the fall, District of Columbia Public Schools announced a program—the first of its kind, but here’s hoping not the last—to teach all second-graders how to ride a bike. The school system, with the help of the District Department of Transportation and some private cash, bought 1,000 bikes that circulate from school to school throughout the year. Last night ABC News did a nice segment on the initiative, featuring some of the real-life second-graders who’d never been taught how to ride.


This wonderful program—which came about when DCPS’ director of health and physical education realized she was giving bike-safety tips to a lot of kids who had no clue how to ride a bike—strikes a chord with me because (personal confession!) I recently paid an occupational therapist to teach my first-grader how to ride a bike. (Well, OK, a friend won the lesson at a school auction and then passed it on when her son learned to ride on his own—but I was about to fork over the cash. And it would’ve been the best money I’d spent since that Minecraft download.) My son is gawky and awkward and previous DIY bike lessons had culminated in howls of anguish and patchworks of knee and elbow scabs. And though we live in D.C., he attends a charter that doesn’t participate in the program.

Within an hour, my boy could balance and coast, and after several more weeks of practice, I’m beginning to hope that maybe, just maybe, I don’t have to haul his gigantic body on the tail of my cargo bike on our school commute next year. In the course of an afternoon, he learned a skill that will give him pleasure—and get him places—for many years to come. Is there any more valuable use of a 7-year-old’s time?

Now, if schools would just start teaching shoe-tying techniques, then I’d be really psyched.