6 ways bicycles teach resilience

320px-Bicycle_wheel_01Bicycles = sustainable transportation, right? But there are (at least) 5 other ways bicycles can teach us about resilience.


I recenlty dragged my road bike out of the shed after a very long winter’s rest. A bit of work on the front wheel hub and brakes, and within about 20 minutes it was ready to go. This hands-on accessibility is part of what makes bicycles so empowering. We can see, understand and manage how they work–something you can talk about with even younger kids. What does pedaling do? What makes the wheel stop?


The basic form of bicycle is pretty standard…or is it? One of our aims with the Kids Future Press inaugural title, Bicycles, Airships and Things that Go, is to show the existing wide range of bicycle types and how bikes are a great site for innovation–something we need more of for long term resilience! Materials, frame structures, method of operation are all up for reinvention. Here are a few examples:


The Fliz bike prototype from German designers
Tom Hambrock and Juri Spetter


Yojiro Oshima, of Craft & Industrial Design
Department at Musashino Art University in
Tokyo, made this wooden bike


IDEO worked with frame-builder Rock Lobster
to reimagine the utility bike, with interchangeable
front racks and a very discreete electric motor.


Seattle company Valid Cycles builds
custom bamboo bicycles.

What can bikes carry? What can they be made out of? How else can we propel ourselves on 2 wheels? These are some questions to ask ourselves and our kids.


As part of green travel, bicycles are connected to buildings and streets. Buildings will have to make more room for bikes, both inside and out. Statistics show that cycling is taking off across America, with a 50% increase in the numbers commuting by bike between 2000 and 2011.

Look around the places you visit– where can we park bikes? How should bike parking look? Which part of the street or side”walk” is available to bikes? Meanwhile bicycle safety helps us learn about diverse areas such as lighting, visibility and design against crime.


Helios handle bars with built in lights and a smart bluetooth
connection: turns any bike into a traceable smart bike


Cycling is only as practical as it is culturally acceptable. Can we dress normally when we ride bikes? Do our clothes make it comfortable to ride a bike and look stylish? Observe what cyclist wear and carry. . . and ask–why? Specialist clothing companies like Iva Jean, Telaio Clothing and Sonia McBride all design fashionable women’s clothes that perform well on a bike. So cycling fashion, particularly clothes, bags, and helmets, is also connected to resilience.


zip pencil skirt for cycling by Iva Jean


Research on cycling repeatedly shows that it has multiple physical and mental health benefits. Even kids can feel that cycling is energizing, but did you know that it increases longevity, is good for your heart and other muscles, improves your coordination and balance, stimulates your mental health and supports your immune system? There are a range of good articles about this on Bikeradar, Discovery, Bicycling, Better Health Victoria (Australia). Plus, it’s a fun activity to do with a group, which builds social capital.

So — how does bicycling make us healthy and happy? What does it feel like to bike somewhere versus walking or riding in the car?


So get those bikes into your observations and discussions of resilience with your kids. Bicycles teach about:

  • basic mechanics and DIY
  • innovation
  • urban design and safety
  • green transport
  • fashion
  • health


connect your kids to sustainability: 10 ideas

There are many ways to connect kids to sustainability, since sustainability has so many dimensions. Here are a few favorites based on our post “what’s important for sustainability“:

  1. Spend time outside and “know your place”: become eco-literate, for example, study for the “Big Here” quiz which tests your knowledge of your local place and its ecology (both human and natural).
  2. Go to museums–science museums, natural history museums, and children’s museums are great, but understanding cultural heritage is important for sustainbility as well.
  3. Visit aquariums and farms.
  4. Set up a weather station and learn about weather and climate.
  5. Make: Play with crafts, electronics (see my post on 8 tech learning games and projects) and simple programming. If you’re wondering how “making” connects to sustainability, you might be interested in this post, which describes how making helps people develop a capacity to solve their own problems.
  6. Reuse and recycle stuff, after you reduce the amount of stuff you use: consider joining the sharing economy as chronicled in the online magazine Shareable.
  7. Point out connections and cycles: where things come from and where they go. Have a look at The Story of Stuff, a movie showing where stuff comes from and where it goes.
  8. Garden and compost
  9. Volunteer: give back to the public realm, maybe through restoring natural habitat (tree planting) or sharing your family’s time with others
  10. Spend time away from the screen: for example, reading books!

Great minds — other books, not just ours, you may like

Great minds think alike and there are other books in our space that we think you may like. These are a few titles we’ve come across recently.

  1. Hello, Ruby by Linda Liukas, cofounder of Rails Girls (see our post on supporting girls in STEM subjects). This forthcoming picture book for 4-7 year olds features a girl called Ruby and her adventure that just happens to relate ideas of computer programming such as sequencing, variables, loops, conditionals and operators.  Read about it on mashable.
  2. Hot Air by Sandrine Dumas Roy, illustrated by Emmanuelle Houssais. “An unusual, sideways look at global warming and environmental politics” according to publisher Phoenix Yard books.
  3. LEO the Maker Prince: Journeys in 3D Printing by Carla Diana. This picture book teaches the basics of 3D printing and all the items and characters in the book are downloadable 3D “patterns” on Thingiverse. Get more background on the book on c|net.
  4. Dot by Randi Zuckerber, illustrated by Joe Berger. How Dot, a young tech-savvy girl, learns to moderate her use of technology and actually goes outside to play. Read Zuckerberg’s Huffington Post article about the book.
  5. How the Meteorite Got to the Museum by Jessie Hartland “chronicles how a rock from outer space broke free from its billion-year orbit, crashed into a teenager’s Chevy Malibu, and landed in New York City’s American Museum of Natural History”  according to publisher Blue Apple Books.
  6. Papa’s Mechanical Fish by Candace Fleming, illustrated by Boris Kulikov, is the story of an inventor, based on real life personality Lodner Phillips, who creates a submarine to talke his family for a trip to the bottom of the lake.

What additions would you make to this list? Let us know in the comments.

Resilience and Sustainability at Kids Future Press

No matter what you call it—sustainability or resilience, even thrivability—there are a few key elements that always arise. It’s not just about ecology and natural systems, although those are the foundations. Here’s the skeletal framework for how we think about it…

  • ecology: ecoliteracy (understanding how nature works) and protecting, restoring and coexisting with the natural systems around us
  • energy: carbon neutrality, people powered transport, renewable energy, energy conservation
  • material efficiency: reduction, recycling, reuse, local sourcing
  • the public realm: public or community places, public transport
  • food systems: organic agriculture, urban agriculture
  • diversity: gender, race and other social markers
  • equity: improved income equality, fair trade, equal opportunity
  • distributed systems that are diverse and adaptable: for water and energy infrastructure, agriculture, manufacturing, services
  • health and happiness: spiritual, physical, and mental. Sometimes tied to a person’s sense of capability (having, doing, being, interacting) and fulfillment of human needs for subsistence, protection, affection, understanding, participation, leisure, creativity, identity, and freedom
  • cultural systems and heritage: collaborative consumption, social capital, sharing economy, places of distinction, localism, the slow movement, and more