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Sep

26

2006

GeoCycling

at 4:56 pm posted by Rob B

This is an article about watching my kids, Rory and Camilla, learn geography as they see the world through the windows or screen of a bicycle trailer. It’s also about re-awakening to the pleasure of experiencing the environment through which I travel. I certainly have rekindled my joy of cycling as I’ve seen the world through my kids’ eyes.

This is an article about watching my kids, Rory and Camilla, learn geography as they see the world through the windows or screen of a bicycle trailer. It’s also about re-awakening to the pleasure of experiencing the environment through which I travel. I certainly have rekindled my joy of cycling as I’ve seen the world through my kids’ eyes.

Back when my girls were less than a year old, I started occasionally riding downtown to the high-rise where my husband Paul works. Parading them through the office cheered Dad up and getting them there gave me a good ride. I hadn’t done that for over a month when the most extraordinary thing happened. I strapped them in the trailer and rode downtown. Near Paul’s high-rise, I could hear the gals exclaiming DAD! – but I hadn’t told them where we were going! I pulled over to make sure I heard right and sure enough, they were excited that they’d soon see Dad. If they hadn’t been such early talkers, I surely would have missed the exciting fact that, even at their young age, they perceived the relationship between specific buildings or sidewalk features outside the trailer and their Dad.

Since then I’ve been observing them soak in the geography – the height of bridges, the changing seasons, the smell of the river valley on a cool summer morning. All these things become real and important to them. I hear them chirp descriptions of their trips when making up stories at play and over meals. I like to encourage them to soak in their journey and pick out what excites them. When we go to the south side, I usually stop before or on whichever bridge we’re taking to let them out of the trailer to take a broader look. Just recently over lunch, the now 3 1/2 year old girls were telling me about how high the High Level Bridge was, where the LRT bridge was in relation to it and where the LRT ran as opposed to where we rode on either bridge. They demonstrated this relationship by using their forearms and hands to represent the bridge decks. The river for them and me, serves as a landmark (watermark) from which we direct ourselves in the city: “The river goes toward swimming lessons”; “Groat Road is uphill after the river”; “Nan and Granddad live far from the river” etc. It’s also provided a great way to experience the more dramatic aspects of the seasons: seeing and hearing the ice break up; watching Golden Eye ducks eagerly look for a nesting place; watching, listening to, and smelling the rain.

Sometimes we get out of the trailer for a picnic. When we stop they can engage with their surroundings more readily: we’re not in a parking lot but by trees or other parked bikes or right near the swing set. When we have time we stop to pet a friendly cat or to walk with neighbours. Even when riding it’s easy to give a smile and wave to people we pass. Consequently, the kids see their neighbourhood as a social network. In a car the world passing by is not as tangible; the experience is muted. In a car it’s hard to pull over to see what’s what, where we are and where we could be. No staring for 10 minutes in awe of the High Level Bridge.

A comfortable ride in the trailer offers the children an experience perceived by all the senses. While you ride, stop a while – refresh – think about your journey and the value of inspiring and beautiful things around you. The bike passes softly and quietly through the city’s geography. If you love the journey your kids will notice – and if you take the time, they’ll reintroduce you to the joys of experiencing geography.

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