About the Holiday
We’ve hit mid-summer, and maybe you’re looking for something to do. This month’s holiday encourages people to get out and enjoy some exercise and fun in parks, at home, at the gym, in the pool, on tennis courts, or wherever you like to play. Biking is another wonderful activity that adults and kids can share, whether you live in a small town or the city.
Pedal Power: How One Community Became the Bicycle Capital of the World
By Allan Drummond
If you were to visit the city of Amsterdam in the Netherlands, you’d be amazed at the number of bicyclists sharing the roads with cars and trucks. In fact, if you could count all of the bicycles going here, there, and everywhere, you’d see that “bikes rule the road.” It wasn’t always like this. Back in the 1970s cars were still king, making the roads unsafe for cyclists.
But then “young moms like Maartje Rutten and her friends—and their children” decided to make a change. They called their friends, who called their friends, and word started to get around that roads should be shared by all. People in Amsterdam and all over the Netherlands started protesting. “At first the demonstrations were great fun. People even held parties in the middle of the road.” People sang songs, made human chains across streets, and talked to the media.
Then a tragedy made people look at the issue more seriously. A little girl riding her bike to school was killed by a car. Her father was a newspaper reporter, and he wrote a story revealing that just in that year alone five hundred children had been killed on the roads and “many of them were riding bikes.” This situation made people angry. More and more citizens joined the protests.
At the same time, gas prices were rising and fuel was becoming scarce. The government even banned cars from the roads on Sundays. “That gave Maartje an incredible idea.” She gathered her friends and told them her plan: they would ride their bikes through the new tunnel that was strictly for cars. Many people were wary but they came anyway, and on a quiet Sunday they pedaled through the darkness.
As they neared the mouth of the tunnel, they could see the police waiting for them. Some of the riders wanted to turn around and go back, but Maartje pushed on and they followed. When they reached the end, the cops told them they had broken the law. The cyclists were taken to the police station. There, they were given lemonade and cookies. Maartje even “noticed that the policemen were smiling just a little bit. Maybe all of this protesting is working, she thought.”
She was right! After that Maartje and her friends thought of other ways cars and bikes could share the roads. “They proposed special bike lanes on busy routes, traffic bumps and curves in the roads to slow down vehicles, and new laws giving bikes the right-of-way over cars.” Finally, it all came together. Now Amsterdam is known as the bike capitol of the world. Their ideas, including bike lanes, bike sharing, and new laws, are used in countries all over the globe.
Biking offers so much more than just less-crowded streets. It provides exercise, a quiet form of transportation, and a pollution-free way to get around. And, of course, bikes don’t require fuel to go. If you visit Amsterdam, you might even see Maartje riding around town on her bike. “Now that’s pedal power!”
An Author’s Note about how Pedal Power came to be and about the past and future of city biking follows the text.
Allan Drummond’s city bike-ography is an interesting look at the revolution and evolution of bike-friendly roads in Amsterdam and other large cities. By following the story of Maartje Rutten and how she transformed the mindset of both local drivers and government officials, Drummond allows young readers to see how one person can make lasting changes that benefit all.
Drummond’s colorful and clearly depicted illustrations take children into the heart of Amsterdam—and Amsterdam traffic—to understand the problem and join in the protests. As Maartje and her friends ride through the dark tunnel to face the police, readers will wait in suspense to learn how this peaceful demonstration played out.
Pedal Power would be a great addition to Social Studies units and an engaging read for kids interested in biking, history, and environmental issues.
Ages 4 – 8
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2017 | ISBN 978-0374305277
Discover more about Allan Drummond, his books, and his art on his website!
Park and Recreation Month Activity
Everything on a Bicycle Coloring Page
Riding a bicycle is a fast, fun way to exercise, do shopping, and spend time with friends. This printable Everything on a Bicycle Coloring Page combines them all and then some! Grab your colored pencils, crayons, or markers and give it a go!
Picture Book Review