Posted by

Bicycle Culture and Youth

“Biking is one of my favorite ways to spend time with the fam!”

Click here to see this Santa Cruz County teen and his parents and baby brother on New Year’s Day 2012.


They are required by California law for everyone under age 18. Learn more below.

Annabelle Bull, a native of England, now lives in Monterey County and loves biking here for transportation and fun!

(Photo courtesy of Joanna Bull.)

Young leaders

The first time I saw Annabelle Bull,  she was at the Monterey Peninsula College farmers market, where she was shopping by bike.

She is more inclined to say to her parents, “May I please bike to the mall?” than “Please drive me to the mall.”   Annabelle is 12, and already she has wisely figured out that when it comes to transportation–as another young leader, Emma Sleeth, put it– It’s easy being green! For more on biking as green transportation, see Bicycling and Ecotourism/Good Earthkeeping Right at Home.

Tips for young bikers

Annabelle is savvy about safety too, accepting that at some times of day or on some long routes, inviting her dad along for cycling company is the thing to do.  Think he minds?  Why bike, when you can drive?

Why? Well, for starters, her dad has a fun time with his daughter.  He also spends less on fuel, saves wear-and-tear on the car, avoids the stress of traffic snarls,  supports his daughter in a healthy activity, and he gets in a cardio workout of his own!  To top it off, he’s taking an action that shows consideration for the next seven generations!

Tired of being a “taxi” driver?   Based on time of day (traffic patterns) and distance, in many cases, parents may be surprised to find that biking alongside their kids means reaching the destination faster than driving there.   (It is widely understood that three- to five-mile trips are usually quicker by bike than car.)  When that’s not the case, consider making it a bike-and-ride combo trip.

Personal safety tips and tips to keep your bike safe are provided on this site.

Okay, Mom and Dad.  I have my helmet on.  Now may I please bike to the mall…

I can get there faster on my bike.

And I promise to be careful with about riding skills, safety, and bike laws.

(Photo of Annabelle Bull of England provided courtesy of Simon Bull.)


Helmet? On public streets, bikeways (as defined by law), or any other public bicycle path or trail:   California law requires a helmet for anyone 18 or under who is riding or a passenger on a bicycle.  Violators are subject to a $25 fine.

But sadly, a fine isn’t the worst thing that can happen if you don’t wear a helmet.  The life of Salinas teen Kyle Beardshear was cut short for that reason.  Remember Kyle the next time you want to toss your helmet in your pack, or hang it from your handlebars “just for a short stretch” of your ride.

You may also want to consider that a nationwide study in the U.S. found states that require children and teens to wear helmets [as does California] reported about 20 percent fewer bike-related fatalities among people younger than 16 years old. Click here for a related 5/30/13 story published in the Monterey County Herald.

There are helmets such as Ecotourre’s “that don’t make you look like a dork.”  Nose around the Web and you’ll find more sources, such as those suggested here, and here.  There are even helmet covers sold today.  Not in your budget?  If you have even a slight artistic bent, you might want to decorate a helmet on your own or create a cool helmet cover.

Scotch tape’s Pininterest board suggested one way to do that is–not surprisingly–with tape!

Yakkay is now U.S-certified.  Among U.S. sources for Yakkay helmets is My Dutch Bike in San Francisco.  (Another U.S. source was The Bicycle Muse, but they are no longer doing their U.S. site; they do ship from the U.K. via their site.)

And while long-distance cyclists generally swear by spandex and other cycling apparel for comfort, regular clothing is worn by the vast majority of cyclists throughout Monterey County.  Check out Annabelle Bull, Laurel Thomsen, and others, or young Zachary Flint, who has his own unique way of being visible on the bikeways.

This teen didn’t decorate his helmet…yet he looks pretty cool to me!

Ask  local shops about their coolest-looking helmets that test well in terms of safety!

In this Consumer Reports test, one youth helmet that rated very well  is Bontrager’s Solstice Youth. Ask for it (or others that rate well) at a local bike shop.

Bontrager distributors in Monterey County include Carmel Bicycle in the Carmel Rancho II Shopping Center at the mouth of Carmel Valley (next to the Barnyard), and Bobcat Bicycles in Oldtown Salinas.  The helmets may not be in stock but can be ordered by these shops.

Special opportunities  in Monterey County

No need to wait for a special reason to ride your bike, just bike wherever you go!  If you’re looking for a unique cycling op though, here are a few:

Twilight Rides at Laguna Seca.

Take a Kid Mountain Biking Day.  This may be just the thing to coax a parent or friend back on a bicycle they’ve been ignoring; invite them to go with you!  Refer to the Take a Kid Mountain Biking post on this site.

Little Bellas Day Camp returns in 2012 to the annual Sea Otter Classic.  Check out these scenes from 2011!

Other Sea Otter Classic activities:  Every April, Monterey County is the scene of a world-renowned bike festival and races, the  Sea Otter Classic.  Besides plenty of excitement for teens like the guy below, there are activities for young kids too.  See Children Celebrate Cycling.

HER Helmet Thursdays, year-round:   HER Helmet Thursdays is another reason to bicycle.  Discounts on Thursdays for cyclists aren’t limited to restaurants–although, happily, there are over 100 of those already!  Discounts also apply at places like the Monterey Youth Museum, the National Steinbeck Center, and other educational attractions and entertainment venues.   Click here for the list of participants.  Just walk in with your bike helmet on a Thursday, mention HER Helmet Thursdays, and–bingo!–you get a discount.  For lodging discounts, click here.

Back to school–and all around the county!

Here in Monterey County, students are encouraged to become part of the local community of cyclists.

Salinas is home of the first high school cycling team in the county, a mountain bike team, the Salinas High School Cowboys Racing Team.  

What other support is there for children and teens biking here?  Here are a few examples:

Spanish-language bicycling resources

This site’s en espanol page includes links to Spanish-language tips for parents on bike safety, fitting children in helmets, and much more. 

Want to help youth bike in Monterey County?

See Salinas Youth and Others for Bikes.  Or see Acknowledgements–and How You Can Help, or go directly to the Volunteer Opportunities page or Donations page.

4-H Bicycling Projects

Have a 4-Her?  I was a 4-Her myself in my youth, and I appreciate that there are 4-H bicycle project books, which are “designed for youth bicycle enthusiasts and volunteers starting a bicycle club as well as for improving an existing bike program.”  For English, visit this page of  Regarding the Spanish, check this site’s en espanol bicycling resources page regarding availability.

Mohawk Man was having a blast at the Sea Otter Classic!

A mother teaches her son the safest way for young children to cross the Monterey Peninsula College campus en route home to military housing at La Mesa Village.

A father shows his daughter why bike lanes, like these along Monterey’s Garden Road, are much safer than roads without bike lanes.

Below, Tim and Caleb Wong bike to worship via the same Garden Road bike lanes.

Like wearing a dress to church or elsewhere? This preteen shows that doesn’t have to keep you from biking. See others who join her in dressing rather chic for cycling!

Susan Ragsdale-Cronin, who bikes many miles with her daughters, demonstrates that  high-visibility apparel and accessories can help–especially in places where bike infrastructure is poor (e.g., no bike paths or bike lanes).

This grandmother biked with her daughter from Santa Cruz to Monterey, teaching the visiting teen how to safely navigate the various types of bikeways along the way.

This Salinas teen, Gabe Alvizo, is happy he knows a fun way to get to work that doesn’t bite into his paycheck with the big fuel bill that cars require, or even the cost of a bus pass.

This teen, visiting her best friend in Castroville, typically bikes with her dad around her hometown of Salinas.

This young boy, Seth Hooper, took advantage of the instruction provided by safety instructor Frank Henderson at the Seaside PAL Bike Fair.

* * * * *

Gal pals in Pacific Grove, New Year’s Day 2012

“We love being on our bikes together–or even sharing a ride! “

“Helmets? Whoops! We forgot our helmets.  Yeah, we heard they are required even on Class I bike paths if you’re under 18….Maybe we better look over the Cali bike laws and safety tips!”

The info below was first published in Spring 2010.

And now, here’s a question for us all:

Why do some kids stop biking?

In wanting to make a more bicycling friendly world, it is natural to think of children and youth, and of the many ways biking can benefit them.

Many of us grew up free to bicycle everywhere, and we did!  And many of us with children have sometimes lamented that they didn’t grow up with the same freedom.  But why?  Is this something we must accept, or something we can change?

Watching the 8-minute short from “Beauty and the Bike” (see link below),  I was especially touched by one young woman’s comment, “I just love the feeling, you just feel so free and independent and you have nothing holding you back, you can go anywhere you want, it’s so liberating!” Although I biked from my earliest childhood, she reminded me of when I first really fell in love with bicycling, in my youth in Santa Cruz.  Bicycling inspired me in many ways.  One example:  just about every song I’ve ever written was composed on a bicycle!

Bike Portland reported 5/27/13: For girls on bikes, new research shows a turning point: age 14.

As does the Project Bike Trip in Santa Cruz,  the Darlington Media Group’s “Beauty and the Bike” project helps the young—and others—reconsider bicycle culture.  And both projects recognize the importance of cycling as it relates to climate change and to human health.

Infrastructure (bike paths and more)

What was one major discovery from the Beauty and the Bike project?  Infrastructure makes a big difference!  Consider signing the People for Bikes pledge, a campaign “Uniting a million voices to improve the future of biking.”  Watch a 1 minute, 25 second video poem, “If I Ride,” from People for Bikes; click here.

“Beauty and the Bike”

Visit the project’s site:
Beauty and the Bike:  Why Do British Girls Stop Cycling?”
Watch an 8-minute YouTube clip:
\”Beauty and the Bike\” short from Darlington Media Group
Watch a short about:
why girls stop cycling.

(Other shorts from the project are also available at the Darling Media Group site.)

The film premiered in Britain in December 2009.  A DVD of the full-length film is for sale, along with an accompanying book.

Share “Beauty and the Bike” with your community

I hope many people will choose to make a donation of this DVD and the book Beauty and the Bike to their local public or school libraries.  Here in Monterey County, recipients might include the City of Monterey Public Library, which has a reciprocal share arrangement with Pacific Grove Library; or the  Monterey County Free Libraries and/or school libraries in the Monterey Peninsula Unified School District, among many other choices.

The young women of this project are themselves inspiring.  I especially welcome your comments and ideas below.

Also:  Help meet the need for bike route tips!

This post was updated in August 2010, including the section about young leader Annabelle Bull.

When this “Beauty and the Bike” info was first published last spring, it was responded to with the following helpful comments.  Thanks to Nicole and Linda (see comments below) for this post’s addendum about helping to meet the need for bike route tips.  Read on…

# # #

This post was published on 22 August 2010. One or more changes last made to this post on 24 October 2023.

  1. marilynch says:

    I agree, Linda. My March 12 response to the Google Bicycling Direx news was this:

    Let’s flood Google with correx and alternate routes so their bike direx become really great!

    Writing most of the bike tips myself for the First 100 Charter Participants in HER Helmet Thursdays, I know Google’s task isn’t as easy as it might seem. Biking a familiar route is much easier than sitting at a computer keyboard and trying to recall identifying details, one-way streets, wind patterns, elevation changes, neighborhood pitfalls and special pleasures that you want to pass along for the benefit of others who’d like to bike in that vicinity. And if you’re pulling together a large volume of tips in a short amount of time, it’s unrealistic to think you can immediately get them perfecto!

    So yes, let’s all help Google out so far more people will be confident about heading out on their bicycle.

    As for the bike tips I didn’t write (i.e., Moss Landing, South County, and some of the Salinas tips), please see this site’s Acknowledgments page so you’ll know just who to thank!

  2. Linda McFeely says:

    Since Google maps for bikes is so new, many of our favorite routes are not shown. Please take the time to add a route and help others who come to the Monterey area to ride. They have a link right on the website. You can describe your route or download it if you are gadget compatible.

  3. marilynch says:

    Anything that helps get more youth out biking is relevant to this post! Seriously, bike maps and directions tips help make a more bicycling friendly culture, and I thank you for adding this news, Nicole.

    I caught the Google Bike Maps announcement on my MORCA feed today, too. Happy to edit the remark about Google that I first posted last November, under “Estimating arrival time”: “Google offers estimated travel time by car,mass transit, or walking—though not yet by bicycling.” Hats off to Google for changing that and now offering directions for cyclists!

    This is an idea whose time has come. On January 30, 2010, an amazing Web developer stepped up to the plate and created a new display for HER Helmet Thursdays participants. It includes all participants on one Google map, along with the bike-there tips. I am delighted with it, and I have been excited about adding it to the site. Why isn’t it public yet? Only because of my needing hours to sit at the keyboard so I could input the First 100 Charter Participants into a new db. That was necessary so they’ll show up on this new map! My work is nearly complete, so watch for that new display soon!

    Thank you again, Nicole. I appreciate SeeMonterey keeping eyes open for more bicycling news to share. I love working together in our various capacities to help more people enjoy, and take better care of, beautiful Monterey County. Here’s to more people cycling MoCo, both visitors and locals!

  4. Nicole Gustas says:

    This is not pertinent to this post, but I thought you’d find it post-worthy: Google Maps has added biking directions!

Leave a Reply