The bicycle as ‘constructive hope’: Children, climate and active transport

Key takeaways:

  • Riding a bicycle is a concrete way for children to participate in climate action. Participation in an everyday activity that makes a difference is ‘constructive hope’.
  • Children who live in low-traffic neighborhoods are more likely to engage in activities like walking and biking, leading to more social interaction, exposure to nature, and outdoor play; all of which create feelings of connection to the environment. Active transportation is a way for children to feel invested in protecting this connection.
  • Children who live in high-traffic neighborhoods spend more time indoors, have fewer opportunities to make friends, and experience independent social connections. They are less likely to walk or bike due to traffic concerns. This contributes to negative feelings about their neighborhoods.
  • A common objection to children biking is based on unsafe roads. Streets are built for cars. Traffic is intimidating and poses risk, leading to perceptions of unsafety. Yet injury rates do not reflect this perception as a reality.
  • The many gains of children bicycling outweigh the risk of injury. Active transportation also aids in the development of self-esteem, independence, self-efficacy, and spatial navigation skills.


  • When designing streets and roadways, particularly around schools, children walking/biking should be a primary consideration. Safe Routes to School programs have demonstrated that children can be active participants in the planning process for streets and neighborhoods.
  • Children walking/biking to school engages them with the environment, making it more likely that they will be invested in the environment as they grow and take an interest in its future care. Walking/biking is a way of equipping children with the skills and confidence to make positive changes in their community.


Wild, K. and Woodward, A. (2021). The bicycle as ‘constructive hope’: Children, climate and active transport. Journal of Pediatrics and Child Health, 57.

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