The Rails to Trails Conservancy’s Earn-a-Bike program lets these Baltimore youths spend four weeks learning about bike maintenance, healthy eating, and caring for the Earth and their community — and at the end of it, they get a certificate and a bike. It’s a win all around: The kids get their own bicycles, the community benefits from their newfound civic engagement, and Republicans have minor heart attacks about Socialist brainwashing. Yay!
It’s hard to tell whether the kid intoning “reduce, reuse, and recycle … keep your world clean” has learned that lesson from helping to pick up trash in his local park, or whether he’s just parroting slogans (although it’s pretty cute either way). But it’s impossible to fake the enthusiasm these kids have for their bikes, and that enthusiasm spills out into the rest of the program. One budding activist seems genuinely troubled by water pollution in her neighborhood; another is excited to be able to pick food right out of the ground. And they all leave with a working knowledge of bike safety and simple maintenance. Although not necessarily of geography — stick around to the end to hear one girl’s plans to ride her bike to Paris.