May 9th Is National Bike to School Day. To celebrate Bike to School Day and in an effort to inspire students and teachers to bike to school, we have found an especially uplifting and inspiring story about a 6th grader who loves to bike. We hope you enjoy this story as much as we do and that Nathan’s story inspires you to go by bike. And with that, I am excited to offer the second in BCA’s series, I Bike Anchorage.
Brian Litmans, BCA Board President
Nathan Shuttleworth: Leading a new generation into year-round bike commuting
by Tim Woody
Any cynical adult meeting Nathan Shuttleworth for the first time is likely to be overcome by a restored feeing of optimism. This is the kid you want living next door: smart, unerringly polite, and inquisitive. And, at the age of 12, he’s a year-round bicycle commuter in Anchorage.
Nathan first started riding a bike to school at Kasuun Elementary a couple of years ago when he was in fourth grade. But this past winter, he took it up a notch and rode through winter after investing in studded tires with money he had received for his birthday and earned by clearing snow from a neighbor’s driveway.
“I’m in debt right now. I owe my parents money,” Nathan said after mentioning that he also recently upgraded to a new bike, a Novara Bonita, because his old bike was “completely trashed.”
But like most bike commuters, he can’t help himself. “I love to ride. I always thought it was fun to ride to school. It’s easier than walking.”
Nathan is simply inspiring, said his school librarian, Amy Dalton, who is a year-round bike commuter herself. Since Nathan started riding in winter, even his teacher has started riding to school, Amy said.
“Here’s a boy that just stands out in a crowd. He surpasses any kid that we have deemed a leader, just by example, and the way he conducts himself every day,” Amy said. “I just adore this kid.
“There’s just not too many Nathans out there. He’s not looking to be like everybody else.”
That’s a good thing for a sixth-grader who pedals through dark, snowy mornings while many of his friends are happy to hitch a ride in their parents’ SUVs. “Some of them think it’s kind of weird that I’m the only one riding to school,” Nathan said.
He admits that environmental concerns are a factor in his decision to travel by bike, but Nathan says it’s really just more fun. His younger sister’s babysitter routinely offers him rides to school, but he prefers to pedal.
His ride to Kasuun is short — a mile or less, each way — so Nathan is looking forward to middle school next year for the simple reason that it’s farther away and he’ll be able to ride longer.
He already has supportive parents, but he’s hoping to find a more supportive school, where maybe the bike racks won’t be buried by snowplows, and maybe the administrators won’t discourage winter biking, as happens at his current school.
Anchorage’s elementary school administrators may not be ready for 12-year-old winter bike commuters, but that’s probably because they’ve never previously encountered a kid like Nathan Shuttleworth.
He’s a force of nature in the form of a determined and independent boy.
Who knows? He might even be a force for change.
This is the second in a series of I Bike Anchorage stories about the city’s devoted bicycle commuters — riders who see bikes not as toys, but as a viable means of transportation for getting to work and school, shopping, and running errands. These profiles will appear quarterly and be written by Tim Woody, a year-round bike commuter and author of a blog called Bicycles & Icicles. If you would like to nominate a profile subject, drop Tim an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Tell him a little about the person’s commuting habits and why he/she has an interesting story to tell.