Bicycling to School

The author's father, Archie Funnell, in Huntington, New York, ca. 1907

Harford County, Maryland, 1956: BelAir Elementary School allowed us to ride our bikes to school, and sometimes, in good weather and with my parents’ permission, I did ride that 3-1/2 miles. I might not still be remembering that, if it weren’t for an accident. 

It was not as bad as a later bike accident in 1963 where both my kid brother Dickie and I were injured. That time an aggressive dog, that I had thought I could outsmart every time, died on the road. Dickie & I went head over heels into a rose bush. The bike that landed on top of us was a 1949 Panther trials bike, 350cc single; the weight of the dog bent its front wheel and the fork with it.

My dad got me my first real bike when I was 8; because of where we lived – in a small but steeply hilled valley – having a bike was something really special! No one had ever even heard of a “mountain bike” so leaving home for our bike ride meant pushing it up the hill, about as much as coming up out of the Rocky River Metroparks. The rest of my ride to BelAir, though, once out of that little wrinkle in Harford County’s farmland, had no hills at all.

One day, on my way home from school, suddenly I found myself lying in a shallow grassy ditch between one-lane Ring Factory Road and a farm’s fence, the cuff of my blue jeans tightly bound up on the sprocket! Lying awkwardly on one shoulder, I was unable to reach around the beautiful big black steel frame of my bike, with either hand.

Like an angel, though, my mom came along to look for me and help. Big and strong as I might try to be, I burst into tears with relief.

What makes me think today on these thoughts of “yesteryore” is pausing in traffic on Dover Center Road, and watching the bevies of school children on their little bicycles as they wait their turn at Wolf Road corner. Some of them still wobbly, they take the crossing-guard’s cue and head on over. Then I notice it – an anomaly that bothers me…

A good number of those children are riding bikes that are woefully and potentially injuriously out of adjustment. If the seat is too low, the child’s leg muscles (and the related hip, ankle and knee-joint sinews, to say nothing of spinal muscles) will suffer distortion over the long run.

Note: Luckily, there is an organization in our community that can help. The Village Bicycle Cooperative, located on the ground floor of the Community House in Cahoon Memorial Park, works to improve the quality and safety of bicycling in the region. Visit to learn more.

David Funnell

Born 1946 in Long Island, New York, I was raised in rural Maryland and went to college in Massachusetts. Married to Chris there in 1980 and raised three sons before moving to Utah in 2018 and coming to Bay in April, 2021. Retired gradually from a career in sharpening and repairing surgical instruments, having worked in my own mobile shop since 1988. A venture in design and manufacture of patented instruments was interrupted by an intestinal cancer - that thanks to a special nutrition regime during and after radiation, chemotherapy and two surgeries - is now gone.

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Volume 13, Issue 19, Posted 9:55 AM, 10.05.2021