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Mr. Rogers Rode a Bike

by Ted Johnson

Fred Rogers of Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood would have turned 85 today. Somehow I think I appreciate him more as an adult than I ever did as a kid.

As a child, I thought his show was really boring. If I ever watched it, it was by process of elimination. And when Trolley went to The Neighborhood of Make-Believe, I totally checked out. Might as well go play outside than watch this puppet crap.

But one of the recurring characters rode a bicycle to work — for work. The awkward Mr. McFeely, whose catchphrase was “Speedy Delivery!

Mr. Rogers was pals with a bike messenger! Maybe he even had tattoos under those sleeves. McFeely didn’t use a bike messenger bag; he was old school.

But I had a helluva time finding a photo of Fred Rogers himself on a bike. In fact, I had to watch this episode of Mr. Rogers on Amazon.com to be able to grab this screen shot:

Mr. Rogers Rode a Bike

Uncritical Mass: Mr. McFeely (David Newell) and Fred Rogers

But now I can appreciate the calm civility of Fred Rogers. It’s a characteristic I strive, and often fail, to achieve. It’s a characteristic I admire most in some of my closest friends.

I think I’m more of the target audience for Mr. Rogers now than when I was six.

In 1969, when Rogers was still relatively unknown, he testified before the United States Senate Subcommittee on Communications — and single-handedly saved PBS from the severe cuts proposed by Nixon.

 

Imagine the power of Fred Rogers as a bike advocate. If I could only have channeled him when I visited Congress a couple of weeks ago at the National Bike Summit.

(If only I believed in channeling.)

When I watched the opening and closing credits of the TV show, I was looking at the neighborhood infrastructure of the miniature model. I was imagining bike lanes, and curb extensions to make the neighborhood more bike- and pedestrian-friendly.

Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood Model

On the upside, there is public transportation: Trolley (lower right).

Then I discovered that you can go to Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood Website and actually build your own neighborhood.

Design your own Neighborhood

Which I did.

I’ll repeat myself: I’m more of the target audience for Mr. Rogers now than when I was six.

Rogers’ TV neighborhood was based on Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It turns out that Pittsburgh is several steps ahead of me. The city as become increasingly bike-friendly in the ten years since Rogers’ death, and plans to spend up to $135,000 this year to become even more so.

I suppose I can get back to focusing on my own neighborhood.


My participation in this years’ National Bike Summit was made possible by these sponsors.

Bike Shop Hub Flagstaff Biking Organization Bike Virginia
 
Burley nomad 229

7 Responses to “Mr. Rogers Rode a Bike”

  1. Tom Bowden says:

    $135,000?

  2. Wheeltolive says:

    Great read about Mr. Rogers! I saw an article on cracked.com about him and then my mother and I said some of the same things you said. Mr. Rogers was boring. But I did like the land of make-believe and I always loved the song! Mr. McFeely is really cool with his old-school self!

  3. Graham says:

    My grandmother went to school with Rogers. (Yes, I’m from the ‘Burgh) Apparently he was as cool and collected in real life as he appeared on tv. I can’t imagine what meeting him in person would have been like!

  4. Kate says:

    If you want to know what it’s like to meet Mr Rogers in person– as a child and again in adulthood– listen to this story on NPR’s “This American Life.” it always makes me smile– with tears in my eyes because it’s just so dear.

    http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/184/neighbors?act=1#play

  5. Kevin Love says:

    A local connection: Fred Rogers first began broadcasting his children’s show in Toronto for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. The CBC generously gave him the rights to the show when he wanted to move to the USA.

    One of his colleagues continued with the “Mr. Dressup” show on CBC.

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