Getting toddlers to like bikes

The Local’s series “Made in Germany” presents the best the country has to offer, including the innovative toddler training bikes by Kokua.

Getting toddlers to like bikes
Photo: Kokua

From luxury cars to precision machinery, “Made in Germany” still means quality craftsmanship around the world. But the Teutonic attention to detail goes far beyond engineering. This series will feature a diverse array of products from both well-known German brands and less famous firms. But no matter big or small, all of them are focused on being the best at what they do.

When their son Niklas was two years old, Rolf Mertens and his wife Beate wanted to encourage his love of movement but knew he wasn’t old enough to ride a bicycle. So Mr. Mertens, a trained product designer, set about creating a special wooden vehicle back in 1997. A bicycle without pedals, little Niklas could sit and push with his feet to ride around. “We wanted to test and see if he could keep his balance,” said Mrs. Mertens. “He loved to move all the time, running around, climbing, and we wanted to give him a toy that let him live out this love of movement.”

The test proved more successful than they could have anticipated. “We were absolutely surprised he could manage the balance nearly right away,” said Mrs. Mertens. “He loved it! After a while he only put it down to eat and sleep.”

The family lived just outside of the western German city of Aachen, and whenever they Niklas rode the contraption in public, they were bombarded with questions about where they got it. Inspired by the response, Mr. Mertens quit his job. Along with his brother, Alfred, a school teacher, they dubbed the little vehicle a LIKEaBIKE, and founded the Kokua company in their living room. “Kokua was a fantasy name,” explained Mrs. Mertens, who has a background in economics. “My husband and his brother invented it as a name for the little woods next to their childhood home, where they would play.” As it turned out, the word Kokua does exist: In Hawaiian, it means “help.” “We were very happy when we found out it had this meaning, but we didn’t know at the time.”

And ‘help’ is just what their children’s toy does. The LIKEaBIKE is good for kids too young for a regular bicycle, but it’s also popular, in a larger size, for older children who suffer from developmental issues like Down’s syndrome.

Kokua now has several models on the market, costing between €159 and €229. The bikes are built in the Erzgebirge Mountains, using environmentally friendly materials like beech and birch. They have attracted attention from all over the globe, and are sold in nearly all countries in the Western world. The company’s newest products include an alloy bicycle (with pedals).

Niklas, now 15, is too old to test the bikes’ crash capabilities, as he did in the beginning. But thanks to his early intrepidness coupled with his parent’s ingenuity, Kokua now employs 25 people all focused on getting kids rolling in life.

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What names do foreign nationals give their babies in Switzerland?

Each year for more than three decades, the Federal Statistical Office has been publishing the first names of infants born in Switzerland the previous year. It seems that foreigners favour names that are typical of their national background.

What names do foreign nationals give their babies in Switzerland?
Foreigners give their babies names that reflect their nationality. Photo by Keira Burton from Pexels

As The Local reported on Wednesday, the most popular names for newborn girls born in Switzerland in 2020 were Mia, Emma, and Mila.

For boys, Noah took the top spot, ahead of Liam and Matteo.

REVEALED: The most popular baby name in each Swiss canton

But what about the most popular names among various nationalities living in Switzerland?

The answers come from the same study.


The top name for boys of Italian parents is Giuseppe, followed by Antonio and Francesco. For girls, Maria is in the first place, Anna in the second, and Francesca in the third.


There are many Portuguese immigrants living in Switzerland and, like their Italian counterparts, they like to give their children traditional names: José, Carlos and Manuel for boys, and Maria, Ana, and Sandra for girls.


Spanish names are similar to those of Portuguese babies.

José, Juan and Jose are most popular boy names, while Maria, Ana and Laura are in the top three spots for the girls.


Most boys of Turkish descent are named Mehmet, Ali, and Mustafa. Among girls, Fatma, Ayse, and Elif dominate.


Arben, Vallon, and Bekim are top names for boys, and Fatime, Shquipe, and Merite for girls.


Bekim is in the first place for boys, followed by Muhamed and Fatmir. Among girls, Fatimr is in the lead, Sara in the second place, and Emine in the third.


Aleksandar, Dragan and Nicola take the first three spots. For the girls, Jelena, Maria and Snezana are at the top.

Can you give your baby any name you want?

Not in Switzerland, you can’t. It’s important to keep in mind that the cantonal registry offices, where new births must be announced, don’t have to accept very unusual names.

Several years ago, for instance, a Zurich court ruled that parents can’t name their infant daughter ‘J’.

In another case, a couple in the canton of Bern were ordered to change the name of their newborn son because their choice – Jessico – was considered too feminine. 

Several names have been forbidden in Switzerland, including Judas, Chanel, Paris and Mercedes.