What is significant about the fact that the Nines are given bicycles in The Giver?
The bicycles are a symbol of independence, responsibility, and growing into adulthood for the Nines.
The bicycle, at Nine, would be the powerful emblem of moving gradually out into the community, away from the protective family unit. (p. 41)
Getting a bicycle at age nine is a rite of passage for children in the community. All children secretly practice on siblings' or friends’ bikes before they turn nine, so that they can ride off on their new bike on Ceremony day.
It was one of the few rules that was not taken very seriously and was almost always broken. .. But almost always, the older brothers and sisters had secretly taught the younger ones. (p. 13)
The bicycle is so important to the community because there is no other mode of transportation for most people. Although there are other vehicles, they are used for community purposes. Individuals ride bicycles to get around. Since the bicycle allows children to go places besides home, it moves them from a child’s home-based life to the community-based life they will have as an adult.
Bicycles are something we have in common with the community. However, in Jonas's world they are as tightly regulated as everything else.
Lowry, Lois (1993-04-26). The Giver (Newbery Medal Book). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition.
We can examine the gift of the bicycle in the context of the other gifts in order to examine its significance as well. Year fours get jackets that button in the back so that the children learn to depend on and help one another. A few years later, however, the children get jackets that button in the front when they turn seven—they are learning independence, or at least self-sufficiency, in the ways that one needs in order to care for oneself on a day-to-day basis. Year eights get clothes with pockets; again, this means a bit more freedom in the ability to keep and carry things. Year elevens get clothes that are more specifically gendered, and twelves get their community assignments.
Nines, as you have pointed out, get bikes. We should note the way this gift is nestled in between getting the opportunity to button one's own jacket and carry important items and becoming more individuated (as much as is possible) within the community. The mobility of possessing a bicycle is a step in this process of growing up and becoming a productive member of society. One must be able to move around. At the same time, the focus on one's place in the community is still reinforced as a twelve.