Free-Range Kids Outrage of the Week: No Biking to School

This one comes from blogger Denise Gonzalez-Walker. It’s the rules for getting to school in a district near Seattle. Please note the bolded words:

Bicycles

Students in grades 4,5 and 6 may ride bikes, roller blades, skateboards and non-motor scooters to school.  According to Highline District policy, a protective helmet must be worn when riding a bike, skateboard, scooter or roller blades to school.  District policy also prohibits the riding of bicycles to and from school by children in grades K-3, even when accompanied by an adult (policy #3424).

That’s right. Parents are forbidden to bike with their kids to school in the early grades. Even if the parents believe their kids are ready. Even if the parents want to show them how to ride safely! As Denise points out, “Policies like this discourage teaching opportunities.”

 Meanwhile, what opportunities do they encourage? Driving! More chance for kids to sit passively and be dropped off.

 Where is the sense in that? In my book, I point out that 50% of the children hit by cars near schools are hit by cars driven by parents dropping off THEIR children because they’re afraid of THEM being hit by cars. So if everyone just quit driving their kids to school, we’d already see a 50% drop in injuries!

A no-biking policy like this calls for action on the part of parents – approaching the PTA or school board and saying, “Who is this policy supposed to serve? We want our kids to be active and we want to teach them how to be safe. This policy thwarts both.”

But feel free to use a stronger word than thwarts. – Lenore

102 Responses

  1. I’m not surprised. In my county, as schools are being remodeled, the bike racks are being eliminated. The PTAs keep asking if they can raise money for them, but the schools tell them “no” without any reason.

  2. That is so absurd I had to actually read it twice. Not only is the Highline District trampling on the rights of individuals, but they are actually promoting an unsafe environment by mandating an increase of vehicle traffic around the school. I can just see the lawyers circling around the parking lot now.

    How about this for a novel idea? Mandate that kids must walk or ride to school as part of their physical education, and ban vehicular traffic for two blocks in all directions of the school. Come on Seattle, you’re damaging your reputation as a cycling city!

  3. I was pleased to see many bikes in the bike racks at the K-3 school my son will be going to for kindergarten. I hope to ride to school with him as soon as he’s up on two wheels. Unfortunately, until then I will have to drive him, because I wouldn’t be able to walk him there and back before I have to leave for work.

    But this is just nuts. If there were more kids biking, it would be safer.

  4. I can’t see most kids being able to ride their bikes safely to school in kindergarten or grade one unless a parent is with them, but even so, this is NUTS.

    Lenore is absolutely correct in her call to action against asinine policies like that.

  5. Can anybody show a link to this? I’d like to post it on my journal, but an unsubstantiated factoid won’t do.

  6. Seriously…not even if their parents are with them?

    Ridiculous.

    The little toddler water park in our neighborhood has similar rules. No children under four feet tall can swim in the lazy river…even if accompanied by their parent.

    No going down the slides unless you are on your bum, feet forward, face forward.

    It goes on and on. There are more things on the list that you CAN’T do than there are things you CAN do.

    When did parents stop knowing best?

  7. Am I missing something here? How can the school district enforce what people do outside of school grounds? What do they plan to do to families that flout the policy? Please tell me–my kids are pre-K so I really don’t know what schools are capable of.

  8. I would also like to know about the legality of this policy. Does anyone know?

    As for the issue of whether first graders could bike to school, my 6 year old rides bikes to her friends’ houses all the time, so if the school was close by, I don’t see why many children couldn’t do this.

  9. Another policy that would drive me nuts along with having to sign my kids in and out of school and not letting kindergarteners walk to school alone. (None of these policies exist in our district thank goodness)

    My son Alex is in 1st grade next year and has been begging me to let him bike the 1/3 mile to school. But I know he isn’t ready because he doesn’t look around enough and almost hit a car the other day. But that is MY choice as his mother – I don’t need a school district to make the decision for me.

  10. Here’s a link to the Marvista Elementary School website page that lists this policy:

    http://www.hsd401.org/marvista/school.htm

    Seems like it’s for real.

    Daddy Dre

  11. And here’s the Highline School District’s official bicycle policy:

    http://www.hsd401.org/ourdistrict/board/policies/3000/3424.pdf

    “STUDENTS

    Bicycles and Bicycle Helmets

    The Highline School District prohibits the riding of bicycles to and from school by children in third grade or younger.

    The district requires that fourth-grade students and above and district staff wear bicycle helmets in a proper manner when riding bicycles to and from school.

    The Highline School District strongly encourages all students, their families, and staff to use bicycle helmets whenever riding bicycles.

    All schools are encouraged to cooperate with local PTSA units in providing information relating to bicycle safety and the use of bicycle helmets. Schools will notify parents in writing at least once a year that students are required to wear helmets whenever riding their bicycles to school.”

    Note the lack of a mention of parents in the policy.

  12. That’s insane! I remember my elementary school (located in a small Bible college town) had racks and racks of bikes. Everyone biked to school, and I remember when I finally biked well enough to go. (My parents wouldn’t let me go to school with training wheels on, which I thought was stupid then, but in retrospect, I *never* would have gotten rid of them if they had let me.)

    I alternated between walking/biking and getting driven to school when I was younger, and without a doubt, I was more independent when I walked. It was like, “Ok, Sammi, you are responsible for getting yourself to and from school on time.” Whereas when my parents drove me, it was, “Let’s go! Let’s go! You’re going to be late!”

    My parents did helicopter over me a lot, but at least I had responsibility in this area.

  13. I wish more kids rode bikes to my school. We do have a good number of walkers though. In our case I think it is the expense of a bike that is the problem.

    I rode my bike to school starting around 1st grade, and this was in a residential area of Houston. I could cut through some back streets. The problem was I ended up on the wrong side of the main street to school. District policy said I had to go to the crossing guard and cross there.

    The crossing guard, principal, and neighborhood parents went to the district and go the policy changed. Then we were allowed to follow the law and cross at the corner to the side of the street with a Hike and Bike trail.

    It is up to the parents to get the board to change its policy or challenge it in court.

    BTW: Is there anywhere in the country that PTO/PTA actually can make rules for schools. Here in Texas they have no more say than any other civic group. The campus Site based committee has voting members that include teachers, principal, parents, and other community members. They can set policy.

  14. At my kids’ school, there is no bike riding allowed on school property. That means that kids can ride their bikes to school, but once they get to the corner of the school property, they have to get off their bikes and walk them almost an entire block to the bike rack. After a couple times of doing this, my kids and I decided it would just be quicker to walk.

  15. That’s quite ridiculous – over here in Holland parents are discouraged from driving their kids to school, because the streets have gotten dangerous exactly because of all those cars.
    The area around the school is a lot safer if parents don’t use cars to bring their kids to school.

  16. Dr. Dre is right–the policy on the district site doesn’t explicitly mention parents, but Marvista’s page does–thanks, Dre, for posting the links!

    Also, I’ve heard firsthand from a Mercer Island parent (another city/district next to Seattle) that they have this same policy, no K-3 kids allowed to ride bikes to school even w/parents. It’s strictly enforced there, according to the parent.

    Seattle school district does not have a bike policy that I know of. In fact the city is providing free bike racks to schools to promote bicycling. So it’s a little bit crazy to figure out what the heck schools are doing around here.

    I’m very curious if these kinds of policies exist anywhere else in the US, or if we’re just exceptionally preoccupied with liability / risk-adverse in this neck of the woods.

  17. This is absolutely unenforcable. A school cannot dictate how my family transports ourselves. My daughter rides all over the city (Portland, OR) with me, an has since her 7th birthday. (that’s 1st – 2nd grade age). If our school were within bikable distance, she would ride there. She does bike to summer programs…

    I would be first in line to challenge them on this one…

  18. My 11 and 8 year old daughters have cycled to school with me very occasionally and they did so last year too (oops the younger one would have been your grade 1st).
    We don’t do it regularly since it’s 3 miles on a single track rural lane with a far bit of traffic (and it runs parallel to the motorway at one point so you can’t hear cars coming).
    My elder daughter got a merit star for cycle training so I may let her have a go on her own before see leaves for high school next year.
    One mum who lives in the village 1/4 mile from school wouldn’t let her daughter ride home from cycle training (last bit of our route).
    My daughters best mates a boy of 10 and his 8 year old sister often cycle or scooter (sometimes vaguely with their Dad, they don’t want to go at baby sister speed, but often not). So you can see here in the UK opinions vary too!
    But I do feel non of these things are any of the schools business. It is for parents to decide how their children travel to and from school and when they are old enough to do so.

  19. so you can’t do it until 4th grade, but they will not have been able to practice it (unless you take the risk on the weekends!) so they won’t be any better off.
    blech.

  20. This may not seem relevant, but bear with me. Five or ten years ago in the town where I live, a law (I believe … not just a regulation) was passed requiring all (otherwise uncovered) trucks/trailers bringing stuff to the landfill to be covered by a tarp. The logic of course was that a lot of junk was blowing out of trucks/trailers and littering the road.

    Fair enough. It’s hard to secure a tarp to a truck that’s going to be going 45 mph if you don’t do so regularly and don’t have a plan for doing so, though. So what people do is drive to the landfill with no tarp (there is no law/regulation about driving with uncovered loads, just bringing them to the landfill), pull over 50 yds before the entrance, and tarp their loads. Silly, but true.

    Seems to me the same basic principle could be applied here, as I cannot imagine the school has any authority to regulate transport of schoolkids in general. I suppose the nuisance would be securing the kids’ bikes; I think I’d be tempted (as an adult riding with my kid) to jerry-rig a system that would allow me to attach the kid’s bike to mine and pull it back home. Hmmm…patentable ;)?

    Good grief.

  21. My comment is in line with Anita’s thought. Arent what we are trying to do is to get the kids ready, under our supervision, to go out on their own? This is like giving a kid a drivers license and banning drivers ed. Is the child magically going to know how to act w/o the learning stages?

  22. “I think I’d be tempted (as an adult riding with my kid) to jerry-rig a system that would allow me to attach the kid’s bike to mine and pull it back home. Hmmm…patentable😉 ?”

    I think there is something similar… Gimme a minute.

  23. Okay, found it – yeah, they’re called “trailer cycles” or “tag-a-longs” or… lots of other names. They’re like mini tandem bikes that attach directly to the grown-up bike.

    http://www.evanscycles.com/categories/childrens-family-cycling/tag-a-longs

    http://www.active.com/cycling/Articles/Riding-With-Kids.htm?page=2

    http://www.wired.com/geekdad/2008/08/geekdad-rates-7/

    http://www.rei.com/expertadvice/articles/cycling+with+children.html

    Sorry for all the links, but I searched google and must prove that fact, rarr!

  24. How unbelievable. I’m enjoying these ‘outrages’ as little wake up calls!

  25. Unfortunately it’s a by-product of our tort law system. We want freedom for our kids to ride to school, but the minute something happens to the bike or another child because of the bike, some parent wants to sue the school district over it. Our country is rampantly sue happy.

    Personally, I’d be biking my kid to school just as before and chaining my kids bike nearby or like someone mentioned, jerry-rigging something to tow it home.

    But, I really do believe this is the product of the system that we’ve permitted to take hold. While some things were great additions (like safeties on guns and automatic shutoff on circular saws), someone saw an opportunity to start enforcing safety for EVERYTHING at the cost of litigation if it wasn’t “safe.”

    Remember… that steaming beverage you are about to enjoy, you know, the one that you make in a coffee pot and don’t drink cold, is “HOT.”

  26. […] Free-Range Kids Outrage of the Week: No Biking to School This one comes from blogger Denise Gonzalez-Walker. It’s the rules for getting to school in a district near Seattle. […] […]

  27. http://www.trail-gator.com/ tows a kids bike, with or without a child on it.

  28. Nicola, what you’re alluding to is a bad example.

    McDonald’s did not just serve hot coffee, but coffee hot enough to cause third degree burns in seven seconds. You can’t even *drink* it when it’s that hot.

    The woman in this case had put her cup between her knees, in a parked car, to open it. People do this sort of thing all the time and do not anticipate – no matter that they know the drink is “hot” – having to get skin grafts and two years of treatments due to bad burns over 6% of their skin (and other burns over more of it). I mean, I burned myself making waffles the other day, and all I had to do was run cold water over it. I’d be pretty upset if a simple accident required me to get major medical treatment.

    http://www.lectlaw.com/files/cur78.htm

    Look, those of us who like coffee do like hot coffee, buuuuuuuut… maybe not quite *that* hot. (And if it *is* that hot, I like to know that it’s not merely “hot” but “hot enough to cause major damage”.)

  29. Blueraindrop, I have something similar that I use with my kindergartner – google for Schwinn Bike Buddy.

    Does anyone know if the school district has a reason for this policy? Younger children getting hurt on bikes, no room to store bikes, no room for bike helmets – any reason at all?

    If I were a parent there, you bet I’d be pointing out that the school district cannot tell me how to transport my child, provided I’m doing so in a legal way!

  30. I also question the enforcibility of this. My 2.5 year old son already rides his scooter (with his Mom and/or me) to the school he’ll eventually be attending to play on the playground. I’ve asked Bob Mionske, author of “Bicycling and the Law” (http://www.bicyclelaw.com/blog/index.cfm) about it. I hope he’ll be willing to delve into what a school district can and cannot enforce.

    And I recall a school in NJ that refused a bike rack to be donated by students: http://www.streetsblog.org/2008/05/02/jersey-high-school-students-protest-anti-bike-policy/

  31. This is insane! I’m Dutch. Here in the Netherlands almost ALL children, certainly those in ‘high school’, bike to school. If you want to see what that looks like, see this youtube film:

    Yes, that’s right. We don’t wear helmets either. This is because back in the seventies, politicians made the conscious decicion to dicourage cars (by raising gasprices) and encourage bicycling (by building a safe instrastructure with separate bikelanes etc).
    Not only are we now the country with the most bicycle miles, but we’re also the safest to ride a bicycle.
    Every car owner owns a bicycle as well, and regularly rides it, so on the whole, on those occasions where cars and bicycles do meet in traffic, we treat eachother courteously. Bicycling is SAFE here, and we bike from the moment we can toddle.

    If you start to tell people that’s it’s so frigging DANGEROUS to ride a bicycle, pretty soon only the hardcore ‘lycra’ people will the only ones to do so.

    And what about the bakfietsen? Are they ‘illegal’ as well?

    Oh yes, make people dependent on gasoline, and they will follow you into war to get oil, even though the money that war will cost could build you bikelines like you wouldn’t believe… *grumble*

  32. In our school district (in Sweden) children in K-3 are NOT allowed to ride their bikes to school on their own. The reason is not haphazard, but based on vision. Apparently (though I have no sources on this one), younger children’s peripheral vision is not fully developed, and their field of vision is smaller than older children and adults, making biking alone more of a risk. However, younger children can and do ride to school with their parents.

  33. “In our case I think it is the expense of a bike that is the problem.”

    You can buy a decent kid’s bike for a fraction of what it takes to keep a gas-guzzling SUV running for a month.

  34. 1. Parents in this district should threaten to sue the school over this policy the first time a child is injured in a car riding to school because his parents were forbidden to let him bike. Point out how much more likely car accidents are than biking accidents.

    2. I was telling a friend about “Free Range Kids” (I tell everyone about it) and she said “Oh, I heard that woman on NPR.” Great job, Lenore! The word is getting out!

    3. I’m starting to get past that happy catharctic feeling of seeing a dozen other people agree with me. I want action! I want tort reform! What can we do?

  35. The opposite is happening here. Our Deputy Principal has started up a ‘bike bus’. This involves a meeting point that is 3 beaches away from the school. The kids riding to school join the group that is controlled by volunteer parents and teachers. Along the route more and more kids wait for the ‘bike bus’ and join onto it. Whenever they have to cross an intersection, the adult at the front is responsible for traffic control and stops the cars so that it is safe for the ‘bike bus’ to cross. It has become so popular and the kids just love it. The motorists wave and sometimes the local radio station covers the trip. It has just been filmed by our state government as a documentary to be distributed to schools Australia wide as the guidelines for starting their own ‘bike bus’.
    My husband rides with the bike bus as one of the supervisors and said that the youngest rider is 5 years old atttending prep (class before Grade 1) and is the best little rider with all sorts of tricks. Now I think his parents must definately belive in Free Range Kids!
    Oh and we live only a few streets away from the school, however my daughter (9) rides 3 beaches AWAY from the school to join the bike bus at the start of the trip and rides back with the group. What a great way to start the day. Helmets are compulsory in Australia for safety. Breakfast is also available now at our school tuck shop for the hungry bike riders.

  36. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration “Safe Routes To School” program talks about this very issue.(http://bit.ly/pmgLq) Instead of parents realizing that walking to school is a very safe thing to do and just letting it happen, they are driving their kids to school, thus creating tons of traffic around schools, and actually MAKING it unsafe — creating the problem themselves! The Safe Routes To School program helps teach schools, parents and kids ways to be safe when walking or biking to school. It also encourages parents to stop driving their kids to school to stimulate a healthier lifestyle (encouraging exercise and avoiding pedestrian/auto accidents). Download the Safe Routes To School pdf here http://bit.ly/pmgLq and take that to the next PTA meeting.

  37. I don’t think it is within the school’s authority to regulate how people transport themselves within the community. That sounds like an unenforceable policy.

  38. Send this note to the Seattle, Washington tv news stations:

    Dear Press,
    This Normandy Park school policy #3424 disallows public bike riding when traveling to school. Legal? Enforcable? http://bit.ly/Lxc5J The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration “Safe Routes To School” program says its safer to RIDE! http://bit.ly/pmgLq

  39. My dad read up about safety before he would let us on the road. Developmentally peripheral vision develops fully at nine so we got bikes for our ninth birthday. Until then we had to walk. I think I notched up around three miles a day from the age of 5. There was an eight year old who earned a bit of pocket money by making sure we all got there on time.

    My kids have been the same. Only one school is close enough for riding this year but next year my almost 11 year old wants to ride at least some of the time and thats 8 and a half kilometers each way. He’s already done it twice but we will need to get him a better bike.

    viv in nz

  40. We live near an elementary school and not too far away is a junior high schoo. Every day at 3pm, our neighborhood gets so loud – all the kids walking by, clanging away on bikes, talking, laughing, shouting… When my son was napping in a particular room, I used to be SO irritated with the noise. Now, I am grateful I live in such a neighborhood.

    Keep up the good work, Lenore. It IS a peer pressure thing with parents and you are helping to sway folks into letting their children go.

  41. See, my reaction to the policy would be to make my k-3 grader to bike to school every day anyways. What are they going to do, arrest me? Poke holes in her tires?

  42. I hate to say it, but this is not a new idea. The school district I attended in the late ’70s did not allow kids in the younger grades to bike to school, either. Remember, this was in the pre-helmet era, too. Luckily, few kids were driven to school, anyway. We walked. Of course, few parents rode bikes in the ’70s, anyway.

  43. Good timing.

    Just two days ago I found myself without a car when I realized that my children had swimming lessons in 45 minutes. My husband had taken the car and I had forgotten to tell him to be back home so I could get them to lessons. I felt very resourceful when I decided that we could ride our bikes the 4.4 miles from our home to the YMCA and perhaps make it in time for lessons and not miss out simple because we were car-less that afternoon. My kids thought it was a GREAT idea! We had so much fun riding. My almost 9 and almost 7 years olds rode their own bikes and I pulled my 4 year old in a trailer. We all agreed that we miss so much when we are riding in a car -sights, smells, sounds.

    I got my boys to their lessons in about 30 minutes and they were only 10 minutes late. After a few minutes, while sitting in the bleachers and socializing with some other moms, I was approached by a mother who apparently saw me and my brood out on our bikes on the way to swim lessons. She proceeded to inform me, in front of everyone on the bleachers, that I had put my children’s lives in harm’s way and that it was ridiculous that I would take my children out on “THAT road,” and that in her expert opinion my young son should not have been riding his bike on that road! She looked like she was going to cry, I had apparently upset her THAT much with my little bike riding family.

    She really rained on my parade. Here I thought I had been extremely resourceful AND had provided my kids with a fun afternoon bike ride, but clearly I was putting my children in danger and needed to be told so!

    As for the school rules, I just can’t see how they can enforce how you as a parent choose to get your child to and from school. Sounds like another ridiculous rule to me.

  44. How exactly could this policy be enforced? It’s not like their “school policy” is a law. Would they suspend the child for something they did off school property?

  45. In our school district, they are encouraging walking and biking to school. They claim it’s healthier for the students, but I suspect it’s the price of running the yellow buses.

  46. Iva, it has to be the health.

    Children close enough to bike or walk are probably not within range of the bus route anyway. Here in NYC you have to live a mile from the school (half a mile for kindergarten) to be eligible for the school bus.

    No, wait… I forgot about half fare. (There’s something that makes no sense. It doesn’t cost less to take the bus just because you’re traveling 3/4 of a mile instead of a mile and a half, does it?)

    http://schools.nyc.gov/Offices/Transportation/ParentResources/GeneralEducationEligibility/default.htm

    So… point is that encouraging biking to lower bus costs makes no sense. Even if all the students are within a good biking/walking distance from their school, they’ll still probably want to take the bus on exceptionally cold/snowy/rainy/hot days. And the bus can’t run JUST on those days, so it’d have to run on many days with very few or no children, a real waste of fuel and money.

  47. Even when accompanied by an adult? What that means is that they’re not your kids anymore. They belong to the school. (Or so thinks the school).

    It’s ditto at my kids’ school. Not the bike policy, but the attitude that parents are just an annoyance to be endured.

  48. Oh, wow! I just discovered your site this morning. This is the best thing that happened to me all, er, day. I’ve been an advocate of Free Range Kids since my first daughter was born. Unfortunately, that makes me an outlier in the super-safe, super secure neighborhoods of the deepest, darkest jungles of suburban NJ. I’d start a local parents group but everyone would have to find babysitters for their 13 year olds. LOL. Just kidding.
    Sadly, I’m NOT kidding. Parenting here is an extreme sport and insane. I could tell you horror stories from my days on the board of ed, like the time the parents insisted on a bus to carry sixth graders around the corner to another school in the afternoon even though there is a 500 ft walkway between the schools that is nowhere near the street. The parents were concerned that the kids would get wet if it rained.
    My youngest daughter is now in middle school and goes to a public school that is in lock down mode all of the time. There are security cameras in the hallways and everything is monitored. Kids can’t stay after school for activities unless the chain of custody is maintained with parents. It’s surreal.
    Anyway, I’m going to read up on your posts. It sounds fascinating. Looks like a movement afoot.
    Good news. It’s about time. Maybe we can eek out a few years of a normal childhood for our kids.

  49. You know, after reading stupid (really, there’s no more appropriate adjective) rules like this, I really long for the days when I was a kid and the general rule about letting us out was, “They’ll come home when they’re hungry.”

  50. Oh, enforcing this wouldn’t be a problem. They could just call the parents and insist that child and bike be picked up at the end of the day or child will not be allowed to leave.

    There’s only one possible justification for this, and that would inadequate space to store bikes and helmets securely on school property. In that case, it would make sense to limit the younger children from the privilege as they’d be less likely to need it, rather like colleges that do not allow freshmen to have cars on campus. It isn’t the best solution, but I could tolerate it in that case. Any other reason for not allowing children to do something BEFORE they get to school WITH parental supervision is unacceptable.

  51. And as others have alluded to above, aren’t we all supposed to be going green? It used to annoy me that my kids’ city high school put their bike racks up a flight of steps on an outdoor promenade except in summer. Thankfully, someone saw sense about that — they probably got sick of kids chaining their bikes to the stadium fence anyway! With the overweight backpacks they have to haul biking isn’t practical most ot the time except in summer anyway, but deliberately making it all but impossible just seemed boneheaded.

  52. Sadly, this is happening all over the place. I recently allowed my 2nd-grader to ride his bike home alone from school one day. It went well, so I told him he could do it again the next day. That time the principal phoned me, wanting me to pick it up as it was against school board policy for children his age to leave school grounds alone. When I refused and insisted she send my perfectly capable almost-8-year-old home, she finally went along with it … and then she reported me to child protective services. Apparently I’m a negligent parent for teaching my children to navigate their world instead of constantly being afraid of it. Thankfully, they haven’t gone so far as to forbid biking entirely.

  53. Whoops, typo: Pick HIM up, not IT. I do know my son is a person, not an object, really I do! LOL

  54. I am not a parent. But I appreciate the work that you do.

  55. You know, I remember a school in my neighborhood in the mid-90’s that had a policy that 2nd graders and up would NOT receive bus services unless disabled. They were actually *gasp* expected to walk or bike to school! If only more schools still had ideas like that instead of this insanity!

  56. I biked my kinder to his first day of school. I was yelled at by several parents driving cars to get off the road that it was dangerous. My pithy response? “How about you get off your lazy butt and walk your kid to school instead to make it safer for everyone?”

    Then I was told by the Vice Prinicpal to not ride to school again.

    I continued to do so for several months.

    Idiots.

  57. Kerry, I am so sorry that someone felt it was her duty to insert thoughts into your day. What you did was resourceful, green and a fun way to bond with your kids. I hope you told her to go decompress somewhere else and pointed out that she did not stop to offer you a ride.

  58. @Gail

    When I was 8 I was riding my bike 2.5 miles alone to school through a downtown with a population of 250K. I think it’s an individual thing but as you obviously know, some kids at that age are perfectly capable.

    @Kerry

    I’m sorry you got rained on. I hate to say my reaction in that situation would probably be very loud and argumentative. Not that that’s what I advise. But that kind of criticism can be pretty disheartening. But try not to let it get you down. You know what’s safe. I just noticed a quote of the day:

    “Where we have strong emotions, we’re liable to fool ourselves.”
    – Carl Sagan

    Someone reacting to you that strongly isn’t thinking with their brain, they’re thinking with their strongly held assumptions. They’ve never considered riding in traffic, let along done it, so they have no sense of how safe it can be.

  59. Your blog is a great place in the internet. Very interesting. I always come in for see news and interested contents. Mentalidade

  60. hi my namne is mattias and im from russia and i did see you on tv your ide was reat i first think so my little girl can go to school by her self i think but now i know. She can´t !!!!
    she is 11 years old and pregnant now
    bad bad bad ide and let your child go alony you dont know what what ppl do
    lots of thank from me
    my msn is
    mattes_egna@hotmail.com

  61. As a person who rides his bike to work in Manhattan from Brooklyn this is an outrage. My 5 year old grandson takes his bike or scooter to school all the time. There is an adult with him. He rides ahead to the corner and waits until someone is there to watch him cross the busy streets.

    My sister-in-law lives across the street from a school in sub-urban Long Island. At the start and end of the school day it is impossible to drive down her street because of all the parents dropping or picking up their kids. This is in a neighborhood where everyone is in walking distance from the school.

    The school policy is all wrong. Encourage the bikes and ban the cars.

  62. hi
    just saw the dr.phil episode on tv (we get them with quite a delay here in sweden)
    i have a few things on this issue i’d like to share,since mom’s in ‘helicopter mode’is all over the world….
    #1.the wast amounts of information that we get novadays are to blame for that people think crimerate is rising,when the opposite is a fact…FILTER your information…..

    #2.my wife and i looked at each other and agreed that now we know why most of the post college americans travelling europe in our young days (when we where like 15 and interrailing/hiking/lifting round europe)
    where so naive and far from reality….

    #3.we started training our daughter,now 7,for crossing streets with/without traffic lights when she was 3…..
    ever since she learned the way to school it’s HER decision wheter she want company by ‘the old ones’while walking to school or not…..
    (btw.my dog could walk the streets of copenhagen,denmarks capital,by himself)
    kids are no more stupid than their parents make them!

    #4.here school’s encourage bike riding for traffic/health and enviromental purposes.
    already in pre school they start learning about these issues and the safty gear needed,athoe they are not allowed to ride bikes to school before 2’nd or 3’rd grade.

    i was brought up with the ‘concept’ of ‘fredom under responsebility’ which basically means,know and understand the borderlines drawn and you can act freely within them.
    if kids,so to speak,are not allowed to climb a tree and fall down they WILL have a problem coping with life at a later stage.
    i’ll be monitoring this page since i think it’ll get som concious sides of forming our childs and preparing them for ‘the real world’ out to a broader public.
    as english is my 2’nd language,i apologise for spelling misses e.t.c….:))
    it’s like 35 years since i left school,on a motor bike…:))

  63. “#3.we started training our daughter,now 7,for crossing streets with/without traffic lights when she was 3…..”

    You’ll be pleased to know that here in NYC I did the same thing. Of course, on my block the kids play IN the street (I love the concept – football, tag, bikes, skateboard ramps!, although sometimes the individual children annoy me), so it had to be done.

    And claus, really, you can clearly read and write English better than most of us (I’m guessing) can read or write Swedish. You get a pass on mistakes🙂

    Mattias, might I suggest that your problem was not that she went to school alone?

    As for Kerry, Rich Wilson is absolutely right. This person wasn’t thinking. The best response – unless you want to curse her out, which might not be very responsible when surrounded by children – is a noncomittal “Thanks for the advice” and ignoring them. It’s hard to learn to do, though.

  64. Two things this morning:

    The parents were concerned that the kids would get wet if it rained. This made me sigh and shake my head. Seriously? SERIOUSLY!?

    i was brought up with the ‘concept’ of ‘fredom under responsebility’ which basically means,know and understand the borderlines drawn and you can act freely within them. Freedom under responsibility-something about this just sounds so right.🙂

    To our new international readers, from Sweden and Russia, welcome!

  65. @Uly – I love your line “Thanks for the advice”. It’s very close to one I’ve been using for a few years in these situations: “Thanks for your concern”. Came in very handy the time I got a lecture from a stranger for stepping 3 feet away from my son’s stroller in a quiet drugstore.

    @Claus and Jen – I also love that line “freedom under responsibility”. I agree, it just sounds so right.

    @Rich – thanks for the supportive comment. It’s nice to know I’m not the crazy one in this situation

    PS – Wouldn’t it be great if we had a threaded forum on this site? It would save us posting all these “@so-and-so’s” and allow for some real discussion.

  66. RobC
    You can buy a decent kid’s bike for a fraction of what it takes to keep a gas-guzzling SUV running for a month.

    Huge assumption on your part

    Our families are not driving a gas guzzling SUV. They are walking (No public transportation) across a busy 4 lane road (SL 50 – 40 MPH depending on the section no sidewalks) to get to the nearest grocery store. They walk to school. Parents and older kids (Meaning 3rd – 5th graders in some cases) go without food the last days before payday so the youngest can eat.

    Kids beg us to not have Thanksgiving/Winter/Spring/Summer vacations because then there is no food. Most of their parents had decent paying jobs until recently but have been laid off. Now they are working multiple part time jobs if they can find them.

    So the price of a bike – would break the bank for them.

    The car is used for transportation to and from work ONLY (No public transport jobs 30 – 60 miles away). If the car breaks they lose their jobs.

  67. Kimberly – offtopic, but I’ve heard of schools that set up food banks of sorts for children who get free or reduced lunch, to send them home with food over the vacation. Is it possible to do something similar at your school? It’d require money and/or donations, but…?

  68. Uly,
    We have an on site social worker coordinates with a network of food banks and other charities. We report these comments to her and she gets them help. Part of the problem is parents so determined to stand on their own two feet they don’t seem to notice they have no ground beneath their feet.

    Also starting this fall we will be adding a Green House to our garden. This space will be used to grow vegetables year around. Students participating in the garden club (no fee so open to all students) will take the organic vegetables home. Surplus will be sold at a Farmers’ Market to raise money for more seed and other supplies.

  69. My kids’ school has a similar policy – kids can’t ride their bikes unaccompanied to school until the second half of third grade, and then they have to take a bike safety course first. The kids can ride with an adult though, and some do.

    We only have one car. Our bikes are our second car. Our kids have ridden home from many an event, either in a trailer when they were little, or on their bikes or tandem trail-a-bikes now. I have them ride on the sidewalk where possible – Massachusetts drivers being technically insane. But if someone wants to give me flack about their biking they can either buy my a second car or shut up. Oh, and if they were so concerned about my safety and my childrens’ safety, they could hang up the freaking cell phones. Every close call I have had has been because someone was yakking or texting instead of looking at the road.

  70. My whole week has been about biking with kids, and now this! When my daughter starts kindergarten in the fall, she’ll be biking there every day with her dad. Happily, the school encourages this with bike racks by the front door.

    Like BMS, we ride everywhere around our neighborhood in the Boston area. It’s not safe, but it would be a lot safer if all the drivers who take time out to hassle us would instead keep their attention on the road. Or better yet, stop driving themselves and get a bike.

  71. Hmm.. I find this odd because my children’s school in Seattle and I assume the Seattle district just ran a big deal bike to school month where they gave out prizes and bike locks, did helmet fittings etc. They gave the forms out to everybody down to the K class my dd is in. Looks like they are talking out of both sides of their mouths here.

  72. I was recently visiting family in the Netherlands and loved the laid back parenting approach. The two young lads of my aunt were allowed to run, fairly far ahead of what i’ve become accustomed to in North America. It took a few instances of “uh..” then silencing myself because this is normal happy childhood. They got soda that day, because there were visitors, and basically ran themselves exhausted by the end of day. Any of these things will cause extreme pearl clutching in the masses here. it’s a sad state of affairs.

    And yes, the bike culture in Holland awed me. i haven’t ridden in ages and miss it terribly, and was pleasantly surprised by the traffic calming measures ( no one gunning it down the highway) and the courteous way bikes and cars shared the road.

  73. Same policy at my kid’s school… but I still ride with him. He’s in 2nd grade.

    Tell your congressman to support Safe Routes to School!!! Congress is debating it now.

  74. Sweet have to make sure they can finish watching the sponge bob dvd while munching on cheetos in the back seat for the 8MPG explorer

    … what was that bump ?

    yay active kids
    yay safe kids
    yay environmentally conscious kids

    hehe do i rant too much here😉

  75. Is this even legal? Really? Can they dictate how families arrive at school? This rule might serve our family in a great way because if they told us we COULDN’T ride to school we’d most likely ride every day.

  76. And as for the cost of a bike, hit the streets on bulky trash day and have a community bike fix up day. You’ll have more than enough bikes for everyone in no time.

  77. I have never paid more than $80 for a bike for myself, ever. I trash picked all but the last two, which I bought used. I have never owned a new bike.

    I also found at least 2 kids bikes in the reuse area of our town dump. My bike nut husband fixed them up, and the kids rode them happily until they outgrew them.

  78. Yep, we have this anti-bike policy some of the schools in Minneapolis, too (including some high schools!!). I couldn’t believe it when I heard about it.

    But reasonable people may yet prevail, according to this article from the Southwest (Mpls) Journal: http://www.swjournal.com/index.php?publication=southwest&page=152&story=13805&category=63

    The decision to allow students to ride bicycles is left up to individual schools, Julie Danzl, coordinator of the district’s Steps to a Healthier MPS program, said.

    Danzl said the schools that discouraged bicycle riding often cited safety concerns, such as busy streets or intersections near campus. Some neighborhoods also lack the infrastructure for safe riding, like trails and bike racks, she added.

    Motivated by soaring transportation costs and rising childhood obesity rates, more schools are allowing and even encouraging students to bike to school.

    The district wellness policy — adopted in 2006 and designed to encourage healthy eating and physical activity — directs schools to examine whether bicycling is safe and “encourage students to bike and walk to school where appropriate.”

  79. Just the fact that my tax dollars paid for someone to take time to think of this policy, probably bring it to a vote and then make it official makes me want to scream!!! How about the novel idea that parents can be responsible for getting their kids to school however they see fit and everyone at school concentrate on igniting the curious little minds sitting before them. Hey, that may be a better plan.

  80. Where do they get the idea that cycling is particularly dangerous in the first place? Not from any hard data, that’s for sure.

    The death rate from cycling mishaps is about 2 per million per year (in the English-speaking countries, at least). Five times as many people die from falling down stairs, just to pick one example that puts that figure in context.

    In Britain, they monitor cycle use more closely, and come up with estimates of annual distance traveled by bike, and time spent cycling. When they divide those figures by the number of fatalities, they get 15 million miles cycled per fatality, and 2.4 million hours of cycling per fatality. Given that the British annual cycling fatality figures are roughly the same as US and Canadian ones (as mentioned above, 2/million/year), that suggests that the North American equivalents for distance and time are probably reasonably close.

    Those numbers are really small. I suspect that the Seattle school district’s cycling policy is based on a vague, hand-waving, grotesquely exaggerated idea of risk that is not rooted in any hard data.

  81. My K-5 school has a no bike policy, too. I asked the superintendant about it once, and her answer angered me. The school used to be a K-3 but the 4th and 5th grades were moved into the school a couple of years ago. When it was a K-3 it was not allowed for safety reasons but when they considered allowing the 4th and 5th graders to ride their bikes they decided against it because of the problems that are in the junior high.

    Here’s the problem. The state makes the school’s responsible for children to have helmets. Students are not allowed to leave school grounds on a bicycle without a helmet. Therefore, if a student rides to school without a helmet, the school has to call the parents during the day and inform them that the child cannot ride home. So many parents put up a fuss and give the administration a hard time about this, that they decided they just wouldn’t even open the now K-5 school up for those types of problems.

    I can see the school’s point. And it angers me that my children can’t ride their bikes to school because other parents don’t want to do the work it takes to get their kids to follow the rules.Technically, they could ride their bikes to school if I were with them – there is nothing the school can do about that. But they are not allowed to leave their bicycles on school grounds during school hours. So I would have to take both of their bikes and mine with me after they got to school and bring them back at the end of the day.

  82. I recommend that anyone who wants to change policy about bicycling and walking in their school district look into the Safe Routes to Schools program. There’s a lot of help/information available.

    This is our local organization’s: resources page: http://saferoutestoschools.org/resources.shtml

  83. WHAAAAT? I know many commenters have said it already, but… the school cannot tell me how to transport my children.
    I would think that the school would welcome it! The children have burned off some energy and are hopefully ready to sit down and focus. Our local preschool switched around their day so the children would begin the morning on the playground. They found it got all the ‘wigglies’ out. With phy ed being cut to 2x/week in our school, I welcome any additional physical activity my children can incorporate into their day.

  84. It’s always me running off-topic, and I apologise, but here we go.

    http://www.int.iol.co.za/index.php?set_id=1&click_id=13&art_id=vn20090614062019597C893928

    A 10 year old girl in South Africa just gave birth, and her 21 year old uncle has been taken in custody for “statutory rape”. You ask me, 10 year olds are so under the age of consent (especially with adult family members) that this falls in the category of rape, no statutory needed, and child molestation and abuse. But that’s beside the point.

    Reading the article, what do the neighbors say? That she “wasn’t like the girls who are outside instead of doing their homework” that she stayed inside all day.

    Staying inside didn’t keep this girl safe – it just forced her more under the control of her abuser.

    If this were a one-off thing, I wouldn’t even bring it up, but of course relatives (parents and uncles and cousins and grandparents) are more likely to molest a child than strangers or friends or acquaintances. Far more likely.

    But how often do I read stories about abuse where we hear the neighbors saying after the fact that the victim “stayed inside”? There was that case a few years back, that girl who threw her babies, a year after the other, out the window, and her father was their father. That was in Brooklyn, right? Terrible case. And that’s what the neighbors said then – she didn’t sit on the stoop with the other teens but went right home.

    Why? Because it’s typical of abusers to isolate their victims. It’s typical for them to control their victims in more ways than one – and an easy way is to force them to account for their location all the time, and not be anywhere they don’t have a “reason” to be.

    People who want their kids to stay inside aren’t all abusing them, of course. What a horrific thought that would be. But one obvious sign of abuse is a person who is reluctant to spend time hanging out with friends in the normal way. By itself it doesn’t necessarily mean anything, but it’s a piece of the puzzle.

    Except how can we figure it out in a society that makes it difficult to let any child, even older children, go out of the house? You think you’re keeping kids safe, but not only are you not doing that, you’re making it easier for real abusers to hide their actions. (One reason abusers keep their kids in, of course, is to coverup bruises and to keep them from being able to talk to people.)

  85. http://www.helpguide.org/mental/child_abuse_physical_emotional_sexual_neglect.htm

    There we go – scroll down. A blatant warning sign of sexual abuse? Caregivers *limit contact with other children and adults*. Right there in black and white. They may seem unusually controlling and “protective” of the child.

    These actions blend in in a society that encourages people to be overly protective of their children in the first place. Hurts all kids, but hurts actually at-risk kids more.

  86. Where I grew up it was the exception, not the rule, for anyone’s parents to drive them to elementary school (and often was unusual circumstances like coiming or going to a dentist or bringing a large project to school) However, there was an iron-clad rule that no ne was allowed to ride a bicycle to school until grade 3. K-2 was walking. I started 3rd grade in 1990, so my experiences are neither yesterday nor the “dark ages”.

  87. What a travesty. I am appalled.

    I was actually worried there might be a rule like this at my kid’s school, so I asked for a meeting with the principal just to make sure. Loaded for bear and ready to do battle, I asked, “Is there any policy against my 8-year-old second-grade son riding his bike to school alone?”

    Thank goodness, no, there is not. But he is the ONLY second-grader riding his bike to school alone, and I think he is frankly beside himself with delight, confidence, and pride of accomplishment. I trained him in on the rules of the road a year ago, and he is a champ about signalling and walking his bike across busier intersections.

    I notice that since he started this self-powered commuting routine a few weeks ago (he’s also getting himself to his own baseball practices and games at the park down the street), he is teasing his little sister a lot less, is more affectionate and relaxed in general, and the lovely combination of physical exercise plus a dose of healthy autonomy before and after school seems to be like a magic elixir that energizes his soul and fills his heart with joy.

    Well, duh.

    Tell me, please, why anyone who loves and values children would deny a child this kind of life experience?

  88. Our school will not allow ANY walkers or bikers to school.

    It will also not drop off ANY K-5 child without actually seeing an adult waiting for the bus to arrive. And, if they don’t recognize the adult, they will return the child to school and call the parent (ask me how I know).

    Eesh.

  89. Our district has a wise policy that the bus waits for the child to open the door of the house – because majority are latch key kids. If the kid can’t get in they get back on the bus and after the bus drops everyone else off it goes back to the child’s house. Sometimes it is just a stuck lock and the driver can get the key to turn. (can’t leave the bus while other kids are on board for legal reasons). If the child can’t get in the 2nd time and doesn’t have instructions to go to a neighbor – the child is brought back.

    I think it is a good system since this area has turned into a bedroom community and many parents work 1/2 – 1 hour away from home.

    There have been a few times when families have had emergencies and couldn’t get through to the school to give alternative plans home for kids till after the bus has left. This system along with 2 way communication between the schools and buses have made it possible to change the child’s destination.

    The only group of kids that must be met by an adult are the medically fragile children from LifeSkills.

  90. Here in Japan, at least the small rural town I live in, kids are allowed to ride their bikes within their school limits after entering the third grade. This is total bull sh*! and I plan on bucking the system once my son gets into first grade in the spring!
    This is an AFTER school policy. Kids only are allowed to ride their bikes to school if they live far enough away starting in Junior High.

  91. In indonesia many children go to school with cycling especially in rural areas.Because in the rural areas in Indonesia are still very rare vehicles so that the level of accidents is very small. Beside that in indonesia no age restriction or level for the cyclist on the public roads.Different in with urban areas traffic is very congested and dangerous.Level of cycling accidents in urban areas in Indonesia is very high so in need of more stringent regulations and supporting facilities for the cyclist.

  92. Gives new meaning to the phrase “in loco parentis”.

  93. Sadly, these kinds of stupid school policies are commonplace; here’s another example, in Saratoga Springs, NY, where kids are not permitted to ride bikes to school, even when accompanied by a parent:

    http://www.saratogian.com/articles/2009/05/23/news/doc4a176696ca884152592474.txt

    Student’s bike ride earns punishment

    By ANDREW J. BERNSTEIN, The Saratogian

    SARATOGA SPRINGS — While hundreds of area workers pedaled their way to work last Friday as participants in the national Bike to Work Day, one woman and her son were scolded for breaking the rules.

    Janette Kaddo Marino and her son, Adam, 12, wanted to participate in the commuting event, so the two set off to Maple Avenue Middle School on bicycles May 15. The two pedaled the 7 miles from their east side home, riding along a path that extends north from North Broadway straight onto school property.

    After they arrived, mother and son were approached first by school security and then school administrators, who informed Marino that students are not permitted to ride their bikes to school.

    [follow link above for complete article and reader comments]

  94. Did someone say “rediculous”? This is absolutely rediculous!

    Whats next?

  95. Another problem is the street design that discourages walking and bicycling. The lack of sidewalks means that kids have to walk on unsafe roads. Cul-de-sacs, circular roads and dead-end roads, add unneeded distance. One may have a schoolyard in their own backyard, but to get to the school requires either a 15 minute walk in the opposite direction or a drive to get there.

    The old grid pattern of roads with sidewalks are a better design.

  96. Do kids in the US get taught any traffic rules before they try to get a driving permit? I had a written traffic test in elementary school and a lot of Dutch kids now go out and drive on real roads for a practical one.

    As an interesting side note: someone did research into bike helmets and found them to make you less safe. Drivers think of bikers as indestructable if they wear a helmet, and drive a lot more dangerously near them than if they don’t.

    Here helmets are only required for motorbikes, I wonder how accident statistics compare with the US and the UK…

  97. Ben- yes, you have to pass a written test to get a learner’s permit which lets you drive with an older driver. After a period of time you are permitted to take a driving test. Details vary by state (and province in Canada). Many have a graduated license where there are hours (no nighttime) and passenger limits for younger drivers. The quality of the test, IMO, varies also. The ‘road’ test in Marietta GA was actually on a dirt lot with signs and cones. Not even paved with painted lines. I met a woman in line who had failed her first attempt because she drove down the wrong side of the imaginary road. Not something she would have done on a real road.

    And as for helmets, other studies have shown that requiring helmets discourages cycling, so people don’t get as much exercise. With an issue this contentious, there seem to be studies to support all points of view. It’s a pretty religious topic. My religion is that I wear helmet and gloves always. And it has been an investment that has paid off for me.

  98. Ben – I don’t know about the UK, but in Germany, kids are given traffic lessons for *bicycling* many years before they are eligible to drive. Of course, many of the rules of the road are the same, so it is still excellent preparation for good driving habits but it also not only promotes bicycling, it promotes safe and respectful (of pedestrians!) riding habits and (hopefully) inculcates awareness of bicycles in future drivers at an early age. They even have little “mini street” areas in some public parks for practicing and a “road test”.

    Sadly, here in the US, these sorts of sensible programs are unlikely to be adopted soon, if ever (although I once saw something like the German “mini street” here, it was solely for training in safe street crossings and other pedestrian-oriented activity).

  99. “Policies like this discourage teaching opportunities.”………….

  100. @ Rich

    “And as for helmets, other studies have shown that requiring helmets discourages cycling, so people don’t get as much exercise. With an issue this contentious, there seem to be studies to support all points of view. It’s a pretty religious topic. My religion is that I wear helmet and gloves always. And it has been an investment that has paid off for me.”

    Religion is a good way to describe your position about helmets. Science would give a different answer.

    Come on, parents – when did riding a bike become a huge source of head injuries? According to the people pushing plastic hats, it happened. The whole thing is a scam.

    Look up the causes of serious head injuries. Not just bumps and bruises. Look up the ones that cause the tragedies you’re afraid of. Death. Permanent injury. Lasting brain damage.

    Bike riding isn’t even on most lists UNLESS the list is written to sell bike helmets.

    Fact: Over 99% of head injury deaths have nothing to do with bikes.
    Fact: Riding a bike for an hour is safer than walking on streets for an hour. That’s true about head injuries or any serious injury.
    Fact: All those millions of bike helmets haven’t made a dent in the tiny count of serious bike injuries.
    Fact: Bike helmets aren’t needed now any more than they were in 1970. And they don’t work anyway.

    All they do is generate stories like “OMIGOD!!! My princess’s helmet got a dent! It SAVED HER LIFE!!!”

    Baloney. It cost you needless money to buy her a new one, and it scared three other mommies from letting their kid ride a bike.

    Go look for the data. Google cyclehelmets.org

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