You Think Your 9 & 6 Year Olds are Too Young to Ride Their Bikes to Their Friends?

Hi Readers! Laura Alves is a mom of 4 who has made a change in her  world — and beyond. As can we all! – L

Dear Free Range Kids: I’d like to share my little story (actually three) of Free-Range happiness in our small central Wisconsin town.

I have four kids, ages 9, 6, 4, 2. I generally allow and encourage (and sometimes require) my older two to ride their bikes. My philosophy is that if it is safe and reasonable for them to propel themselves somewhere, than they should. I have little kids at home who don’t want to spend their summer days in a minivan while I chauffeur the older two around. A neighbor, whose daughter is 10, asked me if I let my kids ride their bikes alone to the park, which is one and a half miles away with one busy County Highway to cross. I told him that yes, they’re allowed to ride there together. They know the safety rules of biking and of crossing busy roads. The neighbor said he’d been hesitant to let his daughter do this, but if she went with my kids, he’d feel better about it. So, they all went together and had a blast! He lets his daughter regularly bike to the park now.

My oldest daughter’s friend lives about a half mile away, across the same busy County Highway. The friend called one day and asked if my daughter could come over. I sent Charlie on her bike, and when she arrived, the other mother called me to see if I knew my girl had ridden alone there. I told her of course I knew! We talked about it and she agreed that even though it made her nervous, IT MADE SENSE to allow the girls to ride alone at this age. They are now BOTH coming to and from each others’ houses solo!

We are very good friends with a family whose oldest two kids are best friends with our oldest two kids. We were all talking one night about letting them do more stuff alone. Our friends said that they had been on the fence about letting their kids bike/walk to our house, the park, the school, etc. We shared our feelings about how it’s good and healthy for them to do things on their own. They agreed and now ALL the kids are riding their bikes around in a big pack, exploring, and having a blast. They’ve managed to stay safe, stay out of trouble, and have a ton of fun all summer long!!

I’m realizing that there are a lot of parents out there that WANT to give their kids more freedom. They just need a little push from someone letting them know it’s okay. The “safety” movement has created sort of a mob mentality with parents, but a lot of people don’t necessarily want to subscribe to it. They just think making a lot of rules and restrictions is what good parents do. I’m grateful that Free-Range-Kids has inspired me to break free of this delusion, and that I in turn have inspired these other parents to give their kids some much needed freedom. Perhaps these parents will inspire more. Perhaps by next summer our playgrounds and streets will be filled with kids having a safe, and happy-go-lucky summer with their friends. Could this be possible? Here’s to hoping!! – Laura Alves

No, there is actually no mention of wombats in this post. But kids on bikes, yes.

49 Responses

  1. Biking to the park? Safe! Biking with wombats? You decide!

  2. Reblogged this on wife. mother. awesome girl. and commented:
    We need to support and empower the next generation to be productive citizens. Free range isn’t leaving them to the whims of fate but instead guiding them to truly autonomous decision making and citizenship.

    Remember the freedom of riding your bike to your friend’s house, the daring responsibility and independence. Allow your children the opportunities to experience age-appropriate independence.

  3. Nothing wrong with wombats. 🙂

  4. I agree that there are parents who want to let their children live a free childhood but appear to need approval from society to let them. The safety mob really have squeezed the life out of childhood.

    My 11 and 8 year old children walked too a park to play after school today. It was their first time there and as usual, no children around but those escorted by a parent. My children are feeling weird here in Sydney where, unlike life in Rockhampton, there are no children socialising in public. It’s like we have moved into a child free zone.

  5. I have been letting my 9 year old ride his bike all summer — to the park, to his friends, to the local canal. I did just say no to riding the bike to Target, however. Not so much a free range issue as a money issue. Time enough for him to get caught shop lifting when he’s a teenager.

  6. My friend’s 8 year old drives her nuts! She has 2 sets of twins and he is from the older set. Once she saw how comfortable I was with letting my 8 yr old bike to her house she started letting him bike to our house. Of course it helped that she was thrilled to get him out of the house.

    They now go back and forth at will and we both feel liberated!

    Of course my son was spotted practically getting creamed by a car while crossing the street to her house….. but we reviewed the strategy for crossing a street and I continue to let him do it. (also, what I don’t know won’t hurt me).

  7. It is good to know that free-range parents sometimes find other parents welcome the example rather than fighting it. I hope to have such luck when my girl is older. I think one mom on the block will be a problem, but another seems more relaxed than me.

  8. How are kids supposed to grow up and become Tour de France Champions if they don’t start riding their bikes some significant distances starting at a young age?

  9. When I was a kid, I loved the independence of riding my bike everywhere. To me, it was like a “kid car”; a vehicle I could operate and drive myself !!!!

    Sometimes if you are the parent that lets your kid ride their bike independently, it will encourage other parents of your kids friends to branch out and let their child go along with yours. Then, after a while and they’ve all came back in one piece (sometime mine didn’t, scraped knees and elbow from falling off but far from horrific) the other parents let their kids out by themselves to ride to your kids house. It’s a chain reaction with great results. Sometimes you just need that other that “can” to help out the other kids “who want to”. And like me, they get the independence and freedom to play, explore and even [i]drive[/i] themselves around !!!!

  10. “The “safety” movement has created sort of a mob mentality with parents, but a lot of people don’t necessarily want to subscribe to it. They just think making a lot of rules and restrictions is what good parents do.”

    This this this. Yes yes yes. And this ought to make some of us a little more patient with “helicopter parents” — what we’re fighting here is not always incorrigible beliefs about safety, or a paranoid attitude, but an unexamined mentality about what constitutes good parenting, and of a course a strong natural desire to be that “good parent.” Gentle persuasion and calm example can go a long way here.

  11. At dinner the other night, a friend talked about how another mom in her daughter’s class planned a back-to-school girls’ movie night so the girls could reconnect at the end of the summer (the boys had their own event). She said she was reluctant to let her 11-yr-old daughter go because the girls were going to be dropped off at the movie theater by themselves.

    She asked us if we would let our kids do that. The other 2 friends there said no immediately. I said probably yes, though it would depend on the movie theater in question. The other 3 looked at me like I was crazy.

    Granted, my boys are 6 and 3, so I don’t have a lot of experience with the maturity level of 11-yr-olds, but it seems to me that ought to be old enough to be dropped off at the movies with a group of friends.

    While they were surprised at my answer, maybe my bucking the helicopter parent trend will help them think about giving their kids a little more independence.

  12. That “mob” mentality can work both ways. Around here free-range is the norm. Kids are always outside alone, biking to friends houses, exploring the town, playing at the park, etc.

    Last summer my kids made a new friend around the corner. She happened to be the same age as my youngest daughter (they were 5 at the time and both going into kindergarten).

    I had never seen this girl before since I tend to stay inside. Slowly she started to be seen around. When the girls started school, they also started hanging out on the days they didn’t have school (kindergarteners only go 3 days a week here). At first her mom walked her right to our door every time and sometimes would walk my daughter home.

    Slowly she loosened up and started letting her daughter walk most of the way here. She’d stand on the sidewalk at the edge of our property to make sure we were home and then leave. Her daughter would walk home on her own or I’d send mine to walk with her.

    By spring, I started seeing her ride her bike on her cul-de-sac with just the older neighbor with her. They were even allowed to ride on our street (all the kids play in the street because there is almost no traffic). Then this little girl started walking to the park with just her friends.

    At the end of the school year me and the mom were talking and she mentioned how much more mature she felt my daughter was (hers is like 3 weeks older than mine). And that she hadn’t felt comfortable letting her daughter out of sight until her daughter started hanging out with mine. She felt safer if her daughter was with mine even though they are the same age.

    I assured her the maturity and self-reliance probably had a lot to do with having 3 older siblings to keep up with (she just has the 1 child).

    What got me was her bashful admission that she used to be the kind of parent that followed her kid around everywhere, hovering lest anything “bad” happen to her because she thought that’s what good parents did. She used to see all the other kids outside and think the parents must be crazy.

    But slowly, the mentality of the neighborhood pushed her to let go even though it terrified her. And she and her daughter are happier for it.

    This was the little girl that, when offered a banana still attached to the bunch, had no idea how to get the banana off or peel it. My daughter had to do it for her. She’s grown a lot since then.

  13. I love the “sometimes reguire.” My mom used to throw us out of the house all the time, usually with the caveat that she did not want to see us again till lunch or dinner. I do the same to my kids – the rule at my house is you have to spend equal time outside/active as you spend in front of a screen. That does 2 things 1) gets them outside, 2) makes them think twice about playing video games! Bonus points for less arguing about screen time!!

  14. My 10 year old wanted to and started to go places on his own but he’s a bit sensitive and now he is feeling too self-conscious because *he’s the only one*!

  15. Just like people became these fearful beings, because of others’ fearful influence, so too can they change the same way, through the influence of those that use common sense instead of fear. All it takes is that one step forward… back to reality.

  16. “I’m realizing that there are a lot of parents out there that WANT to give their kids more freedom. They just need a little push from someone letting them know it’s okay.”

    I really couldn’t agree more. The idea that constant supervision of children is something all people *want* to do or even think is remotely necessary is not true at all. WE decide how we want to live! And sharing those decisions joyfully with others gives them permission to live too!

  17. Great post, and thanks for sharing the experience. It’s nice to hear about folks who don’t surrender to the fear-machine that seems always hard at work.

  18. My 6 and 4year olds have gotten to be friends with another pair and 6 and 4 year olds down the street (about 8 houses down, but around the corner, so you can’t see their house from ours). The best thing I’ve noticed about the back and forth movement between the houses is that now the whole neighborhood seems like our yard. Not that the kids play in random neighbors’ yards, but there’s a lot more comfortable movement around the neighborhood. When I found out the other kids’ mother is a CPS worker, I was nervous, but her kids are out running the neighborhood just like mine.

  19. Depends on how far away their friends live and what kinds of streets they’ll be riding on. My daughter’s best friend lives 10 miles away on a windy, hilly, two-lane state highway. No, she’s not riding her bike to that friend’s house. I generally let her go anywhere within the neighborhood, though. Her boundaries are the major highways.

  20. I was actually discussing this recently. My brother has 3 kids and their school is probably a quarter to a half mile away but across a busy road. I asked if he would ever let his kids walk/ride to school and he said no. Not ever. It is “just not worth the risk.” not worth the risk of teaching your children how to cross a busy street?? That seems risky to me! But we as children were allowed to ride all over, across that very same busy street, when we were probably 9 or 10. Sad.

  21. My oldest turned 7 last month. For her birthday we got her a new bike, and that day she rode without training wheels for the first time and has been riding every single since.
    At this age and as she’s not very experienced yet, she’s only allowed on our block when she’s out riding by herself.
    She’s immensely proud that she can ride around by herself. We’ve actually noticed a change in her behavior and attitude. Just in one month!
    I haven’t heard any comments nor complaints from any neighbors yet.
    Fingers crossed!

    And, I had a “Proud Parent Moment” (as I like to call them) last night.
    She went out riding after dinner, it was time to get ready for bed. I walked out to the street, looking up and down the block but didn’t see her. I yelled out her name twice, she came riding out from a neighbor’s driveway, and came straight home.
    I remember my mother doing the same thing with me. 🙂

  22. Here’s my story of my then 7-year-old’s solo ride after school to run two errands after school, then go home – about 2.5 miles of total riding!

    Do Marco’s Travels Seem Remarkable? They’re Not!

  23. I am beginning to believe that no one lets their children ride bikes anymore. I was shocked, SHOCKED, when my daughter had bike day at preschool last year, and she was the only one without training wheels! She and all of her classmates were 5! Both my kids learned when they were 4, and neither of them had any difficulty learning. Either parents are too scared that their child will get hurt, or they are just too lazy to get their big butts outside and play with their kids. Regardless, it is a sad state of affairs when kids who are old enough to start kindergarten cannot ride a bike, or tie their own shoes, or go to the bathroom by themselves. Yes, I still have my protective moments, when I am scared my child will get hurt, but I have to push those feelings aside and do what is best for the child, not my tender Mommy psyche.

  24. I am the oldest of four girls, all of us about 14 months apart. (I joke that the only birth control my parents used was when first married and my dad got deployed during the Korean War.) One Christmas I got a new bicycle. I think I had just turned four a couple of months earlier, but I hadn’t started kindergarten. Well, after a while I decided I wanted a two-wheeler so I got my dad’s adjustable wrench and took them off. Then I thought my dad would yell at me so I put them back on but my desire for a bike sans training wheels was greater so off they came. I got on my bike and rode around my street and was so excited I crashed into our fence because I forgot to brake. After that there was no stopping me – I rode all over the place. I think my mom didn’t mind because it was one less child to watch, although if she knew some of the places I went she would have died. The worst part is my nephew, who is 25, never learned to ride a bike because my idiotic sister was such an idiot about protecting her baby. And he still can’t!

  25. *then *than two different words, to different meanings. Love the story though!!! ❤

  26. The only question I would have is how busy a county highway do they have to cross, and can they do so at a stoplight rather than making snap judgments about oncoming traffic. My kids biked all around the neighborhood – which is part new, with sidewalks and part old, without sidewalks – by the time they were 7 and 5, and they started crossing a busy street to get to a neighborhood nearby where many of their friends lived. We didn’t think they were ready for it, but when we found out that they’d been doing that, we were OK with it. I’m sure over the years they’ve made their share of unsafe crossings, though…. On the other hand, staying in the neighborhood was no guarantee of safety either. The youngest one once got stopped by police for speeding down a steep hill on his bike. He may have been going above 25 mph. Many years later, he also told me about some of the stunts they used to pull on their bikes. Glad I didn’t have to watch to do it!

  27. I am so happy when I see these types of columns. As a child, I was kicked out of the house and sent to the local parks for Arts and Crafts every summer. Sometimes I went with my sister or friends, other times I went alone and met friends at the parks. We came home when the streetlights lit at dusk.
    Today, I am father to a ten-year-old son. He has been taught the rules of safely crossing streets, directions to and from home to the parks, and when sent out, carries a Motorola walkie-talkie and a watch. He checks in with me by radio at pre-set regular intervals–usually every 30 minutes unless his plans change and he goes to visit a friend.
    I wrote on here a few years ago about my sister and mother siccing CPS on me for letting my son wait alone for 20-30 minutes on my porch for the school bus, so I could get to my 8am Civil Engineering classes at the local college. Thankfully that report went “non-indicated.”
    My mother partied and went out to bars every weekend when we were growing up. According to conversations recently with her friends from back in the day, one said, “…your mother did all kinds of drugs back when you were kids.” She still pops Vicodin like M&Ms today for a bum ankle she refuses to get fixed, despite being an LPN and knowing better. Her boyfriend, pushed my up a flight of stairs when I was six. I fell and hit a sharp corner on the molding. My right middle fingertip had to be sewn back on in the E.R. I saw the guy yesterday, and whenever I do I am reminded of that time and have to reign in my desire to body slam his near-70-year-old form.
    The same mother who used to kick me out of the house as a child (during less safe times for kids), now has successfully gained temporary sole custody of my son in Family Court. She and my (coaine-addicted/alcoholic) sister claim I am negligent in parenting for letting my son go to the parks alone.
    These parks are signed at the entrances that no child under seven is allowed unsupervised. As a reminder, my son is ten.
    CPS and the judge agreed with the allegations of negligence. They “indicated” my negligence as a parent. Now I am on some registry until my son is 28 yrs old.
    Now, I can only call my son at pre-set times, and all phone calls and visits need to be supervised and monitored.
    My son has never been to the hospital except once for a breathing treatment during a particularly bad allergy season. He has not a single stitch or broken bone. He has been in Cub Scouts, rides bikes only with a helmet, and crosses streets at the crosswalks. The absolute worst thing that ever happened was one day he was carried home by a lifeguard’s boyfriend one block when he wrecked his bike and scraped his knee.
    My attorney is from Legal Aid, and seems to be apathetic about the case. What advice could your readers offer to help me convince the judge that I am not a negligent parent? This is all unfolding in Broome County, NY Family Court under Judge Peter Charnetsky.
    How do we teach the next generation of our society to be independent and free-thinking if we hold there hands and make all of their decisions for them?
    Thank you for taking the time to read my story. I welcome any feedback.

  28. Quote: “Perhaps by next summer our playgrounds and streets will be filled with kids having a safe, and happy-go-lucky summer with their friends.”

    Just like it used to be Laura some 50 years ago before the one-step-ahead child advocates entered the picture. Could this be possible? As you said Laura, we can only hope!

  29. Edit to my above comment: My first post about leaving my son on the porch to wait for the school bus was posted 9/23/2010.

  30. My girls are allowed to do many things some of their friends were not, for two reasons I think – firstly because we live in a relatively blue-collar neighbourhood and the parents aren’t too precious with their darlings, and secondly because there are two of them close in age and they can go places as a pair (also they have big bro to accompany them too, if I thought something was a bit dicey). They now go to a more middle-class school, and it has taken a while for some of their friends to be allowed to come with them for walks, trips to the mall, building cooking fires etc….which shocked me at the time because these kids were 10 and 11, and what neurotypical 11 year old is not capable of finding their way to the shops and back alone? I note the ‘rigid ‘parents are becoming more relaxed now, thank goodness – they seem to be paying some attention to the fact that the kids of us more relaxed ones are not getting abducted on a regular basis (or at all 🙂 ), and that kids are capable of finding their way round a neighbourhood or a small city in the company of others of their own age…..

    And I want a wombat! Honestly, Lenore, it has to be the ultimate cycling accessory. More fun than the lambs or cat that I used to try to tie to my bike – and a lot easier to drag than a goat….:-)

  31. This is a great example of initiating change through example. FRK has given me the courage to overcome much of the fear of being judged by helicopter parents. Now if the subject comes up of my 9 year old biking to her friend’s house, playing unsupervised at the park, or staying home alone for a little while, and a surprised parent asks,”You feel okay with that?” I answer “Yes” with confidence. Some times they look at me with a little skepticism, but more often than not I see a little light bulb come on over their head.

  32. 46 years ago when I was a child of 10, I was so self conscious of how I looked with my shirt off in a bathing suit. I was just a skinny-armed kid. But because I rode my bike all over town, back and forth to the swimming pool, to school and back, up and down steep hills, I had the strongest legs on the block. I never went shirtless but I loved wearing shorts! All because I rode my bike EVERYWHERE.

  33. It’s nice to hear about some successful stories of kids getting age appropriate freedom vs always hearing about the horror stories. I hope we get more of those!! Today my two girls had their swim class. I was finishing getting the 21 month old dressed and the 4 year old was already done. She asked to “feed the dolphins” (there is a statue of three dolphins outside the swim school. I told her to go ahead and stay on the grass, away from the parking lot. A couple of minutes later (unattended! outside without direct supervision!) I found her putting grass in the open dolphin’s mouth. Who knew dolphins ate grass? 🙂 No one called CPS, no one was freaking out there was this little girl putting grass inside of the dolphin statue.

  34. very sweet! Lenore Skenazy Author of the bookand blog, Free-Range Kids Host of Discovery/TLC International’s “World’s Worst Mom” (the title is ironic!). Here’s a 2-minutesample. Busy twittering atFreeRangeKids And while we’re at it, also author of the trivia book that puts the fun in short term memory loss:”Who’s The Blonde that Married What’s-His-Name?” 646 734 8426(cell)


  35. My kids are going into their 3rd year of biking to school. They biked every day this summer to swim practice, and enjoy the freedom and responsibility of being responsible for their own commute. They know gas prices and every time they get on their bike are aware that they are saving money and reducing their impact on the environment.

    My oldest (11) is being “hired” to bike my neighbor’s 5 yo son to Kindergarten this year. He is happy to have this job (for $10 a week!) but he’s also thinking now like a parent. He asked that we go to our township building soon to ask that they put some pedestrian crossing/ white lines on some intersections he has concerns about.

    It is amazing what kids can accomplish when we trust them.

  36. I am actually trying to decide whether to let my two older boys (ages 9 and 7-soon-to-be-8) ride their bikes to school this year. Before, it was 1.5 miles and crossed several busy roads, but a new road just opened near our house that is a direct path to the school and they only have to cross one busy street without a crossing guard (but there is a light at the corner) and the other street by the school has a crossing guard. Plus with the new road, it makes it only 1 mile to the school. I have ridden it with them a few times over the summer, but I’m still debating whether or not to let them. Maybe I should, after reading this. I do let them bike to their friends’ houses, but that is all within like .2 miles of our house, we live in a community that is highly condensed with school-age kids, so they don’t have to go far to go to a friend’s.

  37. so good to hear such a positive story

  38. My kids are 5 and don’t really have any friends or fun destinations within biking distance yet. Plus, we live on top of a fairly steep hill, so I’d rather they wait until they get better with their brakes. I keep their bikes in the trunk of my car, so they can use them at parks. It may seem contrived, but I think it’s important for kids to learn how to ride. I can’t imagine not being able to ride my bike as a kid. Now I have one kid who enjoys riding (but has nowhere to ride to), and one who almost sees it as a chore most of the time. I don’t think the majority of their friends are into bikes, or I’d be hearing about it. I seem to hear enough about video games and fad movies.

  39. We live in NYC. My kids 8 and 11 ride bikes a lot at my parents in MA (around the block themselves) and at my brother’s in upstate NY. All week, my kids and nephews have been riding to the town pool in Vestal, NY, about a 1/2 a mile with my sister-in-law. My son and nephew (8 and almost 8) ride faster, far ahead and take a different route home themselves. Today, my 11 year old, cautious daughter, was riding slow and when my sister-in-law rode ahead with my newly 6 year old nephew becuase of oncoming cars, my daughter was left behind and got “lost.” My sister-in-law went back to find her, and retracing several possible routes, and did not see her. A few minutes later, she found her. She had gone back to the pool to wait (and ask a lifeguard to borrow a phone to call). We told her she did exactly the right thing.

  40. Careful, in Broome County, CPS would classify that as negligence.

  41. Depends on how far away their friends live and what kinds of streets they’ll be riding on. My daughter’s best friend lives 10 miles away on a windy, hilly, two-lane state highway.

    While it might depend on age, when I was 12 I rode my ten speed bike to “work” (long story) along windy, hilly, two-lane state highways in Vermont. When I go visit my Mom, as a 40+ year-old adult, I ride a bike along windy, hilly, two-lane state and federal highways in Vermont and New Hampshire. Of course, it has a lot more gears but I ride much further than I used to… 😀

    Hilly and windy and two-lane aren’t necessarily dangerous. It depends on the size of and quality of the shoulder. You don’t need that much space for a bicycle, but you want to make sure that the quality of the space you’re riding in is decent. Lots of cracks, potholes, etc. are going to inspire you to swerve into the street. If she wears glasses, consider picking up a mirror that mounts on her glasses. I wear one when I ride and it helps me see cars approaching from behind so I can tell if it safe for me to move into traffic. They also have mirrors that mount on handlebars and helmets.

    If the hills are steep and the road is narrow, don’t be afraid to walk your bike along the shoulder. There’s a hill in particular that I always walk up because it is very steep and has blind turns at the top and bottom. Yeah, it ain’t hard-core Lance, but it’s a dangerous hill and I feel more comfortable doing so. Of course, it could be that I’m a wimp… 😀

    If you’re driving her over to her friend’s sometime, it might be worthwhile for the two of you to look over the route and see how reasonable it is for bicycling and come up with a strategy for tackling it. Where are the really dangerous areas? What can be done to minimize those dangers? You may look it over and say, “No way! Look at the shoulder! You’d have to ride in the middle of the street!” You might discover that there’s really just 2 or 3 half-mile stretches that are kind of nasty and the rest is okay.

    Depending on population density, also check out Google’s bike routes and street views. While I’m not necessarily a big fan of their bike routes (they insist on sending me through back roads of areas of Los Angeles where I can get shot for wearing the wrong colored jersey), there may be other routes to her house that avoid the more perilous parts of the state highway. But you can combine bike routes and street views to get an idea of where she’ll be riding through.

    Planning a bike trip can be fun, even if you’re not doing the biking!

  42. Some people have remarked on parents who just need a push to be more Free-Range. Some of it may be that no one wants to be first to take the risk.

    “It’s too dangerous for my kid to ride over to see your kid.” is an easy answer. But once I see your kid ride over to my kid a half-dozen times and live to tell the tale, it’s a bit easier to say, “Well, if he can do it, my kid can do it.”

    Most people are followers–they won’t do it (or let their kids do it) until somebody else does it first.

  43. As someone who rides a lot, and who lives in a town that’s really, really good for cycling, it’s weird to read some of these comments. My kids have been riding alone from the time they could ride. They rode on the back of my bike before that….

    Teach yourself how to ride. Really. Learn the rules of the road on a bike. It’s just like a car, except you’re not cocooned in steel. Teach your kids how to signal, stop signs, red lights, etc.

    Make sure your kids wear bright clothes and a helmet. I’ve cracked 3; the rest of my family are at one each. Cycling is fun, it’s exhilirating, and it’s very liberating, but it’s also a hard landing when you smack your head on something.

    Once your kids know the rules of the road, let them go. It scares me when my daughter goes on one of her rides. I really really want to be out there with her. But it’s her time to be by herself, and I can’t let my own fears limit her freedom.

    Let your kids go and they’ll surprise you.

  44. I’m in two minds about the cycling thing and being free range.

    There are two issues for me, which lead me to err on the side of the helicopter (and believe me, I am FAR from helicoptery).

    The first is traffic. Even on “quiet” back streets, people drive like maniacs, and there are usually many cars parked on the street (most houses around here have driveway/garage parking for one car, but 2 cars per household), so it’s a bit crazy on the roads.

    Secondly, let’s say I let them ride on the footpath (which is legal for 12yos and younger, and any adult riding with them). Then there’s the issue of driveways. My girls walk to school, and I walk to pick them up, and we’ve had a few near-misses. This could only be exacerbated by the speed at which cycling occurs, meaning a cycling child wouldn’t hear the car until it was too late to stop.

    So, it’s a compromise here. We take the kids and their bikes to the bike track, and let them free-range there.

    There, I confessed it. I helicopter!

  45. I actually feel a bit the same as you about cycling and traffic. I have had some near misses in our neighborhood crossing on foot, in the crosswalk, with the light. I think sometimes the process of controlling the bike can make it more difficult for kids to be as attentive as they need to be to get across our dangerous roads. On foot or biking on the sidewalk and walking their bikes across the street seems safe enough to me, though.

  46. Right on! My three oldest (11,10 and 8) ride together all the time. I’ve tried to motivate others but usually get that “my kids don’t want to do that” or the “she’s batshit” look, and I live in a low car traffic area. The places they ride and and the routes they take have been ridden HUNDREDS of times with me or my husband, with the rules repeated until I’m hoarse. There is always a chance for danger…even sitting on your couch…but I feel like it’s time to let them fly.

  47. That’s fantastic! I think there has been some degree of that in our neighborhood… not necessarily spoken, but as more and more parents are letting their kids run/bike/skateboard around unsupervised, I see even more kids doing it. I think parents have started to realize, “Well, those kids are the same ages as mine, and their parents aren’t out there watching them all the time.”. There has been a nice waterfall effect.

  48. Possibly one of the reasons that some of these children are not so much into bike riding comes from that fact that it is a planned trip to a designated riding area, under parental supervision. Hills, narrow roads, crossings, traffic and driveways all present obstacles, yes. These are obstacles that one can teach their child to deal with.
    Bike riding to me isn’t just about the fun, it is about learning to problem solve and adapting to your surroundings. You would be surprised how quickly kids can adapt. Alot of times faster than us adults, because they don’t overthink the situation.
    If there is a dog on their route they don’t like, or a driveway, or traffic or whatever, chances are they will just find a detour to avoid.
    Bike riding by nature makes one quite aware of their surroundings. Much more so than walking, because walking allows for many more distractions.

  49. To be fair, I was one of those children that did not learn to ride a bike without training wheels until I was ‘old'(7). All of my siblings learn at a decent age, and I recall my parents and various extended family members encouraging me and trying to help me. Just don’t think balance was my strong point, despite the balancing beam we had to play on.

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