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  1. #1
    Yeti
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    Riding safely with children.

    Hello,
    My children, 8 and 11, and I must ride bicycles together on very busy suburban roads and I would like some advice on how to do this most safely. When I am alone, I ride in the street and am very comfortable there. I have tried riding that way with my daughter, the older child, but it soon proved unsafe and I haven't dared to try it with both children. She and I were riding together and she was in front. It didn't take long for her to get spooked, and almost hit, by a car shooting out too far in a right turn lane without so much as looking at who might already be there. She did everything right but it was still almost ugly.

    So now we ride on sidewalks together. We wind up stopping at almost every driveway and dismount and use the crosswalk at every controlled intersection. I won't let them ride through a crosswalk and I don't feel secure letting them ride in the street so the whole thing feels very schizophrenic and annoying to me. There are very few 'mid-mile' lower traffic streets to use and the few that exist generally terminate in uncontrolled crossings of 5 lanes of traffic. Any advice?

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    Banned. Helmet Head's Avatar
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    Find out the nearest place you and your children can take LAB Road 1 and 2 courses, as soon as possible. Ideally, you should try to get certified as an instructor yourself.

    But, in general, the same learning/teaching principles apply as they do in other areas, like scuba diving and airplane piloting. You start with relatively safe environments (swimming pool for diving, clear days with instructor for flying, quiet residential streets for biking).

    You shouldn't take bicyclists inexperienced with traffic cycling on a busy suburban street any more than a pilot's initial solo flights should not be done on cloudy overcast days.

    Riding according the pedestrian rules on sidewalks and crosswalks, very slowly, is probably all you can do until your kids learn the basic vehicular skills (see the "some VC definitions" thread in the VC subforum).

    But, I think you should take the classes, become an instructor, and then teach your kids, and some of their friends, and some of the parents of the friends...

  3. #3
    pj7
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    I dislike the idea of paying to learn how to handle a bicycle in situations, but some sort of education is greatly needed for children in order for them to operate a bicycle in traffic situations safely.
    Being a father too, I would definately use every option to my advantage.
    I'd definately try some sort of "what would you do if..." type of training with the older child. The younger one could prove to be more difficult given age and lack of experiences along with a lesser understanding of how things work. Maybe try and instill in the older child that the younger one looks to her for example. That way the older child might think twice before making decisions when you are in group rides.

    I guess this is one area where I can somewhat agree with Helmet Head. If you have the money then the training for the children can't hurt, it can only be an advantage.
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    This relatively inexpensive DVD would probably help you alot, Gerdz. I found the "kids eye view" portion to be particularly educational.

  5. #5
    genec genec's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pj7
    I dislike the idea of paying to learn how to handle a bicycle in situations...
    Why? Did you pay to go to college? How about learn how to drive? Have you ever paid for any sort of education anywhere?

    How did you learn to swim? Did you take a class?

    What makes cycling so special that you expect that any associated education should be free?

  6. #6
    pj7
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    Quote Originally Posted by genec
    Why? Did you pay to go to college?
    Yes, but a formal education in a career is different than learning something that comes with experience.

    Quote Originally Posted by genec
    How about learn how to drive? Have you ever paid for any sort of education anywhere?
    I've been driving tractors and farm trucks since I was 12. Never had any classes on it. By the time I decided to get my license, at age 17, I already had more hours in the drivers seat than your average highschool kid could imagine.

    Quote Originally Posted by genec
    How did you learn to swim? Did you take a class?
    A river I grew up on. If you can't swim, you don't make a worthwhile fisherman. No need for a class. We had plenty of ponds and waterways when I was young. Learning to swim came natural, for lack of better terms. I've been swimming for as far back as I can remember.

    Quote Originally Posted by genec
    What makes cycling so special that you expect that any associated education should be free?
    Did I say cycling was special or the education should be free? Did I not say that if he had the money to spare that taking the class would be an advantage?
    I only stated that I "dislike the idea" of paying for what the father could teach the children. Nothing more. I never said I opposed it, or hated it... only that I disliked it. I also dislike paying taxes, but I know the money is needed to support government and public facilities. I dislike paying for services that are required to live a meaningful life (water/sewage, electricity, etc) but I still pay them without argument.
    Maybe you read too much into what I said or thought I was coming off differently in that small blurb of my post. (??)

    I think there are more people out there on the roads today that did not pay for cycling education than did. And I'm quite sure that thruout the last 50 years more people have learned on their own or thru peers how to handle these situations and have fared quite well in doing so. But I never said the proper education should be free, or that cycling is somehow special.
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  7. #7
    Dominatrikes sbhikes's Avatar
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    Two problems here. One is that you just don't see children outside anymore so drivers don't drive with any kind of watch for kids awareness. And the other problem is people are overestimating the skills young children are capable of. These bike instructors are not trained in child development and don't understand what skills kids are capable of mastering or not.
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    Senior Member sggoodri's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Helmet Head
    Find out the nearest place you and your children can take LAB Road 1 and 2 courses, as soon as possible. Ideally, you should try to get certified as an instructor yourself.

    I just completed my LCI certification Sunday; the seminar instructor teaches cycling full-time in the school system in Louisiana. (I on the other hand, will teach it in my free time to encourage cycling).

    The LAB Kids 2 class is more appropriate for age 11. I don't think you'll find anyone willing to teach Road 1 to anyone under 13.

    I would encourage parents to take Road 1.

    Keep the oldest kid in front, and the parent in back, to watch and instruct.

    Avoiding busy high-speed roads is important for family cycling; one of my primary efforts at cycling infrastructure advocacy is to discourage street topologies that lack good connectivity of low-speed roads. I also encourage short-cut paths between neighborhoods to provide longer routes to more destinations where the streets themselved have inadequate connectivity.

  9. #9
    Senior Member kf5nd's Avatar
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    Road One is not for 8 & 11 year olds. They should take Kids One. Road One is for 14+ teens and Adults.

    Unfortunately, I have no good suggestion for the original poster. If the traffic is too complex for them to handle, if it exceeds their cognitive abilities, the kids should not be on that roadway at that time.

    But this notion of not wanting to have formal training to do complex and dangerous tasks is patently absurd:

    "I've been driving tractors and farm trucks since I was 12. Never had any classes on it. By the time I decided to get my license, at age 17, I already had more hours in the drivers seat than your average highschool kid could imagine."

    The death rate for farming accidents is horrific. And probably, the younger you go, the higher the accident rate goes, like for any another dangerous activity involving machinery. I'm glad the poster got through his teens years ok, but we don't hear from 12 year olds on this forum who lost limbs or lives through farm equipment injuries.

    I got through my teen years ok: no helmet, no cell phone (none in 1970s), no ID on my person, no Road One training, no lights, no reflective gear. But knowing what I know now, I know I could have benefitted from all of the above. The fact that I survived doesn't mean that training is not necessary.

    I am going to put a poll out on this theme in a minute.

    Training is the requisite first step in eliminating hazards at home or on the job. Period! (BTW, I teach Road One courses for free, so I have no financial stake in the argument).
    Last edited by kf5nd; 03-26-07 at 09:02 AM.
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  10. #10
    pj7
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    Quote Originally Posted by kf5nd
    But this notion of not wanting to have formal training to do complex and dangerous tasks is patently absurd:
    I'm assuming that this is aimed towards me giving that you quoted me elsewhere in your post.
    But please point out to me where I said anything against anyone getting formal training.
    I believe that I said the training can only be an advantage.
    Where did you come up with that?

    Quote Originally Posted by kf5nd
    The death rate for farming accidents is horrific. And probably, the younger you go, the higher the accident rate goes
    According to the OSHA stats I found, which are somewhat dated:
    There are 3.1 million people working on farms and ranches in America.
    There are 120,000 injuries and 1300 deaths per year.
    300 of these deaths are children.
    So you are correct in your statement. But a majority of these deaths are caused by the fact that farms are so far away from hospitals that proper medical attention takes too long, the machines have safety guards removed, and protective equipment is not used as well.
    But really, why did you chose to steer this thread in this direction when I only brough up my farming experience to show how I learned how to drive a car??

    [EDIT]
    Giveing those statistics, how do they add up to the ammount of cyclists on the road that are injured/killed during the same time?



    Some people in this forum are just plain silly.
    Last edited by pj7; 03-26-07 at 09:29 AM.
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  11. #11
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    Not only should you ride behind your child but you should also ride further out into the lane. As previously suggested try and find streets and times that have lighter traffic. Make your children practice looking for traffic behind them while still riding on a straight line.

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    pj7
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    AndrewP has a good point. I never even thought to mention it before. When I go riding with my family, since I am the most skilled and do it quite a bit more, I always take the flank. I ride in the rear and more to the left, that way the rest of them have more of a cushion.
    thanks for bringin that up Andy
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    Banned. Helmet Head's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pj7
    Yes, but a formal education in a career is different than learning something that comes with experience.
    Judging by the way the vast majority of experienced cyclists ride in traffic, it does not come with experience for most.

    I've been driving tractors and farm trucks since I was 12. Never had any classes on it. By the time I decided to get my license, at age 17, I already had more hours in the drivers seat than your average highschool kid could imagine.
    No one is talking about classes for learning how to ride a bike.
    We're talking about classes for learning how to ride a bike in traffic.

    I only stated that I "dislike the idea" of paying for what the father could teach the children. Nothing more. I never said I opposed it, or hated it... only that I disliked it.
    What makes you think the father could teach the children? What makes you think he knows what to teach them?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gerdz
    Hello,
    My children, 8 and 11, and I must ride bicycles together on very busy suburban roads and I would like some advice on how to do this most safely. When I am alone, I ride in the street and am very comfortable there. I have tried riding that way with my daughter, the older child, but it soon proved unsafe and I haven't dared to try it with both children. She and I were riding together and she was in front. It didn't take long for her to get spooked, and almost hit, by a car shooting out too far in a right turn lane without so much as looking at who might already be there. She did everything right but it was still almost ugly.

    So now we ride on sidewalks together. We wind up stopping at almost every driveway and dismount and use the crosswalk at every controlled intersection. I won't let them ride through a crosswalk and I don't feel secure letting them ride in the street so the whole thing feels very schizophrenic and annoying to me. There are very few 'mid-mile' lower traffic streets to use and the few that exist generally terminate in uncontrolled crossings of 5 lanes of traffic. Any advice?
    From what I gather from your story, it sounds like you were riding straight through an intersection using the right turn lane? Is that correct?

    I'm not knocking you for doing this as I used to do the same thing and think nothing of it. After all, it's how every other cyclist I ever saw on the roadways handled intersections. After reading "Effective Cycling" and thinking about my previous bad experiences of going straight through turn lanes, it began to click in my head that I was doing something less safely than it could be done by following the herd rather than following standard traffic principles. Without going into a long drawn out story about how my cycling practices have changed over the past few years, I'll leave it at this: if safety while cycling (either by yourself or with your children) is of great concern to you (and I hope it would be), taking a class on cycling in traffic or reading one of the well regarded books on the subject is a great way to improve your safety on the roads. You'll find that most of what's taught is simply acting as a vehicle driver while cycling. Most people have experience as a vehicle driver that can always keep up with the flow of traffic and is wide enough to take up an entire lane. Learning how to operate a vehicle that usually cannot keep up with traffic and is much narrower than a full lane is relatively easy but requires throwing out most of what you know about how to ride a bike in traffic.

  15. #15
    pj7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Helmet Head
    Judging by the way the vast majority of experienced cyclists ride in traffic, it does not come with experience for most.
    hehehe, true, so true
    But c'mon, most people on here know what they're doing, even if we don't agree on technique. I argue the hell out of some of your ideas, but I have never said that you didn't know what you were doing.

    Quote Originally Posted by Helmet Head
    No one is talking about classes for learning how to ride a bike.
    We're talking about classes for learning how to ride a bike in traffic.
    Right, that's what I was talking about too. I did say but some sort of education is greatly needed for children in order for them to operate a bicycle in traffic situations safely. See, I knew what we were talking about here. But remember, I said the class can be a good idea. I ONLY said that I didn't like the idea of paying for something like that, assuming the father can teach it. And I was led to believe that he could since he says he has no problem riding there himself.

    Quote Originally Posted by Helmet Head
    What makes you think the father could teach the children? What makes you think he knows what to teach them?
    Teaching a child is, well... the main part about being a farther! In your definition of "father" does not "teaching" come up in it? It does in mine, and is in the top 3, if not the top 1. And as I said previously, the father said he could manage the streets fine. So if he can ride there fine, and he is a father (teacher figure), then why shouldn't he be able to.

    At least you didn't confuse what I said though, except that part about "in traffic", and I appreciate that. But this thread is anot about me and out of all the posts here only 3 of them, I think, have addressed the OPs concern.
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  16. #16
    Banned. Helmet Head's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pj7
    hehehe, true, so true
    But c'mon, most people on here know what they're doing, ...
    Some folks on this forum clearly know what they're doing (like JJ, Goodridge, Gene, Galen, Daily Commute, and many others). Others clearly do not. Others I'm not so sure...

    That said, I guarantee you none of those guys would ever write something like this:

    It didn't take long for her to get spooked, and almost hit, by a car shooting out too far in a right turn lane without so much as looking at who might already be there. She did everything right but it was still almost ugly.
    Do you believe those are the words of someone who knows what he's doing riding a bike in traffic?

    And I was led to believe that he could since he says he has no problem riding there himself.
    Not realizing they have a problem (they think it's the motorists) is pretty normal for cyclists. This is why there is so little interest in cyclist education - most cyclists think they already know all there is to know.

  17. #17
    pj7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Helmet Head
    Some folks on this forum clearly know what they're doing (like JJ, Goodridge, Gene, Galen, Daily Commute, and many others). Others clearly do not. Others I'm not so sure...
    And where would you say I fit in on this list? I'm sure I already know.

    Quote Originally Posted by Helmet Head
    That said, I guarantee you none of those guys would ever write something like this:
    some quote from the OP
    Do you believe those are the words of someone who knows what he's doing riding a bike in traffic?
    Sounds reasonable to me. When I read the post of the OP, I read that they were in a right turn lane, and so I am comprehending that they are turning right. And that a car "shot out" from a side street or driveway into the right turn lane in front of the little girl. In suburbia, right turn lanes can be rather long, around here they are 1/8 of a mile and in some places longer.
    What did you comprehend from his post? That he was going straight thru an intersection in the right turn lane? That is how it seems from your remark in this situation. And there is nothing in his post that leads me to believe he was doing anything besides riding legally and making a right turn in a right turn lane.
    When I read posts from people I don't automatically assume they are ignorant. I read them for what they are and if something sounds off I ask for clarification.

    Quote Originally Posted by Helmet Head
    Not realizing they have a problem (they think it's the motorists) is pretty normal for cyclists. This is why there is so little interest in cyclist education - most cyclists think they already know all there is to know.
    Again, are you assuming that the cyclist was going straight in a right turn lane? He very well could have been but there was NOTHING in his post that would lead me to belive he was. What would lead you top believe that?
    I'd seriously like to know what you thought the OP was trying to do in this situation and what leads you to feel that way.

    I'd like to hear from the OP on this one as it seems some people need clarification here.
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  18. #18
    Yeti
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    Quote Originally Posted by joejack951
    From what I gather from your story, it sounds like you were riding straight through an intersection using the right turn lane? Is that correct?
    No, that isn't what we were doing. When I did have her in the street, I taught her about right turn lanes and getting over to the first thru-lane rather than staying to the right of the right-turn lane. What happened to her was this: we had just crossed a freeway overpass and had a green light so were crossing perpendicular to freeway exit ramp traffic which was SUPPOSED to be stopped. A motorist wanting to turn right and travel the same direction we were travelling shot out, over and past the crosswalk and into the bike lane in which we were travelling. An illegal and inconsistent move on the motorists part, but one we've all probably had to deal with. I have taught both kids, while walking or riding, to always watch the right turn lane but this guy came out so fast and so far that I had to tell Christa that there was nothing she could have done more safely. Spooked her and made me feel sick.

    Thank you for the suggestion of the LAB courses - I think I have a decent grip on travelling safely - I've been riding in traffic for over 25 years, but a brush-up course probably wouldn't hurt. Traffic seems more dense and aggressive than back when I rode the most. I'd love to get the kids into a class as well, but sadly I can't find any courses being offered in the Phoenix area. I checked the calendar on the LAB website and there were several events in Tucson but none in Phoenix. For such a large city, Phoenix is certainly lacking in any transit facilities not involving the automobile.

    We travel just as you suggested - oldest first, younger middle and dad in the back.

    sbhikes - Do you have a child development background? Do you think that an 8 year old is incapable of grasping the responsibility and danger of riding in the street? The last thing I want to do is see one of my kids hurt. If so, we will probably keep acting as pedestrian/cyclists until they grow up a bit.

    I may look up that DVD if we can't find any courses. Thanks for the link. I would like to get my daughter up to speed so she and I can enjoy weekend group rides together.

    Thank you all for taking the time to reply.

    Mike.

  19. #19
    srp
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    Having gone through this with four kids, I think I can help you out.

    1. Get a bike rack and drive to a safer area. This will allow the kids to become better riders safely.

    2. Give them the speech. It goes something like this...
    "When we're riding, I am totally in charge. I say stop, there better be skid marks. I say go, you go now. Do not question me, do not look back and ask me what I mean. Just do what I say. I'm your dad and love you greatly. You don't know what I know about driving in traffic so you must trust me.

    If I see you getting into danger, I will do whatever it takes to keep you fom getting hit by a car, including knocking you off your bike. I am your law!"

    I've given that speech to my kids and a bunch of others. I also grabbed on of my boys by the collar and lifted him off his bike when he got too close to a car.

    3. Keep talking, loudly enough for them to hear your instructions. Car back, stay to the right, near the curb, slow down, speed up etc.

    4. Remind them that the bike is far less important than they are. We were crossing a busy road once when my daughter was about 7. She was walking her bike and tripped. She left the bike in the middle of the road with 20 cars bearing down on it and ran to the side. I had time to pick it up and rescued the bike. I told her then that she did exactly the right thing.

    5. Encourage your kids.

  20. #20
    pj7
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    Gerdz: You're welcome.
    And I am sorry that this thread kept getting steered towards other discussions by people who felt it necessary to bring up every other subject in the world besides focusing on your questions.
    And I'll go ahead and apologize to you as well for the others who felt you were "ignorant" or not in realization that "you had the problem". Lord knows they'll not give you the respect you deserve as a concerned cyclist and suck up their pride and apoligoze themselves. (well, until they read my post here)

    Hopefully you'll all three be on the road soon enough and enjoying the Arizona weather.
    Good luck.
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  21. #21
    Yeti
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    Quote Originally Posted by Helmet Head
    That said, I guarantee you none of those guys would ever write something like this:


    Do you believe those are the words of someone who knows what he's doing riding a bike in traffic?


    Not realizing they have a problem (they think it's the motorists) is pretty normal for cyclists. This is why there is so little interest in cyclist education - most cyclists think they already know all there is to know.
    Hey!
    j/k - you misunderstood what we were doing. Hopefully my most recent post clears things up.

    When riding alone, I think the only non-VC things I do are travelling in a bike lane when they are available and not taking over a lane when I can't keep up with traffic.

  22. #22
    pj7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gerdz
    Hey!
    j/k - you misunderstood what we were doing. Hopefully my most recent post clears things up.

    When riding alone, I think the only non-VC things I do are travelling in a bike lane when they are available and not taking over a lane when I can't keep up with traffic.
    It wasn't a misunderstanding, it was a classic Helmet Head example.
    I'm not the only one who has accused him of "reading peoples minds" when they make a post.
    And he accuses us of having reading comprehension issues, or problms understanding written English.
    Have fun exploring the A&S threads if you're bored and you'll see what I mean.
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  23. #23
    Senior Member sggoodri's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gerdz
    we had just crossed a freeway overpass and had a green light so were crossing perpendicular to freeway exit ramp traffic which was SUPPOSED to be stopped. A motorist wanting to turn right and travel the same direction we were travelling shot out, over and past the crosswalk and into the bike lane in which we were travelling.

    ...

    Do you think that an 8 year old is incapable of grasping the responsibility and danger of riding in the street? The last thing I want to do is see one of my kids hurt. If so, we will probably keep acting as pedestrian/cyclists until they grow up a bit.
    Since the driver shot out over the crosswalk before stopping in the bike lane, the crosswalk would not have been any safer a place to be than the roadway, and possibly less.

    I believe the only ways for the cyclist to reduce the risk of this type of motorist-drive-out collision would be to reduce speed (providing more time for the motorist and cyclist to react) or to operate farther left, closer to the normal flow of traffic, where motorists about to enter the road expect and look for traffic. The former can be taken to the extreme by walking the bike through intersections as a pedestrian (but beware of walking on the left side of the road where there is right-turning traffic.) The latter approach is why I leave bike lanes to move into the normal travel lane when approaching intersections. However, it would be difficult to teach this to a child, since it requires disobeying the striping as well as making a safe lateral movement closer to overtaking traffic.

  24. #24
    Yeti
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    Quote Originally Posted by sggoodri
    Since the driver shot out over the crosswalk before stopping in the bike lane, the crosswalk would not have been any safer a place to be than the roadway, and possibly less.

    I believe the only ways for the cyclist to reduce the risk of this type of motorist-drive-out collision would be to reduce speed (providing more time for the motorist and cyclist to react) or to operate farther left, closer to the normal flow of traffic, where motorists about to enter the road expect and look for traffic. The former can be taken to the extreme by walking the bike through intersections as a pedestrian (but beware of walking on the left side of the road where there is right-turning traffic.) The latter approach is why I leave bike lanes to move into the normal travel lane when approaching intersections. However, it would be difficult to teach this to a child, since it requires disobeying the striping as well as making a safe lateral movement closer to overtaking traffic.
    That's the trick - there is no bike lane on the bridge crossing the freeway - we were in the traffic lane where the bike lane was about to pick up again. Our only saving grace was that we were going slowly. It's an ugly intersection with construction on two of the four corners that I hate traversing even alone. We go through the intersection together when doing our shopping, but for now we go through it as pedestrians.

  25. #25
    Dominatrikes sbhikes's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gerdz
    sbhikes - Do you have a child development background? Do you think that an 8 year old is incapable of grasping the responsibility and danger of riding in the street? The last thing I want to do is see one of my kids hurt. If so, we will probably keep acting as pedestrian/cyclists until they grow up a bit.
    No, I do not have a child development background and that's the point. Most people who teach subject mainly for adults do not understand very well what children are capable of and what they are not. I think children can understand that there is danger in traffic, but how well can an 8 year old stay on task, ride a bike perfectly straight and understand that there is more to be done than just "be careful" because "traffic is dangerous." I think it depends on the 8 year old, but we may be asking more of them than they are capable of. Otherwise, wouldn't we be letting them drive cars?

    Children think differently than adults. For example, my 17 year old nephew just joined the military believing there's no way he'll go to Iraq, believing he'll make 70K a year and because, get this, because he hates the government. Tell me kid's brains work the same as adults!
    ~Diane
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