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Living Car Free Do you live car free or car light? Do you prefer to use alternative transportation (bicycles, walking, other human-powered or public transportation) for everyday activities whenever possible? Discuss your lifestyle here.

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Old 09-06-07, 11:56 AM   #1
rhm
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Assess this scenario for me!

I am not car free, far from it, but I'd love it if I was. I bike/train to work, and use a bike as much as I can, and am trying to teach my family to think of the bike as Plan A, and the car as Plan B. But it is very difficult. So, what do you think of this scenario:

My daughter, age 8, has soccer practice from 6:00 to 7:30 PM on weekdays. The practice is barely over three miles from home, but almost that whole distance is on a state highway, one busy lane each way. There are sidewalks, but they are good for walking but not set up for biking. There is no shoulder to speak of. There is one interstate bridge with a complete cloverleaf; two on-ramps and two off-ramps in each direction. There is no bike lane --this is New Jersey, after all.

6:00, is the tail end of rush hour. 7:30 is sunset now, and will be twilight in another month. I have excellent lights on my bike, and pretty good ones --well, unusually good for a kid's bike, that is-- on hers. In fact I like to ride at night; but this isn't night.

There are possible detours, which would add one or two miles to the total and get us off the highway for about one mile... but it would involve more than a mile of roads that are not really that much better.

So, I'm thinking: car!

What do you think?
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Old 09-06-07, 12:04 PM   #2
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Old 09-06-07, 12:41 PM   #3
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So, I'm thinking: car!

What do you think?
I'm thinking: What other method are you seriously contemplating for your 8 year old daughter under those given conditions?
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Old 09-06-07, 01:04 PM   #4
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I'm thinking: What other method are you seriously contemplating for your 8 year old daughter under those given conditions?
Well, I ask because I wonder if anyone would seriously contemplate bicycling. In Europe they'd do that. And ... okay, I have seriously considered it. Given that this is NJ, however, I think it's a crazy idea. That doesn't always stop me, though....
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Old 09-06-07, 01:10 PM   #5
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My parents let me ride on route one, boston post road, about 2 miles to and from school everyday when I was a little younger. They also had me ride everywhere else.
That was like 20 years ago though. Maybe I've just become really bitter or something towards other people but given your description I'd have to go car. Are their other people near you that go to soccer also? Maybe car-pool?
Sometimes when we had baseball or football practice only a few parents would drive. Today it seems every parent drives *shrug* I never wanted my parents to be at practice but perhaps that is just me.
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Old 09-06-07, 01:14 PM   #6
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Where I live, in a city that is not set up to encourage bike travel and is set up to accomodate cars, I resigned myself to using the car, when necessary, to transport children, and to increasing my efforts to use the bicycle for myself. Since the over-all goal is to use less oil, I look for ways to reduce car trips, and then, since I am doing what I can in not the best conditions, I don't feel bad if I have to drive the car.

Unforunately, our total "carbon footprint" might have taken a tick upward when the older kid learned to drive. On the positive side, we are NOT buying a third car so now my family is in full support of me biking to work.
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Old 09-06-07, 01:17 PM   #7
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Well, I ask because I wonder if anyone would seriously contemplate bicycling. In Europe they'd do that. And ... okay, I have seriously considered it. Given that this is NJ, however, I think it's a crazy idea. That doesn't always stop me, though....
To append on to my earlier statement. How concerned are you riding that stretch just by yourself? Are you a panicky rider in general? Do you have any issues taking the lane and asserting your right to be there?

I have almost no issues riding on multi-lane high speed roads, or going thru the downtown area (such as it is) were I live. Others I know seem to have a serious issue every other day. From what I can tell it has to do with how the individual rider rides.

If your someone with no real issues besides the occasional horn or person shouting at you, I'd still say go for it.

If your someone who is constantly being cut-off or nearly right hooked, or anything else like that, (potentially due to not taking the lane when necessary) then it might not be the best.
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Old 09-06-07, 01:35 PM   #8
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...soccer practice from 6:00 to 7:30 PM on weekdays...three miles from home...state highway...not set up for biking...no shoulder...a complete cloverleaf...no bike lane...sunset...twilight...detours...
As you have concluded, the practical solution is to use your car. No blame, no shame -- that's just the way it is here in most of the U.S.

The typical car dependency scenario we see posted here is a statement of givens that lead directly to the conclusion "You must use a car." To me, the interesting question is always: what would have to be changed in that scenario to eliminate the car dependency? I'll leave that as a hypothetical question to you.
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Old 09-06-07, 01:52 PM   #9
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I am not car free, far from it, but I'd love it if I was. I bike/train to work, and use a bike as much as I can, and am trying to teach my family to think of the bike as Plan A, and the car as Plan B. But it is very difficult. So, what do you think of this scenario:

My daughter, age 8, has soccer practice from 6:00 to 7:30 PM on weekdays. The practice is barely over three miles from home, but almost that whole distance is on a state highway, one busy lane each way. There are sidewalks, but they are good for walking but not set up for biking. There is no shoulder to speak of. There is one interstate bridge with a complete cloverleaf; two on-ramps and two off-ramps in each direction. There is no bike lane --this is New Jersey, after all.

6:00, is the tail end of rush hour. 7:30 is sunset now, and will be twilight in another month. I have excellent lights on my bike, and pretty good ones --well, unusually good for a kid's bike, that is-- on hers. In fact I like to ride at night; but this isn't night.

There are possible detours, which would add one or two miles to the total and get us off the highway for about one mile... but it would involve more than a mile of roads that are not really that much better.

So, I'm thinking: car!

What do you think?
  1. How confident are you of your 8 year old's bike-handling skills?
  2. Can she ride with cars without getting overly nervous?
  3. Is she a generally sensible rider?
  4. Is she comfortable with the idea?
  5. How far can she regularly ride at one time without getting pooped?

Kids who are unskilled, nervous, reckless, worried or overtired tend to do dangerous and unpredictable things.

I would bike it with my 8-year old, but for me the answers are:
  1. Very
  2. Yes
  3. Yes
  4. Yes
  5. 20+ miles
On the other hand, there are 12 year-olds in our neighborhood that I'd be terrified to try it with.
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Old 09-06-07, 04:03 PM   #10
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I would not put my child biking or otherwise on a busy highway, there are still situations where having a car makes more sense. Bike to the grocery store and drive your kid to practice. Go plant a tree or two in your back yard and make dinner with vegetables from a local farmers market. No shame in driving once and awhile here, you're still net green. ^^

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Old 09-06-07, 05:41 PM   #11
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How about car pooling with other teammates' parents?
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Old 09-06-07, 06:11 PM   #12
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I'm from Monmouth County, so I know what your talking about, either Route 35 or maybe Route 9, definitely NOT bike friendly roads in that area. Down where my parents live in Middletown, Route 35 has nice shoulder, but I know 35 is a death trap north of the Garden State Parkway exit 117.

What other was is there to go? If the speed limit is under 40 mph and the road isn't too narrow, I generally consider it to be bike-able. Even if that means adding a mile or two, it may be worth it.
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Old 09-06-07, 07:50 PM   #13
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Well, I ask because I wonder if anyone would seriously contemplate bicycling. In Europe they'd do that.
No, I doubt anyone, anywhere would let their young children ride a bicycle in the dark with the traffic and road conditions you described.
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Old 09-06-07, 08:29 PM   #14
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Well, I ask because I wonder if anyone would seriously contemplate bicycling. In Europe they'd do that. And ... okay, I have seriously considered it. Given that this is NJ, however, I think it's a crazy idea. That doesn't always stop me, though....
You make it sound like NJ is horrible for children to bike or walk to school. It's not. You live in a burb that requires a motorcar to live, work and play.

I live in a town in Jersey where children ride the sidwalks (school commuters) all the time on their way to school without any problems. There are no highways or interchanges to cross with plenty of schools within walking or biking distance. If I had kids, they would have no trouble being bicycle school commuters.

The answer is simple. You have to move to a town that allows your kids to walk to school. This should have been a major consideration before you took out a mortgage. Now it maybe too late.
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Old 09-06-07, 08:56 PM   #15
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...The answer is simple. You have to move to a town that allows your kids to walk to school. This should have been a major consideration before you took out a mortgage. Now it maybe too late.
I'd agree, except I'd couch the conclusion in hypothetical terms. That is, if one lives in a place where children can walk to school, then a car would not be required for that purpose. To state it as a fact is usually taken as a criticism of the person's life choices, which takes us into train wreck territory.
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Old 09-06-07, 09:10 PM   #16
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The answer is simple. You have to move to a town that allows your kids to walk to school. This should have been a major consideration before you took out a mortgage. Now it maybe too late.
Correct. Your answer IS simple.
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Old 09-06-07, 09:14 PM   #17
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To state it as a fact is usually taken as a criticism of the person's life choices, which takes us into train wreck territory.
Is it just me, or is this forum always in train wreck territory? Which is not to say there are always train wrecks, we just happen to be on the brink most of the time.

Keeps things from getting too boring, at least for me.
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Old 09-06-07, 09:38 PM   #18
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If the world were such that the only time people drove their cars was when they had to transport children or others who could not get where they needed to go, then most of the problems cause by automobiles would not exist.

Ironically, in such a world, your daughter probably could bike home from soccer practice.

I've chosen to live (almost) car-free largely because I can. I don't have kids and not only have the physical ability to cycle 14 miles to work each way, but to enjoy doing it as well.

It's important to start thinking of the car not as an object, but rather as part of a system in the same way that communism or fascism is a system. We are forced to live under it, whether we like it or not.

Some of us have managed to escape the system, but it's important to fully understand why many others are still trapped.

The system will be overthrown when enough people realize that it's a basic human right to be able to get from a to b without having to use internal combustion.

Drive your daughter to soccer practice. But each time, remind her that the system is making you have to drive her and that they built the road in such a way that no one can play soccer unless their parents own a car, and that there are probably kids who want to play soccer but can't because their parents can't drive them and the road is too dangerous to bike on.

Maybe if everyone did this, there would be a generation of revolutionaries ready overthrow the system for good.
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Old 09-06-07, 09:45 PM   #19
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Is it just me, or is this forum always in train wreck territory?
Your perception is accurate. We discuss some very interesting issues here in LCF. However, the issues we discuss often relate to people's life choices. It's all too easy to provoke emotional responses on one side or the other. So far I think we've done a fair job of avoiding train wrecks, but every so often it happens.
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Old 09-09-07, 12:15 AM   #20
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As you have concluded, the practical solution is to use your car. No blame, no shame -- that's just the way it is here in most of the U.S.

The typical car dependency scenario we see posted here is a statement of givens that lead directly to the conclusion "You must use a car." To me, the interesting question is always: what would have to be changed in that scenario to eliminate the car dependency? I'll leave that as a hypothetical question to you
.
I think I liked this answer the best. What would have to be changed in rhm's situation to eliminate car dependency? Two things come to mind, both mentioned in the OP:
  1. "There is no shoulder to speak of." All highways should have wide outer lanes, paved shoulders and/or bike lanes.
  2. "There is one interstate bridge with a complete cloverleaf; two on-ramps and two off-ramps in each direction." Freeway junctions should be perpendicular rather than angled, and should be controlled by traffic lights or stop signs, rather than by merge signs or yield signs.

This is a very poorly designed highway, since it's difficult for cyclists to use it, and I bet it's even worse for pedestrians. It should be rebuilt, but it probably won't be.

My helmet's off to all of you who ride in these suburban design nightmares. And I don't blame anybody who would conclude that a car's needed to get around in a place like this. I think it's really disgusting that our country has gotten itself into a jam like this. At this point, 99 % of the citizens believe that this is "the way it has to be." Well, it does NOT have to be like this. Good road design is possible, and it doesn't even have to cost more than the awful design that's so typical today.
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Old 09-10-07, 07:54 AM   #21
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You make it sound like NJ is horrible for children to bike or walk to school. It's not. You live in a burb that requires a motorcar to live, work and play.

I live in a town in Jersey where children ride the sidwalks (school commuters) all the time on their way to school without any problems. There are no highways or interchanges to cross with plenty of schools within walking or biking distance. If I had kids, they would have no trouble being bicycle school commuters.

The answer is simple. You have to move to a town that allows your kids to walk to school. This should have been a major consideration before you took out a mortgage. Now it maybe too late.
Steve, I don't speak for all of NJ by any means! I agree 100% that people should not buy houses in unworkable, unwalkable, unbikeable, unliveable subdivisions. In fact Lawrenceville is an old town, rather than a 'burb, and the sidewalk situation is pretty good; unfortunately all the really old houses are on Main Street, AKA Route 206, the old highway from Trenton to Princeton and beyond that goes right through the middle of the village. The volume and speed of traffic on Rt 206 is deplorable, but in fact the town is very well set up for pedestrians and bikes. My wife walks or bikes to work, and I bike to the train station. And anyhow, housing -- in our case, a picturesque 18th century house with a name-- is provided by my wife's employer.

As to the rest of you... thanks for some thoughtful replies!

I agree with Roody, and not because I have the same name. The problem is that Rt 206 has been upgraded without bicycles or pedestrians in mind. Ironically, if they redesigned it to include a bike lane and better sidewalks and crosswalks and all that, the whole road would probably end up safer for everybody on it.

Updates and corrections: I did the whole ride myself on Friday, at morning rush hour, just to see it from the saddle, as it were. For me, keeping up an average speed of maybe 17 mph, it was fine. And on Saturday my wife rode it, and she too said it was okay. It turns out my "no shoulder to speak of" remark is inaccurate. A large part of the roadway is wide enough for three lanes; it's only where there's a turn lane down the middle or an on- or off-ramp from I-95, there is no shoulder at all. In other places there is a shoulder, which is a good ten feet wide in some places. The problem is that the shoulder can go from ten feet to nothing at all with no warning. The sidewalk is also better than I initially reported; most of the street crossings have ramps for the sidewalk, and visibility is pretty good. I don't like to ride on sidewalks, but this is not a road where you'd want a little girl exercising her right to take the lane.

Anyway, my daughter and I rode to soccer and back on Sunday afternoon. She's a strong and confident rider, keeps a steady pace and doesn't weave, and followed directions well. We used the sidewalk a lot, and several times dismounted and waited for a good break in traffic before crossing a driveway or highway access point. Some of the curb drop-offs are very high for a little girl walking a bicycle, but we had no close calls nor anything scary. She got off her bike and saw the other girls and realized that she was the only one who'd come on a bike, and she seemed to be thinking, "I'm tougher than them."

About a hundred adults come to these games... three soccer games going on simultaneously, so six teams, plus coaches, officials, etc.... total about a hundred cars. And now two bikes. Biking it on the weekend seems to be a workable alternative. Biking it on the weekday evenings, I think we all agree, would be foolish.

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Old 09-10-07, 08:52 PM   #22
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My helmet's off to all of you who ride in these suburban design nightmares. And I don't blame anybody who would conclude that a car's needed to get around in a place like this. I think it's really disgusting that our country has gotten itself into a jam like this. At this point, 99 % of the citizens believe that this is "the way it has to be." Well, it does NOT have to be like this. Good road design is possible, and it doesn't even have to cost more than the awful design that's so typical today.
One thing we do need to remember is that we all have some choice in selecting where we live. Over the weekend, I bought a used bike for my son. I had to travel a long distance to a suburb to get the bike and noticed that the owner lived at least 5 miles from the nearest food source. This 5 mile trip was on roads much as described above. I'm not sure how the guy would eat if he lost his driver's license or his car broke down.

For my part, when I purchase a house, I think about things like contingency plans. (ie, where are the exits in case of a fire? Is the house in a flood plain?) One of the considerations my wife and I made with out current house is the distance and walkability to the nearest grocery store. The reason we make this consideration is that, from time to time, emergencies do happen and a 5 mile walk for food is a long haul.
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Old 09-10-07, 09:29 PM   #23
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Steve, I don't speak for all of NJ by any means! I agree 100% that people should not buy houses in unworkable, unwalkable, unbikeable, unliveable subdivisions. In fact Lawrenceville is an old town, rather than a 'burb, and the sidewalk situation is pretty good; unfortunately all the really old houses are on Main Street, AKA Route 206, the old highway from Trenton to Princeton and beyond that goes right through the middle of the village. The volume and speed of traffic on Rt 206 is deplorable, but in fact the town is very well set up for pedestrians and bikes. My wife walks or bikes to work, and I bike to the train station. And anyhow, housing -- in our case, a picturesque 18th century house with a name-- is provided by my wife's employer.

As to the rest of you... thanks for some thoughtful replies!

I agree with Roody, and not because I have the same name. The problem is that Rt 206 has been upgraded without bicycles or pedestrians in mind. Ironically, if they redesigned it to include a bike lane and better sidewalks and crosswalks and all that, the whole road would probably end up safer for everybody on it.

Updates and corrections: I did the whole ride myself on Friday, at morning rush hour, just to see it from the saddle, as it were. For me, keeping up an average speed of maybe 17 mph, it was fine. And on Saturday my wife rode it, and she too said it was okay. It turns out my "no shoulder to speak of" remark is inaccurate. A large part of the roadway is wide enough for three lanes; it's only where there's a turn lane down the middle or an on- or off-ramp from I-95, there is no shoulder at all. In other places there is a shoulder, which is a good ten feet wide in some places. The problem is that the shoulder can go from ten feet to nothing at all with no warning. The sidewalk is also better than I initially reported; most of the street crossings have ramps for the sidewalk, and visibility is pretty good. I don't like to ride on sidewalks, but this is not a road where you'd want a little girl exercising her right to take the lane.

Anyway, my daughter and I rode to soccer and back on Sunday afternoon. She's a strong and confident rider, keeps a steady pace and doesn't weave, and followed directions well. We used the sidewalk a lot, and several times dismounted and waited for a good break in traffic before crossing a driveway or highway access point. Some of the curb drop-offs are very high for a little girl walking a bicycle, but we had no close calls nor anything scary. She got off her bike and saw the other girls and realized that she was the only one who'd come on a bike, and she seemed to be thinking, "I'm tougher than them."

About a hundred adults come to these games... three soccer games going on simultaneously, so six teams, plus coaches, officials, etc.... total about a hundred cars. And now two bikes. Biking it on the weekend seems to be a workable alternative. Biking it on the weekday evenings, I think we all agree, would be foolish.

Rud
i
".... And now two bikes ....." (And one less car.)
Good for you, Rudi, and also good for your daughter! In a relatively short time, she'll be able to do the night ride, but no use rushing it. Maybe by then the highway will be "completed" but she'll probably be all grown up before that happens. Until then, like all of us, she'll have to adapt to an imperfect system and try to stay alive on those mean streets.

BTW, this is a good thread and a good post. I hope you'll decide to stick with this little forum.
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Old 09-10-07, 09:42 PM   #24
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One thing we do need to remember is that we all have some choice in selecting where we live. Over the weekend, I bought a used bike for my son. I had to travel a long distance to a suburb to get the bike and noticed that the owner lived at least 5 miles from the nearest food source. This 5 mile trip was on roads much as described above. I'm not sure how the guy would eat if he lost his driver's license or his car broke down.

For my part, when I purchase a house, I think about things like contingency plans. (ie, where are the exits in case of a fire? Is the house in a flood plain?) One of the considerations my wife and I made with out current house is the distance and walkability to the nearest grocery store. The reason we make this consideration is that, from time to time, emergencies do happen and a 5 mile walk for food is a long haul
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Yeah, I took great care in selecting my location too. I think (hope) that more and more people are doing this. But some people are thinking about reducing car usage for the first time, so obviously they didn't choose their location with that in mind. Also, for car reduction to really catch on, most areas are going to have to be more bike- and pedestrian-friendly. Even more important, public transit is going to have to get a lot better too. People can't be expected to give up their cars if it's going to be a burden.
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Old 09-10-07, 10:11 PM   #25
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My daughter, age 8, has soccer practice from 6:00 to 7:30 PM on weekdays. So, I'm thinking: car!
Good idea. Car-free takes planning. Keep working on it. Trips to the store, family rides, and just setting a good example by car commuting, and using the bicycle for your short trips can be very influential.

Admittedly, at age 8, I rode further than that without parental supervision. Or their knowledge. But I was not your typical kid. I pedaled too far. But it made me a better bicyclist. I knew that if I got in trouble when I was beyond the limits that they set that my goose was cooked, so I was very careful.

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