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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 06-20-11, 11:15 PM   #1
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Car-free in the next generation? Probably not.

Roody shared an article in another thread about adults in NYC learning how to ride a bike for the first time, and this got me to thinking about the current generation of young people. I teach in a middle school in Seattle, a very bike-friendly city. Thousands of people commute to their jobs by bike pretty much every day. However, most of these people are over 30. Some college-aged or high school-aged people I know will enthusiastically ride bikes around town, but most in this age range avoid bikes like the plague (or any other form of mild hardship, for that matter), and generally view bicycles and the people who ride them with disdain.

At the middle school level, it's even less bicycle-friendly. The vast majority of the students that I teach are driven virtually everywhere by an adult. I have actually seen students who live 10 blocks from school wait for 45 minutes to get picked up by a parent in their SUV. Most of these students actually know how to ride a bike, but they, and their parents, view them as too dangerous to use as actual transport. At the end of this school year, we actually gave an award to a set of three brothers because they were the only students in the whole school who actually rode their bikes to school every day. Some students are aware enough to recognize that cars are not automatically a part of their future, and they'd rather have an iPhone than a car if push came to shove, but, in all honesty, most of my students see bicyclists as eccentric at best.

I think it's based on a lack of education about bicycling. When I was a child, way back in the 1970's, schools actually trained kids how to ride bikes in traffic. When I rode a bike in college, and again after I decided to go mostly car free, I drew on this training, and naturally took to the roads on my bike as if I were in a car. Young people now don't have that training to draw on, nor do most of their parents, so the whole bike thing just seems too dangerous or inconvenient to bother with.
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Old 06-20-11, 11:36 PM   #2
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I read an article, actually it was on this forum, where car companies are having a hard time marketing to the 20-30 somethings, as they are for a larger part than ever uninterested in driving, so I don't think this will be an issue, and in fact I can see more young people choosing to be car-free than us older farts are now.

As far as cycling, lookk at the hipster culture. This is a bunch of teen to thiryy kids who have no vehicle other than a bike, for the most part.

All that aside, as fuel gets more and more expensive, young people may have the choice to own a car removed from them like it or not.
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Old 06-21-11, 03:41 AM   #3
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I am thinking it maybe the generation that is just ahead and just behind the one that your are teaching? My son is 26 and lives car free as does his 25 year old sister. My son lives in Boston, my lives daughter in Seattle (moving to NH soon). My son doesn't want a car and is perfectly happy getting around Boston via mass transit, but is considering a bicycle. My daughter realizes that a car is an expensive tool and only uses/wants one when there is no other option. She currently commutes to and from work via mass transit, but uses the bicycle extensively for shopping and personal travel. When she moves to NH a car may become necessary.

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Old 06-21-11, 05:10 AM   #4
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I think the source of the disconnect with kids today is that riding bikes is not a normal "fun" activity of youth anymore. We all rode bikes just for the joy of it. It was never an intelligent decision based on environmental outcomes, and even the economics of riding a bike weren't so pronounced because it was imbedded in common sense as a kid. We didn't have cars and our parents weren't chaperones, so how else were you going to get around freely?

One can only hope (like with so many other lessons for kids) by adults doing instead of preaching, that kids are still getting the message through osmosis and will come to the cycling lifestyle they have witnessed with "older people" their entire lives (speaking of Portland and other cycling cities).
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Old 06-21-11, 09:52 AM   #5
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As long as their parents are willing (or actually insist) on driving them around everywhere, why would kids want to ride? In fact, it soesn't seem like they much want to go outdoors at all because they are over-entertained indoors. Parents seem to be overly concerned about the comfort and safety of their precious ones these days.
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Old 06-21-11, 10:06 AM   #6
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I would need to see some sort of evidence that this is an actual phenomena since every child under the age of 16 in my neck of the woods does nothing but ride bikes all day every day. Also, most of my peers as an undergraduate either commuted to the university on bike or rode on the weekends (I was one of the few people that didn't ride as an undergrad). There probably has been a bit of a decline in bicycle use in the last 30 years but I doubt it's as bad as the "Hey you kids, get off my lawn!" styled comments you are making suggest.
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Old 06-21-11, 10:27 AM   #7
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Hmm, well I guess I am in that "over 30" category now, but I don't think you are looking around hard enough. Sure, a lot of COMMUTERS in Seattle are over 30, but a lot of people I see just riding around, using a bike as transportation are under 30. I've found it strange that in Seattle commuting is popular, but just using the bike as transportation to go everywhere isn't as much.

Frankly I don't have hope until the government starts to take a stand and promote bicycling and bike infrastructure. Sometimes people need more of a push or incentive.
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Old 06-21-11, 10:43 AM   #8
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There probably has been a bit of a decline in bicycle use in the last 30 years but I doubt it's as bad as the "Hey you kids, get off my lawn!" styled comments you are making suggest.
I would LOVE to have more kids on my lawn--or anywhere besides in front of the video screen. Your town may be an exception, but many intelligent people from Michelle Obama on down have identified childhood obesity and a sedentary lifestyle as a problem of grave national importance.
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Old 06-21-11, 01:01 PM   #9
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I wonder if bike riding instruction couldn't be given in schools as part of physical education. (Do they even have that any more?) After all, it's a fine form of aerobic exercise that's accessible to many people who for some reason or another can't run & jump all that well.
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Old 06-21-11, 03:50 PM   #10
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Back in "my" day we had bicycle rodeos at school every spring, police came and registered bikes, you got stickers, cotton candy, peanuts, popcorn and had fun learning how to ride properly. They also taught us how to be a proper pedestrians... Unfortunately all of that has gone by the wayside, they also used to teach things like respect, humility and cooperation. As well as the Three "R"'s. I also learned how to sew, make bowling pin lamps, punch metal and use a pottery wheel. Damned if I know what they are teaching kids these days.

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Old 06-21-11, 04:40 PM   #11
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Back in "my" day we had bicycle rodeos at school every spring, police came and registered bikes, you got stickers, cotton candy, peanuts, popcorn and had fun learning how to ride properly. They also taught us how to be a proper pedestrians... Unfortunately all of that has gone by the wayside, they also used to teach things like respect, humility and cooperation. As well as the Three "R"'s. I also learned how to sew, make bowling pin lamps, punch metal and use a pottery wheel. Damned if I know what they are teaching kids these days.

Aaron
I know, I feel bd for the kids going to school now. We learned both useful and useless skills like butter churning (history & scienc), how to pluck and dress a chicken (biology), jump starting a car, chess, pottery classical music and wood carving and logic by sixth grade.

These were passionate interests that individual teachers had, and they enjoyed sharing them with children. The main thing my grandson learns is how to pass a standardized test, since that's what the teacher's evaluation is based on.
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Old 06-21-11, 04:49 PM   #12
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sorry to get off topic here, but...

I'm not sure I can remember the exact details, but I briefly heard some stats on a radio news program last weekend. I think they were talking about testing results of graduating high school students (ACT maybe?). Something like 56% of students were proficient in economics while only 12% were proficient in history. Sounds like a good recipe for the future!
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Old 06-21-11, 04:57 PM   #13
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It seems to me that the behavior of kids that are so thoroughly under the control of their parents is really an indication of the viewpoints of those parents, not what the kids themselves will actually grow up to be like. There are a lot of kids that ride their bikes around the parking lot of the apartment complex we live in, but they never leave. We live in a quiet residential neighborhood and traffic is nearly non-existent. I think there is just a perception that cycling is so dangerous that it shouldn't be done anywhere but in the lot here where drivers are always on the look-out for the myriad of kid running around. It is sad to me that people don't see how much more dangerous it is in the long run to allow their children to sit in front of the TV all day.

I think attitudes are actually changing, slowly but surely. The parents of today's middle schoolers are definitively in the over 30 crowd, most are in their 40s, the age group that I seem to get the most guff from for being car-free. People closer to my age seem to think it a very sensible thing to do, although more work than it's worth for their own circumstances.

Then again my son is persistently telling me that he is the only 8 year-old in the world that doesn't have any sort of video game system or a TV. Hmmmm . . . must work on broadening his world view.
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Old 06-21-11, 05:29 PM   #14
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Damned if I know what they are teaching kids these days.
Self-esteem?

Seriously, though, my experience as a kid included no cycling instruction at school or anything like that, and most kids biked all over the place anyway. Don't get me wrong, I think it's great that schools, police etc are doing this kind of stuff, I'm just saying that the lack of such programs may not necessarily be a cause for low rates of bike use -- and if parents believe that riding a bike is unsafe regardless of the safety training their kids get, the kids won't be riding either...

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Old 06-21-11, 05:48 PM   #15
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Self-esteem?

Seriously, though, my experience as a kid included no cycling instruction at school or anything like that, and most kids biked all over the place anyway. Don't get me wrong, I think it's great that schools, police etc are doing this kind of stuff, I'm just saying that the lack of such programs may not necessarily be a cause for low rates of bike use -- and if parents believe that riding a bike is unsafe regardless of the safety training their kids get, the kids won't be riding either...
I come from a whole family of educators...which is why I AM NOT!

Yup they teach self esteem to the point of arrogance, with no humility or personal responsibility. As one pundit pointed out a while back: "the teachers are afraid of the administration, the administration is afraid of the parents and the kids aren't afraid of anything..." It takes a village to raise a child, but the village has been failing miserably in too many cases.

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Old 06-21-11, 05:58 PM   #16
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Its baffling to me. Especially in Seattle where, unless its between the hours of like 8pm and 7am, riding a bike is probably faster.
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Old 06-21-11, 06:35 PM   #17
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I think it's based on a lack of education about bicycling.
I believe this is part of the reason; there's also the larger problem that we as a society tend to see little value in daily physical activity for any reason. Four of my six nephews and godsons participated in sports while they were in high school, but none followed it up with routine exercise of any sort and only two have shown interest in keeping up with outdoor activities of any kind. They're all now in their late teens and 20s, and two of them are already considerably overweight; a third is marginally so. The youngest two still like to go riding with me and I have somewhat more hope for them.

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Old 06-21-11, 07:26 PM   #18
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Roody shared an article in another thread about adults in NYC learning how to ride a bike for the first time, and this got me to thinking about the current generation of young people. I teach in a middle school in Seattle, a very bike-friendly city. Thousands of people commute to their jobs by bike pretty much every day. However, most of these people are over 30. Some college-aged or high school-aged people I know will enthusiastically ride bikes around town, but most in this age range avoid bikes like the plague (or any other form of mild hardship, for that matter), and generally view bicycles and the people who ride them with disdain.

At the middle school level, it's even less bicycle-friendly. The vast majority of the students that I teach are driven virtually everywhere by an adult. I have actually seen students who live 10 blocks from school wait for 45 minutes to get picked up by a parent in their SUV. Most of these students actually know how to ride a bike, but they, and their parents, view them as too dangerous to use as actual transport. At the end of this school year, we actually gave an award to a set of three brothers because they were the only students in the whole school who actually rode their bikes to school every day. Some students are aware enough to recognize that cars are not automatically a part of their future, and they'd rather have an iPhone than a car if push came to shove, but, in all honesty, most of my students see bicyclists as eccentric at best.

I think it's based on a lack of education about bicycling. When I was a child, way back in the 1970's, schools actually trained kids how to ride bikes in traffic. When I rode a bike in college, and again after I decided to go mostly car free, I drew on this training, and naturally took to the roads on my bike as if I were in a car. Young people now don't have that training to draw on, nor do most of their parents, so the whole bike thing just seems too dangerous or inconvenient to bother with.
You ought to see how crowded the buses (especially the cheaper fare, locally neighborhood run shuttle mini buses) get dangerously jammed up with a wall of kid bodies spilling out in the entrance/exit door aisles, when school lets out-that's middle school and high school level. I remember once the bus had to stop a few feet around the corner to let some of those whiny ones off the bus. The teen girl that got off complained-very loudly I might add-about having to walk the extra few feet! Plus don't go anywhere near a school (elementary, middle, high) during pick up/drop off times. The streets around the schools are also jammed with smelly SUVs mostly waiting for their little lazy ones to meet them. Bikes? What Bikes? I rarely see them used as transport around here with the teen crowd.

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As long as their parents are willing (or actually insist) on driving them around everywhere, why would kids want to ride? In fact, it soesn't seem like they much want to go outdoors at all because they are over-entertained indoors. Parents seem to be overly concerned about the comfort and safety of their precious ones these days.
You can thank the media for playing on parental fears of losing their children to mostly imaginary predators. Or imaginary "dangerous streets." What you should be aware of is that the parent/caretaker is liable and blamed if something out of their control does happens. I think that is the real underlying reason why children get locked up with the prized possessions until they reach 18.

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I believe this is part of the reason; there's also the larger problem that we as a society tend to see little value in daily physical activity for any reason. Four of my six nephews and godsons participated in sports while they were in high school, but none followed it up with routine exercise of any sort and only two have shown interest in keeping up with outdoor activities of any kind. They're all now in their late teens and 20s, and two of them are already considerably overweight; a third is marginally so. The youngest two still like to go riding with me and I have somewhat more hope for them.
Exercise and most physical activity that can be avoided is done so with the young adult. "Brains" are valued far over "Brawn" nowadays with both sexes.

Don't worry about the next and succeeding generations. When the car is no longer available to them, they will ride a bike. Until then, we will have overweight people growing within our population.
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Old 06-21-11, 09:28 PM   #19
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My daughter realizes that a car is an expensive tool and only uses/wants one when there is no other option. She currently commutes to and from work via mass transit, but uses the bicycle extensively for shopping and personal travel. When she moves to NH a car may become necessary.

Aaron
This attitude is pretty common among young people I run into. The car is less of a symbol and more something you might need if you snag a job in the outer suburbs.

I believe on the whole, the younger generation is more aware that things are changing quickly and will continue to do so. They realize the dream of car ownership and the suburban lifestyle may not be a given in future decades. Indeed, considering youth unemployment and the mushrooming student loan debt, it may be nearly impossible for some.

I suspect many of them know (unlike their parents) that it's time to adapt... to grow in a different way.
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Old 06-22-11, 10:03 PM   #20
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There probably has been a bit of a decline in bicycle use in the last 30 years but I doubt it's as bad as the "Hey you kids, get off my lawn!" styled comments you are making suggest.
Please don't assume that I disapprove of young people; quite the opposite. And it's not a "Hey you kids get off my lawn" issue, it's more of a "Hey you kids, what do you have against the lawn?" question. Last month, I took a group of 6th graders from my school to environmental camp. I thought it was kind of fun, as did my fellow teachers and many of the kids. However, about half of my students absolutely HATED it. When I requested specific feedback, I found out that their biggest complaints were (in order of frequency):

1. They had to use outhouses or portable toilets more often than not;
2. It was too muddy (I'm not making this up);
3. There weren't any choices about what to eat at meals. (In students' defense, I personally think the camp did do a poor job here when it came to accommodating food allergies, but otherwise this one left me as perplexed as the other complaints.)

I'm pretty sure this has as much to do with the demographics of the students I teach as anything else, but still, I'm concerned. I have students who will eagerly, even joyfully, kill themselves on a soccer field, and who will willingly do three hours of homework a day, but who won't walk six blocks to go home because they think it might be too dangerous, and who view a temporary lack of plumbing as a hardship so severe as to ruin their whole week. As much as I love them, and I do, they seem to be living in a soccer-mom version of the Hitler Youth, complicitly agreeing to work very hard in a highly regimented, tightly controlled environment in exchange for iPhones, video games, and their own personal limo service.
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Old 06-23-11, 04:52 AM   #21
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I'm pretty sure this has as much to do with the demographics of the students I teach as anything else, but still, I'm concerned. I have students who will eagerly, even joyfully, kill themselves on a soccer field, and who will willingly do three hours of homework a day, but who won't walk six blocks to go home because they think it might be too dangerous, and who view a temporary lack of plumbing as a hardship so severe as to ruin their whole week. As much as I love them, and I do, they seem to be living in a soccer-mom version of the Hitler Youth, complicitly agreeing to work very hard in a highly regimented, tightly controlled environment in exchange for iPhones, video games, and their own personal limo service.
I hear you. From my experience, I see the same thing.

Sad but true.
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Old 06-23-11, 08:24 AM   #22
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It could be we simply live in a world that has more information to make parents cautious. Just go onto the Megan's list site and more than likely you will see preditors within a rocks throw of where you live. Iphone has an app that shows you were your kids are and how close they are to registered sex offenders. I have been guilty of going with the flow of this thinking as well.

When I was in Kenya I noticed small children walking to school every morning. Each child had their own little uniform to distinguish what school they went to. But what surprised me was some of these kids had to no more than first graders. I asked one of the small town elders about this and said very few places in the US would allow such small children to walk that far because we would be afraid someone would snatch them. I asked if it ever happened there. He assured me that from time to someone would molest or harm a child. But they were a small community and had a pretty good idea who was capible of such things. So the elders would take said suspect out into the bush late one evening and "question" them. The problem was solved and I assume the suspect moved because I was told he was never seen in town again.
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Old 06-23-11, 09:39 AM   #23
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Please don't assume that I disapprove of young people; quite the opposite. And it's not a "Hey you kids get off my lawn" issue, it's more of a "Hey you kids, what do you have against the lawn?" question. Last month, I took a group of 6th graders from my school to environmental camp. I thought it was kind of fun, as did my fellow teachers and many of the kids. However, about half of my students absolutely HATED it. When I requested specific feedback, I found out that their biggest complaints were (in order of frequency):

1. They had to use outhouses or portable toilets more often than not;
2. It was too muddy (I'm not making this up);
3. There weren't any choices about what to eat at meals. (In students' defense, I personally think the camp did do a poor job here when it came to accommodating food allergies, but otherwise this one left me as perplexed as the other complaints.)

I'm pretty sure this has as much to do with the demographics of the students I teach as anything else, but still, I'm concerned. I have students who will eagerly, even joyfully, kill themselves on a soccer field, and who will willingly do three hours of homework a day, but who won't walk six blocks to go home because they think it might be too dangerous, and who view a temporary lack of plumbing as a hardship so severe as to ruin their whole week. As much as I love them, and I do, they seem to be living in a soccer-mom version of the Hitler Youth, complicitly agreeing to work very hard in a highly regimented, tightly controlled environment in exchange for iPhones, video games, and their own personal limo service.
Sounds like city kids. When I was in school (almost 50 years ago) the kids were the same way when we went to camp or whatnot. EEwww!! was commnly heard from my classmates, whether about the food, the bugs, or the outhouses. If you were in a group of farm kids, you would probably get a different reaction.
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Old 06-23-11, 10:00 AM   #24
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...their biggest complaints were (in order of frequency):

1. They had to use outhouses or portable toilets more often than not;
2. It was too muddy (I'm not making this up);
3. There weren't any choices about what to eat at meals. (In students' defense, I personally think the camp did do a poor job here when it came to accommodating food allergies, but otherwise this one left me as perplexed as the other complaints.)
Those kids had obviously not been pre-sold on the idea of roughing it. They come into a sports game after years of soaking up cultural messages about how much we value athletic contests, and that's where the positive attitude comes from. By contrast, they receive few cultural messages about how much we value interaction with nature at the outhouse & mud level.
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Old 06-23-11, 10:04 AM   #25
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Those kids had obviously not been pre-sold on the idea of roughing it. They come into a sports game after years of soaking up cultural messages about how much we value athletic contests, and that's where the positive attitude comes from. By contrast, they receive few cultural messages about how much we value interaction with nature at the outhouse & mud level.
Also, I think for kids being grossed out is half the fun. Sometimes they exaggerate for dramatic effect.
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