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  1. #1
    Commuter JohnBrooking's Avatar
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    When to move from sidewalk to road?

    Hey, family riders,

    I am a commuter, so I mostly hang out on that forum, but I was wondering about some questions having to do with bikes and kids. As a commuter, I'm almost always in the road with traffic, as I believe most adult cyclists should be, but with my boys, ages 5 and 7, we stick to the sidewalks, and walk as pedestrians across the major intersections. I'm wondering what is a good age, in general, for kids to transition from sidewalk to road riders.

    One consideration is speed of travel. In other discussions I've had, there is a general consensus that one reason sidewalk riding is bad is that bikes are usually much faster than pedestrians, and therefore are a danger to pedestrians trying to share their space. So that would argue for staying out of sidewalks once a certain rate of speed is attained.

    But it seems fairly obvious that kids will be able to whizz around on bikes much earlier than they are capable of being safe in traffic, so that argues for an older transition age, such as the teenage years. Since riding in traffic takes many of the same skills as driving a car, perhaps 15 or 16 is good, and could be learned concurrently with learning to drive.

    I'd be interested in hearing others' thoughts on this.
    Quote Originally Posted by MadfiNch on Commuting forum
    What's the point of a bike if you can only ride it on weekends, and you can't even carry anything with you?!
    Portland Maine Bicycle Commuting Meetup

  2. #2
    Work hard, Play hard forum*rider's Avatar
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    When I ride with my cousins, the youngest one that rides in the road is 10. The others still have some questionable judgement of what to do when riding in the road so they stay on the sidewalk.

    As for speed in the road, what we do is have the younger kids ride farther to the right and my uncle and I ride over to the ride, him in front and me in back so that we are visible to cars and other riders. When other riders want to pass, they either wait till traffic is clear and then quickly move into the lane to pass us, or a quick "On your left" gets me and my uncle to move over.

  3. #3
    52-week commuter DCCommuter's Avatar
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    A few years back I did a week-long tour with my then-11-year-old nephew. He had no trouble riding in the road safely. (Or covering serious distance. He's a tough kid!)

    That was escorted riding. For unescorted I would think 15-16, although I used to ride my bike to school in traffic when I was 13 or so.

    I found this link helpful although it only goes up to age 12:
    http://www.bhsi.org/ageguide.htm

    What's particularly interesting is the talk about balance and coordination at different ages.

  4. #4
    Newbie aidensdad's Avatar
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    I stoped riding on the roads about two years ago when a guy on a cell phone almost killed me, he was talking and not watching the road,so now I stick to rails to trails and parks

  5. #5
    @#$% cars
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    Here in Chicago the law is 12 and under are allowed on sidewalks. Older than that and you are technically breaking the law -- although tons of full-grown adults ride the sidewalks. I even ride on them with my 7 year old daughter. We slow down tremendously around pedestrians and people don't seem to mind our presence.

    My father lives in a small town in Wisconsin ... there I am fine with her on the street with me even at age 7. But, that town is so small it doesn't even have a single traffic light and there are several Amish farmers in the county so horse-pulled buggies are not uncommon on the roads. Different atmosphere.

  6. #6
    Senior Member kf5nd's Avatar
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    I was on the road riding long distances all over Chicago and Cook County by the time I was in 8th grade. Solo, mind you.

    If I'd really told my Mom how far I was going, she would've had a fit. She thought I was just farting around the neighborhood!


    Quote Originally Posted by hubs
    Here in Chicago the law is 12 and under are allowed on sidewalks. Older than that and you are technically breaking the law -- although tons of full-grown adults ride the sidewalks. I even ride on them with my 7 year old daughter. We slow down tremendously around pedestrians and people don't seem to mind our presence.

    My father lives in a small town in Wisconsin ... there I am fine with her on the street with me even at age 7. But, that town is so small it doesn't even have a single traffic light and there are several Amish farmers in the county so horse-pulled buggies are not uncommon on the roads. Different atmosphere.
    Peter Wang, LCI
    Houston, TX USA

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    When my kids were young, my husband would ride up front, the kids in the middle and me in the back. We usually rode around on side streets and rail trails. When you see the kids pay attention to their surroundings and ride a straight line, it may be time to let them go ahead of you and watch them from the rear. My kids never made the transition to the road on bikes except for a 1 day century ride when they were in their teens. They didn't take to biking, rollerblading was their sport of choice. When I was a kid, my mother and my 3 sisters and I use to cycle 50 miles a couple of times a year on major streets where the speed limit was 50 mph out to the country to visit my grandmother. We started off cyling about 5 miles to the community pool on side streets and some days progressing to 35 mph streets. Today, most kids around here don't usually ride on the road unless they are part of the teen velo club and they act like regular roadies. Some look to about 12-13 years old. The mountain bike group usually ride on the sidewalk.

  8. #8
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    No sidewalks here to speak of when my children were young. We all had flags on our bikes and I led while the wife was at the tail end.

    Vehicles seemed to give us plenty of room with the children in the pack.

    The kids followed my lead and the wife scolded if they didn't. It was a great experience and they still come by often just to go for a ride.

  9. #9
    Cycle Year Round CB HI's Avatar
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    The Hawaii Bicycle League teaches a VC program to fourth graders that has been very successful.

    http://www.hbl.org/bikeEd_general.html

    They say that is the best age (9-10) for the kids to be able to understand and follow VC concepts. If the program had enough money, they would run a refresher class in the sixth grade.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnBrooking
    Hey, family riders,

    I am a commuter, so I mostly hang out on that forum, but I was wondering about some questions having to do with bikes and kids. As a commuter, I'm almost always in the road with traffic, as I believe most adult cyclists should be, but with my boys, ages 5 and 7, we stick to the sidewalks, and walk as pedestrians across the major intersections. I'm wondering what is a good age, in general, for kids to transition from sidewalk to road riders.
    My recommendation would be to get off the sidewalk immediately. There are many dangers that lurk in the sidewalk unless you are walking. To wit -- sudden drops, pedestrians, pedestrian kids, dogs, cars in driveways, handicapped people, seniors, you name it.

    I'd say take the kids to someplace where there's a dead-end street and let them have fun. Otherwise, take them to the nearest playground if you can bike around it. They should take to the streets starting in their teens, preferably late teens for traffic-ridden roads. They need excellent coordination and maturity to keep them safe (ie no stunts, etc).

    If nothing else, read a copy of Mr. Bike's book (www.mrbike.com)

  11. #11
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    Kids should ride on the street from age 4, when under supervision of an adult. The adult should also be giving instruction while going along, drawing attention to road signs, and saying what to watch out for. With this sort of training they should be able to ride the roads by themselves by the time they are 12.

  12. #12
    Senior Member kf5nd's Avatar
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    Very simple quiet roads at 12, maybe, if they are very mature and attentive.



    Quote Originally Posted by AndrewP
    Kids should ride on the street from age 4, when under supervision of an adult. The adult should also be giving instruction while going along, drawing attention to road signs, and saying what to watch out for. With this sort of training they should be able to ride the roads by themselves by the time they are 12.

  13. #13
    Senior Member sggoodri's Avatar
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    One school of thought is that if kids aren't capable of operating safely on a particular roadway, then they shouldn't operate on the sidewalk, either. That's because since most of the hazards exist at intersections, sidewalk use will only make things worse. If a kid is capable of reliably riding in a straight line between oncoming pedestrians and the right edge of the sidewalk, that's straight enough to operate on the roadway.

    My son is the most precious thing in the world to me; at two years old he rides only in the Burley trailer behind my bike. If I am going to ride on a particular corridor, I ride in the roadway. If I don't want to ride on a particular roadway, I avoid the corridor altogether; I don't ride on the sidewalk.

    I have supervised a number of beginning cyclists but have not taught children how to ride. If the cyclist is old enough to follow instruction reliably, I would ride behind and to the left of them, causing overtaking traffic to pass them a bit farther away and being in a good position to give them instructions. If a cyclist is not old enough to follow instructions reliably, I would avoid any corridor that carries significant traffic - even if it is just a greenway.

  14. #14
    Olé Olé Olé Olé T-C...N-J TCNJCyclist's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnBrooking
    Since riding in traffic takes many of the same skills as driving a car, perhaps 15 or 16 is good, and could be learned concurrently with learning to drive.
    I think (at the very latest) kids should get off the sidewalk completely during/after Driver's Ed in HS.
    Once they learn all of the rules of the road, they should be ok.

    Between 7th grade and whatever grade Driver's Ed is taught (10th grade in NJ), riding on the road may be difficult. In my town, the middle school (6th-8th grade) still has crossing guards stationed at major intersections near the school, so I would think that kids that age may or may not be suited for riding on the road fully. I would think that 7th and 8th graders could ride on the road in most situations, and walk on the sidewalk if a situation became too difficult (heavy traffic, crosswalk/intersection).

    Before that age, riding on roads could be dangerous. Kids are smaller and visibility for both them and drivers might be difficult.

  15. #15
    Senior Member juciluci's Avatar
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    last sunday, i saw our bike laws being enforced ... my first time witnessing this.
    a group of youngish teens, one on a bike riding on a busy city sidewalk.. ( we have cops on bikes also) , they stopped him and asked how old he was. as i was within hearing distance, the teen said 13, and the policeman said he should be riding on the road then. apparently wheel size also matters....
    he also gave him a lecture on not having front and back reflectors, a bell, and not wearing a helmet.

    lol the teen pointed to another young man and said... "it's his bike!" lol - the other teen was 15.



    as a cyclist/pedestrian in a big city , i observe way too many ppl riding on the sidewalks, most of them adults.. it is a hazard to bikes and peds. too many distractions. jmo.
    ..life... ya gotta ride it til the wheels fall off.

  16. #16
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    LOL that's funny.

  17. #17
    Ride the Road Daily Commute's Avatar
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    I was safely riding residential streets to school when I was 8. But it depends on the kid and the streets.

  18. #18
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    I disagree with getting off the sidewalk immediately, that could kill one of your children. Most children under the age of 10 cannot stay in a straight line, they like to weave all over the road, they have no concept of speed to time relationship, if you yell to stop they might keep going, or if you yell to go to the right they may turn left (heck a lot of adults do this!). You need to train you children on the sidewalk first and watch them closely, you will know when it's time to head for the streets when they can ride a straight line and look both ways before crossing a street etc. Now if the street is a slow neighborhood thing then that may not be a big deal. My kids (and when I was a kid) rode on the street at age 6, but these streets were filled with kids and in slow neighborhoods where the degree of safety is far higher. But I did not take my kids on a busy city street until they were able to ride a straight line and follow orders, for my oldest that was 10 but my youngest who is turning 11 I still won't let her on a busy street even though she could probably beat the oldest in a race and the oldest is now 17!

    Unfortunately for me neither are really interested in cycling even though the youngest has good potential; they take after their mom. The youngest the very first time I took her on a long (by long I mean in her terms which was about 5 miles) bike ride she couldn't figure out the shifting thing so stayed in one gear but she spun her legs and got going 15mph on a couple of occasions and kept trying to break her record, and we averaged 11mph...not bad for the first time out.
    Last edited by froze; 06-26-05 at 12:02 AM.

  19. #19
    Senior Member Bubba's Avatar
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    Around here the law is based on wheel size. I think 20" and over must ride on the road. I agree that for the most part it is more dangerous to ride on the sidewalk. Most of my close calls as a pedestrian have come at crosswalks and a bike enters a crosswalk much more suddenly than a pedestrian - and the parents in these parts have had a zero percent success rate in teaching their kids to walk their bikes across the road at a crosswalk.

    I think a child of 9 or 10 should be able to ride on the road. Put a bright orange helmet on them and lobby your local politicians to ban the use of cell phones and video games in cars. Once in place, lobby your local police to enforce the rules.
    Bubba

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