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  1. #1
    Faith-Vigilance-Service Patriot's Avatar
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    How old to ride on the road?

    My oldest daughter turned 6 in December last year, and is finishing up Kindergarten soon. Of course, she will be home all summer, and I am wondering if she is at about the right age to putt around the neighborhood with her Daddy on his cheapy MTB.

    She is a petite little girl, even for her age, and she rides a 16" purple princess bike (BMX type). She has been off training wheels for almost two tears now, but I only let her ride around our huge driveway which connects to a couple neighbors houses etc.

    People drive a little fast on our road at times, even though the speed limit is 25mph, but there is a nice development down the street where there is little to no traffic. Anyway, i figured I would take her around our area a little just to let her see what riding on the road is like.

    But, honestly, what age is normal for kids to ride on the road for their first time?
    President, OCP
    --"Will you have some tea... at the theatre with me?"--

  2. #2
    Senior Member Nermal's Avatar
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    Six doesn't sound too young, but I warn you, that's based on my experience as a kid, not as a parent.
    Some people are like a Slinky ... not really good for anything, but you still can't help but smile when you shove them down the stairs.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Patriot
    My oldest daughter turned 6 in December last year, and is finishing up Kindergarten soon. Of course, she will be home all summer, and I am wondering if she is at about the right age to putt around the neighborhood with her Daddy on his cheapy MTB.

    She is a petite little girl, even for her age, and she rides a 16" purple princess bike (BMX type). She has been off training wheels for almost two tears now, but I only let her ride around our huge driveway which connects to a couple neighbors houses etc.

    People drive a little fast on our road at times, even though the speed limit is 25mph, but there is a nice development down the street where there is little to no traffic. Anyway, i figured I would take her around our area a little just to let her see what riding on the road is like.

    But, honestly, what age is normal for kids to ride on the road for their first time?
    It all, as they say, depends. If the roads in the development are really quiet and the traffic speeds are low, then it's feasible - but only with a lot of patient explanations to (and feedbackfrom) her about safety. At this age, their ability to recognise risk is still developing and will continue to do so for some years.

    If she's been off training wheels for two tears (only two crashes? ) I assume that her bike control is ok - meaning that she can ride and stop without wobbling, steer round obstacles in a controlled way and be able to take in what you might be saying while doing so.

    I have taken children as young as this on one of our kids club family rides but it can be difficult. If there are any easy trails or a good sized park near you, they might be a better initial choice so that you can practice riding together until you're really comfortable with her riding alongside.

    Better still, get a story in your local paper. There are probably other parents with the same dilemma. In the UK, a mother moving to Ripon, Yorkshire, did this and this resulted in the formation of the Ripon Loiterers, a very family-oriented club of, now, 150 members.

    if this is possible, you can then organise short rides, fun and games on and off the bikes, picnics and so on. From my experience, younger kids love riding with adults, expecially if you can have a soccer/frisbee/games break part way through. They also see other kids doing stuff that they can't do yet and it really spurs them on.

    Feel free to email me on the private section if you want to discuss anything in more detail

  4. #4
    Caustic Soccer Mom apclassic9's Avatar
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    I live in the middle of nowhere on a dirt road, and my kids were allowed on that road as soon as they could power their way up the driveway to get to it - which probably was about age 5. But paved roads? Around here, with curvey roads with no sidewalks or shoulders, 14.

    First real road ride my younger son went on by himself at age 14 resulted in a crash when some idiot cut a blind corner, going about 40, and drove him into a ditch.

    Needless to say, I prefer they stick to their mountain bikes & run the forest trails.....

  5. #5
    suppercomutter scott L R's Avatar
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    I rode in the Pedal Pittsburgh 2 weeks ago. I say a youngster on an old 10 speed roadbike, I asked him his age. He said he turned 8 recentley. This ride involved HUGE hills, cold rain, and city traffic. He handled himself Very well. I have seen kids as young as 12 riding in the MS 150 alone, without an adult. All great riders.
    Park your car, pedal to work.

  6. #6
    Tom (ex)Builder twahl's Avatar
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    Under direct supervision I think 6 is fine as long as she can maintain a predictable path. I suggest riding behind her so that you can offer encouragement and guidance, and be the more visible rider to drivers. I find that most people give kids some extra space, especially when there's a parent right there participating.
    Tom

    "It hurts so good..."

  7. #7
    Prefers Cicero cooker's Avatar
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    If she can ride in s straight line and is pretty stable on the bike and not likely to lose it and suddenly veer, maybe start anytime. I would ride behind and a little to the left of her to shield her from traffic, and train her to shoulder check before moving out around parked cars, and to avoid the doorzone.

    Also emphasize she can only do this with you...sometimes kids assume they now have privileges and take off on their own.

  8. #8
    Year-round cyclist
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    My oldest daughter has been riding her bike since she turned 5, with very short rides at that time, and better ones at 6. If you ride behind her and slightly to the left, you can "shelter" her and at the same time provide her with important clues for a safe ride. Here is what I learned with my daughter:

    – She was riding in a fairly straight line at 6 and in a good straight line at 8. Problematic aspects were things like "safe distance from doors" and "not to take too much space for nothing"

    – She could cope with good traffic and complex intersections at a relatively young age, providing it didn't last too long. In other words, riding in dense traffic for 2 blocks was better than in medium traffic for 20 blocks.

    – The so called cul-de-sac streets and curvy residential streets that everyone craves about were – and still are – the worst. As there are no straight lines, there are very little clues as to where to ride, and you can't see upcoming traffic from afar.

    – Make sure your child knows her left and right. How can you direct the kid otherwise?
    Michel Gagnon
    Montréal (Québec, Canada)

  9. #9
    Faith-Vigilance-Service Patriot's Avatar
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    My daughter can ride pretty straight. She can also stand up and pedal. I think I may just get her a new helmet this week, and give it a shot around the neighborhood, but nothing too serious. Thanks.
    President, OCP
    --"Will you have some tea... at the theatre with me?"--

  10. #10
    . bbattle's Avatar
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    Make sure the helmet matches her bike, and of course, her jersey.

  11. #11
    more ape than man timmhaan's Avatar
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    kids are surprising adaptable if they get used to something. granted my GF's cousin is a little older (she is 8) but she rides with her dad and brother in brooklyn traffic to and from the park. i was surprised when i heard this, as many adults have trouble riding here, but she seems totally comfortable doing it. i think your plan sounds like a good one.

  12. #12
    Senior Citizen DiRt DeViL's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cooker
    If she can ride in a straight line and is pretty stable on the bike and not likely to lose it and suddenly veer, maybe start anytime. I would ride behind and a little to the left of her to shield her from traffic, and train her to shoulder check before moving out around parked cars, and to avoid the doorzone.
    That's exactly what I do with my 9 y/o when we hit the roads, we have been riding on the road for about 2 years now and we have had some close calls specially when he gets tired but with practice and training now is straight forward and he knows that can only ride road with me.
    "Life is not like a box of chocolates ...
    it's more like a jar of jalapenos.
    Whatever you do today,
    may burn your ass tomorrow."


  13. #13
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    I took my kids out as soon as they were able to control the bike - I think each hit the road at age 5. Dad always rode behind them to make certain that any traffic would see us. More than one driver pulled over to chastise me for "having such a young child out on the road."

    But, those experiences with my kids were invaluable. I cannot recall any instances where I felt guilt or remorse as a result of having "put them in danger."

    We continue to ride together whenever they are home to this day. It is one of our favorite activities. I would recommend that you carefully and honestly inventory your child's skills and find riding environments well within his/her skills. There is nothing to prove by placing them in challenging situations - it should all be about enjoyment (IMO).

    Have fun - by all means, spend time with your kids and enjoy them. We are all only young one time in this world.

    Caruso

  14. #14
    Commuter JohnBrooking's Avatar
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    I agree that it's very dependent on your child and the situation. I live in town, and allow my 6-year-old to ride ahead of me on the neighborhood streets, with a lot of reminders to stay on the right. But we still cross busy streets by getting off our bikes and using a crosswalk, and also still use sidewalks quite often when going along those same busy streets. As a bike commuter, I'm quite aware of the danger of sidewalks, but I'm balancing that against the danger of a young child doing something stupid in the street before I even have time to react. I figure if we just keep doing it, it will get ingrained as time goes by. The 8-year-old is better, but I know he's still pretty much just following Dad's rules rather than really understanding why.

  15. #15
    @#$% cars
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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnBrooking
    I agree that it's very dependent on your child and the situation. I live in town, and allow my 6-year-old to ride ahead of me on the neighborhood streets, with a lot of reminders to stay on the right. But we still cross busy streets by getting off our bikes and using a crosswalk, and also still use sidewalks quite often when going along those same busy streets. As a bike commuter, I'm quite aware of the danger of sidewalks, but I'm balancing that against the danger of a young child doing something stupid in the street before I even have time to react. I figure if we just keep doing it, it will get ingrained as time goes by. The 8-year-old is better, but I know he's still pretty much just following Dad's rules rather than really understanding why.
    ditto that.
    My daughter just turned 9. She is super in controlled residential environments. Hardcore city traffic, not yet. Mainly because so many cars break rules -- run stop signs, pass too close -- if drivers were better she'd be fine except for the most intense traffic. I would think it depends mainly on the road traffic. We frequently visit my Dad in a rural community. She can pretty much ride off by herself down the street there.

    Good Luck!

  16. #16
    Senior Member BigBlueToe's Avatar
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    When my son was about 6 I started taking him on rides. (He was a coordinated kid - he learned to ride without training wheels when he was 3.) My daughter was 8 at the time and she came too. I had two strategies. When we were just riding along I'd ride behind where I could watch them and use my mirror to watch traffic coming up from behind. Then when we got to an intersection I'd get in front and have them play follow the leader. I'd tell them to "get on my wheel", which meant to follow in the exact track of my rear wheel, as best they could. They enjoyed follow the leader, and it was easy for them to do it on bikes. I'd decide when it was safe for the three of us to get into the automobile lane, turn left, cross an intersection, etc. and they'd follow close behind.

    I occasionally got a bit nervous, but it wasn't bad.

    I agree that one of the most important skills to teach is riding in a straight line. (I told my kids not to "wobble.") Even older kids who haven't practiced this have a tendency to veer randomly, especially if they're talking.

  17. #17
    Senior Member teamcompi's Avatar
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    My youngest daughter nearly lived on a tag-a-long, which I think harmed her balance. She was slow to get over it, this was her first year for highway riding. The magical day arrived, we got a ride partway to the next town, and rode to the mall. I knew we had to do it....it darn near killed me watching her first shifts, and missed shifts, as she wobbled along the road. I rode behind, gave encouragement, nearly had a heart attack (more than once), almost called the whole day off. After a tenative start it improved, 60 kms later she was tired and sore but riding a straight line, and shifting like a pro. This year she did a tour of 300 KM on her own bike and rode the Festivelo in Charleston SC, a great fun ride but one with a lot of traffic at times, she did fine and managed to do the miles every day with a smile on her face. She is one fine rider at 10 years of age. My only concern is shes short, I think a flag on a pole may be ordered up for greater visability.

    Our rural town is like most I suspect, people will be cautious if they see you or your kid on the road. Try to ensure that the child does not get lazy or tired, and rides a predictable line in all traffic. Its hard to explain the rules of the road to a 6 year old but if your close behind you can teach as you ride.

  18. #18
    Senior Member ollo_ollo's Avatar
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    One of my grand daughters is 9 & just started riding in the street this past Summer. Before that, she & her little girlfriends rode all over their Salem, OR neighborhood on the sidewalks & walked across the intersections. Side street traffic is light but the streets are narrow & crowded with parked cars so they prefer to ride to the local High School or neighborhood parks. Don
    Last edited by ollo_ollo; 01-24-07 at 09:28 AM.

  19. #19
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    My son is 5, and he goes so very very slow on his little bike w/ training wheels going to school. I tried to steer him to the street rather than the sidewalk so he wouldn't run into so many obstacles that slow him down (root bumps, cracks, that kind of thing), plus he wouldn't have to constantly be going up and down curb cut ramps. It would be a much flatter route to just stick to the road, which is an issue for him. He does go a lot faster too, like I don't know 6 mph rather than 2-3. I ride right with him when we do that, my front wheel level w/ his rear wheel. But it hasn't really taken, and he's mostly back to biking on the sidewalk only. Need to get him off the training wheels to give him a sense of how speed helps your balance. Right now, w/ training wheels, he just doesn't see it.

  20. #20
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    We take my 4 and 5yo's on rides mostly on non-busy weekends around here. They don't know left and right, but they do know what "Get in the grass!!" means!!!!
    Dani, mama bear biker

  21. #21
    Senior Member RussB's Avatar
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    Physical age means nothing. I think what matters the most is the childs experience and ability to react to the unexpected calmly and correctly. The childs skill. And the size of the child, when I say that I mean drivers ability to see this child. If the child is on one side of a parked car, can drivers detect that there is a child there. She might need one of those poles on the back with a flag at the top. Remember safety comes first. But I would keep her in low, slow traffic areas. Some drivers can't see a thing.

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