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  1. #1
    Cyclist storckm's Avatar
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    Riding on the Street with Children

    I'd appreciate hearing about your experiences helping your children learn to ride safely on the road. My nearly twelve year old seems fairly competent, at least as much as my wife, but my younger children less so. How have you helped your children learn good judgement and develop confidence in traffic?

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    The Recumbent Quant cplager's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by storckm View Post
    I'd appreciate hearing about your experiences helping your children learn to ride safely on the road. My nearly twelve year old seems fairly competent, at least as much as my wife, but my younger children less so. How have you helped your children learn good judgement and develop confidence in traffic?
    My kids are much younger, so weight my response as you see fit.

    Ideally, you'll have an adult leading and an adult in the back to watch your kids as cars approach from behind. If it's you by yourself, I'd ride in the back with your oldest up front where he knows he has to stop and stay at all intersections until you give the all clear. When riding with them, ask the kids questions about what they should be doing ("What do we do before we start from a stop sign?", etc). Keep it fun, but don't allow the kids to do, well, really stupid things...

    Until your smaller kids can consistently ride correctly, I would avoid all but the smallest of streets. It's a tough balance as you don't want to make them so afraid of traffic that they can't ride, but riding in traffic is serious business.

    Now we can sit back and wait for somebody who's actually ridden with kids in the street (that aren't attached to your bike) to respond.

    Cheers,
    Charles
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    Senior Member sailor2's Avatar
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    I do trial runs in the neighborhood with my oldest (8 years old) and he is definitely not ready to go out on the "real" street with me.
    But maybe it's his little "absent minded" nature. Unfortunately we don't have a good road (good as in "safer") right outside of our subdivision, so for easier trial runs I needed to find something safer.
    I scouted (first on Google maps and later on a bike) few routes from his school to some places we wanted to go.
    I normally have my wife dropping the bike with him in the morning and me riding back in the afternoon, on roads with really wide shoulders or sidewalks - and we meet with the rest of family at the ice-cream place or his sister gymnastics and pack the bikes into the minvan.
    I think his 6 years old sister is more "mentally" ready for the street, except she does not have the skill yet nor a good street bike (She can't stay reasonable close to the right side of the road and her 20in wheel MTB has horrible knobby tires[to be remedied soon]).
    When we go, I do ride behind them and yell loudly to them a lot - LOL - at least not at them

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by storckm View Post
    My nearly twelve year old seems fairly competent, at least as much as my wife...How have you helped your children learn good judgement...?
    By not demeaning their mother.
    Chaad--'95 DeKerf Team SL, '02 Lemond Buenos Aires, '05 Novara Buzz, '73 Schwinn Collegiate, '06 Mountain Cycle Rumble, '09 Dahon Mariner D7, '12 Mercier Nano, '12 Breezer Venturi

  5. #5
    Senior Member delcrossv's Avatar
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    I have 5 in my lineup plus me and my usual order is 8 y.o. in front as she has good street sense and can follow directions,(left, right, stop, go, hold your line etc.) then the 6 y.o., then me, then the 10 y.o., the 12. y.o, and the 14 y.o. in the back. You need someone who can hold a line and follow signals in the back as well as keep everyone together, and a good leader who can follow directions without getting confused. I ride the middle so I can keep watch on the littler ones and be able to shout directions forward and signal directions to the bigger kids in back. On longer rides I'll swap out the 8 y.o. for one of the older kids to give her a rest. We've ridden all over from trails to 4 lane arterials with no sweat like this. Everyone stops at all signals and stop signs and we all move off as a group. We double up at stop lights to block the lane and then return to single file after the intersection. Takes some practice on side streets but they picked it up quite quickly. Note- do not put the faster riders in front- you'll always be telling them to slow down- better is to have the slower riders set the pace.

    Clear signalling and good communication is a must!
    Last edited by delcrossv; 05-26-13 at 07:45 PM.
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  6. #6
    SuperGimp TrojanHorse's Avatar
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    I've taken my kids on some pretty busy streets (10 and 12) but it's not their riding sense that makes me edgy, it's the lower level of bike handling skills... we were riding down a street one day and my son skidded his rear tire on a 40 mph street, so we got to train on what to do when that happens. it can be nerve wracking though.

    I like him right in front of me and we chatter back and forth about what to do with traffic, lights, stop signs etc. There's no substitute for experience though, so i'd definitely encourage you to ride on roads with cars if it's not a dangerous road.

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    Riding with my kids is a marathon mentoring session (for me); for them, it's fun sprinkled with Dad/Uncle giving praise and bits of advice, which they often try and enjoy when it succeeds. Recently, for example, I taught my daughter the turning technique of heavily weighting the outside pedal to rail a turn -- she remarked with some delight at how well it worked for her!

    I try REAL hard not to overload their minds, or to distract from the fun of the ride, but I sneak in bits of info, about bike traffic laws, how to handle different conditions/obstacles/etc.; they have all seemed, over the years, to respond better to road riding after puberty sets in.

    I encourage but don't push much; I accent the positive and downplay the negative (like wipeouts -- talk to them calmly, take some action, like spraying bottle water on a skinned knee and telling them it'll feel better faster if they pedal it off), and what I've found is this: they'll be doing or trying things I haven't taught them yet! My 10-y-o nephew has been doing foot-high 'curb' drops for over two years now, I NEVER showed him that!

    When the LEARNING is fun, they'll suck it up like a sponge does water!

  8. #8
    Cyclist storckm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chaadster View Post
    By not demeaning their mother.
    I was meaning to compliment my daughter:
    But comparisons are odorous.

  9. #9
    Senior Member delcrossv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by storckm View Post
    I was meaning to compliment my daughter:
    But comparisons are odorous.
    Odious?
    Lightning P-38 / M5 M-Racer/Ryan Vanguard

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    Senior Member GodsBassist's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sailor2 View Post
    I do trial runs in the neighborhood with my oldest (8 years old) and he is definitely not ready to go out on the "real" street with me.
    But maybe it's his little "absent minded" nature.
    This is my experience with my 7 year old, as well. He's a good rider, but does dumb stuff. (maybe absent minded is a nicer descriptor) =)

    We just stick to roads with almost no traffic, and the paths. It's a learning curve.

  11. #11
    Lover of Old Chrome Moly Myosmith's Avatar
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    You biggest obstacle will be other children, especially those whose parents don't give a rat's patoot about bike safety. You children will want to mimic their peers and will ignore parental guidance when out with their friends. A couple of years ago I was tasked with speaking to a group of school children about basic first aid and safety. When I brought up the subject of bicycle helmets one of the kids spoke up and said something along the lines of "I don't have to wear one. My dad says you don't need a helmet unless you are a ******." (I apologize as I hate that word but it shows what some kids are being told by the very people that should be looking out for them). My daughter wore a helmet and did a good job of riding safely (calm residential streets in a small rural town) until about the fifth grade when her friends started giving her a hard time. It was a real struggle for several years until she got to college when she developed a more diverse group of friends and became more socially independent.
    Lead, follow or get out of the way

  12. #12
    Senior Member rumrunn6's Avatar
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    follow the leader. you lead. use good judgement. really good judgement. don't take unnecessary risks. stay off the bikes during rush hour for God's sake. I saw a Mom and son yesterday in the heart of rush hour trying to cross a busy street like it was a Sunday morning. this is not a road people stop on but that's what they were gonna need. I stop for people in those situations but they were not at the road ready for crossing at a time I could stop for them. I saw them approach in my rear view mirror and said a little prayer for them.
    cycling is like baseball ~ it doesn't take much to make it interesting

  13. #13
    Senior Member delcrossv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rumrunn6 View Post
    follow the leader. you lead. use good judgement. really good judgement. don't take unnecessary risks. stay off the bikes during rush hour for God's sake. I saw a Mom and son yesterday in the heart of rush hour trying to cross a busy street like it was a Sunday morning. this is not a road people stop on but that's what they were gonna need. I stop for people in those situations but they were not at the road ready for crossing at a time I could stop for them. I saw them approach in my rear view mirror and said a little prayer for them.
    I can't recommend this unless they're older. The leader would have to always look over their shoulder, and the follower isn't as well positioned to hear directions. I tried this and it often results in the kid(s) getting seperated from the parent (more than I'd be comfortable with). Worst is when the parent crosses and the distracted kid is left on the other side of the street and then panics and crosses without looking- seen it enough to not recommend "follow the leader" unless they already are familiar with riding on the street. If they're unfamiliar, right in front if you is better when moving and on your right at intersections and stops.
    Lightning P-38 / M5 M-Racer/Ryan Vanguard

  14. #14
    Senior Member rumrunn6's Avatar
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    right, that's where the judgement comes in. we didn't ride roads when they were starting out. don't remember the age we first did some roads. we also use bike flags so everyone knows the 4 of us are together, if anyone yields for us they know to yield for all of us. lots included in "judgement" such as road type. one place we bike on the road is Commercial Street Provincetown, MA which is mostly full of people anyway. Other roads are Ocean View Drive Wellfleet, MA which has great visibility. Cape Cod can have some dangerous roads and intersections but if you use good judgement some roads can be navigated. We do switch off now that my kids are teenagers.

    I lead usually because I have the most experience and will make the decisions of where to ride and they can follow my line and speed. I can't shout ahead and say any directions and expect them to hear me.

    here is one of our rides from the campground to a beach
    http://goo.gl/maps/XLVPP


    http://goo.gl/maps/HHQIB
    this is another ride we do but it is mostly rail trail

    http://goo.gl/maps/nXpZY
    and then of course all the roads around here are pretty awesome
    Last edited by rumrunn6; 06-07-13 at 02:53 PM.
    cycling is like baseball ~ it doesn't take much to make it interesting

  15. #15
    Senior Member delcrossv's Avatar
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    In practice, from last year's North Shore Century ride (big ride put on by the Evanston bike club around here):

    That's my ear. 9 y.o. is behind and the oldest is the "anchor" there's 2 in front of me here.



    Another configuration, same ride:

    All in front. Quiet street, long run w/o intersections. The leader (then7) on the little road bike has the great street skills, and a lot of practice with dad- better than some of her older sibs. True, gotta use judgement. I moved up two before we got to the next intersection.



    Bigger street, same ride I'm just behind the little leader:



    so I do switch around depending on conditions, but I'm never all the way in front. In any event the leader has to follow directions and be able to hold a line.
    Last edited by delcrossv; 06-07-13 at 03:30 PM.
    Lightning P-38 / M5 M-Racer/Ryan Vanguard

  16. #16
    Senior Member delcrossv's Avatar
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    A note on lane position:

    Get your kids out into the lane, especially before turns. Just today I saw a mom with three behind her, all hugging the curb. they were turning right and a "lady" in a H2 Hummer tried to parallel them around the turn- squeezed the last one into the curb as she (the Hummer) made the turn , with obvious results- as well as not being able to see the kid on her right. This was a residential street, not a thuroughfare. No way was there enough room to share the lane.

    And no, the old bag didn't stop either.

    Take those turns wide and make 'em wait!
    Last edited by delcrossv; 06-10-13 at 12:12 PM.
    Lightning P-38 / M5 M-Racer/Ryan Vanguard

  17. #17
    The Recumbent Quant cplager's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by delcrossv View Post
    A note on lane position

    Take those turns wide and make 'em wait!
    This is something that many, many bicyclists find hard to do. When there isn't room for a car and a bike in the same lane, the bicyclist needs to move over so that it's clear to the car that (s)he needs to pass and can't try to share the lane. Learning to do this from a young age before the kids realize how scary this is at first is great advice. Now if we could just figure out how to teach the adults...
    http://Charles.Plager.net
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  18. #18
    Senior Member rumrunn6's Avatar
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    that had the potential to have a very bad ending. it's the classic truck road mess scenario
    cycling is like baseball ~ it doesn't take much to make it interesting

  19. #19
    Senior Member delcrossv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rumrunn6 View Post
    that had the potential to have a very bad ending. it's the classic truck road mess scenario
    +1. As it was the last kid took a spill over the curb Better than under the rear wheel though.

    The mom was pretty clueless about lane positioning (or to be more charitable, not paying much attention to it). 2' further out and the Hummer would have followed the line as she should have and they all would have made the turn without incident.
    Last edited by delcrossv; 06-10-13 at 02:29 PM.
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  20. #20
    Senior Member Keith99's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by storckm View Post
    I was meaning to compliment my daughter:
    But comparisons are odorous.
    Heck by 12 the same comparison could have been made between any of my siblings and my mom when it came to swimming. By 14 compared to my dad.

    Not that either of my parents were bad in the water, just the kids were very good. (Not great, but we did have some friend who were great, as in National age group record holders).
    Perish any man who suspects that these men either did or suffered anything unseemly.

  21. #21
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    Ideally, you can find a neighborhood near you that has little to no traffic, which allows you to first work on road skills, such as proper lane position, using brakes to come to stops at every sign and not just your feet, etc. Our neighborhood has very low traffic, so I can easily ride in the street with our daughter with no worries and focus on those skills without having to worry about a high level of traffic.

  22. #22
    Senior Member rumrunn6's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cafzali View Post
    Ideally, you can find a neighborhood near you that has little to no traffic, which allows you to first work on road skills, such as proper lane position, using brakes to come to stops at every sign and not just your feet, etc. Our neighborhood has very low traffic, so I can easily ride in the street with our daughter with no worries and focus on those skills without having to worry about a high level of traffic.
    we have a neighborhood near us like that (so jealous) :-) but we didn't enjoy that around our house, so my kids first rides were in parking lots and paved trails. the 1st road rides w cars passing were short and there was lots of coaching and eyballing the kids with an adult at both ends of the line.
    cycling is like baseball ~ it doesn't take much to make it interesting

  23. #23
    Senior Member delcrossv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rumrunn6 View Post
    .... eyballing the kids with an adult at both ends of the line.
    Best practice if you have two adults.
    Lightning P-38 / M5 M-Racer/Ryan Vanguard

  24. #24
    Senior Member timvan_78's Avatar
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    This is a great thread. I love the 'flags' idea.

    I've just started taking my oldest into traffic over the past month, and he's 4.5yrs. Here's some random thoughts:

    -I'm taking the "right from the very beginning" approach.
    -We live in Vancouver, which is a pretty major city by Canadian standards, and live in an area with very good cycling infrastructure. We ride on MUPs, bike lanes on the street, cycle-tracks and a few traffic-calmed streets with no bike lanes. We rode downtown and back a few times now which is sensory overload, but mostly just to the beach and back.
    -He still has a 4.5yr-old flea-like attention span, so it is nerve-wracking (although there have not been any close calls yet).
    -He knows the rules regarding stop signs, bike lanes, traffic signals, intersections, etc. He's been stopping at stop signs & traffic signals (albeit on the sidewalk) every day since he got a balance bike 2 years ago.
    -In traffic I cycle slowly with him beside my rear wheel, on my right--he is in my peripheral vision. I make sure he doesn't lag behind. My bike/body are mostly positioned between cars and him.
    -On cycle tracks/MUP, I bike directly behind him. I yell "ding-ding" (like a bell) if he starts straying too far to the left.
    -I heap on the praise when he does something right. He doesn't shut up (lol, he's 4 remember), and sometimes he's just fishing for praise. It's funny. I told him that if he doesn't talk so much he will make it up bigger hills. He shuts up, stands up and pedals up the hill. I heap on more praise.
    -Sometimes he doesnt listen (strays out of the marked bike lane) and I give him some stern, serious words, but I keep this to a minimum so the entire thing is fun. He knows the gravity of getting "smushed by a car".
    -He tries to signal turns (like he used to in the bike seat) but he's not confident enough to cycle with one hand for very long. It's nerve-wracking for me, lol.
    -He is super stoked on the entire thing. It's fun for both of us, but not relaxing at all for me! But still fun.

  25. #25
    Senior Member digibud's Avatar
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    we rode the sidewalks and stopped at every street crossing and walked until our girls were old enough to hold a line and cautious enough to actually ride safely. At that point it was MORE of a problem. I'm a step-dad. Their father forbid them from riding in the street. We forbid them from riding on the sidewalk once they were old enough to ride in the street safely. They simply had to learn to follow these different rules when at different homes. We did spend a good deal of time talking about the issue. It was quite interesting. Now they are grown with children of their own. They ride in the street and so do their children.

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