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My 11 year old wants to ride his bike 3 miles to school

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My 11 year old wants to ride his bike 3 miles to school

Old 04-11-11, 07:44 AM
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tjspiel
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My 11 year old wants to ride his bike 3 miles to school

It's about half trail, half fairly quiet residential streets but it would be during rush hour. We've ridden as a family to school several times but he's never ridden very far on his own. We did get him a cell phone recently.

The plan would be that I'd ride with him for a week or two just reinforcing the use of signals, paying attention at intersections, watching for cars pulling out and doors opening, etc. I couldn't ride with him all the time because I'd end up getting to work late. The higher ups aren't going to mind for a couple of weeks but not on a permanent basis.

Seems like I was riding everywhere at that age but I lived in a more rural place as a kid.

What are your thoughts, concerns, or tips?

Last edited by tjspiel; 04-11-11 at 08:11 AM.
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Old 04-11-11, 08:04 AM
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I don't have any children, but I used to ride to school every day at that age (and younger). Everybody I knew did. Not only that we'd go out and ride to the ballpark, to get ice cream/candy/play videogames/etc. Between today's kids not wanting to go outside and always being tied to some electronic contraption and parents being paranoid, I don't what' going on. I am not intending this for you personally, just a general statement.

I think he'll be fine. We used to be told not to be inside during the day and to go outside and ride our bikes, just be home when the street lights come on.
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Old 04-11-11, 08:06 AM
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I am at a crossroads with my oldest as well. She is 5 and wants to run our street with the rest of the kids. It is hard to let go of the protective guard and let them go out on their own. I agree when I was ten I rode my bike all over the little town I grew up in but back then everyone knew who I was and everyone knew my parents. It is easy for me to say that by 11 your son should be ok but that is totally up to you and how much you trust him to make good decisions. I think that only you and your wife can know for sure if he is trustworthy and responsible enough to handle this.
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Old 04-11-11, 08:07 AM
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Originally Posted by tjspiel View Post
The plan would be that I'd ride with him for a week or two...
It seems like after this period you should know if you can trust him or not. If it were my kid I'd do the same and then let him loose once I was confident in his skills. I'd probably make him wear hi-vis jacket/vest too.
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Old 04-11-11, 08:11 AM
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You bring up an interesting subject. When most of us were kids we all walked or rode our bikes to school. Now days schools have annual bike to school day. Not everyday but once a year. I wonder how our parents felt letting most of us go everyday.
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Old 04-11-11, 08:15 AM
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My girl is about to turn 9, and I wouldn't let her ride anywhere near a street. But 11 is much older as far as traffic awareness is concerned. After riding with him a few times, I would send him out by himself and follow him unnoticed just to see how well he does unsupervised.
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Old 04-11-11, 08:15 AM
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the biggest change from when I was a kid was there were zero parents dropping their kids off back then. Now it's a traffic jam.
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Old 04-11-11, 08:16 AM
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Congratulations on raising a kid who wants to be active!
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Old 04-11-11, 08:18 AM
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Two things come to mind. The first is that I'm fairly confident that he'll be fine. I would, however, have a follow-up ride maybe once after he's done it on his own for a couple of days, then again a couple of weeks later. Make sure he's not getting too casual about it, and reinforce that with him; that even if he rides without event in traffic for 20 years he still needs to treat it seriously and treat every moment on the road in bike or car as if someone could get killed, because that is the case.

The second is that there will be people who think that you're a horrible, irresponsible parent for ever allowing your child to be out of supervision of an adult for a moment. Some of them may even contact authorities, it's happened to me.
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Old 04-11-11, 08:26 AM
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Originally Posted by Tyrell View Post
Congratulations on raising a kid who wants to be active!
To be honest, this may be nothing but a bluff on his part and it's not because he wants to be active.

This is a small school and we're outside their limited busing area, so we have to drive them. By law in our state, kids can't ride in the front seat of a car until they're 13 due to the dangers of getting smacked by an air bag. My wife is a nurse and is a stickler about that kind of thing. Our son is bigger than a lot of kids in his class and in all likelihood would be fine if an air bag were deployed.

Anyway, some of the other kids are giving him a bad time because my wife won't let him ride in the front seat, so he's asked if he could ride his bike instead of Mom bringing him to school. He may be thinking she'd cave on the front seat thing before she'd let him ride his bike. If he really does want to ride I think it's a great thing for a number of reasons, not the least of which is him taking a step towards more responsibility and independence. Besides, I'm getting sick of picking him up from baseball practice.

What's funny to me is that our parents use to punish us for misbehaving in the car by making us ride in the front seat next to them.

Last edited by tjspiel; 04-11-11 at 08:37 AM.
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Old 04-11-11, 08:45 AM
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Let him ride. My biggest concern would be his bike getting stolen at school, not whether he can go to/from safely. It's not like he's hopping trains.
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Old 04-11-11, 08:47 AM
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I second the suggestion of riding with him to start. I suggest you ride behind him, having him make all the traffic decisions as you watch/coach. Discuss with him which routes are better and why, and contingency plans for unexpected conditions like detours.
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Old 04-11-11, 09:35 AM
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I would say let him ride. The plan to ride with him for a couple of weeks will let you check out not just his skills, but the traffic vibe and spots to be extra careful at. I would also do the ride home as traffic patterns can be a lot different. We went through the same thing with my son with biking to a summer theatre camp at a local park when he was 11. We practiced, did scenario's if any one was bugging them. My personal take is good blinkies front and back for visibility. You are more likely to get disapproving looks from other parents..... "how could you let him do that dangerous thing**********"
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Old 04-11-11, 12:33 PM
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Originally Posted by chipcom View Post
Let him ride. My biggest concern would be his bike getting stolen at school, not whether he can go to/from safely. It's not like he's hopping trains.
Yup. Make sure he knows how to lock up properly.
If there's a helmet law, make sure he follows it. Who knows what kind of CPS nightmare it would be if you didn't. Blinkie lights and he's set to go.
I rode all over the place at that age, far more than just 3 miles. Then again, the biggest traffic jam in my town when I was 11 was when all the cows headed to the milking barn at once.
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Old 04-11-11, 12:39 PM
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Not having kids of my own, I can't really comment on this like you parents would. My big concerns would be theft and the parents when they drop their kids off and pick them up.
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Old 04-11-11, 12:44 PM
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I like the idea of riding with him for a week at the start, and then maybe a spot check ride after awhile. I bet he'll do fine.
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Old 04-11-11, 12:52 PM
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Originally Posted by ItsJustMe View Post
The second is that there will be people who think that you're a horrible, irresponsible parent for ever allowing your child to be out of supervision of an adult for a moment. Some of them may even contact authorities, it's happened to me.


I don't even have kids yet, but it's kind of horrifying to think of someone doing this. I mean, things like being X feet high before you sit in the front, properly installing a car seat for a baby, etc. just make good sense as we learn more about the dynamics of auto crashes. But If someone called CPS for letting my kid ride his bike somewhere on his own, I'd just about lose it. I personally plan to teach my children to be self sufficient at an early age. I'm going to spoil my kids with discipline and personal responsibility.
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Old 04-11-11, 12:54 PM
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Originally Posted by ItsJustMe View Post
Two things come to mind. The first is that I'm fairly confident that he'll be fine. I would, however, have a follow-up ride maybe once after he's done it on his own for a couple of days, then again a couple of weeks later. Make sure he's not getting too casual about it, and reinforce that with him; that even if he rides without event in traffic for 20 years he still needs to treat it seriously and treat every moment on the road in bike or car as if someone could get killed, because that is the case.
Originally Posted by chipcom View Post
Let him ride. My biggest concern would be his bike getting stolen at school, not whether he can go to/from safely. It's not like he's hopping trains.
Originally Posted by caloso View Post
I like the idea of riding with him for a week at the start, and then maybe a spot check ride after awhile. I bet he'll do fine.
Spot check, blinkies, and locking skills. These are things that I hadn't considered/worried about. Thanks !
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Old 04-11-11, 12:54 PM
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I say call his bluff on the bike riding. He seems smart enough to set up you and the wife up with this proposal thinking he will get into the front seat so make him play his hand. In the long run, I bet it will turn into a win-win for you/wife, him and his self-esteem if you let him ride his bike to school.

As others said, do the shared ride for a while until you both feel comfortable with his skill level and then with random ride checks. I think you will be fine.
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Old 04-11-11, 12:55 PM
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<If you let him ride then he'll start clamoring about how he needs a new bike and then what, you'll have a little tjspiel on your hands ...oh wait, you do .>

I agree with the others about hanging back a bit and see how he does. At 11 he should still be able to ride on the sidewalks.

How does he feel about riding with you? When I worked at a group home some kids didn't like being walked or driven to school.

I would hang back if the kids wanted me to and I had a great relationship with just about all of them.
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Old 04-11-11, 01:11 PM
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My 4th grader expects to bike to middle school (6th-8th grade). It's also ~3 miles. I was pretty much planning on riding with him indefinitely unless it turns out that he's clearly doing well enough to solo (he already essentially solos the half mile to/from grade school). I'm also expecting to wave him off at the entrance rather than ride up to the bike rack with him...

Right now I have to remind him every single day, each way, to turn his lights on (in the lights season, which is mostly over now for him). Remind him to signal, remind him about stop signs, remind remind remind. He has been keeping right pretty well for a couple years now. And he's had the lock down for a long time too.

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Old 04-11-11, 01:17 PM
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My son is also reading this book about a middle schooler biking all over town solving crimes...
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Old 04-11-11, 01:29 PM
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I'm jealous. We live about 2 miles from the kids' school but there's no easy way there. One involves negotiating a really busy intersection (entrance to the parking lot of the local community college) and the other requires a mile of riding a four lane commercial boulevard with lots of debris. We've done both as a group but there's no way I could allow the kids to ride there by themselves.
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Old 04-11-11, 01:31 PM
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Originally Posted by no motor? View Post
Not having kids of my own, I can't really comment on this like you parents would. My big concerns would be theft and the parents when they drop their kids off and pick them up.
My almost-10 yr old is interested in riding to school. However, there is no provision at the school to secure a bike. No one bikes to our school - the traffic is a nightmare in the front loop with the drop-offs driven by parents on their phones and/or texting (I'm not kidding - I've seen this repeatedly). Sadly, I had to say, "it ain't gonna happen."
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Old 04-11-11, 01:35 PM
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FWIW, I started riding to school when I was 10, but then again, the world was a safer place back in the 70s. No wait, it wasn't. No wonder my parents worried all the time. I say let him ride especially if you ride with him the first week or so. Will he still make mistakes and misjudge traffic? Yes. We all make mistakes. Hopefully it won't be anything serious and he'll learn something each time. I know it's hard to let go, but at some point you just have to.
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