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Where would your kid ride today?

Old 05-25-21, 11:54 AM
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Darth Lefty 
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Where would your kid ride today?

Knowing that a bike is freedom, how far would you let a kid ride? Would you kick him out the door with a sandwich? At what age?

In a month my oldest kid is turning seven. And we'd like him to get out of the dang house this summer.

We live on a circle street with 170 houses in a pretty kid-intensive neighborhood with several other such circles. There's a cute little park about ten houses down... over a crest and out of yelling range, and shared with the next circle. The grade school is not too far away, maybe half a mile depending which entrance, and there's a nice big park on the other side, and a pond across the street. So we are debating how much freedom to give him, or make him take.

Now, statistics say that kids are safer today than they were way-back-then when all of you had your childhoods. But the perception is that it's a lot more dangerous. And that comes along with a lot of other baggage for the parents, like getting mom-shamed or even the cops called for neglecting a kid to his own devices for even a moment. He so far can't ride his bike to school, there is a "chain of custody" required for his age. Before covid, the school monitors used to radio each other about the poor neglected twins left (strapped in playing their tablets) in the (air conditioned) van when we'd pick him up at kindergarten.

A few years ago I read this book and liked it, but with experience it seems fraught to actually accomplish.
https://www.freerangekids.com/
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Old 05-25-21, 12:14 PM
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I've seen the streets and parkways in Folsom and am quite jealous. They seem ideal for giving kids a little more leash. You could give him a watch and a time limit, and see how that goes.

My son just turned 17 (HS Jr) and he's been riding his bike to school since 7th grade. His middle school was 2 miles away, all residential streets with one stress point (weird 3-way intersection plus light rail station). He said the hairiest part of the ride was the last 100m negotiating the cars of parents dropping kids off. His high school is 6 miles away. It crosses a weird 5-way intersection, but otherwise is on a levee bikepath and greenway for the most part. The summer before his freshman year started, we rode it together to map out a decent route. He's altered it based on experience, which is exactly what you'd want. FWIW, the biggest issue we had with him was leaving too late, and having to make his commute a time trial. At this point, he has no restrictions on where he can ride his bike.
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Old 05-25-21, 09:53 PM
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I think it might depend on the kid, their situational awareness, their bike riding skills.

The probability is extremely low of being kidnapped, but it’s catastrophic if it happens.

The flip side is the probability of being bullied, assaulted, battered, or not learning how to read or think in a public school is really high, and parents roll those dice everyday.
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Old 05-25-21, 09:56 PM
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Originally Posted by caloso View Post
I've seen the streets and parkways in Folsom and am quite jealous. They seem ideal for giving kids a little more leash. You could give him a watch and a time limit, and see how that goes.

My son just turned 17 (HS Jr) and he's been riding his bike to school since 7th grade. His middle school was 2 miles away, all residential streets with one stress point (weird 3-way intersection plus light rail station). He said the hairiest part of the ride was the last 100m negotiating the cars of parents dropping kids off. His high school is 6 miles away. It crosses a weird 5-way intersection, but otherwise is on a levee bikepath and greenway for the most part. The summer before his freshman year started, we rode it together to map out a decent route. He's altered it based on experience, which is exactly what you'd want. FWIW, the biggest issue we had with him was leaving too late, and having to make his commute a time trial. At this point, he has no restrictions on where he can ride his bike.
My understanding is car accidents increased with less kids riding the bus, riding bikes, walking to school.

I’ve seen those stressed out parents all jockeying their cars to hurry up and wait. NT
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Old 05-26-21, 09:54 AM
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I wouldn't be surprised.
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Old 05-26-21, 10:11 AM
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I have a 9 year old and a 3 year old. We ride all over the city together (3 year old in a seat on my bike, obviously!) and the 9 year old has gotten pretty good. She rides on sidewalks more than I’d like (she feels safer, but given the site lines into garages plus dogs and pedestrians I’m not sure I agree) and I almost never have to stop her, remind her to stop, or otherwise intervene. I think in two years I’d allow her to ride her bike to one of several neighborhood parks or a friends place.

The risk is 99.9% an inattentive driver hitting her. I’d like her riding to get more proactively defensively before she goes on her own - things like keeping an eye out for drivers behaving erratically, suspiciously slowing at a driveway or intersection without a turn signal, parked with a driver or passenger about to open a door....
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Old 05-26-21, 11:15 AM
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My kid almost 7 sounds kind of ambitious, but your kid made to wait til 11 sounds way too careful!

The school dropoff situation here is extremely stupid.
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Old 05-26-21, 01:25 PM
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I have no kids, so this is somewhat theoretical, but not something I haven't thought about.

One of the things our local school districts did was to shut down many of the neighborhood gradeschools. Now they have a "safe routes to school" programs for poorly located schools.

So, when I was a kid, the school was about 2 miles away, and I think I periodically did the ride solo from first grade. Unfortunately that house is no longer owned by the family, and the school has been transitioned to a "Head Start" school rather than a mainstream gradeschool.

In my current community, another former gradeschool is about 1 mile from my house, and I'd have been happy to send kindergarten kids there, possibly with a flag (if I could get the kids to understand shoulder riding). But, unfortunately the schools have been moved, and now is in a horrible location about 6 miles from my house. I could find an acceptable route (mostly easy gravel), except for the last half mile which makes me uncomfortable. But, that would also take somewhat stronger riders than first graders.

By the time I was in 4th grade, Mom&Dad had "approved" routes to get to the city, about 15 miles away, which I'd periodically do in an afternoon, and catch them for a ride back home. However, once I got to the end of the "route", I tended to follow vehicle routes (fewer bike paths then). It gave me cast iron nerves around traffic, but I'd likely train kids to use more acceptable routes if I was with them now. But, still, by High school, I'd like them to understand riding around real traffic.

Perhaps I could get a paper map of the local bike routes the community publishes. If not, I'd hunt for a publisher that could do large format printing and laminating to print out a few maps.
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Old 05-26-21, 02:21 PM
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I have a 10 y/o and honestly would not trust him to ride outside of our isolated neighborhood area. Definitely wouldn't have him ride to school, his school requires us to go on some busy main roads in town where morning commuters definitely behave recklessly. And overall he lacks the confidence/skills, and not for lack of trying on my part, since I try and get us riding on real roads (he has a road bike) versus the bike paths.
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Old 05-26-21, 02:41 PM
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My kids are 14 and 10. Last year, when they were 13 and 9, they rode to a park 1 mile away, a creek 2 miles away, and an ice cream place 3.5mi away. The oldest is obviously fine, it was the younger one that kept us from loosening the parameters too much.
On her own, our yongest rode 1mi away when she was 9. Thats about all that she would need to do because anything further and she would want to do it with others since itd be an activity with end goal(creek, food, etc).



Funny related story about safety-
A few weeks ago two friends came over and they walked to 1.5mi to DQ with my oldest. These are 8th graders and in 4 months will be in high school, keep in mind.
One of the moms said she had to walk along because her husband heard where the girls were going and felt it wasnt safe.
I was shocked, but kept quiet. The walk contains the most typical of quiet suburban developments, a large park with MUP, and then a grocery store strip mall. The girls were pretty shocked too and I felt bad for the girl whose mom walked along.
They are going to be in high school in 4 months- let the baby birds fly.
Lived in our current house for 8 years and that was the first time ive heard of someone being concerned to walk our established safe neighborhood.
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Old 05-26-21, 03:02 PM
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Originally Posted by mstateglfr View Post
They are going to be in high school in 4 months- let the baby birds fly.
Got to let them flap the wings a few times before flying off.
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Old 05-26-21, 05:54 PM
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So here's where the thread maybe goes off the rails. We have a pretty big, or at least visible, homeless population around here, which is one thing that's keeping me cautious about just letting him roam. It's like this all over CA now, I guess. CA has about a quarter of the nation's homeless. It wasn't so widespread before the housing bust, but it hasn't gotten better since. It was big news here a month ago when one of them killed another, nearby city hall. My kiddo's afternoon daycare and the twins' preschool are both quite close. That's a good three or four miles from here and not really on the radar for his riding... but they living in the greenbelts, using the parks and bike trails. There was one carrying a bag of recycling across from kiddo's school at lunch time today. I haven't seen them in the neighborhood circles that don't have pass-through streets. Is kiddo ok to possibly interact with desperate people with addiction and ill mental health? What age is good enough for that, because I don't feel equipped at nearly 44
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Old 05-26-21, 07:17 PM
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I dunno .... we have plenty of homeless people here, and in my 30 years of living in urban california i have never once even heard of a crime against children by a homeless person. Breaking into a car maybe?

Generally speaking the homeless in the Bay Area are sick, addicted, infirm, mentally ill people, a danger only to themselves and the pearl-clutchers and the chamber of commerce.

Violence by others isn’t even top 10 for causes of injury of little kids, with falls and bites and car and bike accidents all on the list.




Originally Posted by Darth Lefty View Post
So here's where the thread maybe goes off the rails. We have a pretty big, or at least visible, homeless population around here, which is one thing that's keeping me cautious about just letting him roam. It's like this all over CA now, I guess. CA has about a quarter of the nation's homeless. It wasn't so widespread before the housing bust, but it hasn't gotten better since. It was big news here a month ago when one of them killed another, nearby city hall. My kiddo's afternoon daycare and the twins' preschool are both quite close. That's a good three or four miles from here and not really on the radar for his riding... but they living in the greenbelts, using the parks and bike trails. There was one carrying a bag of recycling across from kiddo's school at lunch time today. I haven't seen them in the neighborhood circles that don't have pass-through streets. Is kiddo ok to possibly interact with desperate people with addiction and ill mental health? What age is good enough for that, because I don't feel equipped at nearly 44
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Old 05-26-21, 08:47 PM
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Wrestling with this question as well. Mine are 10,8, and 6. The 8yo has been allowed to ride to his friend's house 1/3mi away and can ride himself back. Him and his friend has some reign on riding to the school and the neighborhood between our house, his house and the school when they're both together. My 10yo is permitted to ride around the blocks connected to our road but she doesn't have friends in the neighborhood she can ride to. Her closest friend requires walking through the back yard, the next is well past the school over a mile away and I'm not comfortable with her soloing it. For next year, if they go to school, they are considering wanting to stay homeschooled, I would ride with them to school half way, there's a sketchy street they people run the stop sign at in the morning. Once past there they can finish alone. We have to sign something with the school, which they don't like, that says that the kids can ride home and leave together without a parent. My oldest really wants this and I think wants to go back to school. The MC prefers homeschool and the youngest doesn't know what he wants. If just her, I'd have to go with her but it might be her and her friend riding together.
Don't know how my parents were so cavalier with me riding 2-8 miles away on any given day with no concern for where I was at 5, but the level of common sense my kids display freaks me out.
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Old 05-27-21, 12:58 AM
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Nowadays I'd encourage kids toward BMX or mountain biking. Partly because it's less dangerous than being hit by cars. Partly because the skills they acquire would translate to road cycling.

The biggest difference I've seen between my childhood, growing up in various cities, and now is that back then we played in the street and drivers slowed down and didn't deliberately try to run us down, and weren't distracted by phones. We played stickball in the street, rode bikes, whatever. No problems then. But now drivers treat my residential neighborhood streets as their personal race track.
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Old 05-27-21, 03:12 AM
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Ride with your child. Ride with your child, do so at the child's pace and perspective.
while doing so, talk about traffic, people walking, etc...help establish needed situational awareness.
at some point, set some guidelines about where to ride and how far to go...the you cannot go past limits.
talk what to if if there is a flat or something breaks, other issues that might come up.
make sure child is highly visible, vest or lights, etc. safety whistle is nice. On bike pouch for a candy bar,
water bottle cage with small bottle of water. Also your contact info in the pouch, perhaps a route map.
ride with your child and help your child develop life long cycling skills, there where and far will follow based upon those skills.
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Old 05-27-21, 03:26 AM
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When I was 12 to 13 years old, I rode my cross bike to the airport, harbor, out of the city, etc. 30 to 40 km per day in public roads, solo rides during school break

Back then, our roads didn't have bike lanes and totally shared the lanes with cars. But I actually felt safer back then than now! Back then, the drivers are a lot nicer!
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Old 05-27-21, 05:19 AM
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Darth Lefty My kids are 10 and 8. My 10yo was a safer road rider @8 than his brother is, but neither of them are a disaster. In any case - I don't have specific boundaries on them. I wish they'd go further and longer, whether riding the whole time or just going park to park with friends. Most of their friends don't/won't ride. I'll still send him on his bike to knock on their doors. When they start wanting to go further than the couple neighbourhoods they'll hit now, I'm going to want to go through route planning with them a few times - but we ride outside that now, so they see how we make the main road crossings.

To be fair - Ottawa is very bike-friendly. Lots of bike path routes to get places - biggest issue is that you have to know the area to use them, because signage is horrible and it's hard to figure out how to get onto paths sometimes, even if you can see them from the road. As far as comparing to 'good old days' - I think it depends where you are. Things are good here I've had maybe 1-2 issues, been riding a lot in the 8 years since I moved here, including winter. It's gotten better, all of those incidents were more then 5 years ago.

We do BMX racing. Both kids are better than average for bike control because of it, but they're not superstars, we just have fun. I started after they did - I highly recommend it, both as a kids activity from about age 2 & up to adult (racing is all classed by age and skill - I'm nearly to moving from 'novice' to intermediate')
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Old 05-27-21, 05:56 AM
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When I was young, i used to ride 8 miles to Jamaica (Queens) and get on the subway to Manhattan with a few friends. We would ride around the city and then head home for dinner.

My son rode home from school one day. He was a junior at SUNY Geneseo , so he road from Niagara Falls to Montauk in 6 days. He did have a app on his smartphone so I could track where he was.


My next door neighbor has 3 boys. 6/8/11 and none are allowed to go out by themselves yet.

I do see groups of teenagers on those large BMX style bike roaming the streets, so i guess if you're 14+ and with outhers.. that seems to be the point to cut them loose in my area.
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Old 05-27-21, 06:47 AM
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My 9yr old son doesn’t have the presence of mind to navigate major thoroughfares, but he’s free to roam the sidestreets if he wants. Even then he weaves out in the center of the road and has zero situational awareness, so it’s pretty scary for me to consider what could happen, but learning takes time, and he only learned to ride this past March.

In that time, though, we’ve ridden all over and on a variety of roads (with and without bike lanes) and trails, so I’m hopeful good practice is taking root. He’s got a 14yr old sister who takes him without us occasionally, so he’s got opportunity to be free of parental oversight while still having guidance. My daughter is a quite good rider, but also developed earlier and faster than her brother; she rode at 5yrs, for example, and was always more aware and controlled.

With summer here, the 9yr old will start riding to the pool club which requires crossing two major roads— just quick jumps— and I’m hoping the added demands will cement the practice of awareness in his mind.
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Old 05-27-21, 07:05 AM
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good luck w/ your choices. in our area, 7 would be too young for us to allow them to roam alone. ~55 yrs ago Mom just wanted us back by sundown & had no idea we were playing by the train tracks in the north Bronx. of course there were 4 of us & we were terrors, at least the boys were
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Old 05-27-21, 07:09 AM
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My 9-year old pretty much can run the neighborhood on her own. There’s only two entrances to the development, and no through traffic, plus a decent cohort of kids her age, so she’s usually with a couple of other kiddos.
When they’re on their own, the rule is no crossing any road with yellow lines.

We do some ‘escorted’ rides to places like the library, city park, and ice cream shop, but that’s due to a couple of high-traffic intersection, that aren’t really bike (or pedestrian) friendly. ( a 4-lane, 45 mph suburban ‘parkway’ isn’t a good place to develop your traffic awareness)
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Old 05-27-21, 07:55 AM
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My kid started riding alone around our small city when she was 9-ish. She started racing BMX when she was 7, so her handling skills were solid. And she was always a rule follower, which helps. We had been riding together on the streets since she could ride without training wheels, so I had showed her the easier routes to take, where to just get off and walk through complicated intersections, that sort of thing. None of her friends rode, so when she was with them they would just walk to the corner store and the park and whatnot.

As for the concern about the mentally ill and homeless and whatnot, I can see that might be a worry. My kid's route to school that she walked or rode took her past our regional hospital, which meant there were all sorts of folks on the street. I asked her about that one day and she said "oh, if I see someone acting funny, I just go the other way ". She never had an issue (that she told me of).

A kid displaying street smarts is a great thing. And something that the 14 year old with the mom escort to DQ will have a tough time picking up! Yikes.
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Old 05-29-21, 08:50 AM
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Find a bike they can easily stand over without making contact with the top tube and reach the handlebars without straining. No one wants to keep riding a too-large bike that is frightening to mount and dismount. Even better, get them a proper bike fit so that everything is installed properly from the start.
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Old 05-29-21, 09:26 AM
  #25  
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I would say it depends on your child’s mental maturity, situational awareness and risk taking behavior. Add to that, how people drive in your neighborhood. If people are not racing through because they know there are children about, I would feel a bit more comfortable. In my opinion, six turning seven is a bit young unless s/he can ride with a pack of other kids and be better seen.

My parents trusted me at 9 to ride a mile to grammar school but we lived in the country with very little traffic.

Understand your dilemma and maybe by doing some ride with your child you will get a better feel if they are mature enough and safe enough to navigate on their own.
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Rick S

“He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.”- Fredrick Nietzsche. “An argument based reasoned fact, beats one based on emotional rantings every time” Anon





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