Tuesday, April 29, 2014

A strange worry

I was talking to a parent friend yesterday about logistical challenges.  We take turns bringing both children home from school and with the recent good weather (today notwithstanding...) both of the kids have starting riding bikes to school.  The ride isn't long but the four city blocks we need to cover are extremely full of pedestrians and construction as well as the general risk of being near a very busy street all the time.  Picking up two kids is easy, picking up one kid on a bike is not bad, but picking up two kids on bikes is a real problem.  They just aren't very good at riding yet and we have to help them get going, make sure they stop, and try to keep them from running people over and doing that with two independent wobbly small ones is a tricksy.

We both agreed that the really hard part is the other person's kid.  I can decide what risks I am willing to take with Elli and be as cautious as I feel I have to.  If she gets a scrape or some other minor accident occurs I can just deal with it and move on - it is a risk you run and these things aren't important in the long haul.  When it is somebody else's kid though everything changes.  I don't feel comfortable taking risks in that case because I really don't want to have to explain why their kid is bleeding, much less why they have a broken leg or other serious injury.  Even if I was doing everything right that situation is a bad one.

That feeling that we must take more care with other people's children then our own is a big problem.  It is why schools enact ridiculous safety programs that try to encase children in a bubble and prevent them from stretching themselves, from figuring out their own abilities, and from understanding risks.  It is why governments make a million and one rules about child rearing that end up stifling growth rather than promoting it.  Safety is all well and good when it is just one of the weights when making a decision.  Unfortunately it is often weighted far too heavily, sometimes to the extent that nothing else is considered.

Unfortunately at the moment I can't really bring two kids home on bikes.  They just aren't skilled enough yet to ride near each other without crashing into each other or other people and they really should have somebody nearby to help them.  I guess the solution is to ride constantly on weekends to get their skills up to speed so that they can be trusted to ride on their own.  I really want to just let them go, just in the way I was let go to ride away when I was young.  The magic combination is a three way convergence of practice, teaching, and freedom.  Time to get started.


  1. When you learned to rude a bike there were NO people and ZERO traffic. Your biggest threat was going head first into the wire fence and getting hay up your nose! You had it easy!

  2. But if they get good at riding they will be expected to ride on the street with vehicular traffic - no more sidewalks. That is worrying to me

  3. Lots of people bike in Toronto. The dividing line is the size of the bike tires actually, so it is based on how old the kids are rather than any measure of skill. Long time off yet before the laws force them into that situation.

    1. Not strictly true, since you can get adult-sized rides with wheels at or under 50cm (which is the limit here, I'm not sure if that's the same in Toronto). I can be a big jerk and ride my trike down the sidewalk totally legally.

    2. Well, fair enough. I guess it is more likely true that it is a long time before Elli is likely to be hassled by law enforcement over riding on the sidewalk regardless of wheel size. You, on the other hand, would likely find cops very irritable if you tried the 'but my tires are small' defence.

  4. Going a block south would be a bit longer but solve the problems of having too many pedestrians, construction, and super busy street. Of course then you've got a hill...