It Is Really Easy to Let Your Kids Walk, Play and Bike Outside — The SECOND Time

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44 Responses to It Is Really Easy to Let Your Kids Walk, Play and Bike Outside — The SECOND Time

  1. Dienne June 13, 2017 at 10:16 am #

    Wait, riding a bike with no shoes or helmet? What is this, 1980? You know those kids that did that back then all died, right?

    Oh, wait, they didn’t? My bad. Carry on.

  2. Workshop June 13, 2017 at 10:20 am #

    Yay for good stories.

  3. Iveski Incognitius June 13, 2017 at 10:28 am #

    This is true. I sent my kids (same ages, 10 and 7) to the park the other day on their own, and they thought it was awesome. I sent them with a watch, told them what time to come back, and they did. How can we teach them responsibility if we never let them take any?

  4. Powers June 13, 2017 at 10:29 am #

    Well, Diane… some did.

  5. Beanie June 13, 2017 at 10:55 am #

    So true! The more you let them go, the easier it gets.

  6. En Passant June 13, 2017 at 11:23 am #

    Dienne wrote June 13, 2017 at 10:16 am:

    Wait, riding a bike with no shoes or helmet? What is this, 1980?

    Heh! Even back in the 1950s when I was a kid, we always wore shoes when riding a bicycle. With coaster brakes (you “pedal backward” to apply rear wheel brake), we loved to brake into a skid with one foot on the ground to make a fast 180 degree turn and take off in the opposite direction. It’s the kind of skidding direction reversing turn you see in movies or TV with car chases. Even the boldest kids didn’t want to try that without shoes.

    These days, I bicycle for transportation, with shoes, gloves, helmet, and clothing thick enough to at least minimize road rash if some fool in a car gets stupid. It doesn’t happen often, but sometimes they do. Older and bolder rhyme, but otherwise don’t go together well.

  7. JTW June 13, 2017 at 11:56 am #

    “These days, I bicycle for transportation, with shoes, gloves, helmet, and clothing thick enough to at least minimize road rash if some fool in a car gets stupid.”

    Being both a cyclist and a car driver, I can tell you mostly it’s the cyclists being stupid.
    And mostly that involves ignoring basic rules like giving way to traffic from the right, not riding 3-4 abreast on a one way road and then thinking you can get past that car that’s coming the other way very slowly (having seen you already and seeing what’s going to happen), riding at night without lights, drunk, and swerving into the side of a parked car, things like that.

    In nearly 40 years riding bicycles I’ve only had 2 accidents, only one of them involving a car.
    And in that one I was indeed the stupid one, misjudging the speed of the car and thinking I could cross in front him it (the other one was another bike indicating he was turning left but instead went straight, hitting me in the side as I was turning left (riding to his right)).

    I’ve never worn protective clothing, helmet, gloves, etc. etc. while on a bike, and often ride barefoot.
    Yet in 40 years I’ve only ever had some scrapes and bruises, and those mostly when learning to ride or misjudging a situation (like having some branches hit you).

  8. Melissa June 13, 2017 at 12:30 pm #

    As the person who sent in that original letter, I’m with Powers here—the kids who died because they had no bike helmet on aren’t exactly here to tell the tale. One thing I love about this site is that Lenore still encourages basic physical safety precautions like seat belts and helmets… those really do not hamper a child’s (or adult’s) independence and are simply good sense to use. I had a childhood friend who was killed on a bike, wearing no helmet, in the late ’80s. Not that anyone wore them back then.

    The photo is a stock image and not of my daughter, which might be where the comment came from.

  9. BM June 13, 2017 at 12:43 pm #

    Different countries, different rules I guess. In my suburb in Toronto, Canada, there are always dozens of kids about, and there are definitely kids under 10 at the park without adults present. I have 2 boys, 5 and 3.
    If we pull into the driveway at home and the other kids of the street are out riding and playing, my kids want to join them. By the time I’ve gotten my 3 year old ready(with helmet, etc) my 5 year old is already on his bike and potentially out of sight around the street somewhere. The kids don’t go far(its a quiet, dead end loop), but I’m almost always the only adult out on the street, and that’s because of my 3 year old. If my 5 year old is with the ‘gang’ on his own, I don’t follow them around.
    Nobody in the neighbourhood even hints that this isn’t OK.

  10. Rebel mom June 13, 2017 at 12:49 pm #

    I hate helmets and I love being an adult and being able to make decisions about myself and my body. If you want to wear a helmet, fine, go ahead but leave laws about what I do with my own head alone. Thanks!

  11. Helen Armstrong June 13, 2017 at 1:13 pm #

    I agree with Rebel Mom. Of course, my kids wore helmets when they were younger but now that they’re teenagers I let them choose whether or not they want to wear one (since they mostly longboard now, it’s usually never).

  12. John B. June 13, 2017 at 1:28 pm #

    Well bravo for Melissa and a bigger bravo for her kids for accomplishing this 1980 feat! Once in a great while, I’ll see a youngster in my neighborhood out riding their bike and I then think to myself, finally, a kid out riding his bicycle just like we used to do back in the 60s but then sure enough, about 30 yards behind him, there’s mother hen riding her bike too while keeping a close watch on her youngster ahead. So I then think to myself, I knew there had to be a catch somewhere.

  13. lollipoplover June 13, 2017 at 1:44 pm #

    @Melissa-

    My kids have been biking our neighborhood since very young ages and have all biked to our elementary school daily since kindergarten. We also live in a safe suburban neighborhood and now that summer’s here, the kids can bike to the swim club for their swim team practices early in the morning and during the day. They flourish with this independence and freedom. We’ve managed to change some attitudes among the *busybodies* in our neighborhood, too.

    My youngest is 10 and was able to go the our swim club *alone* to meet friends this past weekend. I asked her if anyone tried to stop her (usually they ask that they be supervised by an adult until they are 12, then they can come alone). She said she walked in said hello to the counter girl and then parked her bike like she owned the place. She met up with another family we are friends with there and spent the day with her friends and came home when she felt “she had enough sun” (she forgot her sunscreen to reapply). Kids are remarkable capable and allowing them to commute to friends, school, local clubs only boosts the good attributes that are so hard to *give* to kids- self-esteem, self-confidence, self-respect.

  14. SKL June 13, 2017 at 1:49 pm #

    We live on top of a hill, so it was a while before my kids felt confident to ride their bikes around the neighborhood. This year, though, it has caught on.

    Well, a couple weeks ago my kids were on a 3-mile round trip to the store, when they decided one of their tires needed air. My eldest ran back home to get the air pump and ran back. While filling up the tire, they got weirded out by a guy watching them. They called me. “He’s standing there looking at us. I’m afraid he’s going to call the police.” I tried to talk them down, but the more timid one up and left the other one alone, and she finally gave up and came home. It’s annoying, because this is due to other “caring adults” telling my kids to be afraid they will be turned into the cops for being on the sidewalk in a neighborhood. :/

    Well the next time, my more adventurous kid had gotten smart and filled her tires before leaving, and also left her timid sister home. She made her first solo round trip for ice cream, and came back smiling. Whew. Progress.

    As for helmets, my kids have them, but I don’t require that they wear them. I find them awkward and of questionable value for regular everyday use in the neighborhood. Maybe I’m wrong. I just don’t choose to worry about that.

  15. SKL June 13, 2017 at 1:49 pm #

    The bare feet though – that brings back memories of skinned and stubbed toes. I guess there’s one way to learn ….

  16. Betsy in Michigan June 13, 2017 at 1:51 pm #

    ADULTS should be able to decide for themselves about helmets. I admit I don’t wear one tooling around with my old Schwinn inside my slow subdivisions. I’m frankly too scared to try bigger roads, even with a helmet. Knew a guy 30 years ago who was mountain biking with friends in hilly terrain. He bounce off the trail, hit his head on a rock on the way down, and died due to the head injury. Odd, I was just remembering this today. Shit can happen anywhere.

  17. James Pollock June 13, 2017 at 2:06 pm #

    Back in the olden times (the 70’s into the early 80’s), we wore helmets when biking.

    The silly-looking helmets of today hadn’t been invented yet; we wore motorcycle helmets.

    Just like our hero, Evel Kneivel did.

    For the same reason.

  18. hineata June 13, 2017 at 2:21 pm #

    Wonderful what this woman did, but I still don’t get the snark about adult children living in their parent’s home if they are still single. As long as they are paying their way and sharing the housework, no issues. That’s the norm in much of the world (in fact a lot of families are sharing the grandparents homes at the moment down here, partly because of a housing crisis we’re having in our larger cities, and some of that is actually to help the grandparents out paying their rent or mortgage ).

  19. donald June 13, 2017 at 5:29 pm #

    “Being both a cyclist and a car driver, I can tell you mostly it’s the cyclists being stupid.”

    I disagree. People are people. Some are courteous and some are arrogant dipshits. Some share. Some are territorial and act like a bulldog that pisses on brushes in order to mark their territory. They’ll bite your head off if you wander into their territory. (road)

    This applies to all no matter what they drive. I cycle and I have seen many cyclists that are the biggest dickheads. I’ve also seen car drivers that have the same chip on their shoulder.

  20. Dienne June 13, 2017 at 5:40 pm #

    “Back in the olden times (the 70’s into the early 80’s), we wore helmets when biking.

    The silly-looking helmets of today hadn’t been invented yet; we wore motorcycle helmets.

    Just like our hero, Evel Kneivel did.”

    I don’t know who you’re referring to among that “we”, but I can assure you you’d be laughed out of my neighborhood wearing any kind of helmet – Evel Knievel style or otherwise – while biking. Also in the 70s and 80s.

  21. James Pollock June 13, 2017 at 6:18 pm #

    “I don’t know who you’re referring to among that “we”, but I can assure you you’d be laughed out of my neighborhood wearing any kind of helmet – Evel Knievel style or otherwise – while biking. Also in the 70s and 80s.”

    When we missed the landing ramp, which happened a time or two, and came off our bikes at 20 or 30mph, and smashed our heads against various solid objects, having somebody laughing at our helmets would have been very low on our list of things to worry about. Frankly, we would have considered somebody laughing at our helmets to be rather stupid, and really wouldn’t have cared what they thought.

  22. Anna June 13, 2017 at 6:27 pm #

    Rebel Mom: “I hate helmets and I love being an adult and being able to make decisions about myself and my body. If you want to wear a helmet, fine, go ahead but leave laws about what I do with my own head alone. Thanks!”

    Agreed! And the available population-wide evidence we have supports that policy. Places that have passed sweeping helmet laws have generally not experienced any statistically significant decrease in cycling head injuries, but they have managed to decrease ridership by as much as 40%, which besides decreasing fitness, actually makes cyclists less safe because the number of cyclists on the road is actually one of the biggest contributing factors to safety (because motorists are more likely to look for and notice them in places where cycling is popular).

  23. Anna June 13, 2017 at 6:35 pm #

    “Being both a cyclist and a car driver, I can tell you mostly it’s the cyclists being stupid.”

    Says you! I use my bicycle for basic transportation daily, and I follow all traffic laws meticulously (except when particular circumstances make it blatantly unsafe to do so in a specific situation, which definitely happens), and like you, I haven’t had an accident – but that’s only because I’m always vigilantly on guard against drivers doing careless, illegal, and stupid things. I avert an accident at least once a month, whether it be by swerving out of someone’s path or yelling at the top of my lungs and waving my arms wildly at the idiot backing at full speed out of his driveway or parking spot as I’m passing by.

    My experience is that a very large percentage of motorists routinely fail to signal their turns, come to a full stop before making turns on red lights or stop signs, or check over their shoulders before switching lanes or turning or backing up. But I do live in a place notorious for bad driving, so perhaps it’s better where you live.

  24. Jessica June 13, 2017 at 7:38 pm #

    Hineata–
    Agreed. This woman had a legitimate story to tell, but she weakened it by making a snarky, unnecessary comment implying that the other mom had done something horribly wrong, and thereby wound up with a deadbeat son.

  25. K June 13, 2017 at 9:28 pm #

    When I was little – 3 or 4, I think – I was riding my trike around the block with my mom, barefoot. Going down the “big” hill, my foot slipped off the pedal, and with only pedal brakes to stop myself, I went careening out of control, faster than my mom found run to catch me. Without shoes, I couldn’t get my feet back on the spinning pedals, or put a foot down to stop myself, and I eventually ended up in a ditch at the bottom of the hill. So I never biked without shoes again. I’m hit or miss with a helmet, though.

  26. 24/7/365 bike commuter. June 13, 2017 at 10:20 pm #

    “Being both a cyclist and a car driver, I can tell you mostly it’s the cyclists being stupid.”

    Ah ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha !!!
    Good one! Friggin’ cars, AMIRITE?

    Wait, you were serious?
    Come on!
    You’re obviously not a cyclist, despite your claims to the contrary.
    Try riding in actual urban traffic some time and let me know who is being stupid.
    [HINT *Not* the people for whom even a minor collision results in maiming or death]

  27. Mark June 13, 2017 at 10:25 pm #

    @donald, @Anna:

    I’ve been doing a study of this, watching cars and bicycles and seeing how they behave.

    About one driver in a hundred violates a basic traffic safety law. The most popular violation is failing to signal a turn or lane change, with driving significantly faster than traffic being a distant second.

    About two bicyclists in three violate a basic traffic safety law. The most common violation is driving on the wrong side of the road or the wrong way on a one-way street, with failure to signal and running a red light/stop sign a close second and third.

    Sure, not all drivers are perfect. But there are far, far more bad bicyclists out there.

  28. James Pollock June 13, 2017 at 10:48 pm #

    “Try riding in actual urban traffic some time and let me know who is being stupid.
    [HINT *Not* the people for whom even a minor collision results in maiming or death]”

    “About two bicyclists in three violate a basic traffic safety law. The most common violation is driving on the wrong side of the road or the wrong way on a one-way street, with failure to signal and running a red light/stop sign a close second and third.”

    Don’t forget riding in the dark or in bad weather, wearing dark clothes, with no lights.

    There are really stupid drivers out there, as well as some that are entirely too aggressive (and these two categories often overlap). There are really stupid bikers out there, including some that are entirely too aggressive.

    The biggest problem cyclists have is that they are invisible. This is partly because of bikers who ride in places they shouldn’t be, and partly because many drivers simply aren’t looking for them.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mZAZ_xu0DCg

  29. sexhysteria June 13, 2017 at 11:46 pm #

    Hilarious! Forget to write the directions home – a Freudian slip?

  30. Rachel June 14, 2017 at 12:14 am #

    I’m happy to say that my kids have started the summer by spending most of the days running in and out of the house (their house, the neighbor’s house, the other neighbor’s house….) running in the sprinkler, making “obstacle courses” out of whatever they can find and generally having a ball. And sometimes they come in to cool down when it’s 95 degrees out. Nobody’s called the cops yet, thank heavens.
    Keep up the good work to all the Free Range parents out there!

  31. hineata June 14, 2017 at 2:30 am #

    This is totally off topic, but I wondered if I was the only person outside North Korea who has little sympathy for the Weinberger (?) boy who was just released by the North Koreans after stealing a propaganda poster last year? And is his case a case of immature US college students who have never had to face the consequences of their actions, or was he just a plain old complete idiot? Or both?

  32. marie June 14, 2017 at 9:20 am #

    I don’t know who you’re referring to among that “we”, but I can assure you you’d be laughed out of my neighborhood wearing any kind of helmet – Evel Knievel style or otherwise – while biking. Also in the 70s and 80s.

    Dienne, I laughed out loud…because this is totally true. We rode our bikes with and without shoes, probably more without in the summer. Never a helmet.

    And the available population-wide evidence we have supports that policy. Places that have passed sweeping helmet laws have generally not experienced any statistically significant decrease in cycling head injuries, but they have managed to decrease ridership by as much as 40%, which besides decreasing fitness, actually makes cyclists less safe because the number of cyclists on the road is actually one of the biggest contributing factors to safety (because motorists are more likely to look for and notice them in places where cycling is popular).

    Anna, this makes sense to me. I insisted that my kids wear bike helmets and my son simply stopped riding when he was maybe 12. He was very clear that the helmet was the reason why. I have always regretted my insistence on following the rules.

    Same kid looked up a friend’s address, mapped it on Mapquest, and walked to the friend’s house. And then told me about it, lol. It wasn’t too far away but it was not in a familiar neighborhood and we hadn’t done much in the way of teaching them how to read maps.

    Maybe I had too many rules at times but my kids were smart enough to break the rules when they were confident in their plans.

  33. AmyP June 14, 2017 at 9:56 am #

    Definitely true. We all have differing levels of anxiety based on our own experiences. It’s whether we decide to let that anxiety rule our lives and others. I don’t really make harsh judgments on parents that aren’t free range. I have had a couple of traumatic experiences in my life and after my husband was killed in an act of random violence (rare event) it did impact my ability to be free range to an extent. But Lenore is absolutely right. It gets easier. This place was a reminder that rare events are indeed rare. And every time I let my kids do something new, while it may have been near inducing panic attacks at first, it not only was beneficial to my children’s independence but also every time something bad didn’t happen (because it’s not likely too) my anxiety went down which helps my own well being. This is one thing I try to share with other parents. Not that they are silly or bad parents, etc for feeling the anxiety but that if you don’t let it keep you from doing things it DOES get easier. I think empathy goes a long way and being an example for “helicopter” parents is better than just writing them off as ridiculous. Sorry for going off topic, I just think a lot about the judgment toward parents that I see go both ways. Sometimes I get worried about busybodies, but I have yet to be reported for anything, so I guess I am not tainted by that yet.

  34. lollipoplover June 14, 2017 at 11:51 am #

    Sheesh. Bikers vs. Drivers conversations are as frustrating as Dog people vs. Cat people. Everything is relative. No one group is worse than the other for the bad apples among them.

    As for biking, I LOVE biking. I like quiet country roads and off season beach towns to ride everywhere on fatseated beach cruisers with the sea air blowing through my helmet-less hair. Heaven.

    I do not like riding on busy roads with a lot of cars. I find that unless the town has a proper infrastructure like bike lanes or paths, i have no desire to bike ride through it. Walking or driving is preferred.
    Then there are towns that encourage bike riding and make it so much more pleasurable. I tend to go there-especially with the kids who can’t drive yet- as it allows so much more adventure and independence from cars. Nothing better than parking the car for the week because everything is a walk or bike ride away. Biking to the beach is so much more fun than vacuuming out the sand from the car..

  35. Warren June 14, 2017 at 6:20 pm #

    James
    Back in the 70 – 80’s there were not common place helmet wearers.
    Snowmobiling but just as much for warmth.
    Football is self-explanatory.
    Batting helmet that was mandatory.
    Motor biking on road. Off road never.
    Never wore one for hockey until the 90’s.
    Cycling never.

  36. James Pollock June 14, 2017 at 7:21 pm #

    “Back in the 70 – 80’s there were not common place helmet wearers. […]
    Cycling never.”

    Duh.
    Like I said yesterday, bicycle helmets hadn’t been invented yet.

    If you were doing with YOUR bike what we were doing with OUR bikes, and you did it without a helmet, then you are colossally stupid.
    While I cannot definitively rule out the possibility that you are, in fact, colossally stupid, I’m going to instead assume that you just weren’t jumping bikes over things like we were.

  37. Warren June 14, 2017 at 8:43 pm #

    Lol
    You James are as predictable as ever.

    Little Man, we did more than you can imagine. We just weren’t scared little wimps like you.

  38. James Pollock June 14, 2017 at 10:14 pm #

    You don’t often see people bragging about colossally stupid they were/are, but there it is.

    You wear it well. Don’t ever change, buddy.

  39. Melanie June 15, 2017 at 2:12 pm #

    According to this: http://www.davison.com/blog/2013/05/14/history-tuesday-the-bicycle-helmet/ bicycle helmets were invented in 1975 and the first safety standards put in place in 1984. So while they might not have been common they definitely existed.

  40. Mark Roulo June 16, 2017 at 2:26 pm #

    “This is totally off topic, but I wondered if I was the only person outside North Korea who has little sympathy for the Weinberger (?) boy who was just released by the North Koreans after stealing a propaganda poster last year?”

    No, you are not the only one.

    It doesn’t seem to be a secret that North Korea is run by fairly evil people. Putting yourself where they can do what they want to you seems fairly foolish/risky.

    Sucks for Otto Warmbier, but it isn’t like he was kidnapped by the North Koreans.

  41. James Pollock June 16, 2017 at 2:48 pm #

    “Sucks for Otto Warmbier, but it isn’t like he was kidnapped by the North Koreans.”

    No, but it IS like he’s been in a coma for a year.
    No sympathy? For him or his family? Kinda cold.

  42. Papilio June 16, 2017 at 7:19 pm #

    Fun to see a bike-related post in this Velocity 2017 week.
    Disappointing though that it has to be about helmets and stupid drivers versus stupid cyclists. For what it’s worth: it has never been proven that helmets actually help, all things considered (because people simply stop cycling, making i more dangerous for those who don’t and getting less exercise themselves; because people who feel protected take more risks; because people with protection seem less vulnerable to passing drivers; because a helmet makes you head bigger and therefore increases the risk of you hitting your head; because a helmet hitting something could injure the neck, …); and there’s British research that suggests drivers are at fault in a majority of car-bike collisions (I could think of SMIDSYs, dangerous overtaking, dooring, running red lights)

    @Mark: Does your area have a overtaking law, you know, about the minimum distance drivers must stay away from cyclists while passing them? Did you take that into account?

    Anyway, Wednesday was a lovely day, and I decided to go shopping in another town, about 12 miles away. Being an ordinary Dutch person on a 40-year-old, 50-pound, upright, three-speed Gazelle, I don’t own a helmet; I did wear sandals though. After some neighborhood streets, a distributor road with lanes and a bit with a separate path next to a road to get out of the city, the first third or so of the journey was on a bike path, where I overtook some teens going home, and got overtaken by a couple of around 60 on e-bikes (no helmets), and an actual racing cyclist in lycra on a road bike (yes helmet), who looked about 75.
    The second leg was on quiet country roads with a speed limit of 37mph that really were quiet. The drivers that were there nicely went to the other side of the road to overtake me, sometimes staying behind for a while because of another cyclist coming our way. I passed through some villages (18mph speed limit), and eventually reached the provincial road (busy, normally 50mph), where there was a lot of road works going on (30mph, still busy).
    Even though the road itself was closed at some points, and the bike path alongside it was closed at another, there was always a continuous route specifically for cyclists, separate from the car traffic: either there was a service road, or the path had already been partially replaced by a new tarmac path, or bits had temporarily been replaced with concrete slabs, or it had been rerouted onto (I think) part of the old road (new one wasn’t built exactly on top of it) and at one point I was redirected to a service road on the other side of the busy road.
    At no point was I expected to ‘mix it with traffic’ on that road: there was always a separate route that continued one way or another, with temporary stuff and signs redirecting cyclists if necessary. Made me realize I really love this country 🙂

  43. Melissa June 16, 2017 at 10:12 pm #

    To Jessica and hineata,

    The comment about the neighbor was not at all meant as snark; it’s pointing out the hypocrisy. If her helicoptering was so great, her son should have been able to move out and be a self-supporting citizen. She is reaping what she sowed. These people live on my street so they are not strangers; I can tell you with relative certainty they are not hard-up for money (they have a vacation home), nor is this a cultural thing (they are boring middle-class white Protestants like me). This is a clear case of milliennial snowflake failure-to-launch. So I stand by my observation.

  44. Neil M June 20, 2017 at 11:23 am #

    @Rebel Mom:

    The problem with your philosophy is that, if you get hurt riding helmetless, we ALL pick up the tab for treating your injuries. so although your head may be yours, the cost of fixing it belongs to all of us.