Dear Prudence: I’m Scared That My 4-year-old Is 20 Ft Away from the Adult With Her!

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Let’s hear it for Mallory hzryrahehy
Ortberg
, who, like her “Dear Prudence” predecessor Emily Yoffe, is a wonderful advice giver. In fact, she’s so wonderful that I have to include the entire Free-Range question she just got, and her wise — restrained — answer. Also, let me put in a pitch for Mallory’s book, “Texts from Jane Eyre,” which I could NOT stop reading aloud, even to people I barely knew, it is SO FUNNY.

Anyway, I don’t know Mallory and never met her. I’m just a fan.

Dear Prudence,
I have a 4-year-old daughter who attends a neighborhood preschool. My neighbor has offered to walk my daughter with hers to school. I have taken her up on the offer a couple of times, but she is a “free range” parent and will let the little ones walk a good 20 to 30 feet in front of her. While I am not a helicopter parent, I think it’s dangerous not to have someone under the age of 6 walk right with you. I want to say something, but I am not sure how. Help! — At Close Range

If you’re not comfortable with how this woman walks her children to school, you should decline future offers and walk with your daughter yourself. She hasn’t invited you to modify her parenting methods; she’s offered to do you a favor. You’re not a fan of the terms of the favor, so walk hand-in-hand (or at least side-by-side) with your daughter until you think she’s old enough to run ahead.

Or discuss it here! Or both!  – L

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This boy seems to be more than 20 feet from...any adult oversight.

Mon Dieu! This boy seems to be more than 20 feet from…any adult oversight! (Photo by Henri Cartier Bresson.) 

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75 Responses to Dear Prudence: I’m Scared That My 4-year-old Is 20 Ft Away from the Adult With Her!

  1. Nate Hoffelder, editor of The Digital Reader April 15, 2016 at 12:00 am #

    Ortberg is hilarious!

    You should read her “Ayn Rand’s Harry Potter” series on The Toast. They’re even funnier than that book.

  2. Peter Brülls April 15, 2016 at 12:23 am #

    How can this not curb the development of the kid in question? I had to check the conversion to the metric system twice to accept that it’s 6.1 meters.

    Even when I consider the sad state of residential zones in many American cities, it seems pathologically paranoid to me, unless the kid has issues, like ADHC. And then I have to wonder where those come from.

  3. Betsy Murgatroyd April 15, 2016 at 3:58 am #

    Mallory is the bees knees. She writes some of the funniest stuff on the internet. Her fairy tales made horrific series is one of the most terrifying and wonderful things I’ve ever read. She’s got a new series about fairy tales made a bit nicer which is also great.

    I definitely recommend you go read everything she writes for the-toast.net, Lenore. It’s an amazing and gratifying rabbit hole.

  4. BL April 15, 2016 at 5:30 am #

    “While I am not a helicopter parent … ”

    Sorry, I couldn’t hear what you said. The sound of the main rotor blade is drowning you out.

  5. Jodie April 15, 2016 at 6:44 am #

    I’m blind, so my daughter has to be holding my fiancé’s or my hand at all times; my fiancé is also blind and our daughter is sighted. But if the adult can see, the kid should be able to walk ahead. I honestly believe common sense and perspective disappeared with the eighty’s. I saw a court show once where there was a facebook comment to a teacher telling him to call CPS just because the mother was having one of *those* mornings (we all have them, don’t we?) and the little girl’s hair was not absolutely perfect in every way. I equate that with the walking ahead thing because it all blends together after a while. No common sense and no perspective.

  6. Katie April 15, 2016 at 7:21 am #

    I’d probably give her a heart attack. My 6 year old walks across the street (it is a dead end) and two houses down to get to his bus stop in the morning. Even though I can see him from my perch on the couch, he is 50 + feet away.

    20 feet ahead isn’t that far and if they are on a sidewalk and they wait for the adult if they need to cross the street, it isn’t that serious

  7. Liesbet April 15, 2016 at 8:06 am #

    My kids and I ride on our bikes to school every morning. My daughter is almost six now, and she’s been riding on her own bike for more than a year. She rides ON THE STREET now, next to the cars. She’s a very conscientious girl, and I trust her completely. She always stops before we have to cross a street, but I let her decide when we can cross. I think it is very important to get to know the traffic from an early age. Sometimes I let my son (almost four) ride to school on his two-wheel walking bike, and then we stay on the sidewalk, but my daughter often drives off, even 300 feet away, and then rides back to us. I never doubt her, I know I can trust her.
    Luckily, we live in Belgium, and this kind of behavior is TOTALLY normal here 🙂

  8. Jessica April 15, 2016 at 8:31 am #

    My kids have known not to run into the street since about 2yo. Occasionally, we have to remind them, but that’s more when we get to an intersection and they’re ready to cruise before we catch up. Even then, at 6 and 4, they’re pretty consistent at checking for cars. Why is it so difficult to believe that a young child is incapable of understanding not to run into the street?

  9. craig April 15, 2016 at 8:56 am #

    People who say, ‘I am not a helicopter parent, but’, are usually helicopter parents in denial.

  10. lollipoplover April 15, 2016 at 9:58 am #

    “…but she is a “free range” parent and will let the little ones walk a good 20 to 30 feet in front of her.”

    Perhaps “I’m not a helicopter mom” can supply the other mom with a leash for her child who clearly is not to be trusted off-leash.

    It is increasingly frightening how others treat children like pets. I’m surprised the mom doesn’t ask for the 4 year-old to be pushed in a stroller and fully contained to be delivered safely to preschool.

  11. JR April 15, 2016 at 10:06 am #

    There may be factors in this situation that we don’t know.

    The “neighborhood preschool” could be in one of those neighborhoods that was designed for cars, not for people, and has limited sidewalks. It could be near a high school populated by teen drivers distracted by their phones. The four-year-old child in question could be impulsive and easily distrac….. SQUIRREL!

    Or it could be a perfectly safe, old-school, residential neighborhood with a cozy school nearby. We simply don’t know.

    Regardless, expecting a small person under age 6 to walk next to her parent is not inherently unreasonable or overprotective. So rather than berate the “helicopter” mom, let’s take at face value her statement that she is not a helicopter mom, and give her the benefit of the doubt by trusting that she knows her child and her child’s capabilities better than we do.

  12. Beth April 15, 2016 at 10:15 am #

    JR, if that’s the case (that mom knows her own child’s capabilities and knows this 20-30 feet thing would be a problem, then it’s odd that she’s writing to Dear Prudence for advice. She can just say “no, thank you, I like walking her myself” to the other mother and go on with her life.

  13. JR April 15, 2016 at 10:21 am #

    @Jessica

    “Why is it so difficult to believe that a young child is incapable of understanding not to run into the street?”

    Young children are VERY capable of understanding not to run into the street, once they’ve been taught that skill and had it consistently reinforced until it becomes second nature. I imagine that this is something you’ve taught your children through repeated practice, because your kids sound pretty street-smart.

    While we can’t know for sure, it sounds like the mom in the story has been driving her child to preschool and the walking would be a new thing for her. The free-range mom’s kids are clearly practiced at walking the route to school and mom trusts them. The worried mom’s child likely needs more practice at walking around traffic and learning the rules of the road before she’s allowed to take full responsibility for herself, and her mom recognizes this.

    A good compromise would be for the worried mom to walk with the free-range mom and her own daughter and start teaching her the rules of the road. The child could eventually earn the privilege of walking with her friends by demonstrating consistent good judgement around traffic.

  14. Papilio April 15, 2016 at 10:26 am #

    Now, I’m not a parent, so what do I know, but shouldn’t this depend on whether the kid knows to obey the neighbor when she’s walking with her and her kids, knows to stop when she reaches a sideroad, knows to immediately stop when she’s walking ahead and an adult yells STOP!, et cetera?

    @Liesbet: I hope you realize Flemish (right?) neighborhood streets can be, and most likely are, very, VERY different from their American equivalents?

  15. jb April 15, 2016 at 10:28 am #

    JR,
    Exactly. “Things a normal 4-year-old should be capable of” =/= “Things a 4-year-old of a helicopter parent is actually capable of with no preparation.”

  16. JR April 15, 2016 at 10:42 am #

    @Beth
    You’re right, and that’s exactly what Prudence suggested.

    From the tone of the letter, though, it sounds like the worried mom is not only concerned about how her 4yo will fare walking to school, but she also thinks that the free-range mom is being irresponsible because she believes that a child under age 6 should walk “right with you.” I suspect that – unlike the free range mom – she has not yet taught her 4yo the rules of the road and therefore is not willing to let her walk too far from arm’s distance.

    I also suspect that she’s making an error in reasoning that is causing her to question the other mom’s choices: “My child is 4yo and does not yet demonstrate good judgement around traffic. Therefore, she should not walk far from me. Those children are the same age as my child and therefore must also be incapable of good judgement around traffic. Therefore, it is irresponsible of their mom to let them walk far from her.”

    If the worried mom really wants her kid to start walking to school (and wants to investigate for herself the validity of her assumptions about the other family), a good compromise would be for them to go together as a group and start teaching the 4yo the appropriate behaviors. Kids often learn best from their peers, and I’ll bet the responsible kids would be happy and proud to teach their friend what they know about safely walking to school.

  17. lollipoplover April 15, 2016 at 11:04 am #

    “So rather than berate the “helicopter” mom, let’s take at face value her statement that she is not a helicopter mom, and give her the benefit of the doubt by trusting that she knows her child and her child’s capabilities better than we do.”

    If she knows her child’s capabilities, why can’t she ask her child to stay close to this mother vs. 20 feet ahead instead of placing blame with another mom who trusts their kid and her method of parenting?

    I walked my kids to preschool too and we went on quiet streets and a busy road with no sidewalks. They held my hand crossing that road and stayed close to me. I gave them more freedom walking down a cult-de-sac with very few cars. They notice everything. Their favorite part was the drain pipes by the busy road, there were always frogs in there and they had to inch up quietly or the frogs would jump back in the water. If there was an issue with walking and someone who darted in front (never was) I would take it up with that CHILD, not just the parent walking with her. It could be a safety issue, but sounds more like a control issue.

  18. Havva April 15, 2016 at 11:21 am #

    Yesterday I came across a comment about how “free-range” is being defined down. That the Meitives seemed like on the protective end of parenting compared to parenting of our own youth. And reading that I was thinking how I definitely am only ‘free-range’ by what that writer called a ‘defined down’ standard. I have trouble imagining my five year old walking herself to and from school in a few months, as my mom did for Kindergarten. I get anxious at the idea of leaving her to play in the unfenced yard with me in the house unable to hear her. Sometimes I feel I am really a protective parent pretending to be free range. And then there are moments like this…

    I trained my daughter from the time she could steadily walk to stay on a sidewalk. She has been allowed to get 20ft ahead of me since she started consistently obeying “STOP”, she was under 2 at the time. 20ft is the distance across my living room. I can cover it in 4 running steps from a dead stop. I allowed my daughter to go half a block ahead once she consistently waited at the corner without me having to say STOP. While she was 4 she started recognizing, and reacting properly, to cars about to back out of driveways, even on the other side of tall hedges. So in her late 4’s I started letting her bike around the corner and down to the end of this one nice flat block. She looks forward to the chance to do those 800 ft at full steam. And she maxes out at about 600ft from supervision, she even (gasp!) goes briefly out of sight, twice. Not a big deal, she waits patiently where we need to cross the street. My only concern (and even this doesn’t bother me much), is that it might upset a busy body. But lots of neighbors and workers in the neighborhood have seen her zipping along. In the rare instances they pay us any mind, they give us a smile.

    I’m not convinced that 20 feet with a 4 year old is even ‘free-range’. It might just be what feels natural and safe to a mom who has never given any thought to parenting philosophy.

  19. Backroads April 15, 2016 at 11:28 am #

    To make things in a more solemn direction (but I do have a point):

    In Utah this past week we have had a rash of very bad things happening to children, to the point I don’t even want to go onto the news site anymore for fear of yet another headline. Among many things, three kids have been killed by vehicles in under a week. All three were incidents of a kid just walking/biking out into the road. Extremely sad, but it has led to a conversation on the news sites about how kids simply don’t know how to navigate the roads anymore. Adults, myself included, are talking about how the elementary schools don’t teach traffic and walking/biking safety anymore like they did in the good ol’ days. Not that the responsibility should fall entirely to students, merely pointing out a change in culture. Now, I’d say the general attitude on these is that sometimes bad things and accidents happen, but does that mean we shouldn’t be teaching our kids about roads and what not?

  20. delurking April 15, 2016 at 11:33 am #

    I think it’s dangerous not to have someone under the age of 6 walk right with you.
    You never know when there might be a drive-by shooting.

  21. JR April 15, 2016 at 11:34 am #

    @lollipoplover

    “If she knows her child’s capabilities, why can’t she ask her child to stay close to this mother?”

    Agreed. That’s another good compromise this mom could make.

    “It could be a safety issue, but sounds more like a control issue.”

    Also agreed. But at age 4, those two things often go together. It’s not unreasonable to expect that the person with whom you’re entrusting your child will engage in a level of supervision and expect behavioral standards similar to your own.

  22. Reziac April 15, 2016 at 12:20 pm #

    Two feet away may be too far at the edge of a cliff. 20 miles away may be perfectly fine in your home town. Where there’s no perspective, there’s no sense.

  23. Curious April 15, 2016 at 12:20 pm #

    Why not bind her little feet while you’re at it!

  24. Douglas John Bowen April 15, 2016 at 12:36 pm #

    Incredibly wise advice — I wouldn’t have been so evenhanded and considerate.

    But boy, do I hear the “thwup” sound of those helicopter parent blades, protestation notwithstanding.

  25. NY Mom April 15, 2016 at 12:55 pm #

    My 4 YO crossed St Marks Place in NYC alone with me watching from a window of our apartment four flights up. 40 years ago. It’s a one-way bus route and busy. Here’s how it happened.
    Several of us used to sit on the stoop across the street and watch our kids at play. One day, up the street, a 6YO named Brian ran into the street and was hit by a taxi. Fortunately his injuries were minor. But a dad with us said Brian never looked before he crossed and had ignored advice from this man. (Not a stranger. A neighbor and custodial parent of a 5 YO.)
    We held a conference then and there, called the kids over and gave them street crossing refresher training en mass.
    The final segment of training was letting them cross–alone.
    Mine subsequently insisted on his right to cross alone. If I had dinner on the stove and Kris, across the street, age 6, called I would ascertain that Kris’ mom, Hannalore, was out and ask her to watch. I would watch from the window.
    Scared? Yes! But nothing compared to what Brian’s Mom suffered when the police came to her door.
    Would I do this today? Absolutely not.
    In those days, the police came from large families and the kids played on the street. They got their share of bumps and bloody noses–we girls too. But 4 YOs were given the dignity an intelligent human deserves.
    We didn’t let our dogs off the leash, though.

    I lost friends for my Free Range Policies even back then. Some parents wouldn’t let their children play with mine. But the parents on St Mark’s Place never lost a kid.
    Those were the days! Before strangers were deemed more dangerous even than buses and taxis.

  26. Donna April 15, 2016 at 1:14 pm #

    “So rather than berate the “helicopter” mom, let’s take at face value her statement that she is not a helicopter mom, and give her the benefit of the doubt by trusting that she knows her child and her child’s capabilities better than we do.

    Except that that is not what she said. She said “I think it’s dangerous not to have someone under the age of 6 walk right with you.” That indicates that she not considering her child’s own personal capabilities in this decision, but instead believes that ALL children under 6 should be within arm’s reach of an adult at all time.

  27. jb April 15, 2016 at 1:29 pm #

    “If she knows her child’s capabilities, why can’t she ask her child to stay close to this mother vs. 20 feet ahead instead of placing blame with another mom who trusts their kid and her method of parenting?”

    Even the most responsible 4-year-olds would have a hard time walking with a grownup rather than one of their friends who is walking ahead.

  28. JR April 15, 2016 at 1:40 pm #

    @Donna – thank you for pointing that out. I said some version of that in my head, but it didn’t make its way into my original comment. I realized that and addressed it in my comment to @Beth. Namely…

    **I also suspect that she’s making an error in reasoning that is causing her to question the other mom’s choices. She thinks: “My child is 4yo and does not yet demonstrate good judgement around traffic. Therefore, she should not walk far from me. Those children are the same age as my child and therefore must also be incapable of good judgement around traffic. Therefore, it is irresponsible of their mom to let them walk far from her.”**

    She’s committing a logical fallacy by generalizing from the part (MY 4yo kid) to the whole (ALL 4yo kids). She may simply not have enough data to have a clear picture of what skills a 4yo can learn and how one can be trusted to behave.

  29. david zaitzeff April 15, 2016 at 1:44 pm #

    Lenore Skenazy

    I walk at Greenlake which is a park just north of downtown Seattle. Greenlake is a man-made lake and it is beautifully kept. People can swim in the lake, play tennis or basketball. There is a 3 mile walking path around the lake and there are lawns where people sunbathe or play simple minor sports on the lawn.

    Because of how the local and state laws are written on the topic of indecent exposure, customs and local mores are subject to minor changes in some places. I have walked regularly at Greenlake in a thong, which is currently legally allowed, though some dislike it. (I am not the only one at this point who walks or sunbathes in a thong.)

    You have various articles and posts about how kids navigate situations in which mom or dad is not nearby or is 20 feet away.

    Together with walking, playing, swimming and sunbathing, every year there are a dozen or more instances that kids and a mom sets up a small table with a bake sale and cookie stand or lemonade stand. In most of these cases, mom and kids are next to each other and mom helps in the process. But in a few cases, it is actually kids only–perhaps two boys, or a larger number of kids.

    When I walk clothed I often buy a cookie or lemonade but I have initiated interaction when I was in less clothing.

    A week ago, I am walking while in “next to unclothed” and I am passing by a bake sale table with 4 or so kids. The kids say, “Hello. Would you like to have a cookie?” or something similar!

    It turned out that the usual mom, at least temporarily, was not with this particular batch of kids. (Whether she was in a restroom or moving a car or had let the kids be free-range, I do not know. Of course, it was also possible that she was simply sitting on a bench 15 feet away without saying anything.)

    The whole situation was so funny given the concern some people have; the kids were a mixture of boys and girls seemed to me to be of 4th to 8th grade ages. We chatted briefly about their upcoming trip to China and a Mandarin or Cantonese phrase or two. The kids had no concerns expressed and we did not discuss my attire.

    A few times a year I get a question or comment from an adult who joins me briefly on the walking path while we are walking. It is some form of “What about the kids?” or “Are you hurting the kids?”

    In the case of these four or five kids, the answer seems to be, as measured by the kids, that I was not concerning or hurting them. It was a bit surprising.

    Of course, I do provide a small minor adventure for some, without even trying, simply by walking. Most kids while walking are walking with mom or dad. Once in a while kids are walking in pair or group on their own. Almost two years ago, a pair of girls of young elementary age and I were on the walking path. The walking path is used people headed either clockwise or counterclockwise. I was headed east and they were headed west on the south part of the lake. They saw me and one of them “yelled” bit “Stranger danger,” and then they ran . . . they ran in my direction and then continued past me.

    About a half hour later, they and I passed by each others again. This time they were observing me from behind a bush or tree. I think they were verifying that I was not a serious danger and continuing to pass by. I hope they have continued to enjoy the lake; no one else or they have been yelling “stranger danger” since then.

    So, at least in Seattle, at least some parents let the kids have some fun on their own at the park. Whether it is good or bad and whether or not they local police think it is a great idea, I don’t know, but there are no news reports of police vigorously confronting a mom about a free-range kid at the park–at least at this particular park.

    A few years ago, at a different Seattle park, a problem man tried to abduct a kid in the presence of his brothers and sisters who all started to scream and yell and help their sister who was immediately freed. For whatever reason, Greenlake has not had that kind of crime take place as best I can determine. Either it is the neighborhood or the people who visit or the fact that there are so many people in reasonable daylight hours that any evil-doing would be spotted and stopped.

    Not sure if the story of the kids with the bake sale table is of dramatic interest, but I thought it quite funny, after hearing every few months the question of whether or not I am hurting or affecting “the kids.”

  30. david zaitzeff April 15, 2016 at 1:46 pm #

    woops,

    in my story comment, I should have said I have not initiated interaction while wearing less!

  31. Barry Lederman April 15, 2016 at 2:21 pm #

    This reminds me of a situation. My kids wanted to go to the movies with the neighbor kids and wanted me to drive them. I said I would. Before I left, I told the neighbor parent that I would drop them off and return to pick them up. I was not going to stay at the theater. I told them this up front because I didn’t want them to be upset at me after the fact. I was very surprised when the neighbor chose to drive the kids and stay at the theater. I felt kind of bad. Now I felt like I was imposing on my neighbor to drive my kids. I let things stand and the kids all enjoyed the movie.

  32. James Pollock April 15, 2016 at 2:29 pm #

    Streets are dangerous places for children. Children can be taught to recognize and avoid the dangers, but it takes time and effort; the children learn at different rates, and sometimes the world throws them a new situation they aren’t prepared for, and some children (and adults) handle that poorly.

    Do I think that a four year old who has been properly prepared should be allowed to run ahead with other children? I do. Do I think that a six-year-old who has not been properly prepared should be allowed to run ahead with other children? I do not.

    They’re BOTH right. No need to pick sides.

  33. Angela April 15, 2016 at 3:06 pm #

    david-

    “Oh noes! I can see skin!!”

    One thing that amuses me to no end is squeamishness over a naked body. I never leave the house scantily clothed and usually don’t even wear a swimming suit; I used a cover when nursing all three of my children in public; I am generally a very modest person. So when I voice my views on nudity (I don’t really care), it throws people for a loop. They make the ‘for the children’ appeal, as if simply viewing a naked body would cause harm. If the discussion is breastfeeding, they’ll try to turn it around as if a man’s naked body is somehow worse than a woman’s. “What if it was some guy waving his tallywacker out in the open; what if your children were with you? How would you explain that to a 4-year old!?!”

    I actually took the time to respond once. “It matters what the situation is, I guess. I’d just ignore it if they seemed to be minding their own, unless the child specifically asked. If the person is making a scene, I might point them out,” The person really didn’t like that part. Acknowledging the existence of the ‘offender?’ “I’d speak with my child. ‘She isn’t very modest, is she?’ ‘If he’s trying to get attention, he sure chose the right way to do it.’ ‘You’d think that person has better things to do than make a fool of themselves.'”

    Apparently starting an actual conversation with my children, especially about an uncomfortable subject, is out of the question. I guess I am supposed to squeal and grunt (make lots of noise without saying anything), separate them visually and physically from the offense and then hide any indication that anything untoward happened; or rules and laws and authority should assure I am never faced with it.

    Yeah, that sounds like a great way to help develop an independent, healthy, whole adult human being.

  34. Roger the Shrubber April 15, 2016 at 3:16 pm #

    James:

    While I am not a helicopter parent, I think it’s dangerous not to have someone under the age of 6 walk right with you. I want to say something, but I am not sure how. Help!

    This mother is not just saying that her 4 year-old is not capable of walking without having her hand held. She wants to insist that the mother that is doing her a favor treat her own 6 year-old child the same way. For that, she is in the wrong.

  35. James Pollock April 15, 2016 at 3:44 pm #

    “This mother is not just saying that her 4 year-old is not capable of walking without having her hand held. She wants to insist that the mother that is doing her a favor treat her own 6 year-old child the same way. For that, she is in the wrong.”

    You’re inserting details that aren’t in the original story.
    All I can see is that she wants her child to be kept close to the adult walking to school, which isn’t happening. (You also seem to have chosen an age for the other woman’s child.) Stick to the facts as given.

  36. JT April 15, 2016 at 5:15 pm #

    I have to disagree that “expecting a small person under age 6 to walk next to her parent is not inherently unreasonable or overprotective. ”

    As a general thing, yes it is unreasonable. They should be capable of walking on their own in normal situations – on sidewalks, in on paths in parks, etc. If the situation is dangerous – say walking in the road with cars – then yes, walk with the adult.

    Note, I am not saying the 6 year old should decide what is safe and not. It’s fine is the parent says “Stay with me here” or “Stay with me unless I say you can go head.”

    But a six year old, with normal vision and normal development, should be capable of walking apart from their parent. if they’re not, the parent is doing something wrong.Sorry to be judgey, but our role as parents is to teach kids to do stuff like this.

    Heck, my kid could do this when he was 2.5 – walk down sidewalks in New York City on his own. I taught him to not go in the street unless I was with him, and by 3.5 I could trust him very very well.

  37. olympia April 15, 2016 at 5:32 pm #

    I appreciated Mallory’s no nonsense response to this query, although I’m rather perplexed as to why the woman felt the need to make the query in the first place- if you’re not comfortable with what someone acting in your stead is going to let your kid do, just don’t let her act in your stead! No reason to even bring differing philosophies into it. Of course, the poster may very well have just been looking for pats on the back and gasps over how awful the let her kids run ahead mother was. Glad Mallory didn’t fall for that.

    I’ve never liked walking hand in hand with kids- it’s necessary at times of course, but they tend to resent it and fight it like mad. I’ve also noted that, certainly when they’re as old as four, a neurotypical kid is good at stopping before street crossings. I wouldn’t trust them to figure out when to cross at that point, but I’d definitely trust them to run ahead.

  38. James Pollock April 15, 2016 at 5:36 pm #

    “I have to disagree that ‘expecting a small person under age 6 to walk next to her parent is not inherently unreasonable or overprotective. ‘”

    I disagree with your disagreement. It’s not INHERENTLY (emphasis added) unreasonable or overprotective. Yes, children younger than six can be taught how to recognize and avoid dangers… if they haven’t been taught, for whatever reason, or if the adult supervising them is unsure whether they’ve been taught, then keeping them close is reasonable.

    You taught your kid how to recognize and avoid the dangers of the environment you lived in long before they were six. So did I. But… sometimes I travelled and put myself in other environments, for which my child was NOT taught how to recognize all the dangers. Some parents prioritized other things. For example, my child had no fear of, or even respect for, heights. I never taught my three-year-old not to climb over the back of the seat on the Ferris wheel when it stops with your seat at or near the top. Someone else alertly caught her. Ferris wheels aren’t that dangerous… if you stay in your seat. Then there was this other time, at the beach, when she wanted to walk right up to the edge of the cliff to look over it. My home environment doesn’t have cliffs. For my daughter, at around age 4 or 5, they were an attractive nuisance.

    One of the kids my daughter went to junior-high with (so we’re not talking about 6-year-olds, here) was run over and killed while walking home from school. Yes, rare… but so many teens these days spend their time walking with their attention directed to their hand-held devices, they’re insufficiently aware of their surroundings. I worry about that one, even though my daughter is out of her teens.

  39. Diane April 15, 2016 at 5:39 pm #

    My older kids, when they were preschool age, we’re not very reliable in traffic situations and I probably would have made them stay next to me. I’m older and hopefully wiser now. I spent a bit of time with my one year old today at an open park, working with him and practicing staying away from the street but letting him go in front of me on the grass and the sidewalk. Free range parenting can be a lot of work on the front end but I’m hoping it pays off down the road.

  40. Catherine Caldwell-Harris April 15, 2016 at 5:54 pm #

    I do not understand why Lenore views the Dear Prudence response as an answer to celebrate. Here is my speculation: Lenore is so happy that Mallory didn’t endorse the helicopter mother’s fears that she (Lenore) can’t see that Mallory needed to say something like: “Are you afraid to bring it up with the mother because you secretly realize your paranoia is unrealistic?” etc.

  41. Anna April 15, 2016 at 6:27 pm #

    “But a six year old, with normal vision and normal development, should be capable of walking apart from their parent.”

    Yes, this! And particularly when by “apart” we mean 20 feet away. As Havva pointed out, this is about the distance across a living room. Or halfway across my front lawn.

    Asking a 4 or 6-year-old to match pace with a slow, boring grown-up to the extent that they never get more than 20 feet away sounds like cruel and unusual punishment to me. Also flat-out unrealistic. That’s not how kids move, and only a mom who is so accustomed to driving her kid everywhere that she’s never actually seen the kid walk would fail to realize this.

  42. EtobicokeMom April 15, 2016 at 10:07 pm #

    Its interesting to read so many comments here about what a “normal” 4 year old or 6 old should be able to do. Every child is different. Which is why the advice of the columnist is genius. She isn’t dictating to the Mom what is safe or what isn’t (how could she since she knows nothing the neighbourhood, the child, the caregiver…), but simply says tells the Mom she is not in a position to dictate to the neighbour how she provides her care. Which is central to the free-range philosophy – don’t tell other people how to parent.

    I also think its both insulting and wrong to assume that any child over a certain age who can’t do x or y hasn’t been taught properly by their parent. I have two kids. One is coming up to 9, the other has just turned 7. I assure you that I have made every attempt to teach them both skills that I feel they should have. The 7 year old could probably have walked himself the several blocks through our neighbourhood to the bus stop at the beginning of Grade One. He instinctively notices cars, even those in driveways, knows how to treat neighbourhood dogs (ask the owner first, let the dog sniff, then pet…) and is appropriately social with neighbours (okay, very social – he says good morning to everyone!). He walks responsibly. His older sister? Not so much. Just last week she walked down the driveway, right onto the road, causing a driver to slam on her brakes and swerve to avoid her. Nearly causing me a heart attack…. She prefers to hold my hand all the way to the bus stop and is not at all pleased that I have started stopping about a block away to let them go the last bit on their own. She is absolutely petrified of dogs and if she sees one will run screaming into the road without any regard for cars (she is also a drama queen). Please believe me that I have made every attempt to teach her the appropriate skills, but at the age of almost 9, she is not ready to walk anywhere independently. Maybe with her little brother. He would probably keep her safe…

    My point is that there is no “normal” age and every parent has to gauge their own child’s skills. And two, don’t assume that just because a child of a certain age can’t do a certain free-range task that the parent has failed as a parent.

  43. Diane April 15, 2016 at 10:45 pm #

    EtobicokeMom, I completely agree. Kids are people and as such are all different and have stuff they may deal with; they’re not blank slates that “good” parents program correctly and “poor” parents mess up! I thought Dear Prudie’s advice was perfect, unassuming, and practical.

  44. John S April 16, 2016 at 1:13 am #

    Can or should this come under “damned of I do, damned if I don’t”, or another category?

    Police: Father’s stranger-danger test scares teens into 911 call

    By The Associated Press

    This article was published today(April 15) at 4:32 p.m.

    WESTLAKE, Ohio — Police say a suburban Cleveland man had a friend pose as a threatening ex-convict during a test to see whether his teenagers would let a stranger into their home, prompting them to flee and call 911.

    Westlake police say a prosecutor will consider potential child-endangering charges against the adults.

    Police say the father described his 14- and 16-year-old sons’ actions as an “epic fail.” But officers commended them for locking themselves in a bedroom, jumping out a window and running to a neighbor’s home.

    Officers say the stranger went to the door and was let in by the younger teen, and the stranger then said their father owed him money and threatened them. Police say the man was in contact by phone with the father, who resisted halting the charade.

  45. andy April 16, 2016 at 3:17 am #

    “I disagree with your disagreement. It’s not INHERENTLY (emphasis added) unreasonable or overprotective. Yes, children younger than six can be taught how to recognize and avoid dangers…”

    I agree, but what worries me is that even this forum talks about letting child 6 meters away from parent as about “risk taking” exercise or exercise in dealing with danger. The same worries me when even this forum talks about free play on playground as exercise in “taking risks”.

    Yes, if the child is still too impulsive and may run to the car, then it is dangerous near the road and child needs to be hold close. If the child is not so impulsive or listen to verbal instructions (“stop car”) or cars are not around, then it is simply not dangerous. There is no noticeable risk in 4 years old being 6m from you and next to you unless there is busy road next to you.

    It should not even be considered a “skill”. It is normal for child to go there and back, pick up sunflower or rock or jump around a bit. If you frame that as “danger”, even in positive context of “learn to deal with danger” then you are teaching the child to be afraid of something that is not dangerous. If it was framed as danger to them, they will be afraid, but normal childs don’t “naturally” see danger in being away few meters. They naturally jump around short distance and have to be taught/reminded to keep near. Of course there is a deal with cars which are dangerous and there is “we are hurrying up not now” which is different.

    A bit offtopic, but the same for playground play. It is not “risk taking” when the worst that child risk is scratched knee. I don’t think we are doing them service when we frame that as learning important skill of risk taking (nor when we frame risk taking as inherently good thing – it is not). It is “overcoming fear when situation is safe”. Overcoming fear when situation is actually safe is important and should be encouraged.

    Doing dangerous thing and doing something you are afraid off is not that same. I don’t mean to say that people should never do dangerous things, but that I would not encourage doing it just for the sake of it. “What do we gain from it” and “is it worth danger” should be asked.

    tl;dr: we should not confuse danger and fear nor use them interchangeably.

  46. JP Merzetti April 16, 2016 at 7:11 am #

    I remember the stop look and listen at school – from kindergarden on.
    The 1950’s were the most conservative decade in the history of the world – and all those uptight conservatives let kids run free.
    Although we had to obey authority like it was Mao’s little red book – we were also challenged and expected to know how to navigate.
    A mom-accompanied kid was frowned upon in kid society as a wimp.
    Such dangerous times…………..kids thrived. Oh yeah.

    I still get a case of roaring heebie-jeebies watching folks treat dogs like kids…..
    I get a case of something much worse than that….watching folks treat kids like dogs.

    Times have changed. For the better. No, they ain’t. Freddy’s fright night wasn’t invented for adult entertainment.
    (I suspect there’s a whole lot of kid smarts going to waste, out there.)

  47. pentamom April 16, 2016 at 9:28 am #

    I would find it more believable that this particular child could not be trusted to suddenly dart out into the road while walking to a destination, if the mother had expressed that concern.

    Instead, it is more likely from the way she expressed herself, that she simply believes that no child under 6 is capable of walking safely along a sidewalk, 20 feet from an adult. That is what is being called unreasonable.

    Even children of that age who can’t be trusted not to run out into the street to chase a ball or because they want to visit a neighbor are not terribly likely to do that when they are walking along a regular route to a definite destination. A normal four year old, even a thoughtless one, is not a toddler with no sense of where the sidewalk ends and where the street begins. And why must the drastic solution of having the child stay “right with” the adult be the proper one, instead of just telling the child to stay on the sidewalk?

    It’s possible that her child has the unusual (but not necessarily abnormal) for a four year old tendency to randomly run into the street, but it’s not the most natural conclusion. The most natural conclusion is that the mother has made up a rule about “safety” that is not terribly reasonable.

  48. KarenElissa April 16, 2016 at 11:39 am #

    Good thing this mom doesn’t have her kid in the preschool where I work. I regularly take a whole class of preschoolers on walks to the park and library, in a very urban area. And no, I don’t make them walk with me. They are allowed to run ahead, but they know to stop at streets and driveways. The stop when I tell them and I can tell them to stop at the next trash can, sign, whatever, and they do. And once we get to the park (a huge city park), I give them even more freedom. Oh, we also ride the regular city bus.

  49. BL April 16, 2016 at 1:09 pm #

    @JP Merzetti
    “The 1950’s were the most conservative decade in the history of the world – and all those uptight conservatives let kids run free.”

    Parents in the 1950s had other overprotective freakouts – for example comic books, as documented in this book:

    http://www.amazon.com/The-Ten-Cent-Plague-Comic-Book-Changed/dp/0312428235

  50. Stephanie F April 16, 2016 at 4:30 pm #

    When my oldest was preschool age, we had a simple rule. We lived in a neighborhood with telephone poles, so those defined her limits. She could not be more than one telephone pole ahead of me, and could not cross the street alone. It surprised some of the other parents I knew how simple that rule worked. Every time my daughter reached a telephone pole, she would check back to see where I was,and keep moving if I had already passed the previous pole. It didn’t take long for friends to have the same rule.

    That rule would probably not have worked with my youngest, however. She was the type to run into the street, so she took much closer supervision.

  51. Donna April 16, 2016 at 6:05 pm #

    This mother says that she has taken the other mother up on her offer to walk her daughter to preschool a couple of times … and apparently nothing of note happened on those walks. Therefore the child IS capable of walking 20 feet ahead of her adult accompaniment. It is the mother who has unrealistic views and appears to be just setting down some arbitrary guideline.

  52. pentamom April 16, 2016 at 6:20 pm #

    Positing that they’re walking in a non-walker friendly area with no sidewalks and a lot of traffic doesn’t mesh with the fact that someone who believes that *no* child under six should walk 20 feet in front of an adult is letting another adult walk her 4 year old to school.

    If it was dangerous, this mom wouldn’t be allowing it in the first place, because she has an exaggerated view of dangers to children, and walking in a place with no sidewalks and a lot of traffic is a genuine danger.

  53. MichelleB April 16, 2016 at 6:55 pm #

    My first thought when I read this was about the road we live on, which is rural with no sidewalks and lots of curves. Maybe then hand holding would be appropriate…. Then I read the post again and realized that even as three year olds, my boys were probably twenty feet ahead of or behind me on any given walk. They knew to listen for cars and step off of the shoulder into the ditch when one was coming, usually before I told them to, and to stay within sight of me (not because my eyes needed to be on them, but because I figured that I was more visible to cars than unexpected small children.)

    Twenty or thirty feet isn’t far at all, unless we’re talking about a parking lot or the shoulder of the highway. And I’m inclined to think that the mom who wrote the question is more likely to exaggerate the distance a bit than to underestimate it.

  54. James Pollock April 16, 2016 at 7:29 pm #

    “This mother says that she has taken the other mother up on her offer to walk her daughter to preschool a couple of times … and apparently nothing of note happened on those walks. Therefore the child IS capable of walking 20 feet ahead of her adult accompaniment.”

    So often commenters on this site take the opinion of “we should trust the parents to decide what their children can or cannot do… they are in the best position to judge.” But if the parents’ decision is not to the commenters’ liking, there’s no hesitation in declaring what someone else’s child can or cannot do.

    THIS particular mom doesn’t want to let HER child run ahead, where they live, at the child’s present age. That’s her call to make. There’s another mother who DOES let HER child run ahead. That’s her call to make. If I lived there, and had a child at home, it would my call to make whether MY child was allowed to run ahead, which would be based pretty strongly on my opinion of how safe it was to let that particular child run, which might or might not be the same as the decisions I made for the child I had who already went through those stages.

    It may well be that this woman’s child is totally and completely prepared to handle this walk, not just running ahead of the adult(s), but completely alone. It may be that it is only by the most fortunate of circumstances that this child has escaped serious injury. Or the facts may lie anywhere along the spectrum in between, and it’s even possible that BOTH are true.

    Note that cars, while the most significant danger, are not the only one. Dangerous dogs, various rabid animals, poisonous animals… fairly rare, but not unheard of. Would your four-year-old recognize the behavior of a rabid raccoon? Mine wouldn’t’ve. It didn’t ever come up in the four-block walk in a suburban housing division. Then there are hazards that are not deadly, but still to be avoided. (Skunks are what I’m thinking of here.)

    The advice offered to this person has nothing to do with whether the child should, or should not, be allowed to run ahead. It’s the widely-applicable rule that if you don’t like the way something is being done for you, do it yourself.

  55. pentamom April 16, 2016 at 8:55 pm #

    Letting parents be the ones to judge what their children are capable of, is not incompatible with saying that parents don’t always judge that accurately, and need to rethink how they do it. We want that mom to be the judge, but we want her to base it on reasonableness, not made up ideas about the limitations of all children under six.

  56. James Pollock April 16, 2016 at 9:33 pm #

    That exact argument could be used by someone attacking a parent for letting the child be free-range.

    I mean word-for-word.

  57. Donna April 16, 2016 at 10:03 pm #

    I am sure that I will regret going against my usual inclination to not respond to James Pollock in anyway, but –

    “So often commenters on this site take the opinion of “we should trust the parents to decide what their children can or cannot do… they are in the best position to judge.” But if the parents’ decision is not to the commenters’ liking, there’s no hesitation in declaring what someone else’s child can or cannot do.”

    There isn’t single reason whatsoever to believe that the mother is making an individualized decision based on her child’s own capabilities in the current environment. In fact, the mother clearly states specifically that she is making her decision based on some generalized view that it is dangerous for ALL children under 6 to walk without an adult right next to them. That absolutely can’t be related to her child’s own capabilities unless she has a crystal ball since her child is currently only 4.

    “THIS particular mom doesn’t want to let HER child run ahead, where they live, at the child’s present age. That’s her call to make.”

    It absolutely is. It is also her call to do what she is actually doing and arbitrarily set ages to do things. However, if you put things out on the internet, people are going to express an opinion on what you write. My personal opinion is that arbitrarily setting an age to do something is wrong and maybe the mother should consider the fact that her child appears to be doing it just fine — because if she wasn’t this letter would have been much different — and not be so set on her arbitrary age limit.

  58. James Pollock April 16, 2016 at 10:59 pm #

    “I am sure that I will regret going against my usual inclination to not respond to James Pollock”
    Life is full of regrets.

    “There isn’t single reason whatsoever to believe that the mother is making an individualized decision based on her child’s own capabilities in the current environment.”
    Unless you count the fact that, whatever her feelings on the subject, she didn’t object to anyone else allowing their sub-6-year-old child to run 20 or 30 feet in front of the adult. She objects to THIS particular parent doing so, but it didn’t become an issue until this woman allowed the letter-writer’s child to do so.

    Now, it’s possible to explain that away… to assume that she absolutely would try to force EVERY parent walking a child to stay within the child’s immediate reach and vicinity… and that would be consistent with the minimal information provided. But it is not the ONLY explanation that is consistent with the information we have.

    Presumably, if she were the busybody you prefer to imagine her as, there is no need to include details about her own child at all. She would say “there is this neighbor who walks with her child to the neighborhood preschool, but she allows the child to run ahead, and I think that’s dangerous because the child is under 6”

    I assume that the parts about her child being directly affected by this other woman’s choice reflect concerns that it is her child that might be adversely affected.

    “That absolutely can’t be related to her child’s own capabilities unless she has a crystal ball since her child is currently only 4.”
    Unless, of course, she has many other children, who did not develop this ability until they were, say, 6. Or she worked with other children who were like her own, and didn’t believe they developed this ability until they were, say, 6.

    In any case, you’re assuming that the rule, as printed, originated with the letter-writer and was not an edit by the columnist or a copy-editor. You’re a lawyer. You’re supposed to know better than to rely on hearsay.

    “maybe the mother should consider the fact that her child appears to be doing it just fine”
    You are inserting this detail entirely on your own. You do not know that her child appears to be doing it just fine. You’re substituting your judgment for hers.

    It comes down to this.
    She’s seen it, and finds it not sufficiently safe. This may be because this particular child (along with other children under 6?) are objectively not safe walking this route apart from adults. You don’t think so, strongly enough to reject any other possibility. I don’t think so, but will consider the possibility that the letter-writer is right. It may, alternatively, be that this child, along with all the other children that traverse this route, are objectively safe whether accompanied by an adult or not (or, more accurately, that being accompanied by an adult in immediate proximity does not objectively increase the childrens’ safety) Again, you’ve achieved certainty on this point, and I have not. But the point remains, in selecting a final opinion on the matter from the facts available, you can trust the opinion of the person who was there, or you can discard that person’s judgment and substitute your own. Now that you’ve decided it’s acceptable to do that, you’ve discarded your right to complain when the helicopterists do the same thing.

    Note that the person writing as “Prudence” declined to offer an opinion on whether or not this child should be allowed to run ahead, or should be reined in. I agree with her.

  59. Roger the Shrubber April 17, 2016 at 4:48 am #

    Me: the mother is not just saying that her 4 year-old is not capable of walking without having her hand held. She wants to insist that the mother that is doing her a favor treat her own 6 year-old child the same way. For that, she is in the wrong.

    James: You also seem to have chosen an age for the other woman’s child.

    Artice: I have a 4-year-old daughter who attends a neighborhood preschool.

    James: Stick to the facts as given.

    Me: Yes, James. Let’s do that. I often ask myself why I would choose to engage with someone of such superior intellect.

  60. James Pollock April 17, 2016 at 5:23 am #

    ” I often ask myself why I would choose to engage with someone of such superior intellect.”

    I’m under the working assumption that you enjoy being shown to be wrong, for reasons that are not clear but appear to be quite strong.

    First rule of condescension: Make sure you’re right before being condescending. You have failed this task.

    In this case, you were called out for assigning an age, 6, to the other woman’s child. To defend your mistake, you quote the woman as saying that her own child is 4.

    If you meant to include some form of proof that the one woman’s child is 4, therefore the other woman’s child must be 6, you forgot to. Or was all of this some kind of attempt to take focus away from the fact that you offer no answer at all to the original complaint, which remains valid? (i.e., you you imputed a motive to this woman that isn’t actually in the text of the article, but was, in fact, supplied by you.)

  61. ChicagoDad April 17, 2016 at 4:17 pm #

    Just this afternoon, I went for a walk in the neighborhood with the kids. It is a beautiful day. The kids, ages 5 and 7, were waking/running ahead of me, maybe 2 or 3 houses (50 or 75 feet) ahead. A woman working in her yard says, “Oh good! They are with an adult!” The woman’s mother or aunt chimes in, “We were about to report you!”

    I laughed it off as a joke, and who knows, maybe it was. Or maybe it was a threat. Not really sure.

    What jerks.

  62. SKL April 17, 2016 at 4:40 pm #

    Say you guys, I am sitting here at my usual spy post (my bedroom window) and I need to know if I should call the cops. A man just walked by with a little boy about 2yo, maybe younger. The little boy was NOT holding the man’s hand. They were up to 10 feet apart from each other – possibly more at times. I was pretty horrified.

    The little boy didn’t try to leave the sidewalk or run off. But you know it “could” happen. So … 911 or the regular police number?

    PS there was a dog with them, if that affects your answer.

  63. BL April 17, 2016 at 4:47 pm #

    @ChicagoDad
    “The woman’s mother or aunt chimes in, ‘We were about to report you!'”

    People like that

    a) believe (perhaps with good reason) that we’re living in a police state, and …

    b) really, really like it that way

  64. ChicagoDad April 17, 2016 at 4:51 pm #

    @SKL. No time to call the authorities! You must post a photo to your local mom’s facebook group of this evil man and his little dog too! Now! Sorry, but not sorry! Anything could happen! Better safe than sorry! You can never be too safe! PANIC! WON’T SOMEONE PLEASE THINK OF THE CHILDREN!

    [this comment is dripping with sarcasm, for those without the Google Chrome sarcasm plug-in]

  65. ChicagoDad April 17, 2016 at 5:14 pm #

    @BL, sad. I believe I live in a free country, and I like it that way. I know it’s naive. I guess I can’t really agree to disagree with them, can I? Sad.

  66. Michelle April 18, 2016 at 12:57 pm #

    @Andy, I think you are missing the whole point about risk-taking. Kids playing on a playground ARE taking risks. They are pushing their bodies to see what they can do. That they are able to do this in an environment where the risks are very minor, like a skinned knee, is the whole point. We want children to find out the boundaries of what they can do when the stakes are low.

    But also, risk-taking is NOT a bad thing, and learning how to calculate risk is definitely inherently good and an essential life skill. It’s not about framing situations as dangerous; it’s about learning to calculate the potential pitfalls, about looking before you leap, about decision-making and critical thinking, and about NOT being afraid because you’ve considered the risks and decided how best to proceed.

  67. Papilio April 18, 2016 at 1:28 pm #

    @SKL: Hmm, that’s a tricky one. Did the dog have three heads?

  68. lollipoplover April 18, 2016 at 3:12 pm #

    “We were about to report you!”

    Give it right back.
    “Are you threatening me? I could report you, too!”

    There should be a busybody fine for these type of people who call in non-crimes. What a waste of public resources. And how unneighborly…whatever happened to “Your kids are adorable. Glad to see them out enjoying a beautiful day” as conversation starters among neighbors?
    Now they call the police on you.

  69. hineata April 18, 2016 at 4:06 pm #

    @ChicagoDad – what possesses people to ‘report’ that kids are out alone? If those silly women were genuinely worried that your children were running loose/away, for goodness sake why didn’t they come out and block them? Not that a 5 and a 7 year old shouldn’t be out anyway….it’sthe mentality behind involving the authorities rather than employing a little common sense.

    I had to block another toddler on the loose the other day….she was intent on running off from her caregivers. Didn’t cross my mind to ring the cops. Must be out of touch…

  70. Liesbet April 20, 2016 at 4:24 am #

    @Papilio
    Nope. No idea. I indeed live in a Flemish neighbourhood, and a rather quiet one at that, but we have cities as well, and I have let her ride her bike in city streets as well. Do you mean that ALL American neighbourhoods are just too dangerous for children? That cars drive too fast? Well, they tend to do that here too, and I have practiced my angry glare a lot when people drive too fast in a school (or other) street. Please enlighten me, I have no idea why ALL Flemish streets are supposed to be VERY different from American ones…

  71. Papilio April 20, 2016 at 1:42 pm #

    @Liesbet: Hey, no need to be so sarky, okay? I didn’t mean to insult you.
    Every now and then I see comments from fellow Dutch people on English (language, that is) websites saying that, oh, of course they ride their bike on the street with the cars (so why would that be a problem in other countries?), yes, with children as well, no problem, or they complain about 12-year-olds riding three abreast with no care in the world.
    Having grown up here they have *no idea* what measures are in place to keep through traffic out of those streets (making them cyclable)(and narrow streets/lanes help too). See https://aseasyasridingabike.wordpress.com/2016/04/08/a-failure-of-understanding/ for more on this difference in perspective, although this blogpost compares the Dutch and British views.

    Kortom, if Flemish streets resemble Dutch streets to some extent (and given that we’re buren and speak dezelfde taal, the chances of Nederlandse practices crossing the Belgian grens are better than usual, dunkt me), the differences (BE – USA) can be huge. Dat is alles 🙂

  72. Mari InShaw April 20, 2016 at 2:53 pm #

    Liesbet,
    In America we let any idiot have a driver’s license, so our drivers are more numerous and lacking in sense. In Europe it is a little harder to get a license and there is a greater pedestrian and bicycle culture there, so the drivers there aren’t as dangerous as they are here. Also because America is a more car dependent culture, walking is seen as, and probably is dangerous for pedestrians of all ages.

  73. Liesbet April 22, 2016 at 10:04 am #

    @Papilio
    OK, maybe I was a bit sarcastic 🙂 But I wouldn’t compare the streets of Holland with the streets of Belgium. I’d LOVE to have as much cycling infrastructure as you guys up there :-), but we don’t. But OK, maybe America is even worse, I have no idea. I only know America from movies, I know, so maybe I’m just plain wrong.
    I can imagine that riding your bike in New York is just WAY to scary. I wouldn’t do it either. In many other cities too, I imagine. But what about the suburbs? What about country lanes? What about ALL those roads that are big enough for not only two cars (one in each direction), but also parked cars and cyclists? In America there is a lot of space, and they have always had the tendency to USE it, so roads are just much bigger (wider) than here in Belgium.
    And OK, you and @Mari InShaw are right in that we DO have (sort of) a bycicle culture, and that our driver’s licence is a little harder to come by, but still there are a LOT of dangerous people driving cars…
    Still the fact remains that, if everybody is too scared to take their bike and drive it, then the cars win. Just like the free range movement, there should be a biking movement, of people who reclaim their own streets…

  74. Caro April 26, 2016 at 5:00 am #

    Thinking like that is really imespsrive

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