Just Like Driver’s Ed, Except for Younger Kids & Bikes

Hey Readers — How is it that bzskibyhfe
one country can train its young people to be safe, smart and responsible bicyclists
, while other countries — like mine — train its young people to climb in the car and eat Goldfish? As Sarah Goodyear writes in The Atlantic Cities: “Dutch children are expected to learn and follow the rules of the road, because starting in secondary school – at age 12 – they are expected to be able to ride their bikes on their own to school, sometimes as far as nine or 10 miles.”

This 3-minute video, featured on Goodyear’s post, had me shaking my head and going, “Wow! Wow!” I move we make this entire curriculum a normal part of our children’s schooling. – L.

79 Responses to Just Like Driver’s Ed, Except for Younger Kids & Bikes

  1. Lissa April 9, 2013 at 12:13 am #

    Granted, this was almost 20 years ago, but when I was in the fourth grade, we did do an entire unit on bicycle safety as part of gym class. It really was a lot like driver’s ed, in that we had to learn the rules of the road, and I believe at the end we even received bicycle “licenses”.

  2. Steve April 9, 2013 at 1:00 am #

    Did you notice?

    Nobody was wearing a helmet.

  3. Nynke April 9, 2013 at 2:26 am #

    That’s right, nobody is wearing a helmet. Not required here. My son is ten years old and riding his bike to and from school, after school activities and basketball-practice. He has these lessons now in school and I am glad, because it makes him safer in traffic.
    As far as helmets go. There are a lot of bike-paths and usually drivers are careful.

  4. KatrinfromFrankfurt April 9, 2013 at 4:06 am #

    We spent our last summer holiday in Copenhagen, Denmark and I loved seeing all the bikers in town, especially the many many carrier cycles in which parents transported their children.

    Here in Germany children have a bicycle training in fourth grade, but it takes place on special practice areas. It’s a bit similar to a driving school, with a theoretical and a practical exam and the children get a kind of “driving license” when they passed the exams.

    I often use the bike to get to work, but I have to say, compared to Denmark or the Netherlands the German car drivers and the bikers, too, are quite aggressive. One explanation for the bikers’ behaviour might be that the infrastructure for bikers is still quite poor, often the bike paths are very narrow, if they exist at all. And it’s absolutely normal that delivery trucks use the bike paths as parking lot during their tours.

  5. Andy April 9, 2013 at 6:20 am #

    German drivers too aggressive? Heh, I would like to know what you would say about drivers just anywhere else (except Netherlands) in that case.

    Cyclists in Netherlands have absolute priority. Not only that, if the driver hits cyclist there, the fault is assumed to be on the drivers side (unless proven otherwise).

    It would be surprising if Netherlands drivers would not be the least aggressive in the world :).

  6. Suzanne April 9, 2013 at 6:55 am #

    Good training can make a big difference to how a parent views risk. My daughter was involved in a cycling summer camp last year to learn to bike. And she is going back this year to learn to ride safety on the roads. I don’t ride a bike and I was nervous about letting her ride. But the staff at the camp do such a good job teaching the kids how to ride safety that I really feel like she’ll be prepared.

  7. Sky April 9, 2013 at 6:57 am #

    Remember when in the U.S. kids rode their bikes to school at younger than 12 and we didn’t even have to get a “license” to do it? Where I am now, as I understand it, kids are not allowed to ride to school until 4th grade and must get a bike “license” from the school, after some kind of safety review. Maybe not a bad idea overall, but it seems to me parents could be trusted to teach out-of-school type safety, and if you have a 4th and 2nd grader you want to ride bikes to school together, what a pain.

  8. AW13 April 9, 2013 at 8:49 am #

    I am pleased to see this! My husband is an avid bike rider, and our son has been riding since he was about 1 1/2 (with training wheels). He began riding without training wheels when he was 2 and now at 4, he flies all over the place. We rode our bikes to drop off a bill yesterday evening, as a matter of fact. He loves it!

  9. Laura April 9, 2013 at 9:35 am #

    Comparing the whole US to the Netherlamds is apple to oranges; the population is much higher (306+ million to almost 17 million) there are many more cars on the roads, the infrastructure is totally different. Most all US cities and towns were designed with cars in mind, not public transport and not bikes. It’s the opposite in all of Europe where most all cities were built before cars and newer cities were built with pedestrians, public transport and bikes in mind.

    That being said, my seven year old daughter has been riding her bike to school for the last year, but it’s only three blocks away. We haven’t figured out the routes to the other schools she’ll be going to yet. I hope ithey’re bike friendly because we plan to sent her on her bike then too!

  10. Danielle April 9, 2013 at 9:44 am #

    It helps considerably that Denmark is SO bike friendly. It wouldn’t be the same thing at ALL here to try and put your kid on a bike and send them to school. I mean depending on where you live of course. The drivers here are not even slightly careful of bikers and tend to be somewhat annoyed and therefore act like idiots when bikers are around. I rode my bike to school as a kid (or walked) and while I had to cross busy roads to do it I didn’t have to actually ride on any. I would absolutely love if this country became more bike friendly.

    When I visited Denmark 10 years ago I loved seeing the bike racks like parking garages we have there. They were STUFFED full of bikes.

  11. Captain America April 9, 2013 at 10:04 am #

    My son’s 9.5 and with the better weather will soon be the only kid in his school riding to school; it’s about 2.5 miles each way. . . I remember at his age doing much the same and thinking of each ride, morning and evening, as a nice little break and a bit of mild adventuring. It’s nice to do before boring school and it’s nice to do after being bored at school.

  12. lollipoplover April 9, 2013 at 10:09 am #

    Our school did a “safety” course at Kindergarten registration. It was how to get on and off a school bus safely so the bus doesn’t run you over.

    I would so love this taught to our children in school and weep at the beautiful sight of a bicycle parking lot filled at a school. Here, biking to school is treated like a nuisance and not encouraged. On these nice spring days our racks do get filled with more bikers and it gets a bit gnarly at dismissal but they seem to figure it out on their own.

  13. Lisa A April 9, 2013 at 10:18 am #

    I did a bunch of research a couple of years ago to find that more kids end up in the hospital in the state of Florida (where helmets are required for under 16) for bike-related head trauma from not wearing helmets, than for dog bites. Hmmm, one absolutely preventable, one not so much (from the victim’s perspective).
    And it just doesn’t make a difference where you’re riding when you bonk your head – whether on the street or bike path or bike lane or your driveway.
    A good, fitted bike helmet saved my son’s life last summer when he crashed due to misjudging a curb ON A BIKE PATH riding home from work (at 17, still doesn’t have a driver’s license, but bikes and takes the power boat out by himself). The ER staff were very happy that he had been wearing one (and yes, he has a new one since that one was cracked and therefore no longer good protection.)
    Our sons have been wearing helmets ever since they were riding around in bike trailers and then when they moved up to tricycles and so on. It’s never been an option. Depending on where we lived, they’ve biked to school by themselves, to work, to friends’ houses, sports’ practices, etc.

  14. Becky April 9, 2013 at 10:28 am #

    I think what is most telling is the very end of the video, when it is explained that “each year 15 children are killed as cyclists or pedestrians”, and yet the people responded not by insisting that children be driven everywhere, but that they be *taught* traffic safety better. Amazing! You mean children can be TAUGHT things?

  15. Eric the Half-bee April 9, 2013 at 10:35 am #

    Three words: Cycling Merit Badge. The skills it teaches aren’t just for Scouts.

  16. Ben April 9, 2013 at 11:02 am #

    A Dutch science show once tested the safety of bicycle helmets. They sent a cyclist out without and without a helmet and with a long blonde wig. Their conclusion was that drivers are less cautious near cyclists with helmets because they assume the helmet will protect them in case they are hit.

    It was actually safer to wear a wig, because the mostly male drivers didn’t want to hurt a supposed beautiful woman.

  17. mollie April 9, 2013 at 11:07 am #

    “As far as helmets go. There are a lot of bike-paths and usually drivers are careful.”

    Sorry, but to me that’s like the old saw I used to hear as a kid from safety-belt scoffing adults: “I’m a careful driver, and I’m just going on side streets.”

    My mom had an accident on her bike where it is undetermined what occurred; she seemed to neither hit an obstacle nor be hit by anything else, she just went down. On her head. Good thing she wore a helmet that day!

    I wonder how many of those 15 fatalities could have been prevented with helmets? This is not to say that in a country where millions upon millions are riding bikes daily, fatality rates must be zero, but I do wonder why no helmets in this day and age in the Netherlands. It doesn’t really seem justifiable from a common-sense perspective.

  18. Bill April 9, 2013 at 11:18 am #

    There are rough equivalents of the “traffic gardens” shown at 1:20 in the video in the US – there’s “Safety Town” in Eisenhower Park in Nassau County, NY
    (and apparently elsewhere by the same name).

    The one in Eisenhower Park can be seen here on google maps:
    http://goo.gl/maps/yBNVn ; note that while the dutch one has a roundabout/traffic circle, the one in Eisenhower park has a partial-cloverleaf highway interchange…

    I vaguely recall a field trip there from elementary school years ago and being annoyed that we spent too much of the time in their classroom and not enough time out riding around…

  19. gap.runner April 9, 2013 at 11:52 am #

    As someone said above, in Germany kids get bike safety instruction in 4th grade. They are expected to ride their bikes to school in 5th grade if they live close enough to do so. The ADAC (German equivalent of the auto club) comes to the schools and gives the kids instruction. They have to pass a performance test from the ADAC and also a written test before being allowed to cycle to school by themselves.

    The city where I live is small (population about 25,000) and is very bicycle-friendly. Motorists here know to watch for cyclists. The drivers that cyclists have to watch for are the tourists who are not used to sharing the road with bicycles.

  20. Havva April 9, 2013 at 11:55 am #

    My memory is a little hazy here since I had the same teacher for 1-3rd grade (it was a Montessori school). At any rate, we discussed the rules of the road for bicycles and bike safety. I also took a little test. This was a class of 6-9 year olds and, as far as I remember, the lesson was offered to everyone who knew how to ride a bike. Would have been more fun if it were hands on. None the less, it helped me learn to signal, and have better understanding and awareness of other traffic. I got to expand my range after that class. I also remember these lessons convinced me it would be a good idea to get a bike helmet. I was the first kid in our neighborhood to wear one. When I deployed this helmet, I had to explain it to all my friends in the neighborhood (and explain that I asked for the helmet). There were no parents present for any of these explanations. I must have been persuasive because one by one after I explained myself, my friends started turning up in helmets and feeling proud.

    My husband was part of a kids bike club from I think about 6-14. The club taught basic skills, road safety, and also how to do field repairs and maintenance.

    Anyhow I guess this is all to say, that a bike safety course is a fine idea. But I’d also say there is value in offering these courses earlier.

    P.S. I ordered a balance bike for my 2-year old last night (and took my first ride of the season). So I’m enthused about all things bicycle right now. I haven’t been on my bike near enough since my daughter came along, and I’m so tired of the car.

  21. Let_Her_Eat_Dirt April 9, 2013 at 12:13 pm #

    This is inspiring — thanks for sharing it, Lenore!

    My kids are still young (5 and under), but we regularly go on bike trips and I am teaching the five year-old the rules of the road. She’s been riding since she was four, in large part because of the balance bike we got her when she was younger. Those are great!

    I’m always amazed when I see kids 5, 6, even 7 years old on bikes with training wheels. Training wheels are the vehicular equivalent of over-involved parents, always popping in when your daughter is about to fall and making it impossible for her to learn to do things on her own. There she is, rolling along just fine, and they rattle at her sides like an insecure dad, reminding her that she isn’t really doing this on her own and implying that she couldn’t do it without them. They pop in just as things get a little unsteady, offering that little bit of stability to keep her going. She’ll never learn that way! Take the wheels off!

    Let Her Eat Dirt
    A dad’s take on raising tough, adventurous girls

  22. Havva April 9, 2013 at 12:15 pm #

    @ mollie,
    Your mom’s accident sounds a bit familiar. Did she put her arms out or anything to protect herself? I saw a header of no immediately apparent cause, my friend’s front wheel suddenly turned backward, and he flew off like a javelin landing head first in the street, body in a straight line with arms at his sides. Then he had a seizure. Apparently the pre-seizure black out is what caused him to loose control.

    Helmet saved his head and spine because there was nothing else protecting him from a very forceful accident.

  23. Warren April 9, 2013 at 12:24 pm #

    Great story, would love to see those courses held around here.
    On the helmet issue, they do prevent injuries, but…….again this is a piece of personal protective gear. And as such should be a person’s choice, not for the gov’t to dictate.
    Just my opinion.

  24. Andy April 9, 2013 at 12:49 pm #

    Any time helmets are tested, they are not proved to be much effective – especially not in car crash scenario. When helmets laws are enforced, head injuries ratio for number of cyclists does not go down.

    And yet, there are plenty of anecdotes of people who had lives saved by helmet on discussion forums. And t|here are cars – you should wear helmet is common thread.

    Helmets are effective in low speeds e.g., kids speeds on bikes. They are effective in front head hits e.g. your front wheel got stuck somewhere you you fly forward.

    They make sense for kids and for adults on non concrete bike trails. All they do in any other situation is to give you false sense of security.

  25. Yan Seiner April 9, 2013 at 12:54 pm #

    OK, I ride a lot. And I support people who ride… My kids ride, they race triathlons.

    I used to be 100% pro-helmet: no helmet, no ride. Part of it is that head injuries are painful, disfiguring, and can be permanently disabling. And, since people with brain injuries all too often end up supported by taxes, the government has a legitimate role in the prevention of head injuries by mandating helmets.

    However, I’m reconsidering. Mandatory helmet laws decrease ridership, and physically inactive people are also a drain on our resources. Further, driving everywhere costs a lot of taxpayer $ (a single parking space in a downtown area costs in excess of $50,000).

    So…. I’m willing to accept some risk to others if they get out there. Hopefully they will wear helmets.

    As to the ridership in Europe – it’s so different from the US. When I ride in Europe, drivers yield the right of way, and generally treat cyclists with respect. I have not had a single bad incident in Europe.

    In the US, even in the cycling mecca where I live, we have been cursed at and run off the road. Letters to the editor inevitably bring out the nutcases who believe that all cyclists deserve to be killed, and if left alive, should be taxed to death. Oh well…..

  26. Ravana April 9, 2013 at 12:56 pm #

    Denmark is super bike and pedestrian friendly as opposed to the U.S. where you often can’t find a sidewalk and cars ignore zebra crossings. By me the Jr. High has biking classes in gym. I always dread spring and fall because they take the kids out on the multi-use trails around town and, although they teach them how to ride the bikes, they don’t bother to teach them trail courtesy. I’ve been nearly taken out more than once by a pack of fat children on bikes.

  27. Yan Seiner April 9, 2013 at 12:59 pm #

    @Andy: I have to disagree. I’ve personally smashed 3 helmets, none in the manner you indicate. My daughter slammed into a fence at 20mph in a race and split her helmet right across the forehead.

    It all depends on how you test the helmet. Yes, getting your head run over by a loaded log truck, as happened here, will kill you regardless. But the majority of non-fatal head on accidents helmets do prevent a lot of pain and suffering.

    Try paying your bike down at 25mph+. You lose a lot of skin (I know!) and you slam your head repeatedly. Without a helmet I would be missing skin from my head as well as from my chest, legs and arm.

    Many bike accidents just result in road rash. No reportable accident. But a lot of pain saved by helmets.

  28. AB April 9, 2013 at 1:05 pm #

    Meanwhile, our kids are forced to wear helmets as they ride facing traffic, through stop signs and without having any idea how to singal.

  29. Rachel April 9, 2013 at 1:55 pm #

    I wish we had better bike infrastructure in the U.S!

    Coincidentally my 15 year old son road his bike to school today for the fist time. He joined his friend who has done the route several dozen times. The ride is about 5 miles and takes them through Queens, NYC.

    They are both skilled at riding on the street, wear helmets and have flashing lights on their bikes. But I held my breath until I got a call saying they got to school ok. because most of their route has no bike lanes…the kids had to ride with the cars during rush hour. They planned out a route on the quietest streets they could find.

    My son called and said that the ride was calm and they felt pretty safe. Of course, “safe” and “calm” as judged by two 15-year old boys! Maybe we’re nuts to let them ride, but I know they are careful and quite skilled…they also get so much pleasure from riding.

  30. JK April 9, 2013 at 1:57 pm #

    Thanks for sharing this video. My 8 yr old kid has been riding to school on bike (with me alongside) but now I realize I should school her on bike safety more thoroughly.

    We live in NYC and we’re lucky we can ride through Central Park on bike paths to get to and from school.

  31. Papilio April 9, 2013 at 2:32 pm #

    So… This is news for you?
    And I’m asking that partly because I discovered David Hembrow’s blog through FRK: a guy from the UK who moved to the Netherlands with his family. He’s written about pretty much every aspect of cycling in this country, in English, from a foreign perspective. Just look in the right column and scroll down a bit.

    More kids & bikes:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2n_znwWroGM&feature=player_embedded (this is near a primary school, i.e. children age 4-12, has been posted on FRK before)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OrQ-d2PBUto&feature=player_embedded (secundary school, age 12 to 16-18 (depends on level))
    (Wanna do a popsicle test, anyone?)

    Junction design NL versus US (post is a bit hard to find):
    Dutch infrastructure is waaay better, *that* is why cycling is safe. Period. (And if I see this NYC madness, I’d be scared to bike there too: http://vimeo.com/24572222 )

    Just saying, if you REALLY want to know about how riding your bike *could* be, this truly is a wonderful blog with lots of information. And no, it’s not fiction, he backs it up with reports, articles and study’s.

    About helmets:
    @mollie: I’m not going to wear a helmet (instead of feeling the wind in my hair) just so it can save my life once in 900 lifetimes.
    @all of you: yes, helmets are useful for people biking FAST and/or on rough terrain. But everyday Dutch bike traffic (e.g. shopping) is nothing like that: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BqkDiExIEiE
    Oh, and err:
    http://wumo.com/strip/2009/12/18/ (warning: it’s a Danish cartoon)

  32. Buffy April 9, 2013 at 2:39 pm #

    @ Let her eat dirt, I think you were awfully hypercritical of those who use training wheels. And not every parent who has used training wheels is hovering on top of their kid trying to prevent falls.

  33. KatrinfromFrankfurt April 9, 2013 at 2:48 pm #

    I just remembered a picture I took during our holiday in Copenhagen. Just click on my name!

  34. Warren April 9, 2013 at 3:06 pm #

    Am not anti helmet. You want to wear one, then where it, just don’t force me to wear one. I am not an infant, I know what I am doing, and it should be my choice.

    As for helmets being effective, they “can” help prevent some injuries. Not nearly as many as what people think they can. Look at the NHL and the NFL………all their players wear state of the art helmets, and yet concussions are a very real problem.

    It is the idea of wearing a piece of protection, in the slight chance that I will be thrown from my bike, and then land in a way that would cause a major head injury. Would love to see the odds on that, seeing as how the only time I ever got thrown from my bike was when we were kids racing down a dirt hill, hitting a homemade ramp and trying to jump a fifteen foot wide creek.

  35. Chez April 9, 2013 at 3:45 pm #

    I know of someone whose daughter recently died because she fell from her bike, hitting her head on the curb. She did not wear a helmet. Helmets are not cool, but they save lives. I will definitely demand my children to wear one when cycling.

  36. Allison April 9, 2013 at 4:12 pm #

    We actually went to something like this for 4-6 year olds here in Georgia run by the local police and firefighters. It’s called “Safety Town” and it was inside in a scale model of a town with traffic lights and stop signs in a public gym. The kids got to practice being pedestrians and “motorists” by riding on big wheels!

    It was a lot of fun — and my kids really enjoyed participating. It was only one day, but they went home and started drawing streets and setting up a roadway on our driveway for their own big wheels.

    HOWEVER — my caveat would be that the emphasis on “safety” was overblown, especially by one particular leader. I’m not sure what it was like in each section, but at the end, while we were all in the auditorium the organizer actually did a role-playing exercise where she pretended to be a “stranger” and tricked a little kid into coming into her car with her by asking her to pet her kitty cat. And she said, “And she will NEVER see her family or friends again!” She even told them NEVER to play outside alone and NEVER to talk to strangers. Needless to say, I had to do some free-range reeducation when we got home!

  37. maggie April 9, 2013 at 4:13 pm #

    I agree, Buffy! I have 3 kids. My oldest took her training wheels off at 5, the middle one waited until almost 7, and my son is 4 and took off his own training wheels! Some kids just don’t have the coordination and balance at 4 to do it. I’m free range; if my kids fall while riding, it’s a learning experience. But if you take those wheels off before they’re ready, they’re going to hate it! There’s coddling, then there is pushing a child to do something they are not developmentally ready for.

  38. hineata April 9, 2013 at 4:20 pm #

    @Warren – man you must be co-ordinated. I have fallen off my bike multiple times just riding normally, LOL! Though, thinking about it, not when we were doing crazy kid stuff, so maybe I’m not as bad as I think….Personally I think shoes are probably just as important. The number of times I used to mash my feet having to scrape them on the gravel to stop smash ups/downhill rides over long long drops…..we usually rode bikes in jandals during summer, and for some kid reason never seemed to remember the painful feet the next time we hopped on. Mum just told us we were stupid, but that was about it in the way of ‘safety messages’.

    @Rachel – am so glad your boy is so responsible. Mine and his friends are accidents looking for a place to happen on his way to school. Both Catspaw and I have at different times almost run the idiot kid and his friends down as they drive across the street willy nilly in parts of their route. Possibly, yes, I should stop him riding, but he is now sixteen, knows how he should actually be riding, and can, in my opinion, jolly well face the consequences when the traffic cop pulls him up. And the chances of him actually being hit by a car being very minimal, thanks to the traffic being snarled up at that time of the day by the ‘safety-conscious’ parents dropping their kids to school, means a traffic ticket is the most likely consequence of his less than salubrious behaviour. Am holding out for one, personally. Maybe I should ring the cops and dob him in….:-)

  39. hineata April 9, 2013 at 4:21 pm #

    ‘his’ to ‘their’. Need a strong drink of some type…

  40. hineata April 9, 2013 at 4:33 pm #

    @Buffy – yep, true. Nothing to do with helicoptering, all to do with development.

    My kids followed my un-co habits, and two of them were not ready to ride properly til age six or so. And while Boy displays teen moron patterns in riding currently, both of them are fine cyclists. (Well, by that I mean they handle a bike well. Handling themselves well is another matter).

    Midge though, who needed training wheels til nearly eight, is a serious unco at times, and at thirteen still wants to ride to school with her younger sister, because younger one is adept at patching her up when she cans off! Gotta love first aid kits…

  41. Captain America April 9, 2013 at 4:58 pm #

    For some reason or other, as a Boy Scout I had the job of getting up at 6:30 a.m. (tough when you’re 13) riding my bike across town and then helping set up “Safety Town” which was a “town” of 4×4 painted plywood sheets latched together laid out on a schoolyard town outline. The kids road their bikes on “streets” and so forth.

    I got a lot of splinters with that thing.

  42. Jesse April 9, 2013 at 4:58 pm #

    Laura suggested that to compare the US to the Netherlands is to make an apple to oranges comparison. And it may be now, but the point is it wasn’t always. In the 1960s, Amsterdam looked just like any other American city that has demolished much of its downtown for parking lots, widened streets to speed car traffic, etc. And children were getting killed by drivers in both countries.

    The Dutch and the Americans took two different paths. Americans said, “We’re going to drive our kids to school so they won’t get hit by cars.” The Dutch said, “Stop killing our kids! We’re going to design our streets and cities so they are safe for kids to walk or ride to school in.”

    Two different reactions to the same problem. It took the Dutch decades to get where they are today. If US cities started now, they too could get there eventually. (US suburbs are a different story, and probably a lost cause.)

    I won’t wade into the “helmet wars” except to say that Andy is 100% correct that there is no country in the world where an increase of helmet use (because of mandatory laws) has led to a decrease in severe head injuries. And I will also point out that statistically, the severe head injury risk of bicycling is very similar to both driving and being a pedestrian. So if helmets make good sense for bicycling, then logically one should also wear one whenever driving a car or going for a walk.

    For those who want a good review of the actual scientific evidence surrounding bicycle helmets so they can make their own informed decisions based on actual data, http://cyclehelmets.org is a good resource.

  43. Captain America April 9, 2013 at 5:07 pm #

    re: teaching kids to ride bikes

    here’s what I did. . . I took my kid to a deserted massive old Kmart parking lot.

    It had a slight slant to it — this is very useful, since kids starting out are unsure about how much pedaling they need to do. The slant keeps things going a bit.

    Also, best of all, it was not a tight, narrow sidewalk strip but a big open space. It occurred to me that much of my son’s trepidation came from keeping the bike oriented to this narrow strip of concrete. . . distracting considerably from the principle task of pedalling.

    Given the little boost of gravity (from the slant) and given the freedom to move whichever way, the whole thing went very fast. I had tried training wheels, but they’re also a distraction.

    I had my boy try to run me down, which greatly boosted the pedaling input! and likely made it fun for him. We have a fun picture of him biking chasing after me fiercely and me running away from him wearing old shorts and mountain boots.

  44. Heather April 9, 2013 at 5:08 pm #

    I just want to point out that many injuries sustained WHILE wearing a helmet are often due to incorrect fit. I often see children with no straps, a too loose helmet, or a helmet that is on backward.
    I once talked to my neighbor about her daughter’s helmet and she said, “I only bought it two years ago. It’s barely scratched.”

    Well, two years ago the child was 5. She is now 7 and has grown considerably. She needs a new helmet.

    To learn how to fit a helmet properly please view.


    “Helmet Effectiveness, All the available evidence suggests that bicycle helmets reduce the occurrence of head injuries among cyclists but a helmet must be used correctly to be effective. It should conform to minimum test standards, be the right size for the cyclist, be worn in the right position and be fastened correctly. An ill-fitting or incorrectly worn helmet can cause neck or facial injuries. Helmets must also be replaced after any impact.” –

    Read more: http://www.livestrong.com/article/272684-bicycle-helmet-and-head-injury/#ixzz2Q0DbWlQA

  45. AW13 April 9, 2013 at 5:15 pm #

    Re: helmets: My son was standing still, went to get on his bike, slipped, banged his head on the bar and ended up with a HUGE bump on his forehead, below where the helmet covered. So I can see where the simple use of a helmet might lead to overconfidence.

    I’m with Warren on this one: whether or not I, or my child, wear a helmet is my (and my husband’s) choice. It should not be dictated by the law.

  46. Papilio April 9, 2013 at 5:19 pm #

    This has a very high ‘duh!’-factor for me…
    But they say this exam is at age 12? That’s odd – I clearly remember it being in ‘groep 7’ of primary school (=the 2nd last year), when we were 10 or 11.

    This blog has been mentioned here before, but it’s a really good one with lots of information about cycling in the Netherlands from a foreign perspective, so I post it again (I think this particular post is a good place to start when you come from FRK 😉 ):
    It’s written by David Hembrow, a Brit who loved cycling so much, he moved to the Netherlands. He writes about virtually every aspect of cycling here, in English, from a foreign perspective; just look at the column on the right and scroll down a bit to find a whole range of categories, including road safety, which parts of the population cycle, details about the infrastructure, children & school, myths & excuses from foreigners why cycling wouldn’t work in their country (all debunked of course), his view on the approach in several non-Dutch city’s to improve bike infrastructure, and then, named as an example of scaremongering, there is the category ‘helmets’.

    This particular post shows how the average American city junction could be transformed into a Dutch one, with bike lanes. That’s important, because true bike safety is not on your head, Mollie, Lenore. It’s under your wheels. Helmets are only useful when you go FAST and/or on rough terrain, but that’s nothing like normal bike riding in the Netherlands: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BqkDiExIEiE

    Children going to/from primary school (age 4-12): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jEtZSM3sXyY&feature=player_embedded
    More children in secondary school: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OrQ-d2PBUto
    The minors and the elderly: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=swqaAIkGtpA

    Dutch cycling from a USA perspective: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=22XM8-YTC98
    Another introduction: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rn2s6ax_7TM

  47. Papilio April 9, 2013 at 5:26 pm #

    This has a very high ‘duh!’-factor for me…
    But they say this exam is at age 12? That’s odd – I clearly remember it being in ‘groep 7’ of primary school (=the 2nd last year), when we were 10 or 11.

    This site has been mentioned here before, but it’s a really good one with lots of information about cycling in the Netherlands from a foreign perspective, so I post it again (I think this particular post is a good place to start when you come from FRK 😉 ):
    This blog is written by David Hembrow, a Brit who loved cycling so much, he moved to the Netherlands. He writes about virtually every aspect of cycling here, in English, from a foreign perspective; just look at the column on the right and scroll down a bit to find a whole range of categories, including road safety, which parts of the population cycle, details about the infrastructure, children & school, myths & excuses from foreigners why cycling wouldn’t work in their country, his view on the approach in several non-Dutch city’s to improve bike infrastructure, and then, named as an example of scaremongering, there is the category ‘helmets’.

    This particular post shows how the average American city junction could be transformed into a Dutch one, with bike lanes. That’s important, because true bike safety is not on your head, Mollie, Lenore. It’s under your wheels. Helmets are only useful when you go FAST and/or on rough terrain, but that’s nothing like normal bike riding in the Netherlands: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BqkDiExIEiE

  48. CrazyCatLady April 9, 2013 at 5:56 pm #

    I remember the same film every year starting in 1st grade through 6th grade all about what side of the road to ride on, how to do hand signals, and how to avoid people popping their car doors open on you. This was starting in about 1973, in uppstate NY.

    Sad that they don’t do it anymore.

  49. Amanda Matthews April 9, 2013 at 5:58 pm #

    I look at helmets while riding bikes the same as helmets while a kid is learning to walk.

    “Denmark is super bike and pedestrian friendly as opposed to the U.S. where you often can’t find a sidewalk”

    It is illegal to ride bikes on sidewalks in a lot of the US…

    And as for bike and pedestrian friendly, it really depends on the area. My area is extremely bike and pedestrian friendly. Aside from the fact that there are single bike lines instead of the double, a lot of my area looks like the video.

    If other people want their area to become more bike friendly, how about bringing it up at your next neighborhood association meeting?

  50. Donald April 9, 2013 at 7:04 pm #

    I love it!

    The biggest thing that I noticed is that they start teaching children about traffic at an early age. In preschool, play traffic lights are included in their traffic playground. In primary school they had a field trip about traffic and they were teaching class from the sidewalk.

    In short, they are teaching children life skills. In America, we don’t like to do this because it’s considered as dangerous. (or a lawsuit waiting to happen) We’d rather bubble wrap them until they have reached the age when the school is no longer liable. Then we turn them lose and let them fend for themselves.

    That’s our idea of how to make children safe

  51. Papilio April 9, 2013 at 7:16 pm #

    @Amanda: ““Denmark is super bike and pedestrian friendly as opposed to the U.S. where you often can’t find a sidewalk”
    It is illegal to ride bikes on sidewalks in a lot of the US…”

    She means that there aren’t EVEN sidewalks [let alone cycle paths/lanes], not that the Danish are allowed to bike on their sidewalks (I guess).
    In NL it’s also not allowed to bike on sidewalks (except for very small children still learning the art) or on whatever road that has a separate bike path next to it, which is logical because bikes have their own place in traffic.

    There are a lot more videos on Youtube about cycling in the Netherlands. This one is about Dutch cycling infrastructure from an American perspective: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=22XM8-YTC98

    And this shows what Jesse told about how we got where we are now: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XuBdf9jYj7o

  52. Yan Seiner April 9, 2013 at 9:30 pm #

    @AW13: If your son can get a bump on his forehead while wearing a helmet, he’s either got the wrong helmet or it’s not fitted correctly.

    A correct bike helmet covers from eyebrows up, and will not move under impact.

    At cycle school every morning for the first few days they would line us up and one of the instructors would come along and whap you in the forehead. If your helmet slid back, you would have to readjust it.

    Yes, this was cycle school for adults, racers and serious riders.

  53. Lea April 9, 2013 at 10:43 pm #

    I love bike riding. My kids love bike riding. I started riding my bike all over town around age 9. I was taught bike safety long before that point though. We had no age rules for riding to school. As soon as your parents trusted you to do it and you had a lock, you got to ride to school. I live in an area where kids all walk to school but very few ride to school because they aren’t allowed to until fourth grade. That’s sad.

    I really wish the US was more bike friendly. We have some bike lanes in my city and I am constantly seeing cars driving in them. Friends who cycle all over, tell me of being run off roads, honked at, cut off and squeezed to the curb. Maybe we need cycle training for US drivers?

    I am fine with helmets, as long as it isn’t something others force on us. It’s a personal choice based on knowledge. My knowledge leads me to the conclusion that they don’t offer as much safety as they do the illusion of safety, even in high traffic areas. If you’re leads to other conclusions well then I’m happy to smile at you while you wear one.

  54. amy April 9, 2013 at 11:34 pm #

    Note they aren’t wearing helmets knee pads elbow pads face guards combat boots gloves. Dear me, we ought to arrest the monitors.

  55. AW13 April 10, 2013 at 9:15 am #

    @Yan: it was on his lower forehead just above his eyebrow, but you are correct: that was when we realized the helmet was too loose and adjusted accordingly. But I can still see where helmet use in general could lead to a feeling of overconfidence, particularly in younger kids.

  56. BL April 10, 2013 at 9:19 am #

    Has anyone else tried this? I read on a website that one of the problems with helmets is that the sound of the wind whistling through them is enough to mask hearing of surrounding sounds.

    I tried this myself and found that it made a big difference. Without the helmet I could hear a big truck approaching from behind me as much as 1/4 mile away. With the helmet I couldn’t hear it until it was right next to me – when I could be knocked off the bicycle by the truck’s wind shear alone (these are 18-wheelers I’m talking about).

  57. Dave April 10, 2013 at 9:19 am #

    Wow! This is both great and obvious. Teach children about traffic, test them in real situations and don’t freak out that 30 fatalities happen each year. Work to get them down but don’t over protect. Wonderful!

  58. pentamom April 10, 2013 at 10:09 am #

    “I look at helmets while riding bikes the same as helmets while a kid is learning to walk.”

    That would be a fair comparison if the impact of a toddler falling over his feet was on average close as great as a kid or adult falling off a moving bicycle. But it’s not. Whether you or your kids wear helmets isn’t up to me, but you have to compare like to like, if you’re going to compare.

  59. Warren April 10, 2013 at 12:05 pm #

    As my wise old grandfather would say in his obvious logic,

    “Just don’t fall off your damn bike, and you won’t get hurt”.

    This helmet thing with kids learning to walk, nobody really does this do they? Please tell me no one does this. And this is in general, because I am not looking for everyone to bring up the special needs kids.

  60. BL April 10, 2013 at 12:12 pm #

    What about wearing a helmet while sleeping? You could fall out of bed, you know!

  61. Emily April 10, 2013 at 12:31 pm #

    I think that teaching kids bike safety is a good thing, except I’d start teaching about riding in traffic earlier, like maybe grade three or four, as a previous poster mentioned. I agree that basic safety lessons should start in preschool or kindergarten, as shown in the video, so basically, I think the Netherlands has it about right, except for the timing of the “riding in traffic” lessons. Just one thing, though–does the school provide bicycles for kids who don’t own them?

  62. Papilio April 10, 2013 at 12:40 pm #

    Really, you still manage to fall off your bike?? Under what circumstances?
    It sounds like you need to practice more often and learn how to fall safely. Your reflexes should keep you from slamming against the ground all the way up to your head, just like the reflex to stick your hands out in front of you when you tripple

    Sure, little children still learning the art of keeping balance fall sometimes, that’s normal, happens at relatively low speeds and usually they scrape their knees and elbows, maybe get some bruzes on their shoulder and hip. Big deal.
    I only remember falling twice after, say, primary school, both times when the road was slippery because it was freezing and I took the corner (can I put it like that??) a bit too fast. It was actually quite a funny experience, because I had already landed on my hip/bottom while still thinking ‘hey I’m falling’ 🙂
    Normal bike use just doesn’t lead to falling on one’s head. Again, it’s different for sport cyclists because they go way faster.

  63. lollipoplover April 10, 2013 at 12:47 pm #

    I personally prefer biking for transportation and tend to vacation in places where it is nice to bike (coastal SC and GA) and we love to explore towns on bikes as a family. My kids all learned at different ages with different methods (and some were on the tandem longer than others!)

    I don’t know how training wheels and helmets discussions hijacked this great story- they are just biking tools, just like the variety of bikes for different types of biking and conditions. I do think we should teach our children bike safety at a much earlier age- as soon as they ride a two-wheeler. The more practice and mieage they experience the better.

    Riding bikes and kids are like peanut butter and jelly. A Bike is the perfect vehicle to burn youthful energy and increase self-confidence while taking responsibility for their very own transportation. Why do we NOT encourage this?

  64. Papilio April 10, 2013 at 1:03 pm #

    @Emily: Traffic lessons are nowadays given all through primary school (8 years, age 4-12). Also, not owning a bike is quite rare. Most kids ride their bikes next to their parents to the shop/library/convenience store/whatever for years and years before they ever do this exam, and there are also lots of children biking to school by themselves before this exam. It is mainly meant to make sure *every* kid knows the rules before they attend secondary school, which is usually farther from home, outside their direct neighbourhood/village.
    I remember one immigrant kid in my class not owning a bike, or maybe he did, but it didn’t meet the standards. I guess school asked around for a bike his size that he could borrow for the exam.

  65. Katie April 10, 2013 at 1:07 pm #

    I wish we had this in the United States. It scares me that their is almost an anti-bicycle trend among many of the helicopter parents. They get mad that their are bikes on the road at all because it interferes with them taking their kid to some worthless activity that they think is oh so important. What there kids should really be doing is biking around and playing outside.

    It’s also ridiculous that parents are now expected in some elementary schools to meet their kids at the door or bus. So much better the way they do things in the Netherlands. It’s time to get our freedom back.

  66. Katie April 10, 2013 at 1:15 pm #

    As far as helmets to though on bikes I definitely think they are a good thing. But when I see many parents who have them on kids in an indoor ice skating rink or who won’t let their kids bike that is when I feel like the world is going crazy.

  67. Marion April 10, 2013 at 2:47 pm #

    Dear Lord! Is this ‘Free Range Kids’ or ‘Scaredy Cats Moms Anomynous’?

    I’ll have you know that in the Netherlands more miles are ridden on a bike every day than in ALL English speaking countries together, they own as many cars per capita as the British (just because you’ve got a car doesn’t mean that you have to use it for every little trip after all) and yet their rate of accidents on the road, both in cars as on bicycles, are WAY better than in Britain or the US. Why? Infrastructure.

    Stop this culture of fear. Cycling is not dangerous. Stories of ‘I heard that the daughter of a neighbour of a friend fell and broke her head’ are not conductive nor are they proof of the superiority of that silly styrofoam eggbox thing that is sold to you as the ‘magic feather that will keep your children safe’. They are the same as those baby kneepads and electronic hotwater-warning rubber ducky Lenore loves to wave about.

    If you want your children to be safe on a bicycle, stop endangering them by driving your car, lobby for good separate cycling infrastructure.

    PS did you know that if you fall with a helmet on and it breaks this means that it has FAILED?


    “The principal protection mechanism in a cycle helmet is the polystyrene foam, or styrofoam, that covers the head. When this receives a direct impact force, the styrofoam is intended to compress and in this way spread and reduce the force that is passed onto the skull, thus reducing linear accleration of the brain.

    However, it is common for helmets to break without the polystyrene foam compressing at all. A major helmet manufacturer collected damaged childrens’ helmets for investigation over several months. According to their senior engineer, in that time they did not see any helmet showing signs of crushing on the inside (Sundahl, 1998). Helmet foam does not ‘rebound’ after compression to any significant extent. If the styrofoam does not compress, it cannot reduce linear acceleration of the brain. The most protection that it can give to the wearer is to prevent focal damage of the skull and prevent minor wounds to the scalp. It is not likely to prevent serious brain injury.”

    “Some dissipation of impact force might occur from the action of a helmet breaking, but in most cases this is likely to be small. Helmet standards require the foam to start to compress at a level of force less than that which might be expected to lead to brain injury. While it is known that many helmets do not actually meet the standards to which they are supposed to be accredited (BHRF, 1081), it follows that if the styrofoam does not compress at all, the direct linear force on the helmet was minimal and it’s quite possible that the cyclist would not have received any injury if the helmet had not been worn.

    If the styrofoam is compressed, it still doesn’t prove that a helmet had a protective effect. This can be demonstrated with a fist and a brick wall.

    If you ‘shadow box’ at the wall but carefully stop your fist about 50 mm before it reaches the wall (be sure it’s limited by your arm’s length), no harm will come to your fist. If, without changing your position, you slip a 75 mm thick piece of styrofoam against the wall and repeat the punch, you’ll get compressed (and cracked) styrofoam and false ‘evidence’ that it saved you from harm. In other words, many impacts of helmets would be near misses with bare heads.

    In high impact crashes, such as most that involve motor vehicles or fixed objects like concrete barriers and lamp posts, the forces can be so great that a helmet will compress and break in around 1/1000th of a second. The absorption of the initial forces during this very short period of time is unlikely to make a sufficient difference to the likelihood of serious injury or death. It is for this reason that helmets contain stickers noting that no helmet can prevent all head injuries. ”

    “Cracks or tensile failure in helmets may be the result of a sideways or oblique, rather than linear, force on the helmet. Helmets are not tested nor certified for this kind of impact. However, if the impact occurs without any compression of the foam, it suggests that most of the force was parallel to the surface of the helmet and not directed towards the head. As the surface of a helmet is some small distance from the surface of the head, again the wearer may have suffered no injury at all if a helmet had not been worn.”

    Most crashes leading to death or long-term disability involve rotational, or diffuse, forces. These differ from direct, or linear, forces in that it is insufficient to protect just the surface of the skull to prevent harm. It is necessary also to prevent the brain moving within the skull. Current cycle helmets are not designed to mitigate rotational forces and therefore offer very little protection against most life-threatening injuries (BHRF, 1039).

    t’s not a simple matter to draw conclusions about the benefit a broken or deformed helmet might have provided in a crash. However, the fact that serious injury to unhelmeted cyclists is as rare as helmet damage is common, suggests that most of the claims of benefit from damaged helmets are likely to be exaggerated.

    A better indication of the effectiveness of helmets comes from trends in fatal and serious injuries across whole populations of cyclists. Such data shows no reliable evidence from any jurisdiction that the risk of life-threatening injury has been reduced through the use of helmets.

    For example, in the state of Western Australia where bicycle helmets have been mandatory for all ages since July 1992, the annual cyclist death toll from 1987 to 1991 (pre-law) averaged 7.6 fatalities per year. From 1993 to 1997 (post-law) it was 6.4 fatalities per year, representing a 16% reduction (Meuleners, Gavin and Cercarelli, 2003). However, Government cycling surveys show cycling declined in Western Australia by approximately 30% during the 1990s following mandatory helmet law enforcement (WA, 1; WA, 2). Thus, relative to cycle use, fatalities went up, not down.

    National data from the United States (1991-2001) similarly shows lack of benefit (BHRF, 1041). A review of worldwide research for the UK Department for Transport found no statistically reliable evidence that cycle helmets had proved effective in reducing head injury (Hynd, Cuerden, Reid and Adams, 2009).

    There is a good deal of circumstantial evidence that helmeted cyclists are more likely to crash and in the process to damage their helmets. Data from one study (Wasserman et al, 1988) suggests that those wearing a helmet are more than 7 times likely to hit their (helmeted) heads than bare-headed cyclists, but this study may not be reliable due to the small numbers involved and self-reporting bias. Another study (Erke and Elvik, 2007) reports that helmet wearers have a 14% higher risk of injury per km cycled than those who do not wear helmets.

    The next time you see a broken helmet, suspend belief and do the most basic check – disregard the breakages and look to see if what’s left of the styrofoam has compressed. If it hasn’t, you can be reasonably sure that it hasn’t saved anyone’s life.


  68. Yan Seiner April 10, 2013 at 4:08 pm #

    @Marion: I agree with your initial statement that cycling is not dangerous. However, the screed against helmets is disingenuous at best.

    You can use the same statistics to “prove” that seatbelts kill and airbags don’t save lives.

    Bottom line is that wearing a helmet costs little, and may help. Not wearing a helmet costs nothing, and does not help.

    If you’ve slammed your head into the pavement repeatedly (like I have) you understand that even when helmets don’t compress, they do prevent a lot of lost skin.

    The real danger is that in some people’s minds a sport that requires a helmet is inherently dangerous and therefore to be avoided. That’s the free-range issue; the lack of understanding of where the risk lies and confusion between real and perceived risk.

  69. Papilio April 10, 2013 at 5:05 pm #

    “Bottom line is that wearing a helmet costs little, and may help. Not wearing a helmet costs nothing, and does not help”

    Wearing a helmet – mandatory – ‘costs’ a great percentage of people willing to cycle. That is not a little cost, if you consider problems like obesity, heart disease and related stuff cost millions of American lives every day.
    Improving the infrastructure is something we KNOW helps decreasing the number of fatalities on the road, without discouraging people to cycle – on the contrary!

    And I say ‘people’ because this is not just a thing for children, but also for the elderly, for the disabled, for people who don’t own a car (gasp!), basically for everyone who likes to be able to get around without a car.
    Living in a world designed for cars, seems to me like living in a world designed for people over 6 feet tall. It’s up to the shorties to conquer it back.

  70. Papilio April 10, 2013 at 5:08 pm #

    Whaah – did I write ‘every day’? Sorry…

  71. Papilio April 10, 2013 at 5:23 pm #

    “millions of American lives every day”

    Eeeeeh… Well, okay: never change only half of such a phrase.
    Anyone got some statistics?

  72. Marion April 10, 2013 at 6:28 pm #

    @Yan Seiner

    Bicycle helmets IN NO WAY resemble seat belts in cars. Seat belts are PROVEN to save lives because (with no less cars being driven) the number of car accident deaths diminshed drastically. NO such claim can be made for bicycle helmets. Quite the contrary! Where helmets have been made compulsory, cycling has gone down with at least 30 percent while cyclist deaths have stayed the same or gone up.

    So lets not compare apples with pears, shall we?

    What strikes me, though, is the idiotic knee-jerk reactions on Free Freaking Range Kids!!! For the past few years I’ve heard you talk about how wonderful it is for kids to climb trees and the such, but you don’t mention that you plonk a styrofoam helmet on your kid’s nugget the moment he or she wants to climb a tree. Why not? To fall off a bike will have less impact that to fall of a tree, and, judging from the response to seeing ordinary Dutch people peddling around on ordinary (not racing, not stunting, not mountainbiking or acrobatic) bicycles – the response being totally flipping out about the fact that oh-my-god-they’re-not-wearing-helmets-they’re-totally-gonna-die!! – I’m frankly amazed that you won’t have your kids wear helmets when climbing on the teeter-totter or the slide at the playground! After all, they could fall and totally break their neck!! Get that bubblewrap! Buy that totally useless and even dangerous helmet! Install in them a sense of fear!!

    Listen very carefully: our children are very, very safe when cycling. We MADE it safe when it turned out, back in the seventies, that giving priority to cars KILLED CHILDREN. ‘Stop the Child Murder’ (‘Stop de Kindermoord’) was the slogan of protesters for safe roads and cycling infrastructure.


  73. Carol April 10, 2013 at 7:48 pm #

    At my daughter’s public school (in Portland, OR), all the 5th graders took a week long bike safety training class last fall, meant to teach them to ride safely on their own. Bikes and helmets were provided for all the kids for the week. I’m pretty sure that these classes happen all over Portland. Lots of 5th graders at our school walk and bike to school on their own, often with younger siblings in tow. The 5th graders also act as crossing guards at several busy intersections before and after school (without adult supervision). It’s great to see the kids given appropriate responsibilities!

  74. Jade April 11, 2013 at 4:08 pm #

    On a similar note, my kid is starting kindergarten here in Switzerland this summer, so I was reading the information they give to parents: http://www.vsa.zh.ch/dam/bildungsdirektion/vsa/schule_und_umfeld/eltern/uebersetzungen/volksschule_und_schulstufen/broschuere_kindergartenstufe/englisch_elterninformation_kindergartenstufe.pdf.spooler.download.1337760173351.pdf/englisch_elterninformation_kindergartenstufe.pdf

    It says: “As a rule, children should be able to make their own way to school once they are used to the journey.” These are kids aged 4-6, and yes, I see a lot of them walking on their own or with friends, even here in the city. And yet in the US some 14-16 year olds aren’t allowed to go to school on their own? Is it really that much more dangerous over there?

  75. Warren April 11, 2013 at 10:45 pm #


    Yes it is that more dangerous. Just ask all those moms that after dropping their teens off a high school, go home and watch, CNN, the local news and all the talk shows that live on fear mongering.

    That is the danger, Jade. The people living on a steady diet of news.

  76. Ann April 11, 2013 at 11:30 pm #

    Riding in heavy traffic – I see the need for helmets. Riding on bike paths in parks – WTH do I see 4 year olds on tricycles wearing bloody helmets??? The helmet obsession is insane. Like someone here mentioned, everyone here is all on board with unhelmeted kids climbing high trees with wild abandon, yet a fall from a height of 24 inch high bicycle is going to crack a head open??? I rode a bike my whole childhood unhelmeted, rarely fell, and when I did it wasn’t on my head. Even got hit by a car once, scraped up my arms only. I would venture to say the amount of kids who got molested in the 1970s was higher than the kids who got a serious head injury from bicycle riding. Yet aren’t we the ones who say we’re not going to be “ruled by fear”?

  77. Papilio April 12, 2013 at 11:47 am #

    Lenore? Now that you’re back… I’m actually very curious about your thoughts on this subject… 🙂 Especially since it’s both close to home for me and because I consider bike riding in general a FRK subject. And I never understood your emphasis on bike helmets, of course, because I see that the world around me is working fine without them.
    I admit I’ve been waiting for a post like this to ask you 🙂

  78. J.T. Wenting April 14, 2013 at 12:29 pm #

    “It would be surprising if Netherlands drivers would not be the least aggressive in the world .”

    you’d be wrong. Dutch drivers are quite aggressive but that aggression is channeled towards other cars and trucks, cyclists are sacrosanct by law and it shows, drivers are afraid of them as they can do basically whatever they want and get away with it at least legally (including cutting across traffic 2 feet in front of you with no warning).
    And many cyclists do exactly that, they act with utter disregard for everything else on the road.

    These classes are designed to help alleviate that as well as teach kids the rudiments of traffic law which helps them later pass the exams needed to get a license to ride a moped and once they turn 18 a car (both require a computerised test of knowledge of traffic laws and regulations as well as a driving test by a government appointed examiner).

    The curiculum is at least about 35 years old, though of course updated with new teaching material and for changes in the law.
    The test for these 12 year olds includes a mechanical and safety check of their bicycles, and is (or at least used to be in places) performed by the local police in full uniform to give it a more formal meaning to the kids than having their teachers do it.

  79. Pauline April 16, 2013 at 2:43 pm #

    That’s my Dutch childhood right there. No helmet included 🙂 I had a few lessons in primary school and then we all went out to take a practical exam (I flunked the first time btw because I thought cutting across a patch of grass was a good option). It’s fun and kids learn the basic skills of navigating traffic, which are usefull later on in life as well.

    Obviously a huge difference is that we have a much safer bike infrastructure and drivers are made much more aware of the vulnerability of cyclists from the moment they train to get their drivers licence. And if a car and a bike collide, the driver of the car automatically gets the blame legally (as he/she should have been the most responsible one because of driving the more powerful vehicle).