“When I Was My Daughter’s Age”

Dear nazdyribfb
Folks — Free-Range Kids is not a movement dedicated to nostalgia. Nonetheless, remembering the things we were allowed to do as kids reminds us that a reasonably safe childhood does not require constant supervision, the way folks believe it does today. Hence, this piece. It comes to us from Bree Ervin, a social justice advocate who blogs at thinkbannedthoughts. – L.

Dear Free-Range Kids: Earlier you called for “I let my kids… and…” stories.
Well, this summer we decided the kids were ready to go to Blockbuster on their own (about 3/4 of a mile away). We prepared for it, walked with them, made sure they knew the route and the rules, etc. Made sure the folk at Blockbuster would rent to them if they came in without us as well, we thought it would be a frustrating end to a grand adventure if they went and then couldn’t get a movie.
Today I let them go on their own for the first time, with my card and $5.

As rational as I usually am – as soon as they were out of sight, the “what ifs” hit me like a plague of locusts.

Instead of running after my kids and dragging them back, or following them, I sat down and wrote out all the things I did when I was my oldest daughter’s age.
It turned into a decent sort of poem. Thought I’d share it with the rest of the Free-Rangers. It might serve as a good reminder for other folk too (though I’m sure their lists would look different.)

When I was my daughter’s age

by Bree Ervin

When I was nine…

I used to ride my bike – for miles. Across the railroad tracks, over the sidewalks, down stairs, along busy roads, next to the creek – across the creek, on rickety bridges and under underpasses.

I used to hang out in front of the movie theater and look for grown-ups who looked “cool” enough to help me buy tickets to the R-rated summer blockbusters.

I used to go to the swimming pool. All by myself. With money in my pocket for the entrance fee – and enough junk food to make me sink to the bottom.

When I was nine…

I used to get up early on summer mornings, poach an egg for my toast, pack myself a lunch, grab my backpack filled with MacGyver essentials – duct tape, pocket knife, string – and disappear for hours.

I used to hike up mountains on my own, following deer trails, hunting for mountain lions, fishing in the river, exploring mines…

I used to never tell anyone where I was going, not because it was a secret, but because I didn’t know – I was an explorer, going where ever curiosity took me.

When I was nine…

Harriet the Spy was my heroine.

Bridge to Terabithia was my inspiration.

The Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler was my aspiration.

When I was nine…

I climbed trees all the way to the top, feeling them bend under me while we swayed in the wind together.

I climbed rocks without a rope, or a spot, or a friend to call for help if I fell. I didn’t fall.

I climbed to the top of my dreams and slid down the other side, laughing at each new victory, heart pounding as I remembered close calls, thanking the odds I’d survived another adventure!

When I was nine…

I used to save my allowance and spend it at the gas station on candy and soda and Mad Magazine.

I used to strike up conversations with any stranger willing to talk to a kid.

I used to collect the strangest things, walking along the rail road tracks, down alleys, and diving into dumpsters to look for treasure.

When I was nine…

I knew all my neighbors by name, and car, and whether they liked me or my dog better.

I knew that if I got lost in the mountains, I should go downhill. Find a river, follow it down. Find people – any people – and they’d help me.

I knew to trust my gut if I got lost in town. I knew most people, even the ones who didn’t like kids, would help me if I needed it.

When I was nine…

I trusted that the world was basically a good and safe place, that people were basically kind, that the odds were good I’d come out alive.

It was true.

It still is.

 

Remembering when kids were kings of the road.

83 Responses to “When I Was My Daughter’s Age”

  1. QuicoT July 30, 2013 at 11:07 am #

    Beautiful.

  2. Warren July 30, 2013 at 11:10 am #

    Nice…………..but what movie did they get?

  3. Floyd Stearns July 30, 2013 at 11:19 am #

    EXCELLENT, Bree!! This takes me back to my youth during the 50’s. And, that’s how we raised our kids during the 80’s and 90’s.

  4. Nerd-faced Girl July 30, 2013 at 11:34 am #

    Lovely. I remember doing all those things; I remember all those books. My mom kept me in, as she was paranoid, but on the weekends we (me and my brother) stayed with my dad in this huge forest and were expected to spend most of the day outside. When we got back, dirty and exhilarated, talking non-stop about what we’d done, we’d shower and he’d make us something bachelor-eske for dinner and we’d stay up til two in the morning playing Dungeons and Dragons.

  5. Emmy July 30, 2013 at 11:41 am #

    This was absolutely wonderful.

  6. WendyW July 30, 2013 at 11:54 am #

    Beautiful!!

    We used to go tons of places my mom would have had a cow over. Our distance, however, was severely hampered by the knowledge that our mom would call home every two hours when she had a break at work. If we weren’t there to answer the phone we’d be in serious trouble. We really hated that!

  7. Carrie Chacon July 30, 2013 at 12:08 pm #

    My goal is my kids will be able to make a similar list. And the ARE! Thanks for the encouragement!!!!!

  8. Stacey July 30, 2013 at 12:11 pm #

    List of things we did at elementary school age in without supervision: (in the NY area)

    After 1st day of kindergarten-we all walked to school.
    We were taught how to cross a street and expected to do so on our own
    Play outside unsupervised
    Dig in the dirt, climb trees, rocks etc.
    Rode our bikes-no helmets back then
    Play (tag/baseball/fungo/stoop ball or just have a catch) and other games we made up
    Leave school and go home for lunch!
    Return on time
    Leave school and go OUT for lunch (to local pizza place/deli/candy store)
    We were fully capable of sitting ourselves down in a restaurant, ordering a meal, and even knew how to leave a tip. Most of the time we were afraid of the high school kids in there smoking, so we just got our pizza to go!
    Return on time
    Walk home
    Sometimes we rode our bikes and locked them up to the fence next to the school parking lot.
    We walked ourselves to the library and took out our own books
    We were responsible for returning them on time
    We walked to baseball/softball practice alone even though we had to cross a very busy intersection. It had a traffic light and a cross walk. Our parents showed up for games. Not practice.
    For 3 years, starting at age 7, I walked to karate class that was several blocks away. I was never late, I never missed one.
    Our parents could drop us off at the movie theater and pick us up when the movie was over. We knew how to behave. They told us what time to be outside waiting. It didn’t’ require 3 phone calls and 10 text messages to coordinate picking us up.
    I used to go around the corner to the laundry room to buy my mom’s cigarettes from the vending machine. I never started smoking.
    By age 10 we got on the bus and took ourselves to the movies. After looking in the newspapers ourselves or calling the theater and deciding which show/what time we wanted to go.
    At age 7 I was expected to take care of my infant brother-change his diaper in the am when we got up, feed him, etc… full nighttime babysitting duties started at about age 9
    We all had keys to our apartments and if we came home before mom or dad was home and we were expected to start our homework.
    In the winter we went sledding. We walked ourselves to the park/hill and did it ourselves. It was cold. We put on coats and boots.
    Sometimes we would walk to the Bronx river and fish or feed the ducks.
    We used to take the bus to Nathan’s on Central Ave and play at the arcade.
    Sometimes play miniature golf.

  9. Melissa July 30, 2013 at 12:32 pm #

    I agree lists like this are important because they serve as a reminder of what out kids are capable of if only they are allowed.

  10. Tricia July 30, 2013 at 12:32 pm #

    Thanks for this. Perhaps it’s just the book nerd in me – but by far the point that really describes my childhood was your statement:

    Harriet the Spy was my heroine.
    Bridge to Terabithia was my inspiration.
    The Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler was my aspiration.

    Yes.

  11. Jen July 30, 2013 at 1:15 pm #

    I really realized how much had changed since I was a kid in the 70’s when I read my now 6 year-old a Ramona the Pest book. In the book, the mom lets her daughter play outside unsupervised, let’s her walk to school (crossing a street) on her own among other things. I didn’t think much about it but my daughter picked up on that right away. Wow, I guess things really *have* changed!

  12. Puzzled July 30, 2013 at 1:57 pm #

    Wait, you have a Blockbuster?

  13. Natalie July 30, 2013 at 2:31 pm #

    Awesome book list. Classics!

    @puzzled
    Yeah, that caught my eye too! We have no blockbuster, no Hollywood video, no west coast video, just redbox.

    @nerd-faced girl
    I’ve also got some good D&D memories from my childhood! (Well, high school anyway)

  14. Natalie July 30, 2013 at 2:42 pm #

    @ Jen
    Yes, and in Beezus and Ramona, the 9 yr old Beezus has to watch her 4 yr old sister at the park, and then they come home together from the library. It stands out because it’s hard to picture that happening anymore.

  15. Barbara July 30, 2013 at 2:45 pm #

    I have 3 kids, daughter aged 9 and 2 boys, 10 and 11 yrs old. My 11 yr. old got on his bike this early morning and rode about 2 miles to his friends house. He left me a note where he was going to be. My daughter rode her bike nearly the same distance to her friends house and called home as soon as she got there. Both had to cross busy streets. This is what kids are supposed to do. I sent my 10 yr old to the park yesterday because he’d been inside too long. He told me he laid under a tree and thought for a while then played some basketball with a new friend he met. Again, this is childhood. Btw, I got them monthly passes for the public bus yesterday.

  16. lollipoplover July 30, 2013 at 3:36 pm #

    When I was 9 I played in the woods for hours, built tree forts and bridges across creeks with random wood we *found*, and came home only for the dinner bell. This was the ’70’s. We knew all the kids too because everybody played outside.

    I also rode my bike everywhere and never owned a helmet. I once rode to my friend’s house a few miles away and broke my arm being dragged by her dog on a walk. She rode me home on her handlebars and my mom didn’t believe me that I broke it because I didn’t cry. My friend showed me her trick- to put Ben Gay under my eyes to make me tear up- and my mom finally agreed to take me to the doctor. They put a cast on and sent me on my way. I was a swimmer and didn’t like the idea of sitting out of practices and meets so I put a yellow rubber glove over it with a rubber band at the end and swam the rest of the summer. I think I even won some races with that cast on.

    I also found myself baffled that there is a Blockbuster still around.

  17. Peter July 30, 2013 at 5:04 pm #

    Rode our bikes-no helmets back then […] I also rode my bike everywhere and never owned a helmet.

    I also used to ride my bike without a helmet. Now? I wear a helmet all the time. It has saved my brain twice in the last three years.

    Don’t get me wrong–some of it is just silly. I’m always amused at the little girl riding her tiny bicycle with training wheels at the park with her helmet on. On the other hand, at least here in SoCal, if you’re riding on the street there’s a good enough possibility that something can happen that riding without basic protection for your head is just plain foolish.

  18. Stacy July 30, 2013 at 5:20 pm #

    This doesn’t quite work for me. When I was my daughter’s age … I got in trouble for walking to the library alone and for climbing trees that were too high and I couldn’t get too much sun or swim in the lake. But…when I was my son’s age, I was considered old enough to babysit for hours, so that’s something, for those who think I shouldn’t be leaving him home alone or teaching him to cook his own lunch.

    It’s a little harder to be “free-range” when I know what my overprotective mother and mother-in-law would say, but thankfully I live in a neighborhood full of children who are allowed to wander and play outside without adult intervention.

    Love Harriet and the Mixed-up Files, of course.

  19. pentamom July 30, 2013 at 5:23 pm #

    ” I’m always amused at the little girl riding her tiny bicycle with training wheels at the park with her helmet on. ”

    It’s not really necessary as a “safety” thing, but OTOH if you get the kids used to them from a very early age as just part of the “standard equipment” of riding a bike, then it’s second nature in the future when it will matter. I’m certainly not saying that anyone who thinks the helmet is unnecessary for the tricycle or training wells is being neglectful, just that it can be a reasonable thing to insist on as a matter of teaching the child basic good habits from the very beginning.

    It’s sort of like the way everyone in our kids’ generation pretty much just automatically puts their seat belts on without thinking because they’re used to it, but some adults over 50 still think it’s a “task” that inconveniences them to a greater or lesser degree.

  20. Papilio July 30, 2013 at 5:27 pm #

    @Peter: We’re going off-topic, but the need for a helmet has of course everything to do with your own speed and the surface you’re riding on. But I always fail to see how a helmet is going to help if you get hit by a car though – it won’t prevent you from getting crushed and die from internal bleeding…

  21. Puzzled July 30, 2013 at 6:32 pm #

    No, it won’t keep you from getting crushed and dying from internal bleeding. And a seatbelt won’t help you if you car is run over by a monster truck – but in both cases, it protects against other things. It’s a bad argument to say that some piece of safety equipment is useless since it won’t protect against some imaginable danger.

  22. jason stanford July 30, 2013 at 6:43 pm #

    @papilio. I have never, and probably will never wear a cycle helmet, but surely you cannot justify your remark about a helmet not making a difference in an accident where a vehicle is involved? It might just be that you are caught in the vehicles’ bumper/fender, and had you wore a helmet it might have saved your cranium taking the full impact of going up the kerb, for instance..

  23. Katie July 30, 2013 at 6:51 pm #

    @Barbara-That’s awesome! Good for you. It’s nice to hear about kids who are given the freedom to act their age.

  24. Anna July 30, 2013 at 7:19 pm #

    I am on vacation at my mom’s house, in the countryside, with my 3YO son. Today at the park we met a 8YO girl we know well, she was babysitting her neighbour’s almost-3YO daughter. Everybody looked at my son’s helmet like a funny thing.
    Every kid in the town where I live go by bike with a helmet and no 8YO is allowed to stay at the park alone (what? babysit a toddler? come on!).
    BTW, the girl was so careful, so sweet and full of attention for the little one, that I would gladly let my son with her. I worked with kids for years and found very few people able to carefully watch AND willing to play with a kid at the same time, like she did.

  25. Beth July 30, 2013 at 8:35 pm #

    I am going to the library to check out Harriet the Spy RIGHT NOW.

  26. Rachel July 30, 2013 at 9:22 pm #

    Nice poem! I bet many of us have a similar poem we could write. I hope my kids will feel nostalgic for their own childhoods as well.

    However, I do wish my 15 year old son would find somewhat safer ways to develop those experiences. He is now riding his skateboard in traffic–I think even my parents would have worried about that.

  27. Joel July 30, 2013 at 10:34 pm #

    In 1976 I was 9, my limits were the front yard and the backyard of which I was not allow to leave or face my parents wrath, within these bounds I was free to do as I pleased. Mom drove me the few blocks to school and the park if she felt like it, I had to come in for lunch and supper and I had to be in at 8:30. It would be 4 years and a new town before some of those rules changed, some didn’t meals would stay the same and so would the 8:30 curfew until I left for basic training at 18. At 46 I’m alone and don’t fit in. You can care too much for your kids, and in the process destroy them too.

  28. Jamie July 30, 2013 at 11:11 pm #

    Love this! I have fond memories of exploring nature and riding my bike around the neighborhood with friends as a kid. Seeing how some parents hover over older children at parks near my home makes me realize how lucky I was to have independence from my parents to play freely. I wouldn’t deny my children those sorts of experiences for anything in the world. One thing I want to bring up: Periods of depression is not that uncommon in adulthood. Memories of how happy and how capable I was as a kid helped me at one time through this. They helped combat the typical negative thoughts depressed people are prone to (such as that I’d always been sad and couldn’t do certain things).

  29. Reziac July 30, 2013 at 11:48 pm #

    Um, yeah. Exactly what I did when I was a kid.

    When I was 12, I thought nothing of riding my bike downtown, then spur of the moment across the river to the state fair, hit my aunt up for dinner or a cookie on the way back, and arrive home about dark. 12 miles or so round trip.

    When I was 7, I rode my bike a mile or so to the convenience store, in the dark, to pick up a pack of cigs for my mom. No restrictions about sales to minors in those days; it was assumed (usually correctly) we kids didn’t smoke.

    When I was 5, I walked to kindergarten, about 5 blocks, by myself, every day. And I was sent to the corner store to pick up a couple small things for dinner — across a busy 4-lane street. I knew how to cross streets, so no problem. (I’m not so sure all these “safety” features for pedestrians don’t actually make us incompetent — relying on the machine rather than our brains. If a 5YO can do it…)

    No one ever walked me through my routes, either. I could read a map.

    And yes, I talked to any stranger who seemed willing to respond.

  30. Andy July 31, 2013 at 2:21 am #

    “Helmet has saved my brain twice in the last three years.”

    Either you have been particularly unlucky, or you are falling way to often. Most bicycle falls cause injuries on hands and legs, head injuries are comparatively more rare. Which makes me think that you are falling too much.

    Second, if helmet less bicycling would truly endanger ones brain twice in three years, then there would be much more head injuries in Netherlands, Austria and any other country where people still do not wear helmets. Plus, most 30-50 years old would either have suffered head injury in the past or would know someone who did have head injury.

    That stat seems plausible only if you are from country with strong helmet campaign.

  31. AnotherAnon July 31, 2013 at 7:33 am #

    My kids are 4 and almost 7. When I was 4, I was allowed to go to the neighbors’ house up the street and knock on their door and invite their kids to play. Which we did, outside, in our front yards or on the sidewalk, without our parents watching us.

    When I was almost 7, I was allowed to cross the not-busy side streets in our Chicago neighborhood, and I knew to look both ways before doing it.

    I let my daughter go outside and knock on the neighbors’ door. I let my son go to his friend’s house that’s located around the corner and across a non-busy street. He can even take his sister if he holds her hand when they cross.

  32. Donna July 31, 2013 at 8:36 am #

    And, Andy, don’t forget that helmet laws in the US only pertain to children and many adults still don’t wear helmets even today. It will be interesting to see if today’s helmeted children maintain their helmet-wearing into adulthood or shed them as soon as they are able.

    My 7 year old has never worn helmet. I saw no point when she had training wheels. She learned how to ride a 2-wheeler in A. Samoa where helmets are not even available. I have no interest in buying her one now that we are back in the states, but she wants to be like her friends so we will see. We haven’t bought a new bike yet.

  33. Papilio July 31, 2013 at 8:54 am #

    @Puzzled & Jason: I’m not stating anything, I’m just saying that I fail to see the scenario here. At what speed and from what angle should a car hit you to make that helmet *the* factor in saving your life?

    @Andy: Indeed.

  34. pentamom July 31, 2013 at 9:56 am #

    “At what speed and from what angle should a car hit you to make that helmet *the* factor in saving your life?”

    At whatever speed and angle causes you to fall and strike your head without any other life-threatening injuries. Maybe you’re not even struck, maybe you just lose control and fall as the result of an evasive maneuver. Is such a scenario so hard to conceive?

    I don’t know the stats on helmets so I’m not arguing about how necessary they are. But it doesn’t seem so implausible that there are situations where protecting your head could be lifesaving.

  35. Natalie July 31, 2013 at 10:23 am #

    Seems to me that helmet laws are a simple cost/benefit analysis. X amount of cyclists come into the ER from head injuries (life threatening or not) in each state/county. That costs money, and not necessarily at just the time of treatment, as it would depend on the damage done. So they make a law stating that every cyclist has to wear a helmet. The costs of the helmets are spread out among the citizenry, and the hospitals have less injuries to treat.

    Laws like this are not considering an individual. What are the odds an individual cyclist will fall/crash in such a way that they’ll suffer such an injury? It doesn’t matter. What matters is that the law drastically reduces the 20,000/yr (I pulled that number out of thin air) head injuries of cyclists.

    Is it an impingement on freedom? Yes.
    Is it worth getting up in arms over? If you live in NH. They even allow bikers to ride without helmets.

    About kids? Well, my daughter is still on a tricycle, and has fallen a few times. Kids like to experiment and test their abilities. Not in such a way that she hit her head, it’s scrapes and bruises on the body. But it could be her head. Why not? So, she wears a helmet.

    I also remember taking a few falls on my bike as a kid. No cars involved. I wasn’t wearing a helmet back then. One fall resulted in me having to get a root canal several years later, as the injured tooth developed an infection. No head injuries, but I could have gotten one. Change of angle, change of speed, reflexes…

  36. Natalie July 31, 2013 at 10:32 am #

    @andy
    That actually would be interesting. Seeing how necessary helmets really are by looking at numbers in the Netherlands.

  37. Stephen Bailey July 31, 2013 at 10:38 am #

    Getting back to the article…
    Fantastic to read, it really took me back. So much of it is familiar, even here in the UK. If you can, try and get hold of some of the Just William books by Richmal Crompton – they show you how kids could cause mayhem, out-maneuver adults and grow up at just the right speed, all on their own. Great read.

  38. DH July 31, 2013 at 12:31 pm #

    “At what speed and from what angle should a car hit you to make that helmet *the* factor in saving your life?”

    As others have said, with the car situation, the relatively common situations where the car driver of the parked car opens the door into the cyclist riding past, the situation where the car turns and catches the front or back wheel on one edge of the bumper, and the situations where no car is involved and roadway junk gets into your wheel spokes.

    The situations above encompass the most common ways cyclists are injured, and two common falls: either sideways or a flip over the handlebars. In both situations, your head is at risk of impacting the pavement. In 20 years of riding, I’ve done two flips over the handlebars, and I’ve gone sideways more than that.

    And my neighbors are currently dealing with a situation where their son was out riding with a friend, the car clipped the back wheel of their son’s bike, and the son’s bike fell over, with his front wheel clipping the back wheel of his friend’s bike. The son was wearing a helmet and is fine. His friend was not, and is not. He fell and his head hit the curb.

  39. DH July 31, 2013 at 12:37 pm #

    “Second, if helmet less bicycling would truly endanger ones brain twice in three years, then there would be much more head injuries in Netherlands, Austria and any other country where people still do not wear helmets.”

    I’ve ridden in Europe, and I’ve ridden in the US. One of the major factors is that both car and bike culture is far different in the US versus Europe.

    In urban areas of Europe, there tends to be various methodologies to separate bike traffic from car traffic. Bikes and aren’t aren’t sharing the to the massive extent they do in urban areas of the US.

    Car drivers in Europe are also far more aware of the places where bike and car traffic do need to come together and know how to appropriately watch and yield. There’s simply far less risk to bike users in Europe than in the US, particularly in urban environments.

  40. DH July 31, 2013 at 12:38 pm #

    Wow, I am having typing problems today.

    ^ Bikes and cars aren’t sharing the roadways to the massive extent they do in urban areas of the US.

  41. Papilio July 31, 2013 at 1:46 pm #

    @DH re bike culture in some European countries: true.
    In car terms: the USA mainly knows Formule 1 racing, and althoug some people race to work, it’s vastly different from driving a sedan to get groceries or visit grandma with the kids.

    So, when talking about collisions, not falls, can we agree that separating fast motorized traffic from bicycles or lowering the speed limits in places where they’re not separated is a much more efficient way to prevent injuries (ALL injuries – and not just preventing injuries but preventing the collision from happening altogether) than just telling cyclists to wear a helmet?

  42. Uly July 31, 2013 at 2:15 pm #

    “Either you have been particularly unlucky, or you are falling way to often. Most bicycle falls cause injuries on hands and legs, head injuries are comparatively more rare. Which makes me think that you are falling too much.”

    Okay, and having said that, now what?

  43. Papilio July 31, 2013 at 3:57 pm #

    @Uly: Depends on what causes the falls.

  44. staceyjw July 31, 2013 at 5:10 pm #

    The “I was 9”-
    I did all that stuff, and it was not at all remarkable. My parents were not lenient, nor strict, just average.

    These days, people wanna call CPS on you if you let your 9 yr old be alone, ever. And even younger kids? You better have them leashed to you at all times.

  45. Donna July 31, 2013 at 9:04 pm #

    “The son was wearing a helmet and is fine. His friend was not, and is not. He fell and his head hit the curb.”

    Did the son hit his head? If not, the fact that he was wearing a helmet is completely irrelevant. That is like me talking about how wearing a seatbelt saved my life on the way home today when I wasn’t even in an accident.

    Do we know that the other boy would not have had head injuries with a helmet? Helmets don’t seem like that much protection to me.

    Now if this is a story where two boys fell head first into the exact same curb with the exact same impact and one was fine and one was not, then it has some meaning. Otherwise it is really no different from many, many, many, many accidents were one person is injured seriously and one is not due to any myriad of reasons.

  46. Natalie July 31, 2013 at 9:31 pm #

    We do impact testing of helmets. They do indeed offer protection. Whether or not they’re needed for cycling, we’d have to do some stat hunting to see if it’s a myth.

    Me and my cycling experiences? (And I’m not a pro, just a Sunday ride kind of thing) Especially when I was a kid? Cars or no cars, I think a helmet would be useful like a seatbelt.

  47. Natalie July 31, 2013 at 11:30 pm #

    Actually, I just did a quick search and apparently it’s a controversy.

    http://greatergreaterwashington.org/post/19036/feds-will-stop-hyping-effectiveness-of-bike-helmets/

    Some are questioning the published stats, and saying that helmets could be made even more effective if people would push for it.

    I wish Yan Seiner would lend his opinion on this. He and his daughters have been cycling a long time, but it seems he’s stopped commenting since that whole debacle on the YMCA swimming thread.

  48. DH July 31, 2013 at 11:44 pm #

    “Did the son hit his head? If not, the fact that he was wearing a helmet is completely irrelevant.”

    Yes, he did. He suffered a mild concussion. The friend cracked his skull, had a brain bleed, and has had intellectual impact due to the resulting brain damage.

    I’ve also cracked my head hard enough in a helmet to be staring up at the blue sky and seeing stars. And was very glad I didn’t crack my head that hard without the helmet.

  49. DH July 31, 2013 at 11:49 pm #

    “So, when talking about collisions, not falls, can we agree that separating fast motorized traffic from bicycles or lowering the speed limits in places where they’re not separated is a much more efficient way to prevent injuries (ALL injuries – and not just preventing injuries but preventing the collision from happening altogether) than just telling cyclists to wear a helmet?”

    And in the US, at this immediate point in time, which step can individuals take to protect themselves against injury?

    Also, in a country where both sides of the spectrum are screaming about deficits and reducing spending, which is overall cheaper on the government side of things? Public campaigns, in general, cost in the order of millions. Redoing traffic ways in the way you are talking, cost in the order of billions.

  50. Reziac August 1, 2013 at 12:39 am #

    One thing helmet advocates forget to look at is the perception of safety from helmets (and bike lanes) that bicyclists now have — turns out even tho there are relatively fewer cyclists, there are now more accidents, which boil down to “cyclist thinks they’re immune to traffic” since they’re now “protected”.

    Same problem as with kids… if you’re always “protected”, you never learn to watch out for yourself.

    [I’ve done thousands of miles on my bike, none of it with a helmet, and a great deal of it in urban traffic. I’ve never taken a header, nor had a ‘disagreement’ with a car. And I did a lot of riding on icy streets, and on my old bike I could do 50+mph on a good downslope.]

  51. Andy August 1, 2013 at 6:17 am #

    @DH @Natalie Helmet are not tested for car crash scenario. They are tested for simple fall in around 20km/h. Current estimations are that helmet provides some but very little protection in case car hit you.

    Unfortunately, both cyclists and drivers overestimates helmet protections. Drivers tend to drive closer to helmeted drivers which raise the risk.

    Now, if everyone would wear helmet and did not overestimate their effectivity, then it would be really safer. Biker and drivers would risk less and had helmet at the same time.

    Unfortunately again, that is not the case since campaigns exaggerate security gains.

  52. Andy August 1, 2013 at 6:21 am #

    @Natalie Such “experiment” happened in Australia I think, there were not much savings. People drove bicycles less, partly cause they found helmets hustle and partly cause they started to see bicycling as high risk activity.

    So, you got people moving around less, getting less sport and risking a bit more when they actually do it.

    Other problems is that head injuries are not the biggest cost when falling on bike. Legs and hands got injured more. And if you are hit by car, your internal parts of your body gets a lot of injuries.

  53. Andy August 1, 2013 at 6:31 am #

    @Donna “Andy, don’t forget that helmet laws in the US only pertain to children and many adults still don’t wear helmets even today. ”

    I was not talking about helmet laws, I only wanted to say that “helmet has saved my brain twice in the last three years” is either not true or Peter should solve whatever problem makes him fall that often.

    Helmets for kids actually make more sense. Kids fall often in low speed and helmets are effective there. Kids also fall head first more often and helmets are designed for that scenario.

    “It will be interesting to see if today’s helmeted children maintain their helmet-wearing into adulthood or shed them as soon as they are able.”

    I would guess that they will keep having them. I think that they will generally think that cycling without helmet is very dangerous. It is also possible that they will extend helmet laws to adults too.

    I would also guess that they will rarely use bikes for transport as we did, they will consider it sport only equipment. Todays kids drive much less then we used to and rarely use bikes to go to school, so I do not expect them to change habits much once they grow up.

  54. Natalie August 1, 2013 at 6:37 am #

    Oops, I posted this previously on the wrong thread.

    Here’s another article from the Washington Post.

    http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2013-06-03/national/39708755_1_mandatory-helmet-laws-rates-pediatrics

    No one is advocating not wearing a helmet. People agree that helmets prevent some kinds of injuries. But some are saying that a “law” is counter productive.

    It’s an interesting discussion.
    – See more at: http://www.freerangekids.com/would-your-kids-pass-the-predator-test/comment-page-2/#comment-264951

  55. Natalie August 1, 2013 at 6:40 am #

    @Andy –
    I wasn’t saying that the helmet would save you in a car crash, it might. I brought up regular circumstantial falling to the curb/pavement because everyone was talking about bike crashes only in terms of accidents with cars.

    I think you’d like those articles I posted, they bring up many of the points that you are saying now.

  56. In the Trenches August 1, 2013 at 9:15 am #

    Dumpster diving! Glad I wasn’t the only one! 🙂 My mum was appalled, of course. We used to bike for miles (no helmet, plenty of accidents, mostly road rash) and visit lakes, parks, and the fancy public gardens in the richer part of town. We used to walk to school past ‘cliffs’ (maybe 30 feet) that we would inevitably stop to climb, and pull the Virginia Creeper off to look at the suckers and search for bugs. We were often late. I still remember seeing a huge rat and thinking it was a chihuahua. The whole trip to school was along a busy road. At lunch we would go out to the video arcade (the vice principal forbade it, but screw him!) and get day-old doughnuts cheap next door. They’d have to kick me out when I was on a roll at Karate Champ. I’d pass my game to some other kid, who would die immediately and waste my quarter, plus get to put his initials in the high score screen. We’d stop at what I now recognise was a kind of seedy corner store on the way home for gum and comics. We’d go after school to where houses were being demolished and find cool things in the rubble. We’d build “airplanes” out of the old cars that someone had left in a ravine. Every single day was an adventure, and we had total freedom. I really miss those days, and I would not trade those memories for anything. I wish kids these days could have the same, and I wish that parents could give it to them without guilt or fear of censure.

  57. Donna August 1, 2013 at 9:26 am #

    @ Andy, I wasn’t talking about helmet laws beyond the fact that, because they are not required to by law, most adults do not wear helmets. Your comment made it sound like you believed that adults in the US were regularly wearing bike helmets and they aren’t. While sports riders generally wear them, most of the adults that I know and see around town who commute to work regularly on bikes due so without the benefit of helmets. Thus, there is no real need to compare Europe to the US since we should see large amounts of head injuries in adult bikers right here in the good ole USA if helmets saving lives is as common as Peter claims.

  58. DH August 1, 2013 at 10:48 am #

    “I wasn’t saying that the helmet would save you in a car crash, it might. I brought up regular circumstantial falling to the curb/pavement because everyone was talking about bike crashes only in terms of accidents with cars”

    I referenced with crashes caused by cars, and crashes caused by other things in my post as well.

    In fact, both times I’ve rung my bell in an accident while riding, there was no car involved. Once was a hard-to-see section of heaved pavement which trapped my front wheel and sent me flying–I cracked the helmet on that one.

    Helmets don’t prevent head injuries from occurring. But they do lessen the risk that a head injury will be a traumatic brain injury.

    Yes, other injuries are more common. But broken legs and arms don’t have the risk of resulting in long-term intellectual impact the way that major head injury can.

    @Donna: our areas must be rather different then. I rarely see adults riding without helmets anymore and I see cyclists often enough. There’s quite a bit of bike commuting going on in my local area.

  59. pentamom August 1, 2013 at 10:59 am #

    My experience matches DH’s more than Donna’s also. I see lots of adults with helmets. I also see a fair number without, but not nearly to the point where I’d say that “most” adults do not.

  60. DH August 1, 2013 at 11:09 am #

    @pentamom: Around here, I’d say that 9 out of 10 adults I see riding are wearing helmets.

    We also do get a lot of weekend distance/century rides on the roads around us, and those all require helmets. So almost every adult I see riding on the weekend on the roadways has a helmet on but a good number are riding as part of some sort of group.

    If I go out riding on any of our extensive trail systems, almost all the kids and adults riding on those also are wearing helmets.

    For the bike commuters: there is a distinct different between the majority who do, and the minority who do not. What I will say is that the people for whom bike commuting appears to be not a choice but a necessity tend not to wear helmets. Whereas those who appear to be making the choice to bike commute are wearing helmets.

  61. Captain America August 1, 2013 at 1:28 pm #

    Helmets are great. Wear’em.

    The ONE TIME I didn’t wear my helmet on the trail, my wheel got stuck in a tree branch and flipped me entirely over. I landed on my shoulder, tucking my head aside. Helmets are nice.

    Reminds me of a time when I forgot my cup playing hockey. I ended up taking a slap shot in the upper thigh!

    You never can tell when you’re going to need a helmet.

  62. Andy August 1, 2013 at 4:19 pm #

    @Donna I did not tried to compare those countries to USA, I did not wanted to talk about USA at all. I picked countries where people do not wear helmets a lot and where people drive bikes a lot.

    The point I wanted to make is something of the sort: if helmet saves ones brain three times in two years on average, then most adults in Netherlands would have suffer head injury within last two years. The fact is, most adults in Netherlands never suffered bike related head injury.

    My impression was that Americans drive bikes a lot less and when they do then it is mostly as sport and not as transport.

    It is also impression that Americans (and UK) tend to stress danger and the need to wear helmet a lot. So, it is true that I assumed that they also wear them more often.

    As in, every time there is a discussion about biking, someone needs to bring in the need to wear helmet. The forum is then full of people that a.) have been saved by helmets suspiciously often b.) think driving bike is so dangerous that you will suffer horrible injury for sure.

    The impression is then that driving car is better for your health then driving bike without helmet, while nothing could be further from truth.

  63. Papilio August 1, 2013 at 5:46 pm #

    Yeah. Cycling at a relaxed speed is in itself not a dangerous activity. It does not require a helmet. A fall at that speed usually won’t involve your head hitting the ground, because your reflexes prevent that (unless you’re 75+. That’s another story).
    Do kids fall head-first at their low speeds? I used to just loose my balance and fall over (hip + elbow/hand).
    Sports riders go fast, which increases the likelihood of a (head-first) fall – I see the benefit of a helmet for them. Mountainbikers go fast on a rough terrain – yes, benefit.
    If you go fast and/or ride on bad road surface in urban areas, I can understand you want that helmet. Since I don’t ride very fast on clean, smooth roads, wearing a helmet would be totally ridiculous.
    On road safety: I read (or heard?) that a cyclist in the USA is 30x more likely to get hurt than a cyclist in the Netherlands.

  64. Papilio August 1, 2013 at 6:44 pm #

    DH: “Also, in a country where both sides of the spectrum are screaming about deficits and reducing spending, which is overall cheaper on the government side of things? Public campaigns, in general, cost in the order of millions. Redoing traffic ways in the way you are talking, cost in the order of billions.”

    I think it all depends on what you wish to consider as costs in this particular matter.
    Finding out what the main routes in a city are, where does traffic come from and where is it going, etc, and making plans considering that, costs money.
    Lowering speed limits in neighborhood streets costs money.
    Building traffic calming measures to make motorists lower their speed costs money.
    Building separate bike paths along the through streets costs money and will take some space.
    Reprogramming the traffic lights at intersections so cyclists and pedestrians can cross the road while motorists wait, costs money.
    Teaching children in school the rules of the road and how to cycle safely in all kinds of circumstances, costs money.
    Teaching (future) motorists to look for cyclists in traffic and be careful around more vulnerable road users (and never throw open that door without looking over their shoulder) costs money.
    Keeping streets and roads and bike paths clean costs money.
    Building bridges and tunnels so cyclists and pedestrians can safely cross main roads costs money.
    Building bike racks near apartment buildings, workplaces, schools and public transport stations etc costs money.

    Maintaining roads worn out by all that heavy motorized traffic using it every day costs money.
    Cleaning up after an accident costs money.
    Oil costs money, and independence.
    Using very expensive pieces of land in the middle of the city as parking space costs money (also by increasing traveling distances).
    People getting hurt in an accident costs money, and more than that.
    People getting killed in an accident costs money, and a lot more than that. (Road safety in the US is laughable compared to the other first world countries.)
    People getting ill from air and noise pollution in cities costs money, and quality of life. (~40% of trips is 3 miles or less.)
    People getting ill because of a sedentary lifestyle costs money, and quality of life. (~30 minutes of mildly intensive exercise, such as walking or cycling, is enough to stay in a reasonable shape.)
    People who are hurt or ill can’t work – that costs money.
    Driving people around who can’t drive themselves costs money, and time.

    Being unable to travel even short distances safely without a car costs freedom.

    But I’m sure doing nothing is cheaper for the gov’t.

  65. Donna August 1, 2013 at 8:20 pm #

    @DH – I live in a college town and most of the people who commute via bike are students going to campus. Not a helmet on any of them. Since most would have been raised wearing helmets, my guess is that convenience wins out over carrying the thing around all day. Actually, I only see 2 types of adults wearing helmets to ride around town: sport riders and parents out with their kids. Just about everyone else is helmetless, but it is a pretty alternative-culture type of place so things may be different in suburbia.

  66. Let_Her_Eat_Dirt August 1, 2013 at 8:50 pm #

    Wonderful essay! I hope my girls get to have the kind of childhood that you enjoyed.

    Let Her Eat Dirt
    http://www.lethereatdirt.com
    A dad’s take on raising tough, adventurous girls

  67. Andy August 2, 2013 at 7:01 am #

    @Papilio “a cyclist in the USA is 30x more likely to get hurt than a cyclist in the Netherlands”

    Now, that would explain the difference I have seen.

    I would also add that mountainbikers who go fast on a rough terrain wear different helmets. They are much less comfortable, but provide much more protection for the whole head.

  68. Puzzled August 2, 2013 at 11:38 am #

    One thing I’ve always wondered is where they got the idea to call it Blockbuster’s. I have nothing against video rentals, but why name it after a particularly offensive instance of racism?

  69. Natalie August 2, 2013 at 1:06 pm #

    @puzzled
    Thanks for that. I’d never heard about blockbusting before.

  70. Natalie August 2, 2013 at 1:27 pm #

    The issues aren’t whether or not a helmet protects your head on the chance that you fall. It does. Nobody is arguing that. Neither is anyone arguing that because it is still possible to get a head injury with the use of a helmet that they shouldn’t be used, that’s not a reason, indeed, without a helmet said injury would most likely be worse.

    The issues, if anyone is interested in reading either of those two articles, are misleading data, and helmet laws.

    It’s being advertised that helmets prevent head injuries by 85%. Which makes helmets sound pretty damn effective. And if they’re that effective, the result is that

    1) laws will be made requiring people to wear them

    2) people won’t demand a better product because 85% is great, it doesn’t take into account that helmets actually cause injury in a small percentage of cases, among other issues

    The downsides of a law requiring people to wear helmets is that it discourages biking. Companies that rent bikes on the fly will have to give you a helmet, or you’ll just have to have one ready, and it’s just another inconvenience. The stressing of helmets also gives the impression that cycling is a dangerous activity, which discourages people.

    There’s also some data suggesting that drivers are less careful around cyclists with helmets than without. No one has said that cyclists themselves are more reckless when wearing helmets, although it’s possible.

    All that being said, no one recommends cycling without a helmet. They are simply against a law requiring everyone to wear one, and want better data available.

    Andy seems to have the best grasp on the issues at play here.

  71. Papilio August 2, 2013 at 5:04 pm #

    So it may help IF you fall, and then IF you actually hit your head. The way the Dutch cycle, that chance is waaaay too small to worry about.

  72. pentamom August 2, 2013 at 8:35 pm #

    “One thing I’ve always wondered is where they got the idea to call it Blockbuster’s. I have nothing against video rentals, but why name it after a particularly offensive instance of racism? ”

    The word “blockbuster” referred to very successful movies before it referred to tactics used to manipulate the racial makeup of neighborhoods. Actually, I’ve never even heard the word “blockbuster” used in the second sense; I have only ever heard of it as “block busting.” Words that have more than one meaning need not always be sacrificed to their most offensive use and obliterated from the language.

  73. Natalie August 2, 2013 at 9:02 pm #

    @ papillo
    Yes and yes. 🙂

  74. Puzzled August 2, 2013 at 10:22 pm #

    The question of poor perception came up in the fire service with many improvements – most particularly, bunker pants (instead of the old tall boots/long coat system) and SCBAs. Each time, you had people arguing “that new stuff will kill you, making you think you’re safer than you are.” And yes, a few people have done dumb things with new equipment they wouldn’t have done without it – but in the end, you simply can’t compare the health and longevity of the fire service with air packs to what it was before. In the old days, the FDNY didn’t have to worry about its pension system…

  75. Papilio August 3, 2013 at 11:05 am #

    @Natalie: Yeah, you know it’s true! 🙂 Can I persuade you to tell me about it from your American perspective?

  76. Uly August 3, 2013 at 2:00 pm #

    One thing I’ve always wondered is where they got the idea to call it Blockbuster’s. I have nothing against video rentals, but why name it after a particularly offensive instance of racism?

    Well, the first (oldest) definition of “blockbuster” was a bomb capable of destroying a city block. This cites back to the 1940s.

    The figurative use was originally of anything that made a public impact, but the term was quickly adapted to films that are wildly popular.

    Block busting, using minorities to convince whites to sell their homes at lower prices, started as a practice in the late 40s and early 50s. It is possible that the two terms are related, but if so the connection is the “make a public impact” sense of the word “blockbuster”.

    At any rate, the “hit movie” sense narrowly predates the racist motivation for selling cheap, because prior to that point people could simply refuse to sell to blacks.

  77. Puzzled August 3, 2013 at 5:25 pm #

    Thanks Uly. I’m still not sure I want to rent my movies from a bomb that destroys a city block, but language is slippery like that.

    I don’t think that block busting comes from the bomb you’re referring to, or from make a public impact. My suspicion would be that it comes from, simply, having one family move in to “bust” the block.

    However, it combines two bad American traditions – profiteering off of self-created problems, and racism.

    Anyway, I didn’t know about the bomb meaning, I only know the block-busting, so I assumed the store came from there. Good to know it didn’t.

  78. Natalie August 4, 2013 at 12:45 pm #

    @papillo
    I don’t really have a strong opinion on this, I’ve never really knew anything about the issues until reading those articles.
    I want my daughter wearing one simply because I see what she does on her bike. And helmets do prevent head injuries. I wear one because it’s not fair to require that she wear one if I don’t. When she’s a better rider, I’d have no problem with her taking off the helmet, but I’d have to check what the law says obviously.

  79. Papilio August 4, 2013 at 1:32 pm #

    @Natalie: Oh – sorry – I meant, since you’ve cycled in both countries, what was it like for you to cycle around in the Netherlands?

    “I wear one because it’s not fair to require that she wear one if I don’t.”
    Ehm… She is a kid (still learning the trick), you are an adult (with the needed skill). Won’t she understand that’s the reason she should wear one, while you don’t have to?

    (And not to be nitpicking, but my name ends on L-I-O 😉 )

  80. Natalie August 4, 2013 at 5:26 pm #

    Sorry about that, is that like the French for butterfly? Not that I speak French, but I read the book and saw the movie about that convict escaping that jail island. Paul Newman… Sigh.

    In the US, I bike in parks, maybe in towns with beachfronts, and now recently, with my daughter around town. Not for transportation on a day to day basis. In Amsterdam it’s different because that’s just how you get around. It’s definitely more crowded. (More pedestrians, more bikes) which would be akin to a beachfront town where you have that more. Except COLDER. And people coughing up phlegm just to say hello. 😉

    Regarding helmet wearing, it’s one way of avoiding a fight. There’s enough we argue about.

  81. Papilio August 5, 2013 at 5:55 pm #

    @Natalie: The Latin word. French has papillon (indeed like that movie 🙂 )

    Hahaha, colder – yeah, I bet it was! 😀 So then you missed your helmet merely to keep your head warm? 😛
    Really, is Amsterdam more crowded than those dense American cities? Or is your town more sprawled?
    Or is the crowd a simple consequence of pedestrians and cyclists taking less space, so they CAN be closer together and form a crowd (assuming it was largely a non-car crowd 🙂 ).
    Kind of related: I read a while back the story of some guy from USA? Australia? who’d been to Groningen, and he said that he’d really noticed how quiet it was, as in, lack of traffic noise. Like, I imagine, the unexpected quietness of a room full of people: Deaf people, all communicating in sign language, hardly making any sound at all.
    Do you remember that observation? It would (help) explain why I don’t like visiting foreign cities! They always make me so tired…

  82. Papilio August 5, 2013 at 5:57 pm #

    Helmet + daughter: I see.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Remembering when kids were kings of the road… | - July 30, 2013

    […] – See more at: http://www.freerangekids.com/when-i-was-my-daughters-age/#sthash.Qyp3xHup.dpuf […]