Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Educated On The Streets

One of the things you have to teach your kids when you are teaching them how to ride a bicycle is how to get where they are going. It is the part that frequently gets overlooked after the training wheels come off. There are many reasons for this, but I suspect that a lot of it has to do with fear of the unknown. What will your kids do when it comes time to ride somewhere other than to the end of the cul-de-sac and back?

Over There!

Cameron is sixteen and old enough to get anywhere on his own. If he can't figure out how to get there, he is old enough to get lost and work it out for himself. Úna is used to following in the pack. Other than a few places she goes to at least once a week, she is used to just following whoever leads. She is skilled enough to ride almost any place in the City- her ability to glide through even the craziest situations with total ease is amazing! Her mental map is not very detailed, though.

We have started to let Úna lead when we ride places. If she tells me she does not know how to get somewhere we have been before, I now put her up front and have her figure it out as we go. She knows where we are going better than she thinks she does, really all she needs is a push to take the lead.


Úns surprises herself, sometimes. The routes she thinks she does not know are very well known to her. She knows their twists and where the hill is and if she should enter the bike box or not. This day there was a prize at the end of adventure-


a Sunday Streets with no cars and nothing but open views of the ocean. And no helmet which feels like total freedom to her.

It won't be much longer before she is really out in the world on her own. As more and more activities crowd her time, she will have more places to get to. Without me to take her.

No Boys

They grow up quick! You gotta make sure they are ready for it! How do you get your kids ready for a street of their own?


  1. I don't have any relevant teaching experience, but I do remember what I did: I poured over AAA maps to plan routes. When I was 15, in the early 1980s, my parents allowed me to do a 140 mile round trip alone, so I guess I could figure the roads well enough. (Actually, I can't believe they allowed me that trip.) Perhaps there's no substitute for just doing.

  2. They do grow up fast. My daughter is 50 today. She is such a joy.
    My granddaughter is still being withheld. She is 12 going on 22.

  3. I like your approach. I think our society is way too overprotective of our children doing things on their own. Even in my small & safe town, I know parents who will not let their 10 year old bike more than a block away. Like you, I am letting my 8 year old try and take the lead on some excursions- telling me where to turn, when it is safe to cross etc. I hope this gives him confidence to know that he is a capable young person.

  4. es- I had a friend who would jump on this bicycle and ride all the way to Point Reyes (50ish) every weekend by the time he was 13. As a teen, i knew he was able to do it, I was just always amazed that his parents gave him the freedom to do it. I would love to see Cameron tackle something like that!

    of- I hope that situation improves for you! Happy Birthday to your daughter!

    jennie- Good for you!! I bet he smiles the whole time he is in front! We push the independence thing so hard around here because the future is going to be so much different than anything the world has been up to this point. These kids are going to have to survive in a world we have never experienced, and quite frankly, they are going to have to help us get through it, too.

  5. My 9-year-old son is really nervous in traffic, but he's a great navigator. We just rode the SF Wiggle for the first time. Kudos to SFBC and all those involved in making Wiggle bike route a reality. My boy had an easy time following the well-marked route (he wrote up a que sheet), and the minimal traffic made him want to ride it again. I can't wait either. Keep it fun, and put 'em to work. A winning formula.

  6. Can I just say I'm a longtime lurker but I'm going to introduce myself today because I am so inspired by your attitude about child rearing.

    I'm a teacher and I am constantly floored by how intently people micromanage their kid's lives these days. They are simply not allowed to make their own mistakes and decisions anymore. These people aren't helping their kids, they are setting them up for constant struggle in adulthood when they can't make a decision without having their hand held and any little setback feels like a disaster because they've never been allowed to make a mistake.

    Some people tell me I don't understand because I don't have kids, but reading your blog just proves that wrong. Parents don't have to be the architects of every nuance of a child's life. You have to allow your kids to be challenged and develop independence.

    I love your attitude and I hope it is the attitude I teach with and will someday parent with.

  7. CI- If he can ride the Wiggle, he could ride most of the routes through SF without a problem. There is a lot to explore around here!

    apple- Glad you came out of the woodwork!