Talking to my sister the other day about the election and whatnot, the subject of getting around on a bike was brought up. This is an extreme form of transportation and one would be crazy to let children ride a bike.
One would generally venture that a "Big Bad City" like San Francisco would have it even worse than a genteel college town (OK, maybe West Lafayette is the genteel college town and Regular Lafayette is a little rough around the edges). So I undertook my own little research project.
These photos were snapped during my morning commute (different days). A woman riding with her child down Eureka St and another tandem on Valencia in the bike lane.
I see this sort of thing quite frequently. I probably would not recommend patting the kid on the head and sending them into traffic alone, but with supervision the kid is probably a lot safer on their bike than I am given that I take more calculated risks and ride at a faster speed. Risk - by the way - does not mean "running stop lights". It means that I generally trust drivers to adhere to the law which allows me to get somewhere faster, but this assumption is usually pretty risky because drivers tend to have an allergy to things like "turn signals" and "Looking in their mirror". This AM, for example I stopped at a stop sign and proceeded when it was my turn, only to have a driver yell at me for running the stop sign! I pointed out to him that I was at the stop sign and had waved the car *IN FRONT* of him through, as such HE was the one who had run the stop sign. Were I riding with a child, I would instead make sure I had eye contact with the driver and explicitly negotiate right of way to leave no room for doubt.
This style of riding is why you don't hear a lot of stories of accompanied minors dying in bike accidents. Sadly there have been several unaccompanied minors who have died in the Bay Area while riding their bikes this year.
I like to make the argument that this means people need to drive better, not that children should not be allowed to ride bikes. The compromise is found by the people pictured above - not only allows children to ride bikes safely, it also is more what I would call "quality time" with children than throwing them in the back seat and schlepping them to school in the mini-van so you can have time to stop at Starbucks.
I'll get my own test soon - the demon seed of Murph is only 3.5 months away.
A San Jose interactive maps park and trails survey
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