On my way home from work today I got a call from my 14-year-old daughter asking if she could bike over to Walgreens in Wauwatosa to buy a new day planner for school. After a moment’s hesitation, I said sure. Then she asked if she had to wear a helmet. With no hesitation I said yes, you have to wear a helmet. Although I trust her and her traffic skills, and I know cycling is inherently safe, this is the first time she has asked to bike somewhere using a lot of arterial streets.
You might think that by age 14, my daughter would be biking all over town by herself, after all, I was when I was younger than she is. As a young teen, she always wants to go somewhere: the mall, Dairy Queen, Bartz’s, and so on. But she can walk or take a bus to most of those places. Her friends either live a couple blocks away or on the other side of the city, so again, she walks or takes the bus. She frequently bikes in traffic, but always with me or her mom. With that, this was the first time she asked to ride somewhere far(ish), in heavy traffic, at rush hour.
Over the years I have taught her on how to ride safely in traffic, so I was not worried about that. When we ride together, I usually ask her to lead so I can assess her skills. Still, even if you know your chicks can fly, that first leap out of the nest is a big one. At some point, parents just have to let go. I was really close to home when she called, so I headed home on a route I guessed she would take. I saw her at 60th and Washington Blvd. She was riding on the sidewalk.
“Hey Frankie, what are you doing on the sidewalk? Get in the street. It’s safer.” I yelled to her from across the intersection. “OK,” she said, and made a safe transition onto the street at the intersection. I trust her, so I’m sure she stayed in the street the rest of the way to the store. She made it home safe and sound, although she did not find a day planner that worked for her. And so with one little bike trip, the world has just become a little smaller and Frankie has become a little more mature.
Do your kids take solo rides around town? If so, how old are they? How far do you let them go? How long have they been biking in traffic by themselves?