Frankie goes to ‘Tosa: Relax

Frankie chose to ride Liz's step-through bike for her errand. The front wicker basket provided enough carrying capacity for the day planner she was looking for.

 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?


About daveschlabowske

Cyclechic advocate from Milwaukee
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2 Responses to Frankie goes to ‘Tosa: Relax

  1. R Muccilli says:

    My 15 year old rides all over with his friends. He also rides with me on the Century rides and the weekly Thursday night ride with the local Bike Shop. I suspect he rides a lot like many 15 years olds do when “out of sight” of the parents. And he frequently does not take his helmet when with friends. I try to stress the importance…..but then I remember when I was 15. Helmets did not exist back then (1979)

    My 10 year old however only rides in the street with me! Otherwise he stays on our block and rides the sidewalks. He is far too young and far to easily distracted to ride in the street yet. He slips into his own little dream world and tunes out the real one. One time he was riding with me and was going on about being a NASCAR and in a race. he nearly pulled out in front of an ambulance that was doing about 40 with the lights and sirens on. He claims he did not see it.

    • daveschlabowske says:

      That’s great to hear. I’m glad there are kids out there riding to get around like we did when we were young. The sense of freedom and the earned responsibility of riding a bike alone or with friends is an important milestone every kid should get to experience growing up.

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