There's a lot of talk this year about an increase of bicycle use among adults this year. This sad story in the Los Angeles Times, however, shows we have a long ways to go.
One sunny afternoon as our children played nearby, I asked a neighbor at what age she would allow her son to bicycle around the block by himself.
"I don't think I would ever do that," she replied. "The world is a very different place now than it was when we were growing up."
Did she really think the number of child molesters and kidnappers in the world had increased in the last 20 or 30 years, I asked? "Oh, yes, I think it is increasing. Because of the Internet."
At a PTA meeting, during a discussion of traffic problems around the school campus, I asked what we could do to encourage families to walk or bike to school. Other parents looked at me as if I'd suggested we stuff the children into barrels and roll them into the nearest active volcano. One teacher looked at me in shock. "I wouldn't let my children walk to school alone ... would you?"
"Haven't you heard about all of the predators in this area?" asked a father.
"No, I haven't," I said. "I think this is a pretty safe neighborhood."
"You'd be surprised," he replied, lowering his eyebrows. "You should read the Megan's Law website." He continued: "You know how to solve the traffic problem around this school? Get rid of all the predators. Then you won't have any more traffic."
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Fritz, We have the same "parental attitude" problem in our family's neighborhood. Parents now drive their children to school that live only two blocks away! The reason: Too Many Predators!
Even the children have falsely used this "story" to get attention. My boys continue to walk or ride the 1.1 mile to school but we need others to do the same. Only from more pedestrian use will neighborhoods be considered safe again and these childish fears extinguished.
Jack, this cycle of less use is indeed the paradox. If more kids (and parents!) were outdoors and on the streets insted of sequested in their isolation boxes, the neighborhoods would indeed be more safe. This is true not only from the standpoint of weirdos and whatnot, but for traffic also.
This is a frightening attitude that is indeed all too prevalent. Kids need to learn proper safety rules and etiquette. They also need to be able to go exploring outdoors, but parents are too afraid to let them out of their sight.
I let my 9 year old daughter ride around the block, down to the park down the street, to her cousins house about a mile away. She's gone for hours at a time but I think she's fine. I think the most likely thing that could go wrong is she'll fall and skin a knee or break a bone. But that's part of growing up.
I want her to ride her bike to school but the principal won't allow it. She says it's "unsafe to have kids walking and riding bikes around the buses". Hopefully we can get them to change that by the next Ride Your Bike To School day.
It's looking like I'm going to end up in Australia before my little (really little, unborn little) one has to go to school. I really hope that "the fear" isn't as prevelant there as it is here in North America.
We have a minimum security prison two blocks from our current home. Our member of parliment organized a press conference there and the local residents rallied to protest the place. I was the only one to say that if you want to live by laws you have to accept that there needs to be a place where people get locked up. Not in my backyard is not an arguement I accept. Their most common complaint was that it was placing their children in danger.
This disconnect between perception and reality is truly frightening. Far more frightening than the likelihood of some guy who was busted for selling pot escaping and then molesting a child rathe than running for the hills. That disconnect is how totalitarian regimes get and keep power, it's how atrocities are justified.
I just don't know what to say about stories like this. My kids walk about 3 blocks to school. Their elementary school borders our neighborhood, so quite a few kids walk. Still, I am amazed that so many parents who live only blocks away drop their kids off. It takes longer to wait in the car line than to walk, but I guess driving is perceived as safer. For the record, I worry a lot more about all those cars than crazy people lurking in the bushes.