Free range kids

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Friday, April 11, 2008
By Yokota Fritz


Happy Friday! I've been too cranky lately so I was planning to post something happy and non-controversial this morning, but then I saw this: a mother in New York City lets her 9 year old child ride the subway. Alone!
I met a guy at a party last week who makes his daughter phone home after walking one block to her friend's house. And he's in a suburb. The leafy kind! Two parents told me they won't let their kids walk to the mail box. There's too much "opportunity" for them to get snatched. Other parents told me that they'd love to let their kids start going out on their own - at maybe 13, or 14. Until then...

In they stay. Or they're driven around by their parents.

The fact that a child is literally forty times more likely to die in a car accident than at a stranger's hands makes no difference. Driving is seen as safe. Freedom - once a right of childhood -- is seen as suicidal.
When my son was nine he rode his bike to school alone, and many other parents thought I was borderline abusive for this. I recall a story from a few years ago of a teen who rode his bike in all weather to school - a "concerned" parent actually called child protective services in on the parents because the Boy Scout was forced to endure weather!

Admittedly, nine seems a little young to me, but if the kid is familiar with the route and knows his way, I'm not going to freak about a parent who allows this. In response to all the media attention and controversey, Lenore Skenazy started a new blog, Free Range Kids.

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Welp, given that we've contaminated all kinds of aspects of our environments, and made for highways where once 'twas safe passage...

... but back to bicycling. We get an email today - setting up interviews with the Daily Illini about "bicycle safety."
THe language implies that the bicycle is inherently unsafe. We don't call Driver's Education Car Safety, do we?
Let's make new language. Smart Cycling? Strategic Cycling?
 
Here's the latest fearmongrel to drop into my box: The hazards of lax dress codes. (42 seconds)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cZqKGqLQsnc
 
That video is too much!

Good luck on the interview. Remember to only say the things you want them to print -- journalists generally print the most alarming thing they hear about. If your entire 20 minute interview is about how fun cycling is, and you mention off hand about the jerk who honked at you last summer, guess how the article will lead off? "Sue Jones battles rude drivers and dangerous traffic conditions as she fights quixotically to improve safety for herself and the five other cyclists we found on Green Street." (from personal experience)
 
Although there are valid safety concerns with kids, I think as a society we over protect them. I think part of it is our access to media and can hear about all the terrible things that happen in the world instead of just where we live.

I was riding all over by the time I was 12. When I was 15, I did a 150 mile solo ride. We didn't even have cell phones to call for help. There were places where it was over 30 miles between towns and hardly any houses.
 
Good for you Fritz! As a father with four sons, raising them with emphasis on personal responsibility and experience in dealing with the world outside of cars pays large dividends.

My youngest has been riding to school on his bike since he was seven. Another son (age 25) has yet to own a car, rides his bike to work daily and rode the subways alone at age 12.

And as written on Free Range, cell phones turn adults into babies...so true.
Jack
 
"the Boy Scout was forced to endure weather!"

Funniest thing I've read in the last week or so.
 
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