Posted by Marion Rice on May 21st, 2008 at 4:51 pm
[Note: This article was written by Marion Rice. See the other articles in her Carfree Families column.]
My son is five (turning six in August) and has had his own “big boy bike” for about a year now. It mostly sits in the garage. He’s just not ready.
As much as I would like him to be, he just isn’t.
Every once in a while, I check in and see if he wants to ride around the block on his bike, and I walk/run along beside him. Even though he can ride by himself and gets a lot of positive reinforcement from his parents, it hasn’t been a very good experience. He gets frustrated easily, drops his bike, kicks it, declares he would like it if it were yellow and storms home.
“He gets frustrated easily, drops his bike, kicks it, declares he would like it if it were yellow and storms home.”
His expectations for riding his own bike seem to be out of whack: like I said, he’s just not ready. I am listening to him, not just what he says but what he does. Even though I can see the fun we will have biking around together as a family, him on his own bike, I will not let that lead me into pressuring him to be ready any faster.
Parents have asked me when is the right time for kids to be able to be independent on their bikes. The BTA’s Safe Routes to Schools director Angela Koch says children do not have the skills, mental development, physical development, or experience to handle traffic by themselves until they are 10 years old for the following reasons:
- They have not fully developed their motion sensitivity – they cannot accurately judge the distance or speed of moving cars.
- They have a narrow field of vision (about one-third narrower than adults), so they cannot see a wide area of the street without turning their heads.
- They are unable to pick out certain sounds and cannot judge accurately the direction of sound – they often turn their heads in the opposite direction of the moving vehicle they hear.
These all seem really reasonable to me, but there is a major difference between kids that are five and 10 years old and there are many stages between not wanting to ride a bike solo at all, and being able to ride in traffic.
For now we are happily riding around with my son on the Tag-a-Long bike.
How are you handling the long road to bike independence with your kids? What advice and inspiration can you share with us (aside from telling me to get a can of yellow paint)?