Riding bikes is part of our everyday life, not only because it’s our business, but also because it keeps us active and it is fun.
My children started riding a balance bike when they turned two and 16 months. As we live in a busy and dense suburb in Sydney and I don’t believe in driving to beach promenades or cycling areas every day, I had no choice, but let them ride on the footpaths and the local parks. Many people dislike the idea of letting their children ride in traffic, I am not keen on the idea either, but if I have no other option, I adjust to my surroundings and make the best of it.
No matter where we go – grocery shopping, a quick ride, the doctor, etc. – the bikes are being used; at least the kids’ bikes. Very often, I don’t end up riding, but walking and the kids ride ahead. They know to stop at the edge of a road and to wait for me. They know not to ride to close to the road but as far away from the side as possible. I made sure, they learnt these rules early and I only let them ride ahead once I was a 100% sure, they will behave according to road rules. It’s been working very well and we all benefit from it. I have two happy children, who move enough and are balanced and if the kids are happy, obviously we parents are happy too.
Sometimes, we bump into people who do not agree with this approach. They make a point of telling me (even if it is not direct) that what I am doing is irresponsible. Many people cannot understand how I can let my children ride up to 50m ahead of me. My answer is simple: I know I can trust them and they listen when I shout out.
When they started riding I explained the rules and I tested if they understood and acted on them. Initially, I gave instructions repeatedly over a time period of about three months. When I had the feeling they worked out the rules, I stopped saying anything but stayed close to be able to react, just in case. They fully understood what needed to be and what could not be done and from that point I was happy to let them go free. I still keep my eyes on them and I call out in case they are too far away. They always stop when necessary and they always listen when they hear me.
I consider this freedom as very important for them to develop self-confidence, independence and street smarts but to also show them how much I trust them. Obviously, there are limits to where I let them ride as well. If we are close to a highway or a multi lane road, I ask them to get off their bikes and to push them next to me, until we leave the busy area. But on roads where there is moderate traffic with footpaths, I am more than happy to let them ride.
© New Scool Pty Ltd, 2016