Riding the Bike...alone.

[deleted account] ( 13 moms have responded )

I know this has been debated before, but it's hitting a little close to home now and my former ideas about when I would allow my son to ride his bike in our neighborhood without me are being shaken, so I thought I'd bring it up again.

My son is 8 & 1/2 years old. I had always thought he would be at least 10 before I let him ride within our neighborhood without an adult (I do let him ride up and down the street in front of our house, but no further). Thus I was very surprised the other day when we invited a 7 year old friend from school over to play, and her mom sent her over on her bike...a lone. Her home is on the opposite side of the fairly large neighborhood. My son is now requesting (ADAMANTLY!!!) to ride his bike on his own, and I just don't know that I'm ready to let him.

We do live in a pretty safe environment. We live in Five Forks, SC, an affluent sort of suburb of Simpsonville. We live in a gated neighborhood situated around a private lake--cars have to have an electronic sensor to open the gates, otherwise they have to stop with the security guard and check in.

That is not to say it is completely safe though. For one, we have teens who drive too fast within our neighborhood, and are often distracted by their phones--having one of them hit my baby is a very real concern for me. Our security is also not THAT strict--We have a list of approved guests with the security team, if a visitor arrives and their name is on the list, they just show their id, sign in, and go on through. It would not be difficult for a determined kidnapper to get a fake id for a name on that list. It has happened before. There is also the lake to be concerned about. There is a break in the fence where the river feeds into the lake--a small boat could launch there, but it is a difficult spot to reach--no roads or cut paths leading up to it. There is also the possibility of drowning. J knows to stay out of the lake...but you know how kids can be when they have newly earned freedom.

So my questions are:
Do you think it is safe for a 7 to 8 year old to ride their bike alone in the neighborhood or am I being over protective?
At what age would you start letting your child ride their bike to a friend's home?

Does neighborhood security impact your decision at all? There are certainly neighborhoods with higher security than ours, but I don't know that I would feel much safer. There are also some neighborhoods near our school with no gates at all. I'm not sure how I feel about those. I grew up with no security, and I know what happens to those people. I know that my background makes me over protective when it comes to kidnappers, rapists, and other intruders, but for the most part, I'm pretty good at seeing where I'm over-reacting and stepping back, even though it's uncomfortable, but I'm struggling here. Not sure whether I should be stepping back or standing my ground. What do you think?

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Jodi - posted on 04/18/2013

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Having a 151/2 year old who will qualify for his Learner's Permit in 3 months, who catches the public buses all over town with his friends (including going unsupervised to major national rugby matches), who gets himself off to work on time, who gets himself up for school each morning without my assistance, and so on, I can honestly say, that you don't stop worrying.

My step-daughter is off to Spain for 4 months in June. I think we will be worried sick the whole time - SUCH a big step for a girl who was still in primary school 10 years ago!!

However, being allowed to ride a bike alone is very much that first step to raising an independent adult.

I think it is really hard on us as parents. Our instinctive reaction to anxiety is to find the easiest way of relieving it - and that would be restricting our kids. It is really hard to remove ourselves from how it feels for US, and find a way to look at it objectively in relation to what is best for our CHILD. I battle that one all the time. Sometimes what makes me feel safer is not what is best for my kids. What is best for them is to grow into well-rounded, balanced, confident, independent adults.....as much as I'd like to wrap them in cotton wool, that simply isn't an option.

Just yesterday, my son spent the afternoon at the mall with his friends, watching a movie, shopping (yes, he "shops" for his own clothes), and then they found their own way to footy training by bus. I freaked when I couldn't get in touch with him at the end of training (we were picking him up). I tried phoning him 3 times. I hadn't heard from him in 5 hours, so I was a bit anxious. But the fact was, they were still training and had gone overtime, and he doesn't carry his phone while he is training (because it would probably break). The anxiety was mine. He had done all the right things. Sometimes, we just need to chill. I reminded myself of that again last night!!

Kristi - posted on 04/18/2013

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I'm not sure here, Kelly. You are (from what I've gathered) very level headed.

Based on what "we--on CoM's" know about J, I would say he is definitely mature enough to handle himself. You've mentioned him in several occasions where I believed he behaved/responded more appropriately/better than some of the adults. You know the mental and physical strength and dedication it takes for him to be such an elite, accomplished athlete, especially for his age. He doesn't sound like the type to squander his new freedom by taking stupid risks, either.

Although, as you have stated, there are no guarantees with people or neighborhoods, I think you've provided J with virtually the safest place possible. I totally appreciate your fears, very valid and understandable. Step back for a second and think about the millions of kids that don't live in such secure neighborhoods like yours and are just fine, day in and day out.

For example, I live on Bainbridge Island in WA state. It's population is about 25,000 people, I think. I believe there are a couple of gated communities somewhere here but I'm not sure. Beaches everywhere, (duh right?), lots of woods...perfect dumping grounds in my mind. When I got here 2 years ago, my mom and my neighbors told me Grace could just walk up to the bus stop. It's just up the street not even a half a block, but then the stop is just around the corner. Out of sight. Grace was 11. I was like WTH? Are you kidding me, look around you? Kidnap, molest, kill and dump and nobody would ever see or hear anything. But, I let her do it. These people have lived here for decades. Come to find out kids of all ages walk all over this island. There are no "bad" neighborhoods. She carries mace and a cell phone. In our neighborhood, she can wander but she is a lot older than J now. On the main part of the island, I seldom let her go anywhere alone. But, I'm the exception.

My point here, is that lots of children younger and older, dumber and maybe some wiser than J in good and bad neighborhoods ride their bikes, walk to their neighbors, play in the woods, etc, and make it home for dinner everyday. You live in an outstanding and secure neighborhood, J has a better chance than most at making it home for dinner.

Now, to your gut...I do believe you to be level headed and to look past your fears. And "they" always say to trust your gut. I think you probably know the difference between your instincts and your fears and maybe you need to pay attention to that. You could maybe walk/ride a little ways behind him so his friends don't see you. You could think about long range walkie-talkies or a basic cell phone so you don't have to rely on someone else and so, God forbid, if J does have an emergency, he can call 911 or the police would be able to call you from it because you'd be programed in there as Mom.

You're smart, Kelly. Do what you think in your heart or in your gut is best. Loving and protecting our children is our number one job. If you are doing that with J's best interests in mind and not some freaky need to control him, then you're not doing anything wrong, at least imo and for whatever that is worth. ♥

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Kelly - posted on 04/22/2013

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My daughter just turned 6. We are living in a large mobile home park while we're working on getting a house of our own. (6 months! I'm so excited!!) Anyway, Bella is allowed to ride anywhere in the park by herself as long as she's wearing her helmet. Helmet-less riding is allowed only in our little enclave (us and about 5 other homes). If we didn't know our neighbors as well, I may be more cautious. As it is, though, all of the neighbors know her and several have children around her age. They all run around together and know that as long as they stay away from the main road (it's a state highway, so it's pretty busy) they are free to be kids.

Given that we live in a rural community where everybody knows everybody (and what they had for dinner last night), I am not concerned for her safety. If you're concerned, I would call ahead and let the friend's mom know your child is coming over. That way if he doesn't arrive in a reasonable amount of time, you know as soon as possible.

I agree with Jodi that a lot of the issue isn't that the neighborhood isn't safe or that our kids aren't intelligent and responsible, it's that we as parents just worry a lot. I just try to remember that I was allowed to do those things as a child. The world is no more dangerous now than it was then. We're just more aware of it now. Bella knows which neighbors are "kind of weird" and stays away from them, regardless of how much she wants to pet their dogs. I think that if she's capable of making that decision, I should trust her to make intelligent choices.

♫ Shawnn ♪♫♫ - posted on 04/19/2013

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Kelly, to lighten the mood a little:

My eldest didn't even LEARN to ride until he was 8...LOL...not for lack of trying but because we had these horrible invasive weeds that left nasty stickers (I for the life of me cannot come up with what they actually are)...we called them goat-heads because the thorns looked like a goat's head. Anyway, they'd flatten a car tire in a heartbeat, so bike tires were doomed.

My youngest was riding at 4, but only within my eyeline. If I couldn't see it, he couldn't go.

Now, most of you who've been here awhile know that I live in a fairly rural area, so the safety thing is different here. But, you've handled it well. I know, the idea of having that "extra" phone is disturbing. It was for me, too. But, when I found out that they simply could not find a payphone any more...well, I had to do something!

Kristi - posted on 04/19/2013

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That's a great start, Kelly! A very fair and reasonable compromise! Good for you! : )

[deleted account]

Thank you, ladies. We are leaving today to go out of town for a few days. I plan to tell J that when we return I will allow him to ride 1/2 way on his own. My plan is to ride my own bike with him up until he is past the busy street. It is actually only about 1/4 the way to his friends' homes, and he can ride the last 3/4 on his own. For now, I will send him to a specific house and text the mother.

I also plan to buy him a mobile phone soon because I expect that I will become comfortable with having him navigate the busy street on his own soon, and he will likely want to play between several houses soon. Many of the kids already do, but their parents can see the other homes from there homes, whereas I cannot because we are on the other side of the neighborhood.
That's another thing I figured he'd be MUCH older for. I cannot believe I'm considering a cell phone for my 8 year old. I've already picked it out--it doesn't do anything but text, make calls, and take low resolution images. No games, no email, no internet, no social networks. I'm not sure exactly when I'll buy it--it could be a while. I do not plan to allow him to keep it all the time. I will keep it, he will get it only when I feel he needs it. In fact, I'm not even going to call it "his phone" it will be "the extra phone".....I wonder if that will help?

Jodi - posted on 04/18/2013

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Having a 151/2 year old who will qualify for his Learner's Permit in 3 months, who catches the public buses all over town with his friends (including going unsupervised to major national rugby matches), who gets himself off to work on time, who gets himself up for school each morning without my assistance, and so on, I can honestly say, that you don't stop worrying.

My step-daughter is off to Spain for 4 months in June. I think we will be worried sick the whole time - SUCH a big step for a girl who was still in primary school 10 years ago!!

However, being allowed to ride a bike alone is very much that first step to raising an independent adult.

I think it is really hard on us as parents. Our instinctive reaction to anxiety is to find the easiest way of relieving it - and that would be restricting our kids. It is really hard to remove ourselves from how it feels for US, and find a way to look at it objectively in relation to what is best for our CHILD. I battle that one all the time. Sometimes what makes me feel safer is not what is best for my kids. What is best for them is to grow into well-rounded, balanced, confident, independent adults.....as much as I'd like to wrap them in cotton wool, that simply isn't an option.

Just yesterday, my son spent the afternoon at the mall with his friends, watching a movie, shopping (yes, he "shops" for his own clothes), and then they found their own way to footy training by bus. I freaked when I couldn't get in touch with him at the end of training (we were picking him up). I tried phoning him 3 times. I hadn't heard from him in 5 hours, so I was a bit anxious. But the fact was, they were still training and had gone overtime, and he doesn't carry his phone while he is training (because it would probably break). The anxiety was mine. He had done all the right things. Sometimes, we just need to chill. I reminded myself of that again last night!!

Lauren - posted on 04/18/2013

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I first read your post and thought, he seems mature and he's approaching you and following the rules for now when you say no, so why not give him the chance. Then I read other posts and realized my son is 7 and how scary it seems to let him ride alone. However, I agree with the other posts....I think it needs to be a kid-by-kid basis. In some ways, I see my son and being too young (and honestly, I won't let him ride alone for at least another year), but in other ways, he blows me away with the things he thinks about. He'll help his 15-month-old brother with something I don't notice, get himself out of bed dressed and ready before I would normally wake him up (not all the time, unfortuantely :)), and he amazes me with the things he learns in school....I certainly don't remember adding double and triple numbers and learning about fractions in first grade.

Ultimately, there will always be dangers, and you kid could always be the one kid who gets targeted. That's why life is scary. My son is more sensitive, so I anticipate he won't challenge me too much on this for at least a little while, but if he did, I think it'd be hard to let go knowing there are dangers. But I also know I've grilled into his head that he doesn't EVER listen to anyone who is trying to hurt him...if they say sit still, you wiggle all over to get away; if they point a gun at you and say don't run, you run as fast as you can; if they say they'll hurt your family, you get away anyways and you get help. We've talked about how life is scary and there are bad people, but all you can do at some point is trust your kid and hope they won't be targeted. You teach them what you can and then you set them free...one step at a time. I think this is the hardest part of being a parent but teaches our children maturity, responsibility and trust that is much-needed for healthy growth. If you smother, they'll rebel, so you have to find happy mediums between what you can handle and what they can handle.

Good luck!

Lauren - posted on 04/18/2013

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I first read your post and thought, he seems mature and he's approaching you and following the rules for now when you say no, so why not give him the chance. Then I read other posts and realized my son is 7 and how scary it seems to let him ride alone. However, I agree with the other posts....I think it needs to be a kid-by-kid basis. In some ways, I see my son and being too young (and honestly, I won't let him ride alone for at least another year), but in other ways, he blows me away with the things he thinks about. He'll help his 15-month-old brother with something I don't notice, get himself out of bed dressed and ready before I would normally wake him up (not all the time, unfortuantely :)), and he amazes me with the things he learns in school....I certainly don't remember adding double and triple numbers and learning about fractions in first grade.

Ultimately, there will always be dangers, and you kid could always be the one kid who gets targeted. That's why life is scary. My son is more sensitive, so I anticipate he won't challenge me too much on this for at least a little while, but if he did, I think it'd be hard to let go knowing there are dangers. But I also know I've grilled into his head that he doesn't EVER listen to anyone who is trying to hurt him...if they say sit still, you wiggle all over to get away; if they point a gun at you and say don't run, you run as fast as you can; if they say they'll hurt your family, you get away anyways and you get help. We've talked about how life is scary and there are bad people, but all you can do at some point is trust your kid and hope they won't be targeted. You teach them what you can and then you set them free...one step at a time. I think this is the hardest part of being a parent but teaches our children maturity, responsibility and trust that is much-needed for healthy growth. If you smother, they'll rebel, so you have to find happy mediums between what you can handle and what they can handle.

Good luck!

[deleted account]

I know I posted this weeks ago, but I'm back to it now.
I never let him go--I told him we were not ready for him to be riding his bike alone in the neighborhood, or even walking over to a friends house alone yet. Unfortunately, in the month since I posted the original, almost all of his friends (6 to 9 years old) are now allowed to ride on their own. They ride to a specific house and the parent they are visiting texts the child's parent when they arrive and when they are leaving.

I feel like these parents are living with a false sense of security. They feel that because we have the locked gates, the security guards, and we "know" each other, that their children are just as safe in the road as they are in the yard. I don't know everyone here well enough to say without a doubt they wouldn't hurt my kid. Of course no one knows ANYONE that well, so I guess that's moot, huh? The danger will always be there.

He's a bright kid. I trust HIM, I just don't trust others. I've spoken to him about strangers, going into people's homes/cars/boats, watching the traffic, etc. When I ride with him, he stays to the right and is attentive. Logically, I know he is ready to take this leap and ride on his own (as long as the parent at the house he's riding to texts me), but something in my gut that I just cannot seem to let go of is telling me no.

I talked to my psychologist about it and he says that I'm letting fears from my past control me. Basically, I need to let him go. I know that I have irrational fears of predators--I am very much afraid of people I don't know--but usually I am pretty good at looking at the situation and knowing (with a little help from my doctors) that my fear is irrational, then following through and taking the risk, but for whatever reason this time, even though I am pretty sure the fear is irrational, I can't follow through and take the risk.

Any help. Doc temporarily is stumped on this one too.

~♥Little Miss - posted on 03/17/2013

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I think you would have to determine this on a case by case basis. Personally, I don't think my son would be ready to go solo when he turns 7 in may. It really depends on the childs maturity level, and how they listen and understand instructions. My son, though a really wonderful and smart kid, is just no that aware of his surroundings. I could see it being a long time before he rode alone, but his sister on the other hand I could see happening at a younger age.

Of course the safety of your street, or complex is always under scrutiny when it comes to child's safety, but leaving that aside (cause I am sure that would be the first thing we would want to be safe) I honestly think it depends on your child.

Momma - posted on 03/16/2013

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I was also wrong - my daughter would have been 8.5 when she started riding on her own, on our street (since she was 8 when we moved here and it was winter, at the time). We live in a subdivision, too, so it is pretty safe, in regards to traffic and people in general. Which is why we moved here. It is one of the top places to live in our municipality.

However, I recall riding my bike everywhere by age 6 and I had loads of fun. We also lived in a pretty safe subdivision. I agree, assessing the situation for yourself is what needs to be done. If it were me, I would allow my 8.5 yo ride around with their friends but again, we live in a safe neighbourhood, where everyone knows each other and watches out for the kids.

~MeMe

Jodi - posted on 03/15/2013

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Research has shown that children do not develop full perception until they are about 9. This means, that it is very easy for them to misjudge the speed of cars, and the speed they are doing, their ability to stop, etc. (Don't ask me to look it up now, I'm in lazy mode, but the research is out there).

I started allowing my son to ride his bike to school when he was about 8, but where I live, he doesn't have to cross any major roads, and he is mostly riding on bike paths which also go under the major roadways, so there is little contact with traffic until he gets to school, at which point, he uses the school crossing.

You need to assess the situation based on where you live. If you're not comfortable with it, then just say no.

Momma - posted on 03/15/2013

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My oldest was 7 when I allowed her to ride around our street, alone. She was not allowed to ride alone, though. She had to be with a friend or two and I had to know where. She was not allowed far and had to check in every 20 - 30 mins. They do need to make some memories without us and if you feel they are mature enough and will abide the rules, then I say go for it.

~MeMe

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