I spent two fantastic days in Marin, CA this week visiting with old friends and hanging out with their families. Just north of San Francisco, Marin is the epitome of car culture with traffic jams, packed parking lots and streets clogged with luxury cars.
At least they are doing something right with the kids: they get to school on bikes.
Originated in Marin in 2000, Safe Routes to School has an active and well-funded program in Marin County. Now a national organization with government funding, Safe Routes to School runs programs in many states. Even here in Washington.
My friend’s 8 and 10-year-old daughters ride their bikes to school every day on their own, nary a parent in sight. They live less than two miles from school and their route winds through calm neighborhood roads. The school and family only has a few rules for biking to school without parents: the kids must be in 3rd grade and they always ride with a buddy.
The morning I was there, the girls each received calls from their friends asking them to pick them up on the way to school. It’s fun to ride to school with friends.
Soon their little sister will exchange her car for a bike and join them!
Do you know kids who ride or walk to school on their own?
What’s a good age for biking to school without parents?
I started riding to school in the 3rd grade so I would have been eight years old. School was only about a mile away and I could ride through neighborhoods, but I don’t remember my parents being worried about it at all. I kept riding to school until high school and even then I would do it when I was low on gas money. 😉
I think 3rd grade is a good age for kids to ride on their own (at least to a neighborhood school). It certainly depends on the kid’s personality and their ability to make smart decisions.
Parents worried a lot less when we were kids. Our generation of parents seem to hover more for what ever reason.
I don’t know any kids who bike to school first hand, but I SEE several every day. We live about half a mile from an elementary school and they’re all sans parents. I’m not exactly sure how old they are as I’m not a great judge of kid age beyond my own kids’ ages, but obviously elementary at any rate 🙂
I would say fourth grade is when most children would be able to ride by themselves to school. Of course, there are plenty of responsible third graders that could easily do it as well.
In the Netherlands and Germany, all children receive traffic education, including bicycling, by age 10.
Sounds good though I am a little puzzled why the school should be allowed to put any restrictions on what transport the children use to get to school. It should not be any of their concern (beyond providing adequate parking and lockers, which of course they should provide).
In America, we love to make rules and legislate. A product of our litigious society – you never know who is going to sue. Schools are just protecting themselves, I guess.
I seem to remember biking to school as soon as we knew how to navigate our bikes. I do wish that we could have learned to ride responsibly though. I know of one young rider at the time would still be around today
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