Learning to like bikes (or at least not hate them...)

Posted by Erica Noonan  June 21, 2010 10:24 AM

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That's what I love about Boston.com Moms Nation -- you are Greek chorus, peanut gallery, choir of angels and firing squad all at once.

Thank you for the 80-plus, not-always-polite comments about whether bike riding is really an essential life skill for kids.

Your consensus was overwhelmingly that it is.

So I'm coming around to the idea that my kids should go to a bike safety class.

And yeah, if they love bike riding, I will schlep them out to bike paths to practice, even if it's not my favorite thing in the world. (I'm still not sold on kids sharing the road with cars.)

The most compelling pro-bike arguments came from commenters who said cycling is still an important social activity, and in many parts of the world, still a primary form of transport.

I had trouble following the reasoning of people who felt bike riding was as vital a life-saving skill as swimming. Learning to swim might keep you from drowning. But learning to ride a bike only increases the chances you'll be in a cycling accident.

I also differ with commenters who declared I was Everything That's Wrong With America and/or single-handedly encouraging childhood obesity.

Oh please. There are a million other activities kids can do to stay fit and active.

Of all the powerful emotions expressed about bike riding, I was most moved by the lovely stories of special childhood memories from the Bikes=Independence crowd.

But sadly, most local kids younger than 10 or 11 just don't take off on their bikes for hours at a time. Blame it on overprotective parents, or just the general decline of outdoor free time.

Sure older kids have more freedom, but with so much going on in their lives, do they really head off into the wild blue yonder so much anymore?

(We didn't even take off for hours on a bike when I was a kid in Wellesley in the 1970s and 80s. My father says he did, in Watertown in the 1950s, but that was a long time ago.)

Not to be a total bummer, but the beautiful, nostalgic notion of a kid, his bike, and the wind at his back -- isn't this a parental fantasy? Shouldn't we temper it with a 2010 reality?

Readers, do we still live in a world when kids can (and should) just take off on their bikes to explore? Do you allow this? Please leave a comment, or drop me an email at enoonan@globe.com

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about the author

Erica Noonan is chief of the Globe West bureau. Before joining the Globe in 2000, she worked for the Associated Press in Boston. Raised in Wellesley, she has a master's degree in political communication from Emerson College and a BA in political science from Trinity University in San Antonio. She lives in Natick with two energetic children: Dennis, 6, and Lila, 4.

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