Do kids bike today?

My childhood neighborhood looked a lot like this!

Yesterday I saw a very unique sight. It was a child of maybe 6 or 8 riding a bicycle in my neighborhood.

I live in a mixed residential area. There are families of all ages here. Some have young children. Some have older children and some, like us, have no children. We have playgrounds a few blocks from our home but you never see kids outside except for teenagers at the basketball courts.

I often wonder if children bike anymore. When I was a child, it was my main means of transportation. Actually, it was my only means of transportation unless you count shoe leather express! It got me from here to there and back again. My bike was an old beat-up, hand-me-down affair that was painted and repainted. There were no gears and it was hard pedaling uphill. That didn’t stop me from riding it though. I dreamt of a Schwinn but rode that rattle-trap contraption that probably had seen both world wars. Heck, it may have been in both wars!

Somewhere along the line, kids in our area stopped biking. There are soccer Mom cars that take them where they need to go which is mostly organized sports and lessons. We have neighbors at one end of the block who drive their kids to the bus stop at the other end of the block (a very short and safe block) and then sit and wait until the bus comes. I am not sure how they get to the playgrounds. Maybe they don’t.

The beloved husband and I have always commented that you don’t see children around like you used to. Not only don’t they bike, but they don’t seem to play outside. There are fancy swings, trampolines and multi-colored gizmos in some yards but they never have kids on them. We have a few in-ground pools around the neighborhood and we didn’t see any kids in them either and this was a very hot summer.

My Mom sent me out in the morning and I didn’t come in until lunch. Then it was out again until dusk. In good weather I even read my books on the back patio or front porch.

Our yard was littered with badminton nets, croquet sets, plastic pools and other kids. The neighbor had a swing set with a slide. Yay!

We have two kids who live across the street next to each other. I don’t believe I saw them between the ages of 8 and driving. Now they chug down the street in the family auto. I often wondered what had happened to them. Stolen by the gypsies? (Don’t laugh — Mom always said that happened to bad kids!)

These are really different times. I am sorry that today’s children missed the days of running around outside being free as a bird with no deadlines and few expectations. Those were great times!

How about you? Did you ride bike as a child? Do they still ride in your neighborhood?

Photo by Roger4336 courtesy of Flickr

30 thoughts on “Do kids bike today?

  1. What a great observation and post! I work to address childhood obesity and lack of phyical activity is definately a culprit. In general I think people blame the kids for preferring video games, but in truth I meet a lot of parents who don’t want their kids outside because they’re so overprotective.

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  2. Awesome post. All 9 of my nieces and nephews had bikes and rode them . . . often with their parents in tandem. And they played in the yard . . .

    But not like when we were kids and spent the entire summer outside in the fresh air and sunshine ~ hopscotch, biking, jump rope, jacks, playing war, baseball, frisbee, basketball, catch, marbles, kickball, pogo stick, hula hoop, tree house, wading in the brook, jumping through sprinklers, baseball cards. GOOD TIMES!

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  3. A great post! It reminded me of the good old days when my brother and I rode bikes everywhere, including to school and back. And like you, we were out all day playing and only home for meals. It was a grand childhood and I’m sorry for the kids today who are tied to electronics inside. Besides the lack of fresh air, there’s the Vit. D deficiency and no sense of adventure. Thanks for sharing this one Kate. 🙂

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  4. We were always outside all day every day doing something. I lived on my bike!! Who didn’t?
    You are right about kids today. My son is the only one in his group who loves the outdoors. We use to watch him hunt people to play with. As long as you had a pulse, you were a prospect. To this day, if he is in the house watching TV, I’m calling 911…seriously. His good friend is 16 and has never rode a bike…I think that’s abuse.

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  5. Yes, i rode an old clunker similar to the one you described, but when i turned 47, i bought a real hybrid bike and rode it across Minnesota in one week. What a trip, thanks for sharing MJ

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  6. I rode my bike everywhere until I got my driver’s license. Two years ago Oregano and I decided to get bikes again. Since then, we’ve noticed that most of the people we see riding through the neighborhood, in parks and on trails are all adults. It’s very rare to see a child on a bike.

    In my neighborhood, the parents also drive their children half a block to the bus stop and sit with them in the car and most of them are middle and high school aged children. I can understand that on a bitterly cold morning, but not every single day of the week. It’s to the point where they are now blocking the street while waiting for the bus. It makes me crazy every morning and there’s no way to avoid it.

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    • We have that too. One couple up the street stops the car in the middle of the street to wait for the bus and expects everyone to drive around them. Can’t figure out why they don’t just pull over to the curb.

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  7. I loved my bike as a kid. And yes, it was a hand-me-down. I especially loved my sister’s bike – and that was also a hand-me-down. And what you call “shoe leather express” we used to call “feet bus”. I never see kids just playing anymore. Yards look deserted. This past winter, while driving, my husband and I saw a couple of kids sledding. We stopped to watch, because we had come upon something so rare.

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  8. There are children playing outside and riding bikes in urban areas. My daughter lives in a city and she often posts on fb the conversations she hears outside her window. They are the same conversations most of us had – about the rules of the game (the ones we made up – by ourselves – without an adult to consult. Imagine that??) deciding who is in charge and little snippets like: “I shot you, you’re dead.” “No, I’m not – you missed me.”

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  9. I’m with you! I rode a bike all over my town and played with independence, walking to and from libraries, parks, and friends’ homes. I did go some places that looking back were risky and dangerous, but my parents never knew! I learned my lessons along the way. I think it’s a very sad thing that childhood has changed so dramatically, and parents no longer can let their children out of sight. Children are overprotected, but I can understand why!

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  10. certainly triggered memories, Kate – not many of us had bikes in England after the war, but we either walked or caught the bus. We’d think nothing of walking four or five miles if we missed the bus… and yes, go out in the fresh air was a command I dreaded in the depths of winter – in summer, like you say,. out for hours in the woods, playing in the river and the fields, climbing trees, picking blackberries and hazel nuts,sketching, just playing..lovely times…..

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  11. I grew up in the “children need to be outside and out of the adults’ way” culture, though I was one who preferred to stay inside and look out a window.

    Where I live now, there is a strong adult bike culture, and most of these people have stereotypical two-parent/two-child homes (don’t forget the dog). While I do see these families biking together, I rarely see the kids doing anything on their own. They are micromanaged and spoiled to death. I don’t know where this change in parenting style came from. Did those who grew up in the “children should be seen and not heard” culture grow up to be resentful and vow to not do that to their kids and end up taking it to the extreme? Probably so!

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  12. Like you, as a kid I spent most of my days outside. Even in the cold Snowbelt winters. People are afraid to let their kids play outside without adult supervision these days. Too sad.

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  13. This was such fun! We (five!) shared an old balloon-tired bike, but mostly shoe leather. Many of those “disappeared” kids today are either at daycare or special programs, etc., because of two working parents. As a feminist I was all for good daycare and women working — but now we face the reality of the downside, and it’s sad. Mostly it’s really because of other societal change that should have happened also, to accommodate “equal rights” — if you compare North America with northern Europe, Scandinavia, etc…. Maybe someday we’ll realize what’s truly important and make those changes… Thanks for the reminders!

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  14. Never really thought about it, but I don’t see a lot of kids on their bikes anymore. Skateboards sometimes, but I don’t think that they’re used as a means of transport.
    I would’ve really liked to have grown up in your neighborhood, your neighbor had a swing set with a slide!

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  15. Thanks Kate…. You triggered some incredible memories…
    Tree swings, tree houses, making up our own games and rules,
    CHORES, spats with friends, making up by actually saying “I’m sorry”
    in person and skinned knees. No need to walk the dog… he was always
    running around outside with you. And then there was always just laying
    in the grass while talking. Now I really feel sorry for these kids. 😦

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    • And you added some memories! Tree swings! I fell off of a big one in a maple tree and skinned something. I don’t remember what but I sure yelled! Laying in the grass with your best friend talking about boys! Catching fireflies and then letting them go! Visiting my uncle’s farm and getting butted by his ram Smokey! Where I lived we didn’t even have girl scouts even though there were lots of kids. Somehow we survived!

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  16. I live in Portland, Or and I live next to the bicyclist interstate. It is very common to see parents commuting with specialized bikes that have elongated wooden boxes transporting helmeted & strapped little ones or pulling along an older child on an attached tandem. The city parks department actively encourages family friendly biking events and there are create a commuter programs to help low income persons obtain bicycles and gear for sustainable and affordable transportation options for employment. However, I seldom see little ones out and about playing freely.

    Thanks for the memories.

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  17. I biked everywhere as a kid … unless, like you, I used the shoe leather express. Don’t get envious. I had a Schwinn – no fancy gears, just me and the brakes. My kids – now grown – rode bikes, and our grands do, too. They’re 11 and 9, and very active.

    But, you’re right, Kate. Unless it’s organized, some kids just don’t get out and play as past generations have done. Sad. There also appears to be less creative play. That takes its toll on thinking outside the box and critical thinking.

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    • I think so too but kids today have opportunities that we didn’t. The boy across the street (the one I didn’t see for about 8 years) went to China for 3 weeks on a school trip this year. Wow! I still enjoyed those lazy days of summer with no where to go — except the pool, snack shop and places like that.

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