02
Apr 2012
by mark

Biking with kids: crashing and learning

Untitled

Yesterday I wrote about my 4 year old’s success with her first cross-town bike trip. I closed with a promise to tell the story of her ride with an unfortunate ending the day before.

Here’s that story, with more thoughts on kids and bike crashes.

We had ridden about 1.5 miles uneventfully through Richmond to
drop off a package at the Post Office. A Cardinal Greenway trailhead is
practically behind the Post Office, so we proceeded to ride
up to Springwood Lake Park. Heading home, she had ridden just over 4 miles
when she was suddenly thrown over the handlebars in a tangle of body and
bike.

It seemed like the safest of conditions: She was on a flat stretch of paved
trail, with no one else close to her (except for me
following her). I soon found there had been a singular rock on the
trail– a golf ball-sized stone that had a similar color to the
pavement. She impacted the front of her helmet. I think she would have had
no injury at all, except she had recently bumped and bruised her
forehead on a fall while she was running. This time the helmet
pressed against the bruise and made it hurt.

I had not had the foresight to bring a kid seat on my bike to carry her
home, so her bike trip ended there and she got picked up in mom’s car.

This was not her first crash in her relatively short history of
learning to ride a bike.

She once went down a grass hill a little too fast and went over the
handlebars when they twisted to the side. Another time she slid out
going too fast around a gravel corner on a sidewalk. While these are
always hard to watch, they are valuable lessons to have had at low
speeds when the consequences have been minimal and parents have been
nearby. Her response is always is to return and try again. As a
result, her riding style has already been tempered to be more aware and
moderate: she looks out for gravel, slows down for turns, and brakes
going down hills to keep herself at a safe speed.

I was not as fortunate to learn about gravel in turns under such safe
conditions. I really “got it” in my early twenties when I took a sharp
turn off a well-traveled street at full speed. I went down hard and fast
at more like 20 miles per hour, and had no one around to help scrape
myself and my road rash out of the street before the next car might come. Fortunately, the intersection was empty at the moment.

As a parent, I can’t remove the risks of cycling for my child. I can
help create an environment where the stakes are lower, and support and
encouragement are available to recover from the mistakes and accidents
that are bound to happen.

For my daughter, the risks must be worth it, as she continually asks to
go out and ride. I think she’s developing rapidly as a cyclist because of
her early failures and accidents, rather than in spite of them.

For more on young children and bicycles, I recommend the post Start ‘em
Young
by Henry Cutler,
as well as the Totcycle blog, particularly, Is Family Cycling
Safe?
.

What are you thoughts on kids and bike crashes?

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  • Rol

    This is true of everything in life.  The best time to learn anything is when you’re young, when failures (also known as “the learning part”) are cheap.

  • q`Tzal

    See Bill Cosby’s old stand upskit lamenting the removal of see-saws and monkey bars from playgrounds for this same reason: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rqv38fP7cr0

  • Atbman

    I run a kids bike club and falls/crashes are a weekly occurence, mostly amongst the younger (U10s).  Turning the front wheel too sharply, bumping into each other, falling off seesaws are part of kids’ learning experience, just as skinning their knees/elbows from falling over in the school yard/playground are.

    One lad won’t overlap his front wheel with another rider’s rear wheel again and another won’t try to overtake on the inside on a sharp bend again in a hurry.

    Kids can’t learn their limits without occasionally exceeding them and recovering confidence after a crash or fall is part of the process of growing up.  No-one should get too precious about such things.

    Dangerous behaviour is another matter entirely, however.