• “Our kids are trapped in our neighborhood in terms of bike riding.”

    by  • September 9, 2012 • Land Use, Walkable Bikeable Delaware • 1 Comment

    So much of the suburban area where we live is just plain impossible to negotiate unless you are in a car…Our kids are trapped in our neighborhood in terms of bike riding.

    – from email to Bike Delaware from “CS”

    Here at Bike Delaware World Headquarters we hear observations like “CS”‘s – in one form or another – all the time (as well as experiencing it ourselves every day).  And it makes us wonder.  If we don’t start reversing the trend, will bicycling just die out altogether in a generation or two?  Will bicycling simply become an exotic sport completely divorced from any personal experience in the lives of its spectators?

    When we were growing up, we biked everywhere.  It was how we got to explore the wider world on our own without direct adult supervision.  And it was how we started to learn the skills we needed to be independent adults.  It was also how we learned about the responsibilities that come with freedom.  And it allowed us to learn these lessons in a context where the consequence of an error or mistake was a skinned knee or, at worst, a broken bone.

    Most of our children today are not nearly so fortunate.  If we allow our children to explore the world by bicycle (which has become rare), we know how ghastly the consequences can be.  Far more commonly, we simply keep our children in a state of unnaturally extended dependency – think video games and “play dates” – until they either get a drivers license or leave home altogether.  And then they have to learn the lessons of responsibility and freedom fast and in a context where a mistake or an error can have literally fatal consequences.

    When it comes to our children, we worry about everything under the sun.  “BPA“.  Pesticides in our food.  Pedophiles.  But, in point of fact, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens, accounting for more than one in three deaths in this age group.  And rates of chronic, life-style related diseases are growing every year.  Neither one of these things are a mystery.  They both relate to the kind of built environment that we have created for ourselves and for our children.


    James Wilson is the executive director of Bike Delaware. He is a member of the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals (by whom he was named the 2014 Professional of the Year, Nonprofit Sector), the Institute of Transportation Engineers and the Delaware Bicycle Council. He serves on the board of directors of Delaware Greenways and the Delaware Valley Smart Growth Alliance and as the co-chair of the policy committee of the Advisory Council on Walkability and Pedestrian Awareness. He holds engineering degrees from Yale University and the University of Texas at Austin and is the only registered lobbyist for cycling and walking in Delaware. He helped create, and continues to lead Bike Delaware's participation in, the Walkable Bikeable Delaware campaign. During his tenure as Bike Delaware's executive director, Delaware advanced in the national Bicycle Friendly State rankings for five years in a row, farther and faster than any other state, ever.

    One Response to “Our kids are trapped in our neighborhood in terms of bike riding.”

    1. Delaware Suburbanite
      September 15, 2012 at 10:16 am

      This is a great point. Too often, especially in Delaware, bike lanes are just some paint on the shoulder of the road, if they even exist at all. We need to remember that not all cyclists are capable and comfortable with sharing the road with cars, buses, and trucks whizzing by, with just a 6-inch line of white paint to separate them from a deadly collision.

      Bicycle/pedestrian lanes need to be separated from car and truck traffic by space and physical barriers appropriate for speed of the road. For busy roads, you should have a curb, grass, and either trees or parked cars between the vehicular traffic and the bike/pedestrian access.

      The Complete Streets Initiative, which is now the law for all new roads and road renovations in Delaware, is a good place to start. We should also be building multi-use trails between our isolated suburban neighborhoods, so that kids and families can travel between neighborhoods without going out onto the busy highway-type roads.

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