Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Tennessee Mom Threatened With Arrest For Letting Daughter Bike to School

This photo taken by Flickr user buzzbo, and used under Creative Commons license.  Thisi is not the child mentioned in the story. Click photo to view original & buzzbo's photostream.
 Streetsblog Capitol Hill » Tennessee Mom Threatened With Arrest For Letting Daughter Bike to School:

A ten-year-old girl in Tennessee had some bad experiences on the bus to school, and as an alternative, her mother let her ride her bike to school. The school, by the way, has bike racks, indicating they do expect at least some of their students to arrive that way. A cop brought the daughter back, and told the mom she would be charged with child neglect and reported to Child Protective Services if she did this again.

The police say their street is the busiest street in town; the mother says it's a quiet, residential street, and she passed a total of eight cars the four times she was drove that street that day. After a conversation with the chief of police, the mother has been informed that she will be arrested if she allows her daughter to walk or bike to school before they hear back from CPS.

When I was ten, we were expected to walk or bike to school unless, due to school assignments, it was too far to make that possible. The rare parents who did not allow their children to walk or bike to school were regarded with disapproval, as overly protective and coddling, and stifling their children's need to be children. I grew up in a city about twice the size that Elizabethton TN is now, an urban suburb of Boston, and the road to school was Broadway, a.k.a. Rte. 99, a major and very busy thoroughfare. It was not a quiet, residential street, and the only time you could be on Broadway and only see eight cars was during a major blizzard. Ten-year-olds were expected to know the rules of the road, be aware of the sometimes unpredictable behavior of motorists, and be able to bike or walk safely to and from school.

Children were not confined to the inside of their homes unless under adult supervision.

Were there risks to being relatively free-range children? Of course their were--although those risks were not generally encountered on the way to and from school, when other children and adults were around and engaged in the same commute. We did not, however, have the epidemic of childhood obesity we have now, or kids who had no idea how to get around their own towns, no idea what to do when they encountered an unfamiliar dog, or who had limited experience dealing with adults outside their immediate circle. It's trite to say that we knew our neighbors, but, heck, it's true. There was no telling when you might have to go ring the neighbor's doorbell and ask permission to retrieve your ball.

It wasn't idyllic by any means, and the only reason we didn't have cell phones and internet connections is because those things didn't come along until several years later. But kids got a lot more exercise, and developed their social skills and their personal resourcefulness to a much greater degree.

I don't want to give up my cell phone or internet connection but, please, can we let kids ride their bikes, and take walks without direct adult supervision at all times?


  1. I agree and you couldn't have said it any better!
    Laurie Carlson
    laurieisreading at gnail dot ocm

  2. My entire childhood was a childhood of neglect, apparently--according to these people. Summers at my aunt's house, we were all expected to take our bikes and go out. It was okay if we came home for lunch; we were expected to be home for supper.

    We crossed the highway to get to the park. We went into the woods to pick blackberries. Adult supervision? The older kids supervised the younger kids!

  3. Wow! Threatened to be arrested for letting the child ride her bike to school yet police don't card that the child was bullied on the bus and nothing was done about it. Am I missing something here?

  4. Felissa, no, I don't think it's you that's missing anything. This is mostly showing up on cyclist sites; one of them called the chief of police and interviewed him before he realized this was going to get more than local attention. The mother also provided a copy of the police report.

    It looks like one motorist had to slow down and go around the girl, and complained to the nearest police officer. The police report states that the girl wasn't breaking any traffic laws or any other laws; he just decided it was a "safety issue" because the girl wasn't on the sidewalk and the car had to go around her.

    Thing is, bicycles are vehicles, and it's illegal to ride o the sidewalk.

    This is about motorists' belief that they shouldn't ever have to deal with cyclists, and a cop and a police chief who figure a woman and a little girl can be pushed around. :(