Sunday, March 22, 2009

Children's mobility

I've recently read Hillman, Adams and Whitelegg's (1990) One False Move... A study of children's independent mobility. If I could sum up the book, these two quotations would do it:
Our analysis suggests that the increase in the personal freedom and choice arising from widing car ownership has been gained at the cost of a loss of freedom and choice for children. In our English survey's in 1971, we found that 80 per cent of 7 and 8 year old children where allowed to go to school on their own. By 1990, this figure had dropped to 9 per cent... Our survey suggests that it is principally the increase in motorised traffic that has been responsible for the decrese in children's independence.
Transport policies in all motorised countries have been transforming the world for the benefit of motorists, but at the cost of children's freedom and independence to get about safely on their own - on foot and by the bicycle that most of them own. This change has gone largely unnoticed, unremarked, and unresisted.
Another of Hillman, Adams and Whitelegg's claims is that campaigns to promote traffic safety for children have placed an unfair burden on children and parents to 'wear' the dangers of motorised traffic rather than address the dominance of motorised traffic as the source of danger i.e. by reducing traffic or slowing it down. Traffic was not really a problem in my own childhood. I was lucky to grow up on a street that had very little traffic in a sleepy town in the Blue Mountains. As kids, we felt like the road was ours and it was a place in which we rode our bikes, played cricket, tennis, and soccer late into the afternoon only occasionally having to stop to let cars pass.

By chance, last week I was able to take my nephew Josh our for his first bike ride on his 3rd birthday. A thunderstorm came through so we had to do the ride in the basement of my sisters apartment. I picked up a 12inch Huffy that have been left at the Sydney Community Bike Co-op and attempted to make my own version of a FirstBike by removing the pedals and chainring. The idea behind the first bike is to encourage children to learn to steer and balance before they learn to pedal. Sadly the bike was slightly too large for Josh and he could only just touch the ground when sitting on it. I reckon in a month or two he'll have gained a couple of cms and be ready to roll. At 3 years old, there is plenty of time to learn.


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Pedals Cycling said...

I never took off my son's pedals and chains when he got a bike for his 2nd birthday. It really took time for him to steer and he was pedaling backwards. He is still on his training wheels but he can now steer and pedal properly.

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