Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Bike Ride: On freedom versus safety

If you are reading this and you were a child before all the safety precautions kicked in, before the era of car seats and choking hazards. When the closest thing to a warning was a Mr. Yuck sticker and a good smack on the rear end when you got too close to plugs and sockets.... If you were a kid riding a bike without a helmet.....close your eyes and remember the way that wind felt in your hair.

If are of a younger breed. Oh boy, you might be safer... but the the fun you missed! Read on and weep.

For me, my bike symbolized all that was good in the world. It was electric blue, up handle bars, back peddle brakes. It was my best friend. My truest companion. And it was a boys bike. And I didn't care.

Riding on it, flying on it, with my arms held over my head, screaming down a hill...I have never felt so free again. Riding away from my house, riding down the hill and over the bridge into the city. Riding away. The air making me temporarily deaf, sand in my eyes, bruises and scrapes all over my body from near death falls. Nothing mattered but the free. The free and the bike and me.

And it was wrong. I mean, how dangerous does it get. My children would be very, very sorry if I found them riding any contraption without the proper gear. And still, I don't ride bikes with them. I don't ride anymore. You know why? Because I don't want to wear a helmet and I won't be a hypocrite or a bad example, so I avoid it.

But this is the point. What do we lose when we make things so safe? How do we ever learn to take care of ourselves and be savvy if we take away all the decisions? Isn't it important to be bad? What would it like be like if we didn't break the rules? Tell me truly that your best and closest friends are not people who you did something wrong with.... you broke a rule together, trespassed, smoked, pool hopped, shoplifted, ran away from home, broke something... on and on the list of naughty goes. Deviance bonds people together. How odd... so if we strip the world (or our children's worlds) of the option of deviance, do we lessen the bonds they form with one another? Or do they find another way?

All I know is I miss my bike, and when I am an old, old woman and it doesn't matter any more I will be riding one like that again, with one hand on the handlebars, and one hand holding a cigarette.


  1. This is a nice post. I was also one of those who are old enough to remember riding without any of that stupid gear. Yes, I'm a responsible parent and I make my children wear it. Part of me wonders however, whether I am hindering them by giving them the "crutch" of safety rather than letting them figure out for themselves why wearing kneepads is a good idea. Sometimes getting a bump or bruise isn't necessarily the worst thing. Thanks for the walk down memory lane though.

  2. Ooooh, pretty new look here :)

    And, I think it depends on the nature of the child. I have one who has natural common sense, so I don't worry much about her. I have another, however, who jumps in head first without ever looking.....her, I put a little saftey gear on.

  3. Thanks Guys!

    Eric: Agreed...

    Tess: The one who shares your name is the same way! Thanks... getting my land legs and trying to share more of me through the blog... with the layout and such. And the bonus is I am learning CSS coding! Always learning....

  4. Lol, this was great! I loved the sentimentality of it. :) And I totally agree that everything has gotten ridiculous with the safety stuff. Bleh. Talk about taking the fun out of life.

  5. I remember when we were kids we would ride our bikes a couple of miles to go to the city pool for the afternoon - by ourselves...with no sign-of-the-times filling our heads with watching out for someone lurking behind bushes to snatch us up. A few years ago when my niece was 10-11, my brother gave his permission for her to go to the park alone - 2 blocks away, but to hang out by the swings alone. I asked him if he was OK with her doing that and he said, "She'll be fine. She has a black belt in ty kwon do." Still...YIKES!

  6. That is the one thing I love about Cyprus. The children are free. They jump, climb and ride as I did in my childhood. It took a while for this Brit to stop taking deep breaths in, but I soon learned they were ok to be free here.(so far).

  7. Bj: Bleh! A great new term for me!
    Susan: Yikes is right! I get so worried....
    Glynis: Cyprus!!!!!! Pictures please ;)