I saw this woman on my way into work the other day. I've seen her bicycling with her child before, and cursed myself for not catching a picture. This time I got it!
Some people would see this and say to themselves, or to the mother, "shame on you, exposing your child to risk."
Somewhere... somehow... bicycles and bicyclists allowed themselves to be portrayed, labeled and branded as risk taking imbeciles on par with adrenaline junkies who base jump and dive with sharks.
When you start bicycling with your children, then people really pull off their gloves and they let you know what a meth-smoking, irresponsible parent you are.
This post is grounded in a couple of experiences. First, my sister Dawn got yelled at by a bunch of people when she was bicycling, WITH her child, in the street. People told her she should be on the sidewalk. I could write a ten thousand word essay as to why bicycling on the sidewalk is no guarantee for safety, and why you are exposing yourself to additional risks that are not present on the street. There is a long standing belief that bicycles belong on the sidewalk, this is simply not true.
Children, yes - should learn to ride safely, both on the sidewalk and street and should certainly be monitored when learning to ride.
The other experience happened to Ashley and I. We went on a trip by bike to Costco and had to cross a busier street. We safely crossed the street, but had to stop in the middle of the median/center turn lane to wait for a few cars to pass. This woman looked at me like I was Abraham ready to sacrifice Isaac. She gave me the dirtiest look, and mouthed, "that is a baby."
As if I needed a reminder that I was transporting my first and only child around. George was not in traffic, nor was he in danger. But this woman really wanted us to know that she disapproved of us taking our baby on a bike ride.
These experiences, and others... have led me to believe that if you are going to be a part of any lifestyle or past time that isn't the norm, then be prepared for people to look down on you.
We live in such a risk averse, sterile, germaphobic, anti-bacterial world. Parents are scared of letting their child walk one block to school, meanwhile you can hear their arteries thickening as their poor child is neglected a basic human right - exercise and fresh air.
George is about 7 months old, and I'm already aware that I'm an example to him. I want to set an example that is one of courage - courage to live in a way that is healthy, happy, and rewarding. People will likely look down on us as I take him to school by bike, or pick him up from a sleepover on my bike. Part of me thinks it's jealousy, and an other part guilt. People know that they need to be living healthier lifestyles.
We know that we can't continue to consume gas the way we do. Our economy, the environment, our infrastructure - won't support it. We can't continue to shelter our children under the "guise" of safety by transporting them everywhere in a car.
I grew up in an era where I played with lead paint in my toys, where my mom breastfed me while she drove her car, and I walked to school.
While I'll always be concerned for the safety of my child(ren), I'll never equate safety with a car trip.