"The Maple Avenue Mind-Set"

bicycling magazine why johnny cant rideThe bizarre drama over whether a kid should be able to ride his bike to Maple Ave Middle School in Saratoga is rehashed in a recent issue of Bicycling magazine. The long article by David Darlington -- "Why Johnny Can't Ride" -- details the many turns in the story, but also argues it's part of a broader context involving health, urban planning, and helicopter parenting:

Schoolwise, this might be referred to as the Maple Avenue Mind-Set: passive acceptance of a status quo that promotes not only pollution and disease but also the lesson that children (who grow up to be citizens--and parents) are helpless. Amid this grand civic failure, the chief cause for encouragement comes from individuals who refuse to give in: the Marinos, Olsons, Skenazys, and Robinsons who prioritize fresh air and exploration and exercise, the powers-that-be be damned.

In a twist we wouldn't have guessed, the Shen school district and its superintendent -- Oliver Robinson -- are held up as an example of a more bike-friendly district.

(Thanks, Jess)

photo: Nathaniel Welch / Bicycling


Part of childhood is scraped up knees and bumps. I'm not sure when we starting believing our children were so fragile. I think we are robbing them of such a huge part of childhood when we take away their ability to just be kids. I recently went on a rant about how I take the sidelines at the park when my son is playing because the park is his time and his place to figure things out. And more importantly- just be a kid! It's here for anyone interested:

An exceptional article, thanks for sharing. It really does bring to light a number of issues regarding how our communities were laid out many decades ago and who has the power and authority to change that. Additionally, it tells us that as a society we really need to re-gear how we think of our surroundings; that bicyclists should ever be construed as a nuisance is mind-boggling.

I'm glad that they brought up the fear school officials have of lawsuits. Until we get rid of the potential liability they're faced with, we can't really expect them to get lax on these kinds of restrictions.

I also feel that i should note that i work on Maple Ave & run on it regularly, for as short a distance as i can possibly get away with in order to get to my back-roads running route. It's not a road i would ever describe as "safe" and in many cases i can see that the drivers are simply not paying attention to those of us on the side -- especially if they're trying to get around someone who's waiting to make a left turn.

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