Saturday, January 29, 2011

Baby On Board...

I have a friend in Belgium, Agnes, who just sent me a photo of her beautiful baby boy...on a bike. I said he looked like a natural, she replied he'd had plenty of 'pre-natal' practice, since she used her bike to get around all through her pregnancy.

In cities throughout Europe, and in my travels in the Netherlands and Belgium, it's not uncommon to see moms porting as many as three kids in a bakfiets, or even see a parent plop kids into baby bike seats and have older kids ride alongside on their bikes. Now of course, we are talking about riding a bike in Belgium, a bike-friendly country with infrastructure that would make most bike lovers here swoon--though my Belgian friends will tell you riding in Brussels can feel like taking your life in your hands.

What's fascinating is that there is a bill being proposed in the Oregon state legislature that would make it illegal to tote kids younger than 6 years old. We're talking Oregon here, a state that prides itself on it's bike-friendliness. The lawmaker introducing the bill says it's about safety. Cyclists are crying foul and say babies on bikes aren't dangerous--at least not inherently.

I know this hits a host of hot button issues: bikes vs cars, road behavior and yes, other people's parenting skills.

But what do you think? Cycling advocates say they are told over and over again that more of us would get on bikes if we thought we could be safe. So for many, the very notion of towing a toddler on a bike is flat out crazy, if not negligent. A letter to the New York Times' Ethicist columnist even posed the question: is it OK to take the kids by bike when a car is available?

I'll say this: the issue reminds me of the introduction of those Baby On Board signs people would mount in their car windows starting back in the 1980's.  The reported intention was to alert emergency service workers in the event of a crash. But I always wondered if the signs didn't somehow suggest  many of us drive like we're willing to take out someone's grandma or an honor roll student,  but would suddenly drive with care if we thought someone's precious bundle of joy was on board.

Ok, here's where I get all golden-rule on you: I'd like us all to drive/bike like everyone is precious to someone, because, well, they are.

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