Now that winter has gone and spring has come, I’m sure that we’ll see lots of tiny cyclists racing and teetering along the sidewalks and driveways of our neighborhoods.
One reminder of winter will be some Christmas toys that required springtime to be fully operational. There are few Christmas traditions as enduring as a shiny new bike under the tree…the one that Santa/Dad spent all night trying to assemble. Hopefully, Santa/Mom insisted on a bike helmet, too.
More and more, we are seeing helmets accepted as a standard accessory for bicycles. This is a very good thing.
However, it is always alarming to see Dad or Mom riding along helmetless, while their offspring trail along either on a bike, or on a child carrier, with a helmet.
Kids are notorious for not looking left and right (scanning) when they bicycle, skate and run. They lock their vision on the ground before them. Whether this is the result of short attention spans or developmental skills and abilities, kids focus on what’s right in front of them.
They don’t see down the sidewalk to the curb and stop sign, they don’t see the car coming down the street from their left or right, and sometimes, they don’t even look up and see the stop sign at the intersection.
Thankfully, adults are pretty good at scanning the road in front of them. Except when due to a parked car, or a fence, or a hedge, a motorist can’t see a child zooming down an alley or driveway into their path.
And that’s when the tragedy happens.
But what if we adults, as parents, PTA leaders, concerned citizens or as bicycle safety advocates took efforts to combat bicycle accidents? To that end, I make a modest, and decidedly unofficial, proposal.
Let’s install a visual barrier between the sidewalk, driveway, alley and street. If parents paint an eight- to 12-foot stripe parallel to the sidewalk across the alleys and driveways of our neighborhoods, we would be giving our kids a visual clue about safety boundaries.
Then, let’s tell our children about this “Life Line,” and about how dangerous the other side of it is. Let’s teach them to not cross that line without stopping. This is just like the painted stop-bar at many intersections.
Let’s make good bicycle drivers out of our children, and then watch them grow up to be good drivers of other vehicles.
Children respond to visual barriers. Look at the tape stripes on the floors of kindergarten classrooms delineating special areas. Look at how reverently kids observe cracks in the sidewalk and hopscotch grids. These markings have real meaning to kids. Let’s give them a visual clue that the street is hostile and off-limits.
How does that sound to you? I’ve already heard of someone who tried this suggestion, and he reports that it actually works. Maybe not all the time, but if it even worked 10 percent of the time, that might result in a 10 percent decrease in bicycle fatalities.
As I see it, this could become something of a community-based safety program to be encouraged by neighborhood associations, PTAs, and Scout Troops. Maybe our City governments could get behind this idea, even painting wheel stops at all intersections in all neighborhoods.
This idea isn’t fleshed out yet, and I don’t think that it’s a cure-all, so I’d like your thoughts.
You can send your comments to me at the City of Dallas, Department of Planning and Development, 1500 Marilla St., 5C-N, Dallas 75201.
In the meantime, keep that helmet strapped on securely, and look both ways before crossing the street.
Dad says so.