When Is Your Child Old Enough to Bike Ride Alone?

Updated on April 15, 2010
J.J. asks from Saint Paul, MN
37 answers

I've got an independent 8-year-old that keeps asking if she can go for a bike ride around the neighborhood by herself (I know she does this in hopes that she'll bump into her friend, after she's called her house and no one answers). Anyway, I grew up in a rural area and it wasn't a big deal to ride bike alone--I always had siblings to go with me. Anyway, we live in the suburbs but near a busy street.....are you picking up on my nervousness? I really do not feel comfortable with her riding around by herself....my husband says that I need to relax. I just can't....there are multiple safety issues involved (she's a bit of a daydreamer and not yet street smart)....Anyway, when have you let your kids ride their bikes around the neighborhood alone (if at all)?

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answers from Raleigh on

no way, I am way too paranoid with all those kidnappings you see on Nancy Grace. NO way, too many freaks out there.....

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Boston on

Mine were 12, back then I had 5 mile walkie talkies. My daughter and son rode together. I would NEVER allow an 8 year old girl to ride by herself.



answers from Honolulu on

I would NOT allow it.
Pedophiles etc. You cannot predict what will happen...
kids have been known to be out on their own, riding their bikes and then vanish.
At her age, you need to teach her about safety, and what goes on nowadays. Not to frighten her... but to make her aware.

If something happens, you cannot redo the situation.

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answers from Minneapolis on

This answer isn't so much for J., but for some of the other posters here.

The rate of child abductions by strangers and pedophiles is LOWER now that it was in the 1970s. I don't wish abduction on anyone's child, but let's not keep our kids indoors because of we believe something is much worse than it is. Today, whenever there is one sad case, it's repeated 5000 times on news, papers, blogs, etc, so it FEELS like 5000 abductions, not one. Also, when folks quote numbers of "missing kids," realize that most of those missing kids are teenagers who run away from home--often for just one night and then return.

According to the U.S Dept. of Justice, of the 800,000 children younger than 18 are reported missing each year, 200,000 children were abducted by family members, 58,000 children were abducted by nonfamily members, and ONLY
115 children were the victims of “stereotypical” kidnapping.

In other words, only 0.014 percent of all missing children are the "wacko" kind.
[Another way to look at it: there are about 2.5 million kids in the U.S. 115 of those kids who got taken by wackos = 0.00046 chance]
(Posted on www.missingkids.com)

We all need to get a grip. My kids would be safer if other moms let them play outside like I do. Safety in numbers, ladies!

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

I don't yet have a child who is 8, but I agree that you need to "test" her a bit to see if you can trust her. I think it's fair to ask her to pass your test before she gets to go anywhere alone...I'd start off with riding TO her friends house, then calling when she gets there. Then maybe some "free time" to ride around the block WITH her friend, then maybe 15 minutes of alone time, but then she has to "check in" with you before the 15 minutes is up.

I think "baby steps" are important for both of you to introduce your daughter to some freedom while ensuring that she can behave.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Philadelphia on

My girls aren't quite that old yet, but society is actually safer than it was when we were young, we just have more info now and are so overprotective. Most kidnappings are done by a family member... not as common as it sounds.

anyway, you could always let her try it one time and see how it goes. I know when I was 8 i was running all around the neighborhood. I rode my bike to school with my sister in 1st grade!!!!! I don't know how our parents were able to let us do that without worrying, but I think these days we as parents take it too far to the other extreme. Kids need to have a little responsibility! just my opinion!!! :-)

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Santa Barbara on

My son started riding around our neighborhood alone about age 6. This was primarily around the block, quite literally. And I could quite often be seen sitting in the lawn chair in the driveway, pretending to be relaxed and reading. By age 8, he was pretty street smart and I had gone on enough bike rides with him that he understood the "rules of the road." I would go out with her on your bike and lay out where you are comfortable to let her ride. Give her a little independence, but not more than your comfortable with.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Kansas City on

My daughter just turned 9 and she is only allowed to ride her bike around the block. She knows that she has to stay on the sidewalks at all times. Sometimes she will stop and play at the school playground(right across from us), but she is learning that if she does not ask she gets grounded from her bike. She has always tested her ground, but is quickly learning that mom WILL NOT step down on this rule.
How busy is the street you are referring to? If it is busy like a main street, then I would not allow her to ride alone. Our neighborhood street gets kinda busy, but there are sidewalks. I hope this helps, but remember to always follow your mommy intuition that God gave us! Best of Luck & God Bless

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Casper on

Follow her on your bike at a safe distance and watch without guiding. If she shows you she can make it around the block safely on at least 5 trips (or pick your favorite number between 1 and ?), go ahead and loosen the reins a little. Kids do have their own instincts for self-preservation that we sometimes forget about as parents, but on the other hand, sometimes it's amazing the things they will try.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Omaha on

Check this site out: http://www.familywatchdog.us/ This will tell you exactly where sex offenders live in your area. Even has pictures of them. In my opinion she's too young. Sex offenders pray on kids like this. They will notice that she occasionaly rides her bike alone and try to befriend her and gain their confidence or better yet just snatch her. She's too young. I wouldn't worry if your husband doesn't agree with you. Better to have him feel that way than your child go missing. Follow your gut on this one. When I was 9 I used to get off the bus about 4 stops early (my parents didn't know). I loved walking home and loved the independence. Well one day this man in a red sports car pulled up beside me and asked me if I would like a ride home. I wasn't scared I just said no cause I wanted to walk. He did this about 5 times and all 5 times I said no. I never said anything to my parents. However, one day after I got home from school the doorbell rang and I answered it and it was him! He wanted to make sure I got home alright - Hmmmmm . . . Even at 9 I knew this wasn't right. He could tell someone was home with me so he left. He pretty much wanted to know if I was home alone. My mom came to the door as he was leaving and asked who it was. I said I didn't know and she was like hmmmm . . . she asked questions but I didn't tell her that I had ever seen him before because then I would have to tell her that I had been getting off teh bus early. Well a week goes by and I didn't see him. Until one day my mom and I were picking up a bike that she bought me and as she is trying to put it in the car he pulls up in his red sports car and asks her if she needs help. I said, mom - No he's not right. She followed her gut and said no. On the way home I told her everything. She was upset I got off the bus early but more upset that I was basically being stalked. I never saw him again after that. The point of my story is - these types of people are opportunists and hover around situations looking for the right moment. If I had gotten in his car, Lord only knows what would have happened. My parents filed a police report but nothing came of it.

Just please follow your instincts. If you think she's too young then she's too young. Kids have a way of keeping things from their parents. If for some reason you lose this battle, then put a tracking device on her. here is an article on them. http://www.buzzle.com/articles/gps-tracking-devices-to-pr...

Good Luck!!!!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

I have an 8 year-old daughter and we live in Minneapolis. She was allowed to ride around the block last summer. This summer she will be allowed to cross streets to her friend's house.

In the end, of course, this is your decision - based on your neighborhood and your child. Not all children are as careful or cautious as others the same age. I'd suggest riding with your child while practicing safe riding rules and observing how consistently she remembers to follow those rules and watch for cars. Make this cautiousness a requirement for the freedom of riding by herself.

Another danger IS about "wackos" but not the wacko "sexual preditors" others have throw into this conversation but the everyday wackos in cars that think stop signs are meant for everyone else, that they drive just fine while talking on their cell phones, or that nothing is ever behind their car when they back out of their driveway and they are already late!

Eventually our children need freedom to explore their world and learn by doing. Our job is to gradually give them this freedom.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Phoenix on

It seems all good to everyone, until something happens to their child.
I have children all over the neighborhood, that I have watched continously
pull out in front of cars, lay down in the street etc...
One little boy 4 years old, sat down in back of my friends van.
Thank goodness my friend had a divine hunch to look in back of his van..there he sat! Could have been killed in a sec. A child of a mom letting her kid "spread his wings!"
The only thing for keeping them getting squashed, is either amazing
gaurdian angels, or fate. I would rather not have my gaurdian angels
work overtime. That is what a parent is for.
Most moms say "Go for it!" Because nothing has ever happened to
there children.
I say be wise..and trust your instincts.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Austin on

It is hard to let them grow up and go out on their own. At 8 he is probably ready, but you never will be! LOL.

One thing our daughter learned at a self defense class for young kids was, if someone tries to grab you and you are on your bike or with your bike, totally grab the bike with your arms and legs and start screaming, "I do not know you" over and over again. The person will not be able to place you in a vehicle if you are attached to the bike.

That said. go over the rules. Ask her what do you do if? questions. Let her know your concerns. 'I am worried, because I do not feel like you pay enough attention to what is going on around you on the bike". "What are you going to do?" Then listen to her answers. Repeat them to her, so you can verify she is taking this seriously..

Make sure she has a watch and have her come home and check back with you at an agreed time. If she is good about all of this, you can increase the time later. Of course if she is going to someones home she should call when she arrives and call before she is on her way home.

A graphic example one of our neighbors did at a meeting with the city about the speeding on our street was to show a video of a melon being run over by a speeding car that could not slow down in time. It reminded all of us how a car can be deadly weapon when it is speeding.. Maybe you may want to give her a visual? You do not want to totally freak her out..

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Duluth on

We live in an uber safe neighborhood with lots of kids and very few cars (the end of our road is literally the end of the road). My son will be 6 next month and he is allowed to ride on the road in front of our house, two houses down (to his bus stop) at the end of the block, and one house over, on his own, as long as we are outside. So far I have not seen him make stupid moves; he is very aware of cars and danger. I don't know if we'll increase his range this summer or not. I would say it makes a big difference if there are sidewalks, perhaps? My son has to ride on the road.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

I think you should check out the Free Range Kids blog. http://freerangekids.wordpress.com/
It's really interesting, and it might help to ease your fears.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Green Bay on

Granted, this will give the “nervous Nellies” reinforcement for their arguments but taken in the proper context will show just how unlikely it is that a child in Green Bay would be approached by a sexual predator. Also take into consideration that a majority of the individuals that are labeled as a “sex offender” were guilty of having relations with someone 6 months to a year younger than them with over-protective parents who failed in their job to talk to their daughters. There is NO greater weapon against something happening to your child than open, honest communication and your approachability on your child’s behalf. No one can tell you when the time is right to loosen the apron strings; however, do not let it create the situation between your spouse and yourself that lays the foundation of instability that will create doubt of your unified decisions in the future for your child. My children are 26, 25, 8, 6 and 6 so I have endured a lot of years and changes during that time and I can honestly say it depends on the child, their responsibility, and the confidence (on your behalf) that you have done your job by informing them of the dangers that are present in our society and how to protect themselves. My children have known, and understood, from the age of 4 that strangers, and even some people they recognize on sight, are off limits without their parents and they will actually come and tell me if they see someone in our neighborhood that they do not recognize for me to check out. Granted, it can be a little crazy during the holiday seasons, but well worth the effort. My children know that they can depend on me and I know I can trust them based on the knowledge I have given them. They understand my reasons and that is what matters most; they respect my wishes. And for those of you who say, “yeah right, they just wait until you can’t see them”, I have spent the last 2 years in school taught by the officers (and even a retired Police Chief) of my home town and continue my contacts with them outside of school so I know what my children are doing no matter where they are. I also know how to utilize surveillance techniques and keep an eye on my children when they think I am not around on a regular basis.
Just read the following statement from the City of Green Bay and feel free to follow the link to find out more. Good luck.
According to our research there were 375 registered sex offenders living in Green Bay, Wisconsin in May 2009. The ratio of number of residents in Green Bay to the number of sex offenders is 269 to 1.
Read more: http://www.city-data.com/city/Green-Bay-Wisconsin.html#ix...

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

Granted we grew up in a great neighborhood, we WERE NOT allowed to go anywhere without someone else with us. When we could go places on our own was around 12-13 years old.

I remember being in the 2nd grade and waiting with my friends after school and someone drove up asking questions about the school. He had his pants down to his knees!!! I held my friends hand and we walked farther away from the car. i told my mom and called she called the police. VERY SCARY!!! Too many predators out there and I will be one of those parents who will not let my children out of my sight until I know in my gut they will be okay.

Your husband must be thinking about his childhood and not realize how things were safer back then. I'd say she's too young, and by what you're saying about her, you don't sound too confident yet. If she wants to go around the block take a walk with her (you or your husband or both). It'll be nice to get out of the house and stretch your legs and breath fresh air.



answers from Philadelphia on

I like to wait until they are at least 10. I have an 8 year old and i will not let her yet. When my daughter was little she fell off of her bike and had a concussion. This lead to years of epilepsy. (my sister in law let her ride alone with my niece) I am not an over protective parent.... i just think 8 is still too little. I am with the other mothers... i hate watching the children roaming around so young.



answers from Atlanta on

Give her a cell or walkie talkie and let her ride around the block or a two block radius. I understand your nervousness, but if you never let her do anything on her own, she'll NEVER understand how to function on her own. The poster who cited the statistics is correct. There are FEWER kidnappings and child crimes now than in the 70s and 80s, it's just that we are bombarded with every single one that happens anywhere in the country and sometimes beyond. Bad things can happen to any of us anywhere. An 8 year old needs to have a little freedom to start stretching her legs. This is also an excellent way to teach her some valuable lessons about safety and how to get along on her own. THAT could really save her life someday!

And Tina -there's a BIG difference in letting a 4 year old run wild and an 8 year old ride her bike! You also have NO idea what other mothers on this blog have experienced with their kids!



answers from New York on

You never know what can happen an 8 year old should ALWAYS have a buddy! To many wacko's out there, better be safe than sorry.



answers from Boise on

still to young to be out alone.



answers from Nashville on

When they're 18! LOL Yikes....this scares the heck outta me! It was just so different when we were little, ya know. Now-a-days things are just too scary. So many kidnappings and abductions. I honestly don't know when or if my hubby and I will allow ours to roam free. We feel like we live in a very safe area, but still.......it's just so scary.



answers from Lincoln on

I know at some point we all have to give our kids a little bit of independence, but i hesitate. With a world we live in today, i feel that it is not just worth risking. There are so many things that could go wrong. She could forget to look both ways if she decided to cross the street, even though we tell our kids not to, they are curious, and they are kids. Some strange psycho man could be lurking behind a bush and then BAM out of no where, she is abducted never to be seen again. It is hard to think that way, but sometimes you have to. When i was 9 years old, i use to ride my bike down to our local dairy for ice cream, but that was back in the 70's when things were quite as crazy. This world is a scary place sometimes! My daughter is almost 13 years old still does not ride around the block by herself, unless she is with a friend. I dont know, in my opinion, i think 8 years old is way to young. But i know everyone is different. Good luck with your decision.



answers from Minneapolis on

i was pretty anal about my kids venturing out without me..this was 20+ yrs ago-when the world wasnt as crazy as now...stick to your ground..men are always alot less over protective than us moms.if you dont feel good about it-dont do it.


answers from Columbus on

My kids are 11, 9 and 8 and they aren't allowed to ride alone on the road. We live in the country, so we don't get a whole lot of traffic, but when cars come down the road, they are FLYING! There's no way my kids could get out of the way if someone wasn't paying attention and veered over to the shoulder. In fact, I was out walking with my baby and dogs last week when a van nearly hit us. The driver was obviously distracted and swerved at the last minute. With all the drivers talking/texting or otherwise distracted, I would also be a nervous wreck! Your question makes me stop to think about when I'd be allowing bike riding alone.........and I'm thinking they'd have their license first! LOL! Your daughter won't like your decision to delay the independent bike riding, but it will keep her safe!



answers from San Francisco on

I am more of a worrier. I would not let my 8 year old ride her bike in the neighborhood alone. My concern is not with her, but with the others that are out there. I know we can not raise our children in fear but I would rather error on the side of caution. Maybe you could walk with her as she rides ahead of you far enough to give a feeling of independence but close enough that you can always have her within eye and ear shot.

Just my thought.



answers from Pittsburgh on

My son is 7. he is not very interested in bike riding BUT recently, his buddy, who is 8 yrs old, rode over to our house on his bike to play. It was his first time doing that.


answers from St. Louis on

We live out in the country on a road that people often drive fast...so I'm not sure at what age I'd allow my kids to ride alone either.

In town or a subdivision, I'd be just as nervous. But I think I err on the side of 'nervous nelly' over anything else. I'd be thinking of the what ifs all the time. I'd say between 8-10 SEEMS old enough but I think it depends on where you live. I have a friend who's daughter is 9 and although they live in a small town that not much happens, she still is not allowed to ride out of her mother's sight.

Maybe you could allow her to ride with friends first then alone when she's alittle older?



answers from La Crosse on


Check out the article. I have a nine year old, and we are going through the exact same situation. When at home in a small rural town (4300 people) I do allow him to bike with his brother or friends...when we visit our old house in a nice safe Minneapolis suburb, he goes NOWHERE alone. It is just too easy for something to happen. I would rather be overprotective than wrong.



answers from New York on

i don't think i'd ever let my kids ride alone, not just crazy drivers, but more so kidnappers, pedophiles, you get my grip. if i were you, i'd get a bike and go on rides with her and if she gets invited in, you let her go with the deal that she has to call you to come get her.



answers from Orlando on

My daughter is almost 8 - like another poster said I'm not so much worried about traffic...I trust my daughter to look for cars, stay on the sidewalk, etc. But there are soooooooooo many kids getting kidnapped! No way, I don't know when she'll be allowed to ride alone - maybe around age 12. I don't know. So scary.



answers from Minneapolis on

We live in a quiet st paul city neighborhood. And we just started letting our then almost 9 yr old ride around the block last fall.

It was agonizing. Thank goodness all his friends live in the area he goes to school in and so has no where to really go in our neighborhood.

I think my biggest worry is a pretty simple one. There are soooo many driveways on each city block. I am terrified that someone will be pulling in or out and run over him.

And then of course there's Jacob Wetterling who was out riding his bike...



answers from Minneapolis on

I'd be more comfortable with 10 years old.



answers from Seattle on

My DD is not old enough to ride a bike yet; however, my neighbor across the street lets her son who is 5 ride alone around the neighborhood. Personally, I think that's too young, but we do live in a cul-de-sac and the main street isn't terribly busy. I am with you though, I think you are right in worrying and being concerned about her safety. Maybe just set up a boundary for her. She's allowed to go up to a certain point but no farther. Hope that helps a little.



answers from Minneapolis on

I personally think 8 is a little young, but only you know for sure. When my kids starting riding around along, they were about 10. We starting with trips around the block where there were no street crossings involved. Then we moved to destination trips - they would ride their bike to a single destination and I would call the mom in advance and then she would confirm arrival - same on the way home. After that, it was timed trips starting at 30 minutes and moving up. Failure to comply meant starting all the way back at the beginning.

We live in a small town, but near a major road that has direct access into a neighboring state. The kids are allowed to ride "in town" but have to stay 2 blocks away from 169 (they are not allowed near it - neither are they allowed to cross it for any reason). My theory is that if they were picked up on 169, a person could get out of the state in about 5 minutes. Plus, alot of out of towners travel that road.

Good luck no matter what you decide :)


answers from New York on

Here is my story. My children are almost 12, 10 and 8. Two boys and a girl. Still at this age they are not allowed to ride their bike on the streets by themselves. Just about 3 weeks ago, a friend of my oldest came on his bike and asked if he (my son) could go with him to a church that is about 4 blocks away from my house. I thought I was going to pass out!!!! I took a deep breath and said okay!!! I know that I have to let him go, but our street is also very busy. Since I knew he was going with a friend from school and a friend of his friend I told him it was okay. You don't know how I suffered, but girl I prayed, and prayed and prayed!!! Of course he got home fine after about 45 minutes or so.
But I would not let them ride around the neighborhood alone! They did yesterday but it was with my mother who was walking our dog.
Call me over protective, but now a days you don't even know who your neighbors are! So, I don't let them. I think it's a personal decision. Pray before you do anything else. If you know all your neighbors around the block and you feel it's okay, then have her ride on the sidewalk instead of the streets. That's what my kids do. They are not allowed to go on the streets.



answers from Denver on

Of course she's ready! When they start begging for independence, it's time to loosen the apron strings and give it to them! I'll vote with your DH on this one.

And to help calm your fears about how much safer we are today over the 70s and 80s you need to read "Free Range Kids, how to raise safe, self reliant kids without going nuts with worry." by Lenore Skenazy, it should be at your local library. Statistically crimes in ALL categories is down. Also, anecdotally, kids will pay A LOT more attention to their surrounding if you're not there to do it for 'em. GL!!!

ps, my DD is 5 and she's been around the block by herself already. Well, it's more of a horseshoe and she loved it!

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