Are Kids on Bikes Happier Than Kids in Cars?

A dad makes the case for more two-wheeled independence.

What a powerful video. It makes painfully clear the contrast between kid-filled streets in The Netherlands and the empty streets of American suburbia.

Then again, some of us at Let Grow grew up in suburbia and we can attest that the streets don’t have to be that desolate, if only more families trusted their kids to go outside.

The dad in the video moved his family to Amsterdam in the hopes of his kids walking and biking to places on their own. He believes that the independence he is giving the kids makes them happier AND safer…because they get exercise and independence.

He does not blame parents who move to the suburbs in search of more space, or better schools. He blames city planners who design almost all new developments with only cars in mind. That means parents are stuck driving their kids everywhere. A kid walking outside becomes not only unusual but suspicious.

Seeing kids playing outside, on their own, becomes a distant memory.

At Let Grow we are working to renormalize free, unstructured play AND kids out and about without constant adult supervision. We’re also making sure that allowing kids some independence is not treated as child abuse or neglect. As towns start to recognize the health and joy that come from encouraging children’s independent mobility (that’s city-planning jargon for walking/biking/skateboarding), they will try to make this an easier option. Bike lanes, crosswalks, and school policies help — like allowing kids to “self-dismiss.” But so does social acknowledgement that letting kids do things on their own isn’t crazy or dangerous.

It’s what brings kids — and neighborhoods — alive.