On Sunday, I had the urge to use the Reseau Vert path, so that I could pass by my favourite abandoned garbage incinerator on my bike. This is a car-free gravel path frequented by joggers, cyclists, and the occasional slowpoke pedestrian.
It does not need to be said that you are to stay on the right side of the path, as you would on the roads. Unless you are British, Australian, Cyprian or from any other country that drives on the left. No matter where you are from, if you are under 10 years old, then your parents definitely should have mentioned this to you.
I don’t know if she was Cyprian, but she looked to be about 8 years old. I saw her in the middle of the path, slowly pedalling in my direction. As she was looking over her shoulder wondering why her adults weren’t supervising her, she did not see me.
There was still room to pass safely. I slowed down and moved further to the right, getting closer to the chain link fence on my right. The girl then turned her head and realized she was about to ride into oncoming traffic. Instead of getting out of the way, or stopping, she panicked and started pedalling like the devil towards me, determined to have a head-on collision.
When I was a kid, I thought to break your arm and mummifying it in plaster was kind of cool. You’d get showered with attention. Your classmates would all want to autograph your cast. If it happens to be your dominant arm, you’d even get the teacher to act as your personal secretary for two weeks!
Perhaps this little non-Cyprian had the same thought, but she quickly abandoned her plan and bailed off her bike without my assistance. I now had a fighting chance to stay on my bike.
Except, when she fell, her bike slid across the gravel and in front of me. I shifted my weight to the left, then to the right… too far right. It was my turn to slide across the gravel.
I slid on the same arm that had just finished healing from my last accident, ripping off the patch of newly formed skin. Time to seek sponsorship from Band-Aid®.
The girl? She’s not going to end up with a cool plaster cast. I don’t think she will even need a bandage, but what she does need is a bike her size, a helmet that actually fits, and adult supervision. I’m well-versed in the first two but struggle with being an adult, much less one that supervises a child.
For a good 30 seconds, Yann and I thought we were obligated to look after the girl who remained sitting on the ground in the middle of the path, too shocked to move. When her parents finally caught up to her, they demonstrated how you’re supposed to knock a child back into consciousness: with a hug. I’m not sure that would have been appropriate for me to do, particularly since I’d have bled all over her.
Anyway, as a non-parent, I don’t have the right to question their parenting choices, but as a cyclist and a bike mechanic, I question their bicycle and safety gear choices.
Buying a too-big bike for a kid to grow into is like buying a pair of flip-flops two sizes too big for them to run around in. It might do the job, but faceplants are imminent.
Your best bet is to go to a real bike shop. It does mean spending more money, but with so many parents willing to buy an iPad for their kid, why not a proper bike? And, to protect the things the iPad has taught your kid, why not buy a helmet that fits?
Otherwise, your weak stance on bike safety tells me, “I love my kid… but not THAT much.”
After an experience like that, the girl probably no longer needs her parents to remind her to watch where she’s going.
I hope she has not been deterred from getting back on a bike, just maybe the too-big one she was riding.
As for me, my arm is healing well, and my bike still looks fabulous.