Author: Steve Pretzel
The recent news report of the head of Princess Margaret Hospital's Emergency Department questioning whether kids under 16 years of age should be allowed to ride trail and quad bikes certainly stirred the pot amongst riders. When the West's poll closed, over 3,000 people (96% of respondents) had said NO! to the idea of banning children.
The RTRA's position, and clearly that of most riders (and presumably pragmatic non-riders) is that the decision about whether or not a child is capable of riding - and what, where and when they are capable of riding - is best left to the parents.
But of course this pre-supposes that parents can make sensible decisions on behalf of their kids.
I was up at Pinjar today and I saw:
- A mother who was distraught because her five year old had taken her younger sibling on a quad bike - and had disappeared. I volunteered to go look for them, but within a minute I came across...
- A sub 8 year old on a PeeWee 50 who was out on the sandy trails on his own and had gotten bogged in a whoop that was nearly as deep as he was tall. The bike had fallen over and the poor little guy was just sitting there crying, unable to pick it up, let alone start it and dig it out of the hole. I helped him get it up and started, lifted it on to some more solid ground and pointed him in the direction of the car park. I then continued my search for the kids on the quad. I did a loop of the area where the disappearing quad-kids were last seen and, having seen nothing, started to head back. I came across another rider who reported that the kids had turned up safely. Phew.
- Not more than two minutes later an old MX bike came up Orchid Rd at a fast cruise. Sitting in front of the rider (who was wearing a helmet) was an un-helmeted kid of maybe three or four years of age.
Now our typical reaction when we see things like these is to shake our head and say "Crazy ..." Or to feel better about ourselves and our 'All the Gear, all the Time' policy and close supervision of our kids.
But today I felt really angry. Because it's the incidents and accidents that happen to other people's kids that are threatening our own families' rights to enjoy responsible riding.
So what can we do about it?
Well, I can write about it in a blog and hope that these random incidents will make some parents think a little more about how they are supervising their kids' riding.
But more importantly, we need to all understand our stake in this and realise that if other people's kids continue getting hurt unnecessarily then the prospects of our own kids and grandkids being able to enjoy the freedom and joy of riding off-road is going to continually be under threat.
The RTRA is helping by lobbying to create family-friendly riding areas that makes supervision easier. MWA is helping through its excellent MotoSafe series in schools and by working to create a MiniKhana series in WA that will provide a supervised riding environment. Most major manufacturers, particularly of quad bikes create some good safety-related materials. The emerging commercial ride parks are applying safety equipment and riding rules. But it would seem more and better communication with parents is still needed.
As individuals we can help by always setting a good example in protecting and supervising our kids and being empowered to tactfully suggest to others that they should do likewise.
It's not something we can ignore, because ultimately other people's kids are our problem too.
Footnote: Just as I was leaving Pinjar today I saw a different, more positive, sight. Dad on his mountain bike leading the way with a fully kitted out very junior rider happily following on his PeeWee!