Whenever I see a parent riding on the bike path with their toddler in a seat behind them, I laugh. It’s not because of the giant safety helmet the kids wear on their already oversized heads that leave them looking like Marvin the Martian. And it’s not because half of these kids are somehow still able to fall asleep despite the wind and bugs in their faces and the bumpy ride.
I laugh because my experience as a tot on the back of Mom’s Schwinn was vastly different…and way more dangerous.
Today’s tot bike seats look like NASA-inspired personnel modules made of space-age polymers. The kids are held in by a spider web of unbreakable woven nylon straps going every which way, the likes of which Houdini would have had trouble escaping.
The bike seat I rode in was made of thin aluminum piping. The seat was vinyl that I sweated on and slipped around in after 5 minutes in the Florida heat. The seatbelt, if that is what we’re calling it, was a single strap of plastic that fastened with a rusty little metal clip that you could probably have bent in half with 2 fingers. My helmet was nothing but a full head of blonde hair, maybe a knit cap if it was cold.. I have never worn a bicycle helmet in my life. We really dodged a visit from DCF on that one!
Mom and I would tool around town in this fabulous mode of transportation; she’d take me to nursery school, maybe drop a book off at the library on the way. I remember a very bumpy ride, and I remember finding out the hard way that many of the sidewalks in our town didn’t have ramps to the street level, requiring us to drop straight down off the curb. Did I mention that sad seat of mine really wasn’t padded? This could be the reason I have a crooked spine today. But I held on for dear life, just like Linus’s little brother, Rerun, in the Peanuts comic strip.
Somehow we never fell that I can remember, and she never stopped short, sending me flying into traffic. I never bumped my big unprotected noggin on the ground. Mom’s deft navigation skills kept us safely on the bike path, roaming the streets of my hometown with the breeze blowing through our hair. These kids today will never know what they’re missing.