When I was a lad, lo, these many years ago, we rode our bicycles everywhere, when the weather permitted. (Of course we rode velocipedes, but still ...)
At seven, I first took my little Huffy to school. When I was nine, I got a big bike -- an "English Racer," that had three speeds and cable hand brakes. With the seat all the way up, I couldn't reach the pedal at the bottom of the stroke, so I either had to stand on the pedals, or shove hard enough so I could catch it on the inertial upswing. I had to straddle the cross bar when I came to a stop, and even then, it was on tip-toes if I want to keep the bike from falling over. I learned how to wiggle the front wheel a little at a stop to keep the bike balanced so I wouldn't have to put my feet down.
In the summers, my friends and I rode everywhere, and while the distances seem longer in memory than they actually were when I look at the map, we did cover some ground. Rode to the the local swimming pool before it was closed to prevent racial integration, about two miles round trip. A little longer than that to the Dalton Theater, for the quadruple horror movies on Saturdays. We were five miles from downtown, and ten from LSU, and we routinely made those trips a few times each summer.
Little boys, little girls, all of us pedaling all over hell and gone, and nobody thought twice about it. Don't take candy from strangers, that was pretty much our only warning against pedophiles.
It's a measure of how much things have changed to note that this morning, while walking my dogs, I came across three little girls riding their bicycles down by the duck pond. I guess the oldest might have been nine or ten, the others, a year, maybe two younger. My first reaction was to look around and wonder where the adult was -- what were these children doing out by themselves? Yeah, it's a safe and quiet neighborhood, with -- new and improved! -- sidewalks and all, but ...
A lot of things have gotten better in our world from the days when I was a tow-head, but not everything.