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« At what point does bicycle friendly become unfriendly? | Main | Do multiple lanes move more traffic? »

Can a 10 year old ride to school?

10 year old Cynthia Tryon (Right.) rides her bike a mile to school and back in Elizabethton, Tennessee.

A local police officer decided it is too dangerous for a 10 year old to be riding a bike on the road.

He loaded the girl and her bike in his cruiser, and drove her home.

The girl’s mother Teresa Tryon disagreed with the officer.

She thought she is best suited to decide what is safe or not for her daughter.

Later Child Protection Services (CPS) were called, and the mother asked if the CPS has a problem with her daughter riding her bike to school. She was told there was not a problem.

The issue is further complicated in that the local Police Chief is siding with his officer; and yet refuses to return the mother’s phone calls, or those from Robert Ping from the National Safe Routes to School Program.

Here is a missed opportunity to have a discussion about the issue and for some lessons to be learned.

The patrol officer, Willard Johnson, said he observed that “Vehicles had to slow and negotiate around the cyclist.” Excuse me! Isn’t that exactly what car drivers are supposed to do around cyclists?

The fact that in this case drivers are “Slowing and negotiating” around this young cyclist is making her ride safe, not more dangerous.

Kudos to this mother for standing her ground on this one. When our roads become safe for a child to ride their bike to school, they will become safer for everyone.

You can read more on this story here and here, and watch a video report here.

Footnote: Bill Hobbs in a comment on the video report says:

"I interviewed Chief Bailey for 20 minutes on August 29. He told me SEVERAL TIMES, in response to SEVERAL QUESTIONS, that the girl was riding safely, did not violate any traffic rules and did not cause any problems.

He confirmed that the reason the officer stopped the girl was a complaint by a driver who waived him down. There was no mention of a parked bus or the girl riding around the bus in the wrong lane, no mention of a car having to stop because of the girl on the bike.

Now he tells WJHL these allegations - which are NOT MENTIONED in the original incident report AT ALL. Not even hinted at. These allegations did not surface until TODAY. The chief - who was not at the scene - did not see these things happen.

The officer who stopped the girl from riding her bike did not mention these allegations in his original "incident report," the contents of which have previously been posted in this comments threat.

I can not conclude anything other than that these allegations are lies, falsehoods made up in an effort to shift blame for this ridiculous incident away from the Elizabethton Police Department and onto a 10-year-old girl.

If any lawyer wants to bring a slander suit against the police chief on behalf of the girl, I'll pay my own way to Carter County to testify.

Elizabethton Police Chief Matt Bailey could have been a man and admitted his officer made a mistake. He could have done the classy thing and accepted responsibility as the leader of the department.

He could have apologized to the mother, blamed the incident on his officer's overzealous desire to keep kids safe, and let it drop. Instead, he has declared war on a 10-year-old girl."



Reader Comments (22)

wow. that cop probably scared the crap out of her. if she wasn't scared to ride before, she may be now! way to go, willard johnson.

September 12, 2011 | Unregistered Commentermason

Our justice system needs a major overhaul in attitudes, laws, priorities and that should begin with the front line of law enforcement.

September 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJack

I had a run in with a donut eater on my bike just the other day. I was leaving a college football game with 45,000 other people. I was riding down the street and a donut eater told me to get out of the street. I stopped and asked him where he wanted me to ride? On the sidewalk?

There were hundreds of people on the sidewalk. He was getting mad because I was arguing with him and asked me if i wanted to go to jail. I proceeded to tell him he was an idiot and road off. I passed 30 police officers, directing traffic, before I got to this donut eater and no one had any issue. This idiot just wanted to flex his muscles. Moron. I swear cops are nothing but factory workers with a gun and a badge.

September 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterVelobabble

Sue the city for inadequate ways to get to schools. They need a bike lane and side walks. Get rid of the on street storage of motorized wheel chairs. The cop is an overzealous loot and the chief is backing his own. City council will back the chief so they don't get hammered in the next election. That is why you need to drag them into the court system.

September 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRalph

Add cycling to school to the list of things little girls in America cannot do, along with opening a lemonade stand and going through airport security without being fondled. Good for her mother for standing up to this bully of a cop.

September 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterVeloparent

When I think about all the roads my friend, BD, and I used to ride our fat tire Schwinns as 5th graders, as compared to young Ms. Tryon, my parents would probably be facing the death penalty - forget child protective services. Two lane country roads, no shoulders, blind curves, sparsely spaced homes, and plenty of cars. And, of course, we also didn't have cell phones to carry with us like kids today might have. Leave in the morning, come home before dark. They are among my fondest memories.

September 12, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterbystander

wow, I hope the officer doesn't come to SF and see my five year old son ride to school every day.

September 12, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterely

Hi Dave, I saw an article on the net about this story. The mother described her daughter as an "avid cyclist" and at the moment I thought maybe this young girl was seriously riding as a future racer. I remember years ago as a mechanic in a bike shop in my area one of our customers son was about the same age and was a serious rider. We found a European 24 inch wheeled road bike that we fitted him on and he used to go on Sunday shop rides with us. That being said, in some areas in the US we know there is little or no shoulder to ride on. I'm not siding with the "officer," but it might be he has a young daughter that age and just feels it's too dangerous for a youngster. As for the cover-up from his boss and his "new" story it's just the typical " man with a badge and what I say goes" attitude. Unfortunately the issue has gotten out of hand, but I support the mother and her right to decide what's best for her daughter. It just goes to show me how "Big Brother" want's to rule everyone's life. I agree with everyone else that we need more bike lanes or paths. As we all know, more and more people of all ages and genders are riding these days as commuters or just for pleasure. We also know it reduces traffic and helps reduce air pollution. Too bad more people don't see it and get behind this and promote it. Just goes to show you how backwards our society is.

September 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBrian

Another reason to "complete our streets." Make the streets user-friendly for everyone. Riding a bike to school ain't a crime.

September 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMitch Hawaii

Just another symptom of modern society. Wacky.

When I was a kid, we walked and rode our bikes everywhere...

September 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDan O

If an officer tells me to get off the street, or anything, I simply say: Yes Sir or Yes Ma'am . . . and as soon as they're gone I do whatever I like. Be polite, follow directions and stay safe.

September 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJames Thurber

Great posts by all. The only thing I have to say is welcome to the New World Order. If it were Obama's kid they'd be forewarned to leave her alone.

September 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRobert Graves

What should not be overlooked is that it was a "complaint by a driver" that triggered officer Johnson to stop the cyclist and place her vehicle in his. A well trained officer should have told this driver to learn the rules of the road, grow up and accept STR. Or would this driver prefer that his taxes be raised to finance a society governed by obesity and incivility problems?

September 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJack

At least she had a helmet of some sort on her noggin. Better safe than sorry!

September 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGRUMPY Crump

Jack hit the nail on the head. Are you sure the locale wasn't Harper Valley of song fame?

September 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJim

"Officer judgement" is just that: one cop's opinion. Who knows? I wasn't there.

But the double-talk and cover-up is getting harder and harder to pull off in this day of instant planet-wide transmission of information. Which has troubling implications. Say some right-wing political party were to gain control of our country and issue an edict, call it something like , oh, "Homeland Security" and decide that criticism of law enforcement is dangerous to the government...

September 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTrailer Park Cyclist

I had an interesting conversation with a motorist a few months ago. One of his objections to me being on the road (cycling) was that he saw other motorists having to 'swerve' around me at a roundabout (I live and ride, God willing, in Tyne & Wear, England, United Kingdom). Before negotiating ANY junction I observe, signal and move in accordance with our Codes AND, I believe, common sense. I also try to get on with other road users and find lots of good motorists. Sadly, that just isn't enough for some - how sad.

September 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMark Coombs

Grumpy said "At least she had a helmet of some sort on her noggin. Better safe than sorry!"
Someone should tell the mother and girl that that her bicycle helmet should come down onto her forehead, not sit tilted on the back of her head.

September 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDWhite

"If an officer tells me to get off the street, or anything, I simply say: Yes Sir or Yes Ma'am . . . "

And wait for the 10 year old girls to speak out for you?

"Be polite, follow directions and stay safe."

These are, in the end, mutually incompatible.

September 15, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterkfg

DWhite As my comment said a Helmet OF SOME SORT! IS anything better than nothing ? I think this should be an issue of comment.

September 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGRUMPY Crump

"IS anything better than nothing ?"

Oh, that one's easy; no - but perhaps there will be a more suitable thread to do the "helmet thang" again. Helmet use by this girl is compulsory in Tennessee and thus in context noting that she at least had a helmet on is something comparable to noting that at least she wasn't naked and carrying cocaine.

She was behaving in a lawful manner, that is the issue.

September 15, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterkfg

re: helmet placement

I choose to believe that young Ms. Tryon knows perfectly well the correct way to wear her helmet to best optimize its safety value, and wears it that way when she rides. The tipped back placement was for the purposes of the photograph, as encouraged by the photographer, to better accentuate her charming smile.

In any event, the placement of young Ms. Tryon's helmet is at least as good as this one:


which drew similar comments in the thread. Given that the teacher in the photograph is wearing her helmet correctly, and presumably would instruct her students similarly, I imagine this young man also "adjusted" his helmet to its rakish angle for the photograph.

Either way, getting the helmet on the kid's head is step one.

September 16, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterbystander

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