— Last week I was driving north on N.W. 4th Avenue. When I came to the stop sign at N.W. 10th Street, I stopped and catty-cornered across from me came a little blond-haired boy of about 7 on his bicycle. He stopped after I stopped, and he waited as I carefully made my left turn onto 10th.
As I looked in my rearview mirror, I saw him pedal across 10th and on down 4th.
He was on the correct side of the street, and he was obeying all the traffic rules!
My first thought was thankfulness to his parents for teaching him that a bicycle is ridden on the same side of the road as a car. They had taught him some rules of the road. Good for good parenting!
On the other hand, last week I also saw four young men riding back and forth across multiple lanes of traffic on the bicycles, darting in front of cars, and in general causing a road hazard for themselves and everyone else. When I say “young men” I saw that at least one of them had facial hair.
And I see this sort of thing all the time.
My first reaction to this was, where are the police when we need them, but I have seen this happen here in town right in front of police cars who do nothing about it. And yet we have had two significant bicycle fatalities in the past year. Why aren’t these people being stopped and fined for not obeying the rules of the road?
And, as long as I am discussing wheels, I have to add something about skate boards. Skate boards, in their proper place at the skate board park in West City Park, are great fun for kids of all ages, but I do believe that there is an ordinance against them on the streets of Mineral Wells – at least in the downtown area.
Because Raf and I do not drink soft drinks anymore, we treat ourselves once a week to a handmade root beer and a handmade Italian cream soda at Jitter Beans. Almost every week, as we sit and sip, we see skateboarders downtown bogging up traffic and, in general, making nuisances of themselves.
I really don’t know if they have caused any accidents, but an ordinance is an ordinance. I think if we take care of the small crimes and misdemeanors, the larger things will probably take care of themselves.
But back to my little guy on the bike. He reminded me of times gone by. Of kids riding bicycles all over the place as they went with friends to play outside. And, while he was not barefoot, but was wearing sturdy shoes, a poem by John Greenleaf Whittier (1833-1908) came to mind. Here is the first verse:
• • •
Blessings on thee, little man,
Barefoot boy, with cheek of tan!
With thy turned-up pantaloons,
And thy merry whistled tunes;
With thy red lip, redder still
Kissed by strawberries on the hill;
With the sunshine on thy face,
Through thy torn brim’s jaunty grace;
From my heart I give thee joy,—
I was once a barefoot boy!
Prince thou art,—the grown-up man
Only is republican.
Let the million-dollared ride!
Barefoot, trudging at his side,
Thou hast more than he can buy
In the reach of ear and eye,—
Outward sunshine, inward joy:
Blessings on thee, barefoot boy!