Here’s yet another story illustrating why we have an obesity problem in the United States.
The town of Charlotte, Tennessee, is going after a local grandmother for letting her four grandchildren — ages 7 to 12 — ride their bikes in the street. Victoria Mathis has been cited for violating city code — which states that no one can “skateboard, [use] roller blades, and roller skates or conduct similar activities” on city streets or in the city park. If Mathis refuses to stop the children from biking in the street, the city will pursue legal action against her, according to the Tennessean.
Charlotte Mayor Bill Davis is unapologetic, telling the paper that bicycling children are a big problem in the town of 1,200. He cited liability concerns.
“We get a lot of complaints, little kids 5 years old playing in the street on these little bitty mini-bikes and some of these little pedal carts, and some of the neighbors have been afraid they were going to get run over,” he told the paper. “You just can’t let kids be out there unsupervised.”
But Victoria Mathis said her grandkids were being supervised when riding up and down her residential street. Besides, she said, they’re old enough that they don’t need to be supervised every minute. She wants to law taken off the books.
“I pay my taxes here,” she said. “For my grandkids to not be able to ride their bikes in the community on a secondary road, to find out that the town that I live, it’s considered illegal for children to ride their bikes. That’s the biggest issue.”
Sara Zimmerman of the Safe Routes to School National Partnership says laws banning bikes are very rare. The Colorado Supreme Court recently struck down a bike ban in the town of Black Hawk, Colorado. (What the Partnership sees more often are school district policies banning children from biking.)
“Communities should tread very carefully when they start enforcing rules against normal, healthy activities,” she said. “Not only is it a bad idea to discourage people from being healthy and make it hard for kids to act like kids, but there are dangers for the towns themselves too. They risk being held up to ridicule by the country at large, and if they are going beyond what they are actually authorized to enforce, they may be inviting legal trouble as well.”
Charlotte’s mayor might be overstepping his authority in prosecuting Mathis, Zimmerman said, since the town’s law doesn’t specifically mention bicycles.