In the San Francisco Bay Area for a wedding this weekend, I saw a sad sign of our economic times.
Tiny, tricycle-aged kids on the borderlands of Berkeley and Oakland were riding little bikes with just two wheels. So very sad.
Sadder still -- they were too poor for training wheels or even pedals.
Then I learned I was looking at the hot tot phenomenon known as the scoot-bike.
Scoot-bikes usually look just like a big-kid two-wheeler minus the pedals, and they're short even for the 2- and 3-year-olds that ride them. That's so they can have their feet firmly on the ground and push themselves along Flintstones-style (though wearing shoes is recommended.) Your little Pebbles or Bam-Bam picks up their feet and coasts when they get enough speed.
Sounds simple and it is. But the beauty of it is, they know how to operate it immediately, and it means a fast-track to real bike-riding because they're working on their balance from the start, instead of relying on a third wheel or training wheels.
The best part is the kid looks freaking adorable riding it. The blur of the little spider legs of my 3-year-old niece as she sped by had me on the ground from laughter and cuteness.
I thought we were pretty on top of the latest in kid transport in my hipster-heavy Los Angeles neighborhoods, but I'd never seen one of these. Apparently they're all the rage in the hipper spots of Northern California.
Makes sense that scoot-bikes would take hold in always-progressive and super bike-friendly Berkeley, where for the last few years parents have been turning their bicycles into minivans with the Xtracycle.
The little cruisers are awfully pricey, but you can make your own out of an old bike if you're handy enough to get the pedals off.
Of course, like talking and potty-training and reading, there's no big hurry to get kids riding two-wheeled bikes so this can seem pointless. But my almost-7-year-old is still so tentative on her bike I think she'll need training wheels when she rides in the Tour de France. And I'm sick to death of having to hover over her. I'm wondering if they make these things for first-graders so we can start over.
Image via Flickr.com/baudman