Spacefem (spacefem) wrote,

learning about stop signs in St. Louis

So I almost added this to my last entry about parenting but decided it could be its own story... I was reading that book about how parents should explain things to kids, don't just say "do this because I said so". Anyway, thinking back to my parents they did a good job with this, they always tried to explain things to me. Here's an example.

I was getting better at riding my bike and was about to be allowed to ride around our block, which was exciting. But first Dad explained that it was very important to follow traffic laws on your bike, especially pay attention to stop signs, because those apply to bikes too.

We lived in St. Louis... AWFUL traffic! Terrible! Everyone drove around on these curvy side streets, there was never any plan about where a street should be built. Where I live now in Kansas most cities have a grid plan, but not St. Louis. Last time I went there I joked that if a street was named "4th street" it wasn't because it was between 3rd and 5th street, it was because someone just liked the way the name "4th" sounded.

So in lieu of planned streets to move traffic people just drove around everywhere, through the suburbs or behind stores, and that meant we needed four way stops everywhere. People got used to four-way stops, and during rush hour they became four-way merges, everything kept moving at a pretty good clip despite the traffic coming together. To contrast that, in Wichita people can't even merge onto highways where there are on-ramps, if there's another car on the highway within four miles the merging car will freak out and stop... it's scary.

Back to Dad. He explained to me that bikes had to follow the same rules as cars. Stay on the right side of the road and pay attention to signs. Then we biked to the end of the block where the four-way stop was and he said, "See, watch how this car slows down and stops at the stop sign."

The car screamed through the intersection without so much as a brake light.

He laughed a little and said okay, bad example, watch the next car.

Same thing. In fact we stood there for several minutes, and not a single car bothered to stop at that stop sign. One of them saw me on my bike and slowed down, then sped back up through the intersection. Dad just sighed and said, "Well, don't be like those cars. In fact now it's even more important to stop, since apparently no one else will."

Well, it was a good lesson, even if it didn't play out quite the way he'd hoped.
Tags: childhood, wichita
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