Balance Bikes and Licenses for Kids

A child riding a balance bike during Sunday Streets in 2009. Photo: Matthew Roth

A child riding a balance bike during a Sunday Streets in 2009. Photo: Matthew Roth

Balance bikes are getting ever more popular and from most accounts they are an excellent way to help kids learn to be comfortable and get them riding bikes faster than with training wheels. So when we got a press release recently announcing a promotional gimmick between a company called Balance Bikes 4 Tots and Picturoo.com that paired balance bikes with licenses aimed at kids 1-5 years old, you could forgive me for blanching.

From the release:

People all over are finding that a great way to complement a bicycle gift is with a personalized photo ID from Picturoo.com. The Bike Licenses are durable and safe like credit cards. They can be personalized with a child’s photo and name right on the card, just like a driver’s license and can be created directly on Picturoo’s website

‘Kids are so excited when they get a bike as a gift, but nothing beats the proud look on their face when they get a just-for-fun photo license ID card to go with it,” said Yvonne Lee, Balance Bikes 4 Tots owner.

Promoting bike licenses to little kids and comparing it to a driver’s license? Mandatory bicycle licensing is a contentious issue and programs like the one in San Jose have proven so ineffective they have been discontinued. Had Yvette Lee never heard of the debate around bike licenses?

No, in fact, Lee had never thought of that and she didn’t want to give the wrong impression. “These are just fun licenses, not actual licenses,” she said. “They’re not meant to require people to have licenses for bicycle riding. It’s not to advocate licensing, just for fun.”

Lee is a home-based distributor for Strider balance bikes and is based in the Bay Area. She became a convert to the bikes when she bought them for her two and four-year-old sons, who took to them immediately and learned to balance better than her 6-year-old daughter, said Lee. In fact, her four-year-old takes his balance bike to a nearby skate park and BMX dirt bike track and maneuvers the obstacles “just like with the big kids.” She even expected her 2-year-old to graduate to a regular bike by two and a half

“We’re helping evangelize the product, that’s how Strider has been growing,” Lee added.

I guess I can’t fault her for her enthusiasm, I just hope she ditches the licenses, even if they are just for fun.