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When Did (Would) You Let Your Kid Take Transit Solo?

When I ride the Max or the bus, I often times see kids riding on their way to or from school.  I've been curious as to when they started riding seeing as how public transit is also a form of busing kids to school, definitely much different than my suburbia experience back in the day.  I've been meaning to broach this topic on urbanMamas, and what better time than now especially in light of Lenore Iskenazy's fairly recent post on "Why I Let My 9-Year-Old Ride the Subway Alone"; where her son successfully navigates his first solo trip on the New York City Subway.  At what age did your kids venture out solo?  At what age would you let your kids venture out solo?  Is there a right age for allowing solo trips to school and/or their friends homes?


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We all walk to school together because my younger son's preschool is just a block past my older one's elementary and I'd be going that way anyway. However I've let my 2nd grader walk to school by himself on occasion, when his brother was sick.

What really confounds me about it is how anxious I was the first time. I walked to school and back in kindergarten. Everyone did. Across busy streets (with crossing guards). I don't remember my mother having the slightest qualm.

I'm not one of those people who think the world is significantly more dangerous now than it was 30 years ago. That's media-driven, in my opinion. So I guess it was just one of those "first time" anxiety things.

At this point, I'd probably let him walk to school alone every day if I didn't have my younger son to take to preschool.

No, not alone. My 14 year old travels with a buddy or two and a cell phone.

Yes, I guess it sounds overprotective when I type it out but she is heartbreakingly lovely as I was at that age. I had lots of unwanted attention from men at an early age and I'd like her not to have to deal with that alone for now. Safety in numbers. And she's had the Women Strength training from the police department.


My daughter will ride Tri-Met several times per week, primarily after school, beginning next school year. She will be just 11. There will be only 2 destinations she'll ride to, will always be with a friend, always during daylight hours and will not be exiting the bus and entering an empty home.

I would have liked to have put this off another year, and I will be constantly monitoring how safe/successful this turns out for us.

MAX is another story. I feel she's much safer on the bus, with the driver right there, rather than several cars back and/or separated from the driver.

Whoops, I was talking about mass transit in my earlier post. I did let my 8 and 10 year old kids walk to the school together most mornings and after my dd went to middle school my 10 year old son walked alone. There was a crossing guard to help them cross the busy street.

There is the basic reality that, in Oregon at least, it is illegal to leave any child younger than 11 years old alone.

Regardless of the law, however, I would not do it. There are plenty of ways to help your children feel self-sufficient and confident without putting them at such risk. When my mother, who was raised in Brooklyn, heard about this story, she totally freaked out, so I have to go with what she knows about the environment.

Wait - Kristin are you saying it's OR law that children under eleven are not allowed to walk to and from school alone?

I grew up in NYC and began taking the bus alone to school in 8th grade. I would walk the 30 or so blocks home alone. I began taking the subway alone a year or so later.

When I was about 17 (granted I only looked about 15 with no makeup and varsity sweats on) I took the subway home from Macys during pre-rush hour. As I stood leaning against the doors I couldn't figure out why everyone was staring at me and the guy reading the paper to my left moved away from me. It took a minute to see that the man directly in front of me (fully invading my personal space) was materbating, basically on me! He had his arm sort of blocking me in, but I quickly ducked away and starting yelling, loudly, at him about how he was a pervert and how ashamed I was at everyone on the train for not telling me. This may not have been the brightest move- I guess I could've been stabbed or grabbed or something. But it was my first instinct (and I was a loud/wild one..). I got off the train and phoned my mom at home. She laughed and said "men...". For the next 2 years that I rode the train, I would have to do a visual "check" around the train to make sure all the men had their zippers shut and there hands away from their crotches or I would start to panic...Ha. Traumatizing.

Just to add to that, my little brother rode the subway to high school and had a knife pulled on him by a small group of other kids for his wallet..

I can't say that things have gotten worse for kids growing up now, but I'm not sure they've gotten better either. If it's not the creepy guy (or sometimes ladies) than it's the other kids! But we can't all live in fear and you don't exactly want to raise your child to be frightened all the time. I think it's REALLY important to teach your children to be aware of what's going on around them at all times and how to react if a situation does come up. In all honesty, I don't think I would let my daughter ride mass transit until she was 14 or 15. And definitely with friends.

Oregon state law does not specify an age at which a child can be left home alone.

From Oregon Department of Human Services website:


"A child should not be left in a position of authority or be left alone in situations beyond his ability to handle. Each child must be looked at individually to make sure he or she is physically and emotionally able to handle the given responsibility. The law does not specify the age at which a child can be left alone. However, a child under 10 cannot be left unattended for such a period of time as may likely endanger their health or welfare (ORS 163.545). "

Oh, 10 -- I don't know why I thought 11. I'm not sure what it means "such a period of time as may likely endanger their health or welfare." Any lawyers out there? That has got to be one of the most vague statements I've seen.

i grew up in san francisco and started taking the bus with my brother when i was in 3rd grade and he was in 5th grade. the next year, he went to middle school and we both took the bus alone. we had to commute across half the city and transfer buses at least once (depending on the route we took).
i did have a couple of incidents when i was in middle school. once i was waiting for the bus and looked over at the man waiting on the same bench to see if he had a watch so i could ask him the time. well, i didn't notice a watch because he was masterbating! i just looked away and that was the end of that.
another time, i was on a crowded bus and some guy started rubbing himself on my shoulder. i tried to scoot away as much as i could, but the woman sitting next to me started getting all huffy (i doubt she realized what was going on). so i stood up abruptly, knocking the guy across the aisle (i must have been at least 5'10" by then, and he was probably no more than 5'6") then gave him nasty looks from about 10' away. icky, yes, but no scars.
i think i would allow my child to take the bus at the same age, depending on his/her maturity level and the general (perceived) safety of the route. i know bad things can happen, but i don't want to live in fear or teach my children to do so. but this decision is years off for me, and i may feel differently by then! who knows?

I think the age requirement is about kids being left home alone, or in the car alone. If you run into the store or dry cleaners a kid under 10 cannot be alone. 11 if left with younger sibs and 12 to babysit.

I grew up in SF and started taking the bus alone occasionally when I was six and in kindergarten. I also flew alone transatlantically at the same age because my parents were, uh, crazy. I took the bus in a large city alone every day from about 8. I feel safer there than here. I was a city kid, and had more edge than my kid does.

I think it depends on the distance. My daughter took the bus fro NW 23rd to Oregon College of arts and crafts at 9 or 10 for a week one summer. I would put her on the bus personally and rush to work. child care issues.

She rides long distance bus rides to school some days, which is pretty common in middle school. she's older than some on the morning bus and younger than some. The MAX makes me nervous, so she doesn't take it. And I grew up on public transit. If we lived in the Bay Area, she may have bussed it sooner.

I, too, grew up walking to school in SE portland (about 3/4 mile in first grade, by my self or with a neighbor my own age -- hi dawn!) and taking transit. i don't remember how old i was when i first took the bus alone but it couldn't have been any older than 12.

i think those laws are so vague so police/dhs can decide when, where, and how they want to enforce them -- an officer who suspected poor parenting (or who was just feeling like causing some trouble) could use those statutes to investigate any situation which seemed questionable. i'm sure if you left your very mature 11-year-old alone for 5 minutes while you went to get a bottle of wine at the corner store, and a fire broke out while you were gone, you'd be charged with criminal negligence; whereas if you leave your immature 7-year-old alone every day after school for a few hours while you finished your workday, and no emergency ever happens to at your house, you'd be left to your own devices.

i've been told by someone (a neighborhood police officer i think?) that i, as a parent, am permitted to make my own determination as to when my children are old enough to walk to school by themselves. it will probably be 2nd grade in our house. i see lots of children who appear to be that young (or even younger) walking to/from school in my neighborhood without a parent. i think this is like anything else -- we'll know when our children are old enough (or we won't know b/c we're overprotective, or at least our children will think so! ;)

There is an almost 6 year difference between my oldest and my youngest, so by the time the older is (probably) ready to walk to school alone, I'll be walking his younger brothers to school anyway.

However, DH and I have always thought that if one or another of the kids wanted to go to a different school as they become more academically aware of what they want to focus on, we would push for a school transfer. If that ends up being the case, I think it will all depend on distance and the maturity of whichever kid it is.

When I was 10, I was allowed to "go up to town" as we called it, about 1 mile each way (walking, no public transportation), without supervision. Of course, this is on Long Island, NY in a town with a population of about 10,000. And my mom worked in the middle of town.

When my boys hit about that age/maturity level, I may consider letting them ride the bus to a friend's house. But again, a lot of it depends on distance--is it a one bus ride, or does it involve a transfer? Are they familiar with the bus route? Etc. And really, I have no problem testing it out a la the NYC mom. (Although I would probably have someone tailing my kid--maybe I'll plant a coworker they don't know on the bus with them.)

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