1. How old were you when you started walking or biking to some places (e.g. school or a friend's place) on your own? What were the circumstances?
I used to walk to (local) friends' houses around the latter years of primary school, if memory serves, so 7-8? From around 8 onwards I would cycle to the more distant friends.
I can't imagine my 8-year old nephews doing this!
2. How old were you when you started taking public transit on your own? What were the circumstances?
I travelled by train with friends when I was 12 - I remember that distinctly because I used to go coarse fishing with a school friend, and we would always visit the tackle shop in Aldershot on a Friday afternoon.
I suspect I would have gone by myself on occasion, although I really don't remember.
3. How old were you when you first took a long-distance trip (unaccompanied on the bus, train, or plane, even if you were met at your destination) on your own? What were the circumstances?
I never really had a need to travel long distance by myself, and was probably driving by the time I took long train trips by myself. I certainly don't remember any long solo journeys.
4. This set of questions was inspired by a news story about a woman leaving her nine-year-old in downtown Manhattan to find his own way home on transit and the controversy it caused (http://news.aol.com/newsbloggers/2008/04/07/is-9-too-young-to-ride-the-nyc-subway-alone/). What's your reaction to this story?
9 seems too young, simple as that really. Even so, I think the key thing here is how savvy the child is, and that will vary and needs to be assessed by the parent, assuming the parent has any sense. There's the side issue of how safe the environment is perceived, and I think it has got to the point where a lot of us view an environment as a lot more dangerous than it really is. Thanks Mr. Media! Snort.
5. At what age would or did you let your kids (hypothetical kids, if you don't have them) do those things where you live now?
I can't imagine letting my kids walk/cycle to a friend's, and that would be a local friend, until they were 10 or so. Probably somewhere between 12-14 until I would let them go solo on public transport, but I think I would need to be a parent to judge this more accurately, along with judging the sense of the kid.