By Konstantine Fekos
WEST MEAD TOWNSHIP —
Local agencies have teamed up with law enforcement to keep kids safe when cycling this summer season, whether they ride on two wheels or training wheels.
Parents and children attending Saturday’s “Bike Rodeo” at the Meadville Area Recreation Complex got firsthand safety tips from event organizers Sgt. Mike Tautin, Meadville City Police, and Crawford County Sheriff Nick Hoke.
“It’s a needed event,” Tautin said. “(Children) need to wear helmets so we’re here to promote helmet use.”
After getting their helmets and bikes inspected, children of all ages took the opportunity to ride through several training exercises, showing off their skills and learning proper safety techniques.
Stations included a brake test, large and small curves, a serpentine course and a coasting lane.
“It’s a fun event stressing bike safety,” Tautin said. “It’s a group effort from the community to enhance safety.”
More children ages 5 to 14 are rushed to emergency rooms for bicycle-related injuries, according to Safe Kids Worldwide, a global organization network focused on preventing accidental childhood injury.
Other Safe Kids statistics show that while helmets can reduce the risk of severe brain injuries by 88 percent, only 45 percent of children 14 and under usually wear them.
Pennsylvania law requires all cyclists under the age of 12 to wear an approved bicycle helmet while riding.
“Safe Kids initiated a reward program,” said registered nurse Anne Runkle, trauma program coordinator for Meadville Medical Center, an event co-sponsor. “Local sponsors and area agencies donated coupons for kids seen riding with helmets.”
Children seen wearing helmets while cycling around Meadville may get a coupon or promotional voucher from a firefighter or police officer for playing it safe, Tautin said.
“It’s nice to reward them for doing the right thing,” said Terri Anthony, safety adviser for AAA East Central, event co-sponsor.
Anthony inspected helmets throughout the day and quizzed participating cyclists on their safety knowledge.
Other event sponsors set up informational booths and gave out reflectors and other safety equipment to young participants, along with a free pass to use at the MARC pool.
“It’s a group effort in the community to enhance safety,” Hoke said. “We couldn’t do this without teamwork.”
“We try to provide fun, family-safe events for the community,” Tautin said. “Hopefully it’ll get them away from the TV and Xbox and get them excited to ride bikes.”
Sponsors for the “Bike Rodeo” include AAA East Central, Meadville City Police, Crawford County Sheriff’s Office, Meadville Area Recreation Complex, Meadville Medical Center, Meadville YMCA, Crawford County Safe Kids and Meadville Central Fire Department.
Konstantine Fekos can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.