ARLINGTON – When it comes to Arlington police efforts to promote child safety behind the handlebars, this isn’t their first bike rodeo.
But it has been over 15 years since they hosted a rodeo for young cyclists. Officers thought it was about time to bring it back to give kids a refresher on the rules of the road, just in time for summer.
The bike rodeo featured an obstacle course in the Legion Park parking lot consisting of traffic cones – some with arches attached with balloons and hula skirting to ride under, chalk-drawn pedestrian crossings and a drive-through bike spray wash.
“The department set up the course to teach the kids about what they’re supposed to be watching for, obstacles and stuff, and we wanted to make it lots of fun,” city spokeswoman Kristin Banfield said.
Families also stopped by for free child bike helmets and fitting thanks to community and business donations, to register their bikes with police and buy tickets for a chance to win one of eight shiny new bicycles, with proceeds going to the Arlington Community Resource Center.
When officer Shelly Hamel heard it had been years since the department had done a bike rodeo, she agreed to jump-start it.
“It’s a great community event, we had an organization in need of funds, and we have a bike path running right through the town,” Hamel said. “It can’t get any more perfect than that.”
Hamel coordinated several money-raising events for law enforcement and other venues while working in past police departments. The bike rodeo raised $700 for the ACRC, a local organization that uses funds to help with short-term needs for the homeless, addicted and others who have fallen on hard times.
ACRC and police also had a table at the event covered with toys and books the organization keeps on hand to help children who are sometimes caught up in those family crises.
During the five-hour rodeo, volunteers handed out 250 helmets. S & S Roofing donated $2,500 toward helmets and other needs, coupled with donations from community members.
The bike rodeo was a big day for 4-year-old Delilah Ramos of Arlington. After picking out a colorful princess helmet, she got to ride her bike outdoors for the first time.
“She’s been riding, but haven’t had her riding the bike outside, only inside the house, said her father, Noe, joined by wife Maggie and 1-year-old son, Benjamin. “This is a big step for Delilah. She’s pretty excited, learning a few lessons on the road.”
She smiled as she rode the course repeatedly, training wheels keeping her balanced. Her smile grew bigger when Police Chief Jonathan Ventura hopped on a police bike and gave her an escort through the course, occasionally turning on the lights and siren for full effect.
The department also raffled eight bikes selling tickets for $5, announcing the winners Monday. Officers planned to deliver the winning bikes in person to homes.
Banfield said police also registered several bikes. Police affix a sticker and keep a serial number on file to help locate a bike reported missing, misplaced or stolen. “We can use that information for kids to get their bike back if we find it or it’s turned in.”
Police brought out one of their ATVs for kids to climb on, and other officers, firefighters and police volunteers also helped.
Hamel said she’s already looking for ways to build up the next bike rodeo. Ideas included a separate course for toddlers, food booths and possibly a BMX pump track for older kids.
“It was a good first year,” she said.
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Kids and Bicycles Safety Tips
The bike rodeo early in the event got off to an auspicious start when a young child crashed their bicycle after racing through the obstacle course much too fast. With first responders on site, the harm was negligible, but it pointed up the importance of adhering to some basic bicycling safety tips.
• Wear a properly fitted bicycle helmet
• Adjust your bicycle to fit. Stand over your bicycle. There should be 1-2 inches between you and the top bar for younger kids.
• Actively supervise younger children when they are riding.
• See and be seen. Wear white, neon, fluorescent or bright reflective colors when riding day or night.
• Dress young kids appropriately. Long or loose clothing can get caught in bike chains or wheel spokes.
• Control your bicycle. Always ride with at least one hand on the handlebars.
• Watch for and avoid road hazards that can cause a crash; for example, potholes, broken glass, gravel and puddles.
• Obey all traffic laws, signs, signals and lane markings.
• Be predictable. Ride in a straight line, not in and out of cars. Signal your moves to others.
• Watch for parked cars.