Posts Tagged ‘Bike Safety Town’

Mid-July.  That’s a long time in blog years to be off the Interwebs.  Truth is, I haven’t been able to think of too much too write about since then.  However, something recently happened that finally moved it’s way up my nervous system to become important enough to write about.  Bicycling.

A few weeks ago, I helped another LCI (League Cycling Instructor) in a nearby city with an event.  He was putting on a Bike Safety Town at his city’s Ecofest event.  Bicycling is green you know.

This was the first Safety Town type of event I had worked as an LCI.  The city of Arlington did most of the set up for us and provided the bicycles for the kids to ride.  Our job was to teach kids safety skills and then put them out on the course and have them practice those skills.  For the most part, all of that went as expected.  What got my attention was not the kids attention to safety, but many of them had real problems with the most important skill, bike control.

From my experience as a cyclist and my training as an LCI, I know that the first and most important skill in being safe on the road is simply to be able to control my bike well.  That includes riding in a straight line, making proper and controlled turns, being able to look behind and see dangers, and stopping.  While we teach these skills to riders of all ages, much of the skill comes simply from riding bikes often enough and long enough to become proficient in controlling your bike.

What I observed at this Safety Town was what I considered a high quantity of kids that could barely ride a bike.  I’m not talking about four and five-year-olds just starting out, but nine and ten-year-olds.  The most common comment I got from the kids was that they just hadn’t been on a bike very much.

I remember what it was like when I learned to ride a bike the first time.  It was scary.  It took me a year before I could completely ride without my feet touching the ground (we didn’t use training wheels).  I was seven at the time and I was a good bit behind my peers on learning to ride.  However, as soon as I could pick it up well, my riding advanced well.  Primarily because of the time we spent outside on bikes.

Bikes were major in my crowd at least until I was about thirteen or fourteen.  We rode everywhere in our neighborhoods.  While we had to work up from riding on our block to fully around the block and on to other streets, we covered a lot of ground.  Riding gave us access to our school friends and to places like parks and stores near us.  From about sixth grade to junior high, we rode the neighborhoods picking up soft drink bottles to turn in for their deposits.  We made a good bit of money this way that kept us in drinks and snacks all Summer long.

I am fairly certain that the lack of time kids spend on riding these days is primarily due to safety.  Though I know my streets as a kid were no more safer than today, the appearance of safety was different back then.  Blame it on media or whatever, parents are afraid of their kids being outside.  The rest of the problem may be too many video games, but mostly I think it’s the perception of safety that keeps kids off of bikes.

Regardless, my recommendation would still be — Get ’em on their bikes!  Yes, there are dangers outside.  Teach your kids how to ride safely.  Take them to Safety Towns run by LCI’s and let us teach them.  Put them in the proper safety gear (a helmet) and then watch them.  Make your neighborhoods safe.  Get together with neighbors and share watching over the kids while they are out riding.  Plant yourself at city hall with other parents and demand more paths and trails that actually, honest to God connect with places kids want to ride to, like school even.  Get the kids to ride in groups when they go out to keep them safe.

Trust me. Riding a bike is too important for your kids and mine to miss out on during growing up.  I probably didn’t get mine out enough, but I do know that they can ride. Riding is freedom and it’s responsibility.  Two things our kids need and need to practice.  Just because times change and things seem different is not a good enough reason to shy away from the real kinds of things that help kids grow up well. Get ’em on a bike…a lot.

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