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The hot blacktop grilled the grown-ups, but 300 kinetic kids were fitted with free helmets, kept their cool, and focused on lessons everyone needs to know: how to safely ride a bicycle in an urban environment.
The two Bicycle Safety Rodeo events, funded by a Federal grant called, Partnerships to Improve Community Health, was awarded to non-profit Community Action Partnership of Orange County (CAPOC) in conjunction with the Alliance for a Healthy Orange County (AHOC). The event was taught by bike safety professionals from Safe Moves, a non-profit founded and operated by Pat Hines.
Even if you’re not a kid or don’t ride a bike, the bike rodeo lessons introduced skills needed to navigate sometimes hostile city streets. Students were escorted through a cardboard mini-city, complete with traffic signals, stop signs, crosswalks, rail crossings, blind alleys, school buses, a business district, apartment buildings, and distracted drivers.
Safe Moves brought the cardboard cars to life, mimicking motorists who keep the pedal to the metal or yak on the phone while oblivious to the world around and in front of them. The older kids then rode bikes through the city, bringing the lessons to life. After navigating the cardboard world, they practiced riding a straight line while looking over the left shoulder for approaching cars, weaving around cones, and the hardest of all the physical skills, a snail race.
The kids eagerly absorbed every word and every move. No matter the age, everyone can benefit from knowing these top ten life-saving street skills:
#1: Protect your brain! Starting with the kindergartners, Pat Hines diligently adjusted new helmets for each child, two finger-widths above the brow, a proper “V” strapped under the ears, and a final click under the chin. Your helmet is not a cowboy hat—keep it level on top!
#2: Look 4 ways! What? Look four ways, instructed Safety Bill and Safety Josh, and focus on the driver’s eyes (what color are they?), the driver sees you looking (is (s)he on a cell phone?), and then wait for the car to completely stop before you cross the driver’s path. Watch out at alleyways! You have to be prepared for a driver coming toward you, left and right, front and back, even if you’re on the sidewalk. Every driveway is an intersection!
#3: Obey stop signs and railroad gates. Always look for trains when crossing the tracks, even if the crossing arm is up. Stop behind the white line! Look 4 ways!
#4: Who goes when the round light is green but the walk light is red? NOT the pedestrians—wait on the sidewalk for the walking-person light. Traffic lights are for cars and stick figures are for pedestrians. Look 4 ways!
#5: What do you do when a friend calls you from the other side of the road? Are you near a corner with a crosswalk? Don’t cross in the middle of the block. Go to the nearest crosswalk. Your friend can wait! Look 4 ways!
#6: Take out those headphones and earbuds! How close is that car behind me? The sound of the motor and the tires are clues. Is a siren nearby? With both ears available, you can tell if it’s far away and if or how quickly you’ll need to move over. You need to listen in stereo to locate the sound when you don’t see its source.
#7: How do you cross an intersection? Don’t just go straight: look over your left shoulder, check beside you, check behind you, and watch ahead for turning cars. Look (and listen!) when approaching an intersection or changing lanes. The bicyclist and the motorist have to know what the other intends to do. Be aware. What color are those eyes? Is the driver on the phone?! Look 4 ways!
#8: What do you do on a yellow light? Slow down and stop for the red light, whether you’re walking or biking. Don’t speed up to rush across the intersection. Look 4 ways!
#9: Practice your skills: be able to weave around objects and keep your bike under control at all times, even when going slow. The last one to cross the line and not dab a foot to the ground wins the snail race!
#10: Be ready. Be safe. Replace your helmet if it’s damaged or doesn’t fit you anymore. Keep your bike and your scooter with your new helmet. It’s a keeper and so are you!
Homework is fun, especially on a bike! Everyone at the Boys and Girls Clubs of Garden Grove (Clinton Branch) and Anaheim’s Patrick Henry Elementary School get an A+!!!
Brenda Miller is a bike activist working across Orange County on bike safety issues. Special thanks to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for funding the effort by many CAPOC partner non-profits and Anaheim P.D.’s motor officers.