Bicycle rodeo hosted by Bedford Police and Fire volunteers teaches kids safety

The celebration of May as Bicycle Safety Month was marked on May 18 by volunteers from the Bedford Fire Department and the Bedford Police Department who conducted the third annual Bicycle Rodeo on the upper parking lot of Bedford High School. Children – toddlers to teens – participated and learned much about bike safety.

Bike safety and the rules of the road were the focus of the event. Ten stations were set up wherein various sets of skills were demonstrated by police or fire personnel and then mastered by the children. The challenges included a slow race, an exercise that taught kids balance and control. A rock dodge replicated an obstacle course in which kids maneuvered through a row of colorful sponges that were make-believe rocks.

Turning skills were honed on a figure eight course. A game called, “Who’s there?” helped kids learn to look carefully for traffic before as an intersection is entered. Authentic equipment, including a traffic signal was a part of the exercises. Young riders were taught how to halt, poise one foot on a pedal so as to ready for takeoff, then watch until the green signal was lit. They proceeded only after checking that no cross traffic or pedestrians were around.

Other games, designed to make learning fun, related to rules of the road. The Demon Driveway game, for instance, taught kids that when they leave a driveway, the continuing traffic has the right of way. The Crazy Crossroads game taught them to look left, look right and look left again, before riding across an intersection.

Sgt. Jessica Humphrey, of the Bedford police, and Fire Inspector Scott Hunter worked together, along with many volunteers from both departments, to make the event an educational one that was also fun for the learners.

Hunter said the object of the bicycle rodeo was to teach kids about bike safety, the rules of the road and the importance of wearing a helmet.

“The learning is designed to be fun,” Hunter said. “The most basic message is to wear your helmet.”

Humphrey concurred. She said the event also offered kids the chance to have their bikes inspected. The long winter, she said, took a toll on many bikes that after the period of disuse were found to be in need of wheel bearings, brakes or better tires.

“A lot of the parents appreciated the inspections we did,” Humphrey said. “Now, the kids are set for the season.”

A trio of Bedford Police bike patrol officers took part in the event. Aboard their police bikes, Officer Scott Norris, Officer Patrick Gilligan and Officer Michael Cherwin were among those operating the drills. Tables alongside the parking lot held free food, free fruit and chilled bottles of water dispensed by members of Bedford CERT – Community Emergency Response Team. Elsewhere, agents representing New York Life Insurance Company’s Manchester office supported the event by giving information to parents about college funding.

Bike-Walk Alliance of New Hampshire’s representative, Paula Bedard, of Goffstown, was on hand to help fit kids with new helmets and to underscore as she spoke with them the importance of wearing a properly fitted helmet.

Sgt. Humphrey said that, this year, a purchase of 25 new bike helmets was made. The protective headgear went to kids who had none or whose helmets were old, cracked, too loose, too tight or otherwise not up to par. Thanked abundantly was the Bedford Men’s Club, donors of $700, and the police and firefighters’ unions, organizations that provided free T-shirts and food for the event. Also new this year was the opportunity for kids to decorate their bikes and ride in the Pre-memorial Day Parade, held nearby in the afternoon. Red, white and blue was a favored color scheme.

The event was one filled with activity. Rachel Krause, 6, and Grace Krause, 5, practiced precision steering, riding alongside Officer Cherwin during the Slow Race. Sal Tomaselli, 2, of Merrimack, learned how to stop his trike at a traffic signal. Ava Underwood, 8, and her sister, Emme, 5, performed all the drills, exercises Ava said will help her when riding near her home.

Meanwhile, Kerri and Uri Ahn watched their boys, Bryce, 6, and Brendan, 4, progress through the Figure Eight chalked on the parking lot. A couple tentative passes quickly led to taking the eights with confidence. Uri said the kids learned some valuable traffic skills.

“They learned good skills that are important for road safety,” Uri said. “They learned some good traffic skills.”

Lt. Aaron Lambert, who triggered the traffic signal from red to yellow to green for scores of kids that day. All of the kids participating were required to wear helmets. None complained. Lambert said many factors add up to staying safe when riding a bike.

“More or less, in my day, you just went out without a helmet and maybe fell down,” Lambert said. “A lot of bike safety for us is to get the word out that helmets are an important part of the puzzle.”

Madison Vigue, 7, approached, wearing a new helmet that was good looking and well fitting. She and her brother, Dylan, 9, had their bikes inspected. Their mom, Christie, said it was a good thing to have the inspection, for the bikes had been sitting idle all winter.

“We had four low tires,” Christy said. “It’s great to have this event in the spring, when the kids will be out riding. It makes you feel good about safety. The fire department and the police – they do a fabulous job.”

For more information about the third annual Bicycle Rodeo, contact Sgt. Jessica Humphrey at 472-5113.