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IRVINE : Bike Rodeo Promotes Safe Riding

It makes Carol Martin and other parents at Santiago Hills Elementary School worry to see children ride their tiny bikes across Irvine Boulevard as trucks and cars speed by at 50 m.p.h.

So they decided to do something about it.

On Monday, the Santiago Hills PTA held a bike rodeo designed to instill safe-biking habits in children while showing them a good time.

“We hope to prevent an accident,” said Martin, organizer of the event. “We are trying to teach safety before we have a tragedy.”

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School officials, volunteers and Irvine police officers provided children with lessons on the importance of bike helmets, how to use hand signals when making turns and how to cross busy intersections safely.

The children learned all this from the seats of their bikes through a series of activities that 8-year-old David Cox described as “cool.”

One event had children ride through an obstacle course that tests their maneuvering skills and ability to read traffic signs. The “snail race” required them to ride their bikes as slowly as possible without falling over; an activity designed to improve the students’ balancing abilities.

The city of Irvine even brought along a working traffic signal to show the children how to safely operate the buttons that activate the pedestrian walk signs.

In some cases, the safety pitches were like preaching to the converted.

School district rules require that all students wear helmets when riding bikes to school.

“I always wear one. My parents wouldn’t let me out of the house without one,” said Erich Lee, 8. “If I didn’t wear it . . . I’d be in big-time trouble.”

This didn’t prevent one rodeo official from tossing an egg onto the concrete ground to show what could happen to the skull of a cyclist who is not wearing a helmet. The demonstration was greeted with laughs from the audience.

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“That was funny,” Lee said. “That’s what happens to your brains. There’s blood everywhere.”

But even veteran bike riders admitted that the rodeo opened their eyes to new safety tips.

“It’s fun,” said Wesley Steelman, 8. “You get to pedal your bike.”


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