Sitka Bike Rodeo, National Bike to School Day put spotlight on kids’ cycling and safety

A Sitka student clips the strap on his bike helmet after riding his bike to school during the International Walk (and Bike) to School event in October 2008. Now there is a new and separate National Bike to School Day, this year on Wednesday, May 8. (Daily Sitka Sentinel photo by James Poulson).

As the temperatures warm up, two events this week will highlight kids’ cycling and safety in Sitka — the Sitka Bike Rodeo on Saturday, May 4, and the second annual National Bike to School Day on Wednesday, May 8. These two events will help kick off National Bike Month (May) in Sitka.

The Sitka Bike Rodeo is an annual event sponsored by the Sitka Rotary Club and U.S. Coast Guard-Air Station Sitka. This year’s bike rodeo takes place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Coast Guard hangar. The target audience for this event is children age 14 and younger (though it may be below the level for experienced pre-teen cyclists). Kids need to bring their bike, a helmet and a parent to this event, which will happen rain or shine. Here’s what to expect — bike safety checks, bike skill events (Demon Driveway, Crazy Crossroads, Rock dodge, How slow can you go, Circle and balance, and more), helmet fitting, bike registration, discount helmets, hot dogs, healthy snacks, and refreshments. The SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) also is helping with the event. For more info about the Sitka Bike Rodeo, call Jeff Budd at 747-4821.

On Wednesday, May 8, schools all over the country will encourage students to hope on their bikes for National Bike to School Day. Some schools will offer special events and prizes during the day. So far no Sitka schools have signed up to host events, even though many other Alaska communities are hosting bike rides to school. But it’s not too late to organize one. To encourage safety, parents are encouraged to ride their own bikes with their kids as they head to school.

Since it’s spring, here are a few bike safety rules for the kids:

  • Wear a properly fitting bike helmet (click here to learn how to fit a helmet). Not only is it a good way to protect yourself from head injuries, Sitka has a youth helmet ordinance that requires all children age 18 or younger to wear helmets when they ride bikes, trikes, skateboards, scooters and similar vehicles.
  • Right on the right side of the road, with traffic not against it. Older kids (age 11 and older) and adults should avoid riding their bikes on the sidewalks, especially downtown where there are lots of walkers (a bike can seriously injure elders who doesn’t hear the bike rider coming up behind them).
  • Wear bright clothes and make sure you have a working solid white headlight and flashing red taillight on your bike, especially if you ride when it’s dark. Wear a reflective vest or arm bands/leg bands, and put reflective tape on your clothes and/or bike frame so it’s easier for drivers to see you on the bike.
  • Know the rules of the road, and follow them. Stop at all stop signs and stop lights. Ride in a safe, predictable manner so cars know where you’re going. Use hand signals for all turns. Yield to traffic when appropriate.
  • Check your bike before riding it, especially the ABCs — Air (tires have the right amount of air), Brakes (the brakes work and will stop your tire so it skids on the pavement) and Chain (make sure the chain is the right tension and there are no damaged links, oil if necessary).
  • For more bike safety rules for kids, click here.
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