PIQUA — Two local cyclists have recently reached over 1,000 kids with their message of bike safety, visiting two schools in Piqua in preparation for the cycling season.
This week, Certified League Cycling Instructors Jim Hemmert and Paul Sullenberger talked with students at Washington Primary School about how to have fun and be safe while riding bikes, encouraging the children to protect themselves with the correct bicycle gear as well as to obey traffic laws.
Starting off, they advised the kids to ride the correct bike size. A bike that was too big or two small might make them prone to getting in an accident or not being able to control the bike as well.
To encourage the kids to wear helmets, Hemmert and Sullenberger told the kids stories about accidents that bicyclists were involved in and how the helmets they were wearing protected them.
“The hard shell is to protect you that if you do you go over the handlebars, it (the helmet) will bounce down the street,” Hemmert said. “The inside is Styrofoam to keep your head from breaking.”
Hemmert then held up a broken helmet.
“This bike rider was wearing this bike helmet. He had a wreck. This helmet did everything it was supposed to do,” Hemmert said. Hemmert tapped his knuckles on top of the helmet, saying, “This part kept him from breaking his neck. Inside this helmet, it broke in a lot of big places and that would have been a lot of big places in his head, and it did what it was supposed to do. It broke.”
Sullenberger then told a personal story of when he and his wife were in a bicycle wreck.
“My wife and I were on the two-seat bike, and I think we hit mud,” Sullenberger said. “I can’t really remember because I got knocked out when we hit the ground. I had this helmet on. It’s got a few scrapes on the side. It’s got two big brakes on the inside. It took me a few minutes to wake up and get back on my feet. We walked a couple miles to where someone could come pick us up. I don’t remember any of that because I got knocked out, but without this helmet, I wouldn’t be standing here in front of you today.”
In general, Hemmert said that there are two types of bicyclists — those who have wrecked and those who have not wrecked yet. As they said that all bicyclists will one day wreck, they need to be wearing the proper safety gear like helmets to be prepared.
“All of us at one time or another are going to wreck,” Hemmert said. “Most of the time when you wreck, you’re going to go over the handlebars.”
They also noted that if a bicyclist does wreck and does break his or her helmet, that helmet needs to be replaced as it will not be effective after it is broken.
“It’s not safe for me to wear this helmet anymore,” Sullenberger said.
Helmets also need to fit and be worn properly. They should not be loose or sitting toward the front or back of one’s head. Helmets should fit snug and sit flat on top of one’s head.
They also advised the kids to wear bright colors when riding their bicycles, particularly having neon and/or reflective fabric when riding in the evenings or at night.
“You want to be seen,” Hemmert said.
They also taught the students that, if they ride at night, they need to have lights on the front and back of their bicycles. On the back of their bicycles, they should have red lights that can be seen for 1,500 feet. On the front of their bicycles, they should have white lights that can be seen for 500 feet.
“You’re allowed to ride on the street,” Hemmert said. They added later that the kids were young enough to get away with riding on the sidewalks, but bicyclists should ride in the street in single-file line. “You can’t go weaving in and out,” Hemmert said.
One student asked if they rode in the street should they stop and pull over to the side of the road when a car was coming.
“You don’t have to stop,” Sullenberger said. Sullenberger noted that, if a bicyclist stopped, pulled over, and still got struck by a passing vehicle, the force of the impact would be greater than if the bicyclist had been struck while still moving.
“Be predictable. Ride in a straight line,” Sullenberger said, explaining that would help a motorist see and pass a bicyclist safely.
Sullenberger also noted that, if the kids did ride on the sidewalk, they needed to watch for motorists backing out of their driveways who may not see them.
“You got to be watching for them,” Sullenberger said.
Hemmert and Sullenberger held about eight sessions on bike safety during the day at Washington Primary School on Tuesday. They ended each session with a tricycle race between three students chosen at random by getting their names picked out of a bag. The winner of each tricycle race won a free helmet.
Reach Sam Wildow at email@example.com or (937) 451-3336