Spring means more children are enjoying the great outdoors, so it’s a good time to brush up on bike safety and the rules of the road. Jack Abrams STEM Magnet School third and fourth graders and the youngsters in the bridge program there recently participated in a review of essential information.
Spearheaded by physical education teachers John Walsh and Beth Vogelsang, the program focused on keeping young people safe when they are riding their bikes and having fun in the proximity of vehicular traffic.
Mr. Walsh reviewed his ideas for the program with Suffolk Police school resource officer Andrew Fiorillo, who quickly agreed to participate and get his department colleague Claudia Delgado involved, too. The duo spent time working with students in the school gym.
“We wanted to do present something different; something with practical implications for students,” Mr. Walsh said. “This is information and techniques that can be used today to reduce the chance of accidents and to keep everyone safe.”
STEM School security guard Glenn DeVeau, who moonlights as a professional DJ contributed his skills to the cause, bringing lighting equipment into the gymnasium to simulate green, yellow and red traffic signals. Art teacher Karen Morea created colorful murals that were hung on the gym walls and mirrored the look of a small village, enhancing the atmosphere of the area.
Crossing guard Tracy Peppard was on hand to help direct traffic in the “scooter town” created by Mr. Walsh and Ms. Vogelsang. Mr. DeVeau operated a traffic light while the two police officers cited students for infractions and taught them the rules of the road.
Messrs. Enrico DeLuca and Craig Corey of Bikes for Kids in America donated 17 brand new sharp looking bicycles, helmets and locks that were raffled off to students. “The bikes, helmets and locks went over really well with the students, which isn’t surprising,” Mr. Walsh said.
Principal Donna Moro stopped in to see how the students were doing and encouraged them to take safety seriously. “We stressed the importance of taking this training seriously because we want to avoid a catastrophe from happening,” Mr. Walsh said.
The National Highway Traffic & Safety Administration’s safe riding tips include: Wear a properly fitted bicycle helmet; adjust your bicycle to fit your size; check your equipment; see and be seen; control your bicycle; watch for and avoid road hazards; avoid riding at night.
“Before using your bicycle, make sure it is ready to ride,” the NHTSA advises. “You should always inspect your bike to make sure all parts are secure and working properly. Many bicycle-related crashes resulting in injury or death are associated with the bicyclist’s behavior, including such things as not wearing a bicycle helmet, riding into a street without stopping, turning left or swerving into traffic that is coming from behind, running a stop sign and riding the wrong way in traffic. To maximize your safety, always wear a helmet and follow the rules of the road.”
In advance of the workshops, Mr. Walsh and Ms. Vogelsang worked late in the gym, organizing the initiative, putting markings on the floor and getting all the equipment ready for use. Students utilized Roller Racers and scooter boards as they navigated around “roadways” while observing all traffic laws, including yielding the right of way, coming to a complete stop, etc.
Officer Fiorillo demonstrated some techniques on his bicycle and strived to keep the presentations lively and interesting. Students grasped the overall message quickly and saw the wisdom behind the key points.
Traffic violations were cited by Officers Fiorillo and Delgado as the students made their way around the course mapped out by Mr. Walsh and Ms. Vogelsang. It didn’t take very long for the youngsters to understand what they can and can’t and should do as bicyclists and even pedestrians. If they were cited for a violation, they had to do a set of exercises to get back on the road.
Officers Fiorillo and Delgado have displayed exceptional commitment to keeping Huntington school children safe from the sorts of mishaps and poor decisions that could have a devastating impact on their lives. That sense of professionalism and heartfelt interest was behind their participation in the bike safety and rules of the road program.
“We really appreciate the help that everyone gave us,” Mr. Walsh said. “The new equipment was a very generous donation and the time our police officers and crossing guard spent with our students was wonderful. The kids loved it and we feel they got a lot out of it.”
Visit www.nhtsa.dot.gov for more information on bicycle safety.