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Bike Rodeo stresses safety, being alert on island roads

By Staff | May 18, 2011

Volunteers put participants at the Bike Rodeo through a series of tests, including a obstacle course.

Last Thursday afternoon, more than 80 youngsters and their parents attended the annual Bike Rodeo & Safety Fair, staged at The Sanibel School’s outdoor pavilion, where riders of all ages were taught the most important lessons of riding safely.

“It’s important for all riders, not just the youngsters, to know how to properly use the shared use paths on the islands,” said Mary Miller, president of the Sanibel Bicycle Club, at last week’s Bike Rodeo & Safety Fair. “Everybody should know that you have to be more aware of bikes using the roads here on the islands.”

According to Miller, one of the most critical safety measures taught during the event included the importance of wearing protective head gear. She and her fellow Bike Club members demonstrated the point using an egg — wrapped in a thick foam pocket — dropped from shoulder height. Seeing the fragile egg survive a fall from four feet onto concrete was a real eye-opener for the young participants.

“Knowing that the egg could be their head makes a big impact,” said Miller. “But we also want to teach them about riding single file, how to properly turn at a corner, how to use hand signals and really make sure that they understand how important safety is.”

Ed Ridlehoover, a member of the Sanibel-Captiva Kiwanis Club, spent his time at the event teaching young riders how to use hand signals while riding on the road.

During last week's Bike Rodeo & Safety Fair, Hannah Carroll and Talia Iannelli conduct an experiment that emphasizes the importance of wearing bicycle helmets.

“Everybody should know the basics,” said Ridlehoover. “Living here on the island, where bicycling is so much a part of everyone’s lives, it’s very important to know even the small details.”

Longtime island businessman Billy Kirkland, who again helped organize the Bike Rodeo & Safety Fair, noted that the event drew a number of repeat participants.

“Even the younger riders are remembering the rules of the road and how to bike safely,” said Kirkland. “The more we emphasize the points, the more they retain it.”

One parent of a participant, Kim Williams, said that she read about the event in the Island Reporter. She also wanted her son, Case, to attend the rodeo so he could have his bicycle inspected by the mechanics on site.

“Of course, everybody is still talking about the accident that happened on the causeway, and (Case) needs to know that things like that can happen,” said Williams. “It never hurts to get a little more knowledge. Sometimes, an 8-year-old needs to hear things a few times to get it.”

Chris Quagliata, a mechanic with Billy's Bike Shop, makes an adjustment during the fair.

On May 7, a bicyclist was struck and killed by a truck while crossing the Sanibel Causeway.

Chris Quagliata, a staff member from Billy’s Bike Shop, spent the afternoon inspecting bicycles for properly functioning equipment. He explained that most of the bikes he looked at, and fixed free of charge, needed only minor adjustments.

“I’ve tightened a few chains and looked at some brake issues — they usually only require a little adjustment,” said Quagliata. “Tire pressure is important, too. Temperature does play a factor, but the biggest thing is if the bike isn’t being ridden that often.”

Following completion of the obstacle course, participants were issued a Certificate of Completion from Sanibel Police Department Senior Officer Ken Sutton.

“Start teaching your kids when they’re young,” Sutton noted, “and they’ll remember it forever.”

Carson Towle, second from left, stands with members of the Sanibel Bicycle Club, including Mary Miller, Mary Ellen Miller and Judie Sharbaugh.

Kirkland, who said that he has been contacted by an elementary school on Pine Island about staging a Bike Rodeo there, also wished to thank the organizations who sponsored and staffed the event. They included the Sanibel-Captiva Kiwanis Club, Sanibel Bicycle Club, Dairy Queen, Bailey’s General Store, Island Graphics, Philmore’s, Sanibel Recreation Department and the staff of Billy’s Bike Shop and Billy’s Rentals.

Ed Ridlehoover teaches Elsa Peterson how to use hand signals while riding her bike.