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City gives bike helmets to youth, teaches safety

on November 19, 2009

Richmond police officers passed out dozens of free bicycle helmets to children on a recent afternoon at Nevin Community Center. They also educated children on safety procedures of riding a bike.

The setting was the third annual Bike Rodeo, sponsored by the Richmond Police Department’s Crime Prevention and Community Safety Management program.

Michelle Milam, the coordinator of Bike Rodeo, said the event was sponsored by Richmond’s Safe City Grant, and that they were ready to hand out 100 helmets of three different sizes and colors. They also gave children posters on bicycle safety precautions.

“The reason we held this event is that some people don’t understand the rules of riding a bicycle on the road. And they could get serious head injuries in an accident without wearing a helmet,” Milam said.

Stone Braker, one of the two police officers participating in the event says he regularly sees children riding bicycles without a helmet during his patrol in the Iron Triangle. “Nobody here rides bicycle with helmets, including adults. They don’t know the rules. It’s important to raise the awareness,” he said.

More than 60 children from ages 4 to 14 got free bicycle helmets that day. Children were fitted for their helmet so that it would not be too loose or too snug while riding.

Many children who attended the event didn’t have a bike helmet at home, though they might have ridden a bicycle for years.

Cynthia Sanchez, a 7-year-old who was waiting in line for her first bike helmet, said she learned how to ride a bike three years ago. Her parents told her it was necessary to wear a helmet while she’s riding. “But my mom doesn’t have money to buy one,” she said.

“I need a helmet,” said Teddy Bing, 9, who has been riding a bike since the age of two. He rode his black-and-red mountain bike to the Nevin Center to get the helmet. “I used to have one but I can’t find it now,” he said.

The boy said he lives across the street. Every day after he’s back from school, he said, he would jump on his bicycle—a Christmas gift he got last year—and go out riding in the neighborhood with other kids. He said he probably spends two or more hours riding until his parents come home from work and call him inside.

California bicycle helmet law requires that bicyclists should wear a helmet while riding. Police officer Braker said he’d always ask children who were not wearing a helmet while riding to go back home and put on a helmet.

According to the California Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System, a database of traffic collisions, 19% of the 10,714 bicyclists killed and injured in 2007 were children aged 5-14.

Officers also brought several bikes and placed circular cones on the basketball yard at Nevin Center for children to navigate while wearing their new helmets. A bicycle shop owner in Richmond also helped children fix and inspect their bicycles.

This is the first time that Bike Rodeo was held at the Center. Anthony Allen, the vice president of Iron Triangle Neighborhood Council, said he wanted more people to come to the recently renovated Nevin Center and enjoy the community.

“We sent out flyers, spread words of mouth, and posted this event on the city’s website,” he said. “It’s good to have kids here.”

According to Michelle Milam, by the end of the afternoon, they had passed out about 70 helmets to children as well as several adults from the neighborhood.

“This is a good thing for the community,” she said. “A lot of kids are riding on the streets and it’s necessary to do so for their safety.”

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