Over 700 students at Warman Elementary School got a hands-on course in safety during a bicycle rodeo at the Warman Fire Hall on Wednesday, May 17.
“We set this up so the kids can be ready for the summer season,” said Warman Fire Chief Russ Austin. “We make sure their helmets fit properly, we explain the importance of wearing a helmet, and talk to them about the rules of the road.
“They learn how to brake properly, to signal when turning or stopping, and how to avoid obstacles.
“The skills they learn here they can apply through the whole summer.”
This is the fifth year for the bike rodeo, held in conjunction with Bicycle Safety Week. Volunteers from Warman Fire Rescue, the City of Warman Parks and Community Services Department, Warman Elementary School, Warman RCMP and parents donated their time to put the kids through their paces.
Ironically, the morning of the bike rodeo got off to an unfortunate start when a 7-year-old boy riding a bike in Warman was taken to hospital after a collision with a vehicle near his home.
“At about 8 o’clock this morning, an hour before the bike rodeo started, we had a call,” confirmed Austin. “A youngster riding his bike came off the sidewalk into the street and hit the side panel of a passing vehicle. It happened very quickly and the driver didn’t have time to stop. The bike ended up going partly under the vehicle and the child sustained minor injuries and was taken to hospital to be checked out.”
Austin said the incident serves as a reminder how quickly accidents involving children on bicycles can happen.
“Drivers always have to be paying attention,” he said. “And we try and impress on the kids that they have to pay attention all the time as well.”
Warman Recreation and Community Events Supervisor Coralie Bueckert said the bike rodeo is not only a great learning experience for the kids, it’s also a fun event they look forward to every year.
“It helps children learn the rules of the road in a positive way,” said Bueckert. “Safety is very important. It’s so easy sometimes to forget to wear a helmet or forget to check for hazards when you’re riding. Good habits, learned early and used often, really help.”
Austin said the bike rodeo reinforces the fire department’s annual summer helmet safety program, which rewards youngsters for wearing helmets while biking or riding their skateboards and scooters.
“Last Friday we went to the elementary school and gave each student who showed up on their bike wearing a helmet a coupon for a slushie,” said Austin. “The impact of ‘peer learning’ was immediate. The next day, there was a dramatic increase in the number of kids wearing helmets.
“Tomorrow we’re heading to the middle school to do the same thing.”