Young riders who put safety first may get an award from the authorities.
By JOHN W. GOODWIN JR.
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
BOARDMAN -- With the summer bicycling season in full swing, township police officers are hoping to show young riders and the more experienced cyclists the benefits of thinking safety first while riding.
Throughout the summer, officers will be participating in a program designed to encourage the use of helmets and other safety measures when cycling. The program, Helmet Smart, is sponsored by the American Automobile Association and the Ohio Motorists Association.
The township has its own two-person team of helmet-clad, cycling officers who primarily patrol the shopping areas and parks on warmer, drier days during the summer and spring months, but all township officers are participating in the program.
Chuck Hillman, bicycle patrol officer, said the program's objective is to teach children at an early age about safety and rules of the road while bicycling.
"We are looking to really raise the awareness of parents and the young bicyclist in the community of the importance of wearing a helmet," Hillman said. "We have had a few accidents here but nothing serious in the last few years. Across the country, however, there are kids that are injured or killed where a helmet would have saved them."
Citations: Young bicyclists who wear safety helmets while cruising along township streets will be stopped by officers and given "safety citations" for their observance of safety rules.
The citations can be redeemed for free food at a local Domino's Pizza and can be used for discounted admission to Six Flags Worlds of Adventure in Aurora.
Children receiving the citations can also enter drawings to win new bicycles and free admission to the amusement park.
The youngster not wearing a helmet may get a lecture on the importance of proper riding equipment and safety from an officer.
Parents and other older bicyclists will also get a dose of information on the benefits of using the proper equipment while riding bicycles. The police department urges all parents to take an active role in their children's safety by encouraging youngsters to always wear a helmet when riding.
Those parents who ride with or watch their children ride without a helmet will also be given educational and safety material such as "Parent-Child Contract/Tips for Parents" and other safety brochures.
Preventive measures: Hillman said it is important that parents understand that the use of helmets can prevent a tragic death or lifelong injury.
"Usually if parents set the example, the kids will follow," he added.
Officers will stress the importance of following the rules of the road while riding a bicycle, such as riding in the same direction as car traffic. Hillman said every cyclist should understand that a when a bike is ridden on the road, it is considered a vehicle and must follow all the same applicable laws as any other vehicle.