By Paul Downer
By Paul Downer
When you’re a kid, your bicycle is every bit as important to you as a car will be later in life.
You ride it for business (getting to a friend’s house), for fun (hitting a homemade jump) and for … well, fun. You are, after all, just a kid.
What’s also true is that most bike riders, young and old, aren’t familiar with the rules of the road and proper safety procedures.
A free, fun event at the Church of Peace next Saturday, July 14 aims to address that deficiency. The Bike Rodeo, a cooperative effort between the church, a number of area businesses and the Carver County Sheriff’s Office, includes a safety session by Sheriff’s Deputy Ben Karnes and an obstacle course that allows participants to put what they have learned about safety into practice.
The idea for the event came from Donna Fuglsang, president of the Church of Peace, who has observed a variety of risky behaviors (see column on Page 4) and near-misses involving bicycles over the years.
"I think everyone sees this as a real important safety issue for our children, and of course we want to keep our children safe," she said. "My goodness, the people that I have had offer to help, it’s just really amazing. Every place I go, I have people stop me in the grocery store and say, ‘I’ve had this or that happen with a bicycle. I’m so glad you’re doing that.’"
The most remarkable aspect of organizing the event, however, has been the overwhelming contributions of local business and organizations. Fuglsang wanted to provide the first 100 children attending with a free bike helmet, and she found plenty of help from the community.
"Bike helmets are rather expensive to get. I knew our church would not be able to afford all by itself to buy bike helmets. So I sent a letter to the chamber asking if any of the businesses or chamber members would be willing to help pay for the bike helmets," Fuglsang said. "I got a response I was not expecting! I thought I’d maybe get $20 from everybody. But some gave $50 and some gave more. And the VFW said they would finish out the dollar amount and donated $300 to us to finish paying for the bike helmets."
In all, the 100 helmets had a price tag of $525, and the entire total was paid for with donations.
"We want them all to be safe. We really feel that giving them a bike helmet helps add to that," said Fuglsang.
But monetary donations weren’t the only contributions. Sport Cars across the street from the church offered part of their parking lot for any parents north of Highway 212 who may prefer to drive the kids to the event. Dairy Queen and McDonalds offered coupons and McDonalds is providing drinks, and various other businesses offered to send employees to help set up the obstacle course with cones donated by the city and watch over the group.
"It’s not just the monetary or snack donations, it’s the physical donation of adults being here to help with these children," said Fuglsang. "A lot of businesses have offered to come over and help. Everybody has been very good in taking part in this, the whole community. I think it’s because they see that there’s such a need."
The event is geared toward children ages 8-10, but Fuglsang said that no children who are interested will be turned away. Unless there is lightning, the Bike Rodeo will be held rain or shine from 10 a.m. to noon. It can be moved into the church if the weather is particularly bad.
District 108 has put on bike safety events in the past through Community Ed, but Fuglsang said it has been at least two years since the last event. Typically, the events have drawn 100-125 students.
"There is no cost. Everything is free," she said. "I just hope that people come."