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Bike safety event held

December 31, 2003|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

shappell@herald-mail.com

Dozens of young bicycle riders helped transform an empty 25,000-square-foot building into an obstacle course for three hours Tuesday.

The Indoor Bicycle Rodeo drew approximately 40 youngsters to the Long Meadow Shopping Center for riding and safety tips, said Joan Fortney, manager of trauma/emergency medical services at Washington County Hospital.

The riders, hospital staff and local authorities took over the former Routzahn's furniture showroom at Long Meadow Shopping Center.

The event included demonstrations and safety tips from officers of the Hagerstown Police Department, bicycle and helmet give-aways and equipment inspections. Fortney said riders as old as 14 and as young as 2 took to the obstacle courses and received "licenses to ride" Tuesday.

"We had a bunch of 2-year-olds out with their tricycles from Christmas, trying them out," Fortney said.

The event was organized by the SAFEKids Coalition, a group that emphasizes injury prevention, after some bike enthusiasts employed at Washington County Hospital suggested an indoor activity for the winter, Fortney said.

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The Indoor Bicycle Rodeo did better than many of the summer outdoor events, Fortney said.

"We had probably double the attendance (of outdoor, summer bike safety events)," she said. "We think it did very well, and we're hoping to continue the indoor version next year as well."

Alexander and Connor Brown, of Smithsburg, were among the last two riders to leave. Both said they had fun and learned a lot about bicycle safety.

"It was cool," said Alexander. "We got practice braking, maneuvering and avoiding obstacles."

Conner said they would be able to each earn a Cub Scout badge for attending the event.

The boys attended with their grandfather, Donald Brown, who said he wanted to bring the boys because their Scout troop has been involved in safety programs similar to Tuesday's bike rodeo.

Not all of the children were there simply to ride. Some, like 10-year-old Caleb Mittel, were there to help out.

Caleb, son of Hub City Sports owner Mike Mittel, helped inspect bicycles by checking air pressure in the tires, axle tightness and handlebar position. Caleb said the busiest period was during the first hour to 90 minutes of the event.

"From 1:30 to 2:30 (p.m.), there were a bunch coming in," he said. "It was pretty good."

Michael Moats, a SAFEKids board member and the city police's D.A.R.E. Crime Prevention Officer, said he was happy to see many of the children trying out bicycles they received for Christmas in a safe and controlled environment.

Moats said the event provided officers with a good opportunity to connect with children.

"Any time you can make contact with a child outside of an emergency call, to show you're human, it's a positive thing," Moats said.

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