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Youths pedal in bike rodeo

December 30, 2004|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

shappell@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - The 25,000-square-foot store on the edge of the Longmeadow Shopping Center once was where salespeople showed off furniture to consumers.

On Wednesday, the only showing off was by youths demonstrating their prowess with their bicycles and their knowledge of safety.

For the second year, the Indoor Bicycle Rodeo in the former Routzahn's furniture showroom allowed area youngsters to ride around indoors and get some safety tips and some cool new equipment, such as helmets.

Although last year's event drew only about three dozen children, 79 took part in the on-site obstacle course this year through the first two hours of the three-hour event, said Joan Fortney, manager of trauma/emergency medical services at Washington County Hospital.

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"It's more than doubled. There's been lines all day," Fortney said. "This gives us a great chance to remind them to wear their helmets and keep their bikes in good condition."

The event was organized for the second year by the SAFEKids Coalition, a group that emphasizes injury prevention. Among the organizations involved were the hospital, Washington County Health Department, Community Rescue Service and State Farm Insurance Co., Fortney said.

State Farm Public Affairs spokeswoman Jo Ahalt said the event is timed well because many children who receive new bikes for the holidays can test them out in a safe environment.

Bill and Sandi Merica, of Hagerstown, said they brought their boys to hear safety messages from officials.

"They hear it from us, but when they hear it from someone else, it seems like they listen more," Sandi Merica said.

Her son, 6-year-old Derek Merica, was more interested in talking about his favorite stops on the bicycle obstacle course, such as the straight-line and stopping stations.

"It was really fun to me - and easy," Derek said.

Trenda Bittinger's daughters - Maria, 6, and Jessica, 4 - said they enjoyed the stations that made them twist and weave throughout cones and courses and the free lights they got to put onto their bicycles wheels.

"I didn't even realize they were going to do this much with the safety," said a pleasantly surprised Bittinger.

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