Thursday, May 24, 2007

Safety is Important at Any Age

Teaching a child how to ride a bike involves much more than taking off the training wheels.

Bicyclists follow the rules of the road just like cars, so when a child begins biking to school, taking a bike safety course is a good idea.

Residents can check out numerous classes offered by various organizations throughout the community. The Silicon Valley Bike Coalition has prepared more than 8,000 middle school students for daily rides in traffic by offering safety classes at schools in the community.

In addition to giving hands-on instruction on biking in traffic, the coalition’s qualified instructors also show how to properly fit a helmet, how to use hand signals to alert drivers about turns and stops, and how to avoid the most common types of bike crashes.

Instruction doesn’t end at middle school, though. The coalition also offers weekend classes for adults and teens, many of which are free thanks to funding from local governments and agencies. Residents can brush on their street skills, practice the techniques on the road, and learn maintenance skills in case of a bicycle breakdown.

These skills and laws are important not only to make every ride a safe ride, but also because bicyclists can face penalties for not obeying traffic laws and signs. Santa Clara County’s Traffic Safe Communities Network sponsors a “traffic school” for youths who violate laws while riding bikes, skateboards, scooters, or another vehicle other than a car. Rather than paying a fine for not wearing a helmet or not stopping at a stop sign, minors can take a class taught by local law enforcement officers.

Residents who have already taken advantage of these programs can help make sure people have access to them in the future. Many safety classes are funding through the California Kids Plate Program, which gives money to kids’ safety courses all over the state. By buying a personalized license plate for your car, you can help keep kids safe on the road, at school, and at home.