Another school year is ending and summer is just around the corner.
For Summit County students like Leo Gilbert, a fourth grader at Breckenridge Elementary School, that means it’s time to get the bike out of the garage and hit the trails.
Leo, who is 10 years old and a member of the Team Summit bike team, said he is excited to “ride with my friends and do jumps” over the summer break.
To help prepare Leo and his classmates for a season of fun, the Red, White and Blue Fire Protection District hosted a bike rodeo at the elementary school on Tuesday, May 30, focused on bike safety.
“It’s the end of the school year,” Deputy Fire Chief Jackie Pike said of the Bike Rodeo. “Definitely a lot of these kids are going to be out on bikes this summer.”
Since bicycling is so popular in Summit County, Breckenridge has seen some tragic accidents involving children in previous years, Pike said, noting fatal crashes involving minors in 2018 and 2019.
Hosted annually by Red, White & Blue for students at Breckenridge Elementary and Upper Blue Elementary schools, the Bike Rodeo helps teach students bike safety while honing their skills before summer .
The event consists of six stations, each putting students through an obstacle course focused on specific skills, such as avoiding rocks or maneuvering with one hand, or involving fun games aimed at driving home safety tips. . At one station, students even had professionals from Carvers Ski & Bike and Mountain Wave tune up their bikes in preparation for summer.
“It’s a matter of life and death, really, for the kids,” Pike said. “They need to know how to maneuver and be comfortable on their bike. They need to know the rules of the road.”
On Tuesday, dozens of bikes were scattered on the pavement around third- and fourth-graders as they listened to a presentation by Lizzy De Juia, a nurse and injury prevention specialist at Centura Health.
“This is Melvin,” De Juia said, holding up a small watermelon with a face drawn on it. “He doesn’t want to wear a helmet.”
He was also holding another smiling watermelon. This one, called Melony, was wearing a helmet.
De Juia then had the students drop the watermelons. When Melvin hit the ground, he split open, revealing the juicy watermelon. But, when Melony hit the ground, she remained intact, still showing her watermelon smile.
After the demonstration, the students, all wearing their own helmets, ran for their bikes.
Fourth grader Alice Grabham said she was excited to practice her bicycling skills so she could get better at jumping and slalom.
“I’ve ridden a bike my whole life and this bike for a year and a half,” Alice said, showing off her wheels.
Other students have just moved to Summit County and experienced, for the first time, the fantastic trails the area has to offer.
Third grader Addison Ray rode his bike down the driveway and cul-de-sac in Georgia before moving to Colorado this winter. Now, Addison and his dad have been taking bigger and bigger bike rides on the local trails. Addison said she and her father recently biked the Keystone Aqueduct Trail.
“Always wear your helmet,” Addison said. If he doesn’t, she added, “he could get very hurt.”
At one of the six stations, De Juia taught students how to properly put on a helmet. Helmets can reduce the risk of serious injury on a bike by more than 80%, according to Centura Health.
Helmets shouldn’t feel too loose or too tight, De Juia said, so choosing the right size is important. He told the students to shake their heads from side to side to make sure they weren’t too slack.
Helmets also shouldn’t be too far back on the forehead or too far forward, De Juia said, because that can make them less effective or obscure vision. The chin strap should also not be too tight or too loose, he said. There should be enough room for about two fingers to fit under the strap.
De Juia also taught students to use hand signals on the road to indicate when they are turning or stopping, while red, white and blue firefighters at another station focused on obeying the rules of the road, such as stopping at traffic lights and stop signs.
Cyclists use their left arm to indicate whether they are turning or stopping, De Juia said. A left arm out means someone is turning left. If they raise their left arm and point up, they’re turning right, he said. A raised left arm pointing downward indicates that a motorcyclist is stopping.
As the children rode through the obstacle courses, the sun peeked out from behind the clouds, hinting at summer. Alice said Bike Rodeo will help her prepare for her family’s annual campout and bike trip. Addison said she will prepare her for new adventures in Summit County.
Meanwhile, Leo said steeplechase “gets bigger” this summer with Team Summit.
He added a safety tip he had learned: “If you don’t feel comfortable, just don’t do it.”