LATHROP – Matt Lindemann doesn’t want to come into work and find out that a kid on a bicycle was hit and killed by a passing vehicle.
And that’s why on Saturday the Lathrop Police Community Resource Officer is going to be out at the Target parking lot helping to fit local kids with bicycle helmets and teach them basic bicycle safety that, he says, should prevent tragedy from striking a small, close-knit community like Lathrop.
For 16 years Lathrop Police services has held its annual bike rodeo to help educate the community’s youth on everything from the proper hand signals to make when you’re crossing the street to why it’s important to make sure that your chin strap is securely fastened when you’re riding in the street.
It was a rash of accidents involving both kids on bikes and vehicles and just kids crashing on bicycles that prompted the first ever event. It has since grown into an annual community staple and educational effort that continues to bring people back year-after-year.
“We’ve expanded every year to get to the point to where we can reach any child who comes to the event,” Lindemann said. “It’s all about the basic rules of the roadway and taking responsibility when you get onto a bicycle. A lot of kids don’t realize that there’s more to it than just fun and you need to be aware of what is going on around you.”
The biggest thing that most kids don’t realize, Lindemann said, is that once they start pedaling they’re obligated to follow the exact same rules that a vehicle does when it traverses the roadway. That means stopping at stop signs – signaling to others which way you intend to turn – and making sure that it’s safe to make any sort of move that could be perceived as into traffic.
The other is that an improperly fitted helmet is essentially useless. Helmets that are too big or too small or ones that aren’t worn properly – or securely fastened – won’t perform in a crash the way that they’re supposed to. A station will be set up on Saturday morning that will deal specifically with helmet fitting.
Those in the community that don’t already have a bicycle helmet will be given a free one while supplies last. Local businesses joined together to donate and help fund the program. According to Lindemann, the Knights of Pythias – a fraternal organization formed in Washington, D.C., in 1864 – made the largest financial contribution as their group also places an emphasis on bicycle safety.
The 16th annual Lathrop Police Services Bicycle rodeo will take place on Saturday, May 17, in the Target parking lot located at 16858 Golden Valley Parkway near the intersection with Louise Avenue. The event will run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and any child that successful completes the courses provided will be given a ticket for a free hot dog. The food was donated by Save Mart, and will be cooked up by Lathrop-Manteca Firefighters who will have their barbecue truck on-site.
Children need to bring their own bicycles. A safety-inspection station will also be available. The event is open to kids from kindergarten through 8th grade.