FLORENCE: Bike Rodeo wrangles safety, fun

By Amy Batista, Special Writer
   Florence Township police hosted their fifth annual Bike Rodeo for children on June 21.
   ”We received a pedestrian grant a few years ago to enforce and educate the kids on the importance of wearing their bicycle helmets,” said Capt. Brian Boldizar. “During that year, we thought that the best way to educate the kids would be to bring them together for a fun time where they would be able to have their equipment tested and learn the rules of the road from officers on their bikes demonstrating safe riding. It has grown every year since then.”
   The event drew more than 125 participants and took place in the rear parking lot of the Florence Township Municipal Complex. Police registered 35 bikes and gave out 16 helmets.
   ”The Bike Rodeo is a great event that receives good participation from the community,” he said.
   Amy Scully, who was helping children register their bikes with the township, said, “We are registering the bikes so that if they are lost or stolen we are able to track them.”
   Each boy and girl that registered a bike was entered into a raffle to win a bike.
   ”Every year officers find abandon bicycles around town and they have no way to find out who the owner of the bikes are,” Capt. Boldizar said. “By the bicycle being registered the officer can look at the registration sticker that is put on the bike and check our database to see who the bike belongs to and return it to them.”
   Ben Popso, 9, of Florence, attended the event for the first time.
   ”We saw the big flashing sign,” said dad, Richard Popso, of Florence, while his son was being fitted for a helmet.
   Will Lewis, 5, of Roebling, was there with his nana, Shirley Pamuk.
   ”He’s getting ready to ride bigger bikes,” said Ms. Pamuk. “He will be going to school next year in the fall and he wanted to come to see what other big kids do.”
   The officers helped children through a bike course and encouraged them to practice safety measures, including wearing helmets, when riding their bikes.
   Capt. Boldizar noted that the officers had several goals — to make sure the kids have helmets, to make sure the helmets fit properly, to make sure the bicycles were safe to ride, to teach the kids the laws of the road, to register children’s bikes with the township, and to interact with the children while participating in a fun event rather than during an emergency.
   Rodeo activities included the bicycle-skills obstacle course and a helmet giveaway. Children also got a chance to see a New Jersey State Police medical helicopter, and the Florence Township Police Department Special Investigations Unit truck on display. The Cinnaminson Police Pirate vehicle was new this year.
   ”The Cinnaminson Police Pirate vehicle is a car that has video games and a loud sound system in it,” he said.
   Capt. Boldizar noted that his favorite part of the event was the obstacle course.
   ”The course gives allows the kids to test their bike skills by having them make sharp turns and braking quickly,” he said.
   Burlington County Bikes provided bike safety checks and tune-ups. The Florence Township Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 210 provided snacks and drinks to the children. Safe Kids Southern New Jersey coordinator Maureen Donnelly was promoting helmet safety, which is run through Cooper’s Hospital.
   ”I am fitting the helmets here and educating the kids and parents here on how a proper helmet fitting can prevent brain injuries,” said Ms. Donnelly.
   She noted that when properly fitting a helmet to make sure that it is down low on the forehead, the straps are nice and snug, and make sure there is only enough room to fit one finger behind the chin and the strap.
   ”That’s really the most important thing,” she said. “Make sure your child has a properly sized helmet because kids grow out of helmets every year.”
   Kids need to wear a helmet for all wheeled sports including skateboards, scooters, roller blades, and bikes, she said.
   ”Parents should be wearing a helmet too,” she said. “Parents should model good behavior too because the kids will wear if the parents are wearing it when they are older.”
   With the start of the summer, the hospital has already seen children with head injuries, she said.
   ”We’ve actually had a couple of kids this week with crashes,” she said. “The big thing is we can fix a broken arm but we can’t fix a broken head. That’s what we try to explain to kids and that’s why we show them the model. We also say if you get a cut you put a band-aid on it and it heals. You can put a cast on a broken arm. Some brain injuries do not heal and you are left with them the rest of your life.”
   She also noted that if kids “fall down with their helmet on” the helmet needs to be replaced.
   ”We say if you crash your helmet is trash,” she said.