Summer Bike Safety

June 19, 2013
BY Frank Storch

frank_storchSummer is here. Bicyclists once again are riding on our streets. From small banana-seat 10-inchers with training wheels to 10-speed racing bikes, we see them all.

How many cyclists wear protective helmets and reflective gear?

I did my own research and found that, thank God, most riders are wearing helmets. Inevitably, though, a few children are not. It is estimated that more children between the ages of 5 and 14 visit emergency rooms from biking-related injuries than any other sport. Unfortunately, only 45 percent of children under the age of 14 usually wear bike helmets. This statistic is way too high and needs to be addressed. A bike helmet is the single most effective safety device available to decrease head injuries and death from bicycle crashes.

Project Ezra of Greater Baltimore and The Chesed Fund have offered low-cost helmets for more than 20 years. The program is dedicated in memory of Barry Rosenbluth, A”H, and the helmets are available at Hats to Hose, 7002 Reisterstown Road, for $10. Many thousands of helmets have been sold or given away through this important program. There have been countless instances where helmets have literally saved lives.

It is important that children be taught to wear their bike helmets every time they ride, even if it’s a short distance. Also important is making sure the helmet fits correctly and the helmet straps are always fastened. Remember, it doesn’t matter whether or not you or your child is an excellent bike rider. Due to unpredictable events such as tire blowouts, bad weather or even a car door that opens in a bicycle rider’s path, action must be taken to prevent you or your child from harm.

Also, wearing reflective gear while biking is a valuable safety measure, especially during inclement weather and in the evenings. Placing reflective stickers on your helmet also helps make you visible to car drivers. More information on bicycle safety is available at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) website, nhtsa.dot.gov.

Due to the increase in bicycle riders across Maryland, Gov. Martin O’Malley announced in August 2012 $44,500 in funding support for Baltimore City’s Bicycle Safety Education Program. One of the beneficiaries is the Bike Maryland organization, which offers children’s bike-safety rodeos and free adult bicycle commuter workshops. Bike Maryland invites the public to host a rodeo or workshop. All you need to do is provide at least 20 participants and a location, and they do the rest. You can learn more about this wonderful program at bikemd.org.

Bike safety is crucial and recently hit close to home when a dear community member, Mel Pachino, had a serious bicycle accident. He is now undergoing intensive rehabilitation, and we hear of good progress every day. I hate to think what would have happened had our friend not worn his helmet.

Let’s have a safe and happy summer.

Frank Storch is a local philanthropist and freelance writer.

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