On Monday, May 11th members of the Bike Michiana Coalition, Michiana Bike Association and a South Bend police officer gathered at Warren Primary School in a gymnasium full of curious third-graders to co-host the first area school bike safety program.
School principal Carla Killelea welcomed organizer Judy Lee and friends to an hour-long session with all 81 third-grade students at the school. As they sat cross-legged in a large circle on the gym floor, students heard from South Bend bicycle patrol police officer Cpl. Aaron Cassel, who with his fully loaded police bike demonstrated proper bike safety and gear and answered nonstop questions from a rapt audience. Students were urged to wear bike helmets at all times, obey all traffic laws and only ride bikes properly fit and tuned for safety.
In return, every student left with a custom-fitted new bike helment, thanks to joint funding from Michiana Bike Association and Bicycle Indiana. Students also learned to wear bright noticeable clothing, learned basic hand signals, proper with-traffic lane riding and not to ride after dark without proper lighting and reflective gear.
Lee, Vice President of the Bike Michiana Coalition and a board member of the Michiana Bike Association, initiated the event as a pilot project for what is hoped to become a district wide school bike safety program in the upcoming school year for all third graders in the South Bend area.
Third graders were chosen as the best level of education for several reasons: children of this age are beginning to ride bikes away from the home and driveway, actually getting out onto streets; third graders are curious and interested in bikes; and they are still ‘teachable’ and intrigued by e.g. police officers/gear. Lee and the others will be seeking funding support for next years’ broader school safety program.