BLOOMFIELD, NJ — Oak View School students from third through sixth grade attended a presentation about the ABCs of bicycle safety on Friday, Jan. 3. The presentation was given by EZ Ride, a nonprofit organization funded by the Federal Highway Administration through the NJ Safe Routes to School program, and included an animated movie, cycling gear and warnings about the serious business of pedaling in streets.
While bicycling is fun and gives a feeling of independence, EZ Ride speakers Lisa Lee and Latoya Howard told the children, a cyclist should always remain visible and predictable to motorists.
“You can start having independence now that you guys are older, but it can be risky,” said Lee. “We have a lot of cars in North Jersey.”
Lee came with her bike and showed how it was outfitted with a bell, front and rear lights and reflectors inserted into the front and rear wheel spokes. Woven through the spokes were threads of tiny violet LED lights. The kids approved of the decorative appeal.
Lee also said a rider should wear bright clothing and, if a novice, long pants, in case of a spill; riding gloves in the event of a fall, regardless of experience; closed-toe shoes; and most importantly, a helmet.
Lee and Howard showed students how to fit a helmet correctly. They said teens who thought it was cool to not wear a helmet were wrong.
“Your brain controls everything about your body,” Lee said. “That’s why helmets are used in contact sports, and bike riders are out there with a lot of cars.”
To protect the forehead, Howard said, the front of the helmet should not be more than the length of two fingers above the eyebrows. A rider should be able to see their helmet above their eyes.
“Protect the front of your head,” she said. “That’s where your brain makes decisions.”
Two fingers should fit snugly beneath the chin strap, and where the strap attaches to the front and back of the helmet on the side of the face, the two parts should form a V-shape just beneath the ear.
“When you fall and your head hits the street, the helmet stays on to protect your brain,” said Lee.
Before riding their bikes, the children were told to do their “ABCs Quick Check.”
Most of the children knew that “A” stood for “air.” Lee told them bike tires should be hard.
“You shouldn’t be able to push down on them, or you’ll skid on a turn,” she said.
“B” stood for “brakes.” Lee asked which hand brake, right or left, stopped the back wheel. A boy guessed the left hand brake but was corrected.
“The left controls the front,” she said. “Never just squeeze just the left brake. You’ll go over the handlebars.”
“C” stood for “chain,” which should be checked for rust and, if need be, oiled down, said Lee.
“Quick” had everyone stumped, but Lee said it stood for “quick-release levers.” They should be checked and locked tightly.
Finally, to confirm that no component of the bike is loose, Lee said to raise it 4 inches off the ground and let it drop without letting it tumble over. No parts should fall to the ground.
Lee told the kids to practice a little in front of their house before setting off on a ride.
“Stop when you come out of your driveway,” she said. “Frequently that is where accidents occur. Choose the way you ride carefully, and check it out with your parents.”
She said that a cyclist on the road had to obey traffic signals.
“You have to follow road signs like a car,” she said. “Stay 3 feet from parked cars. If you don’t have 3 feet, take the center of the lane. And when changing lanes, one lane at a time.”
The children then practiced hand signals for for left- and right-hand turns.
Lee said that students, when confronted with busy roads such as Bloomfield Avenue or Broad Street, should walk their bike on the sidewalk, take a different route or use mass transit.
“No talking when riding, texting or earbuds,” she said. “And practice riding to school.”
She asked if the school had a bike rack. Informed that it did not, she suggested to the students that they have a fundraiser to purchase one.
Principal Mary DiTrani thanked the school nurse, Erika LaMonte, for making the presentation possible.