Tykes learn bike safety at course

Sgt. Kevin Barrett, a Prince William County bike cop, stood in front of a group of children straddling their bicycles, Saturday and gave them the run down on the test they were about to take.

The children were about to embark on an obstacle course, set up in an empty parking lot at the Woodbridge Campus of George Mason University. The course was designed to teach them bike safety.

The little knot of four or five children, all between 2 and 6 years old, waited between two parked cars for instructions.

“You come up to the road … you’ve gotta look to the left, look right and look to the left again,” Barrett said as he demonstrated what he wanted the children to do.

“What are you looking for?” Barrett asked when he was satisfied the children had the idea.

“CARS!” the children replied in chorus.

“That’s right,” Barrett said.

Barrett went on to show the children how to signal for a left turn by releasing the handlebar and pointing his left arm straight out.

The children practiced.

Again, Barrett was satisfied.

The right turn signal was next.

The children followed Barrett’s example, held their left arms up and bent their elbows as if they were taking an oath.

So far, so good.

The stop signal, which required the children to hold their upper arms at shoulder height and bend their elbows so that their finger tips pointed toward the ground, presented some difficulty.

But Barrett was ready and some hands-on demonstration got everybody squared away.

One at a time, the children started from between the parked cars. Barrett marked the course with orange cones and directional arrows chalked onto the parking lot’s asphalt.

Prince William County Police Officer Elaine Bostick said the cars were parked on the course to simulate conditions children experience when they ride their bikes at home.

“A majority of accidents happen when a child is pulling out of a safe area like a drive way or a sidewalk,” said Bostick, the rodeo project officer.

There was some minor wobbling when some of the riders released their left handle bars, but there were no incidents.

Upon completion each child received a certificate.

Barrett took the children aside after the test and checked wheels and brakes and adjusted seats, ensuring that everybody’s bike was in good working order.

Theresa Camarca’s children participated in the rodeo. She said she was glad they came.

“It [the rodeo] has all of the safety information stuff they need, and they’ve never been on a bike safety course,” the Haymarket woman said.

Police vehicles were on display at the rodeo and McGruff the Crime Dog came, and to their delight, hugged many of the children.

Staff writer Keith Walker can be reached at (703) 878-8063.

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