SHAUN STANLEY/Durango Herald
Kids and bikes are as familiar in Durango as rafters on the Animas River. But those young cyclists could face significant injury when riding around town.
To help reduce the incidences of head and other injuries, the Mercy Medical Center Foundation on Saturday sponsored a Kids’ Bike Rodeo as part of the 2012 USA Pro Cycling Challenge Experience at Fort Lewis College.
“It really is to educate kids about wearing helmets” to protect their brains, Mercy’s Bob Liscombe said of the safety section called “Gray Matters.” That safety section was one of five in the rodeo.
When youngsters first arrived at the rodeo, they started at the sign-in and bicycle licensing station. Deven Meininger of the Durango Multi-Modal Department helped kids register their bicycles with the Durango Police Department.
Within the station’s first hour, they had registered about 50 kids and bikes, she said. In fact, the station was so popular that it ran out of bike registration materials and suggested interested families stop by the Durango Department of Transportation or the police department.
Kids next went to the safety check station, where they were taught how to check their bicycles for obvious safety problems.
“It’s been a great turnout,” said one of the safety station’s operators, Mike Peterson. He said many of the bikes were in great shape and few kids were wearing flip-flops, which can be dangerous if they get caught in the chain, spokes or other moving parts.
Another positive aspect of the event was parent participation.
“I like to see the parents involved,” Peterson said.
Peterson and colleagues asked youngsters questions to encourage critical thinking, but the answers sometimes were typical of kids.
For instance, Peterson said, they asked one boy what he would do if the chain needed oil.
“He said he’d take it to daddy,” Peterson said laughing.
The safety station helped teach kids to check tires, brakes, chains and other kid-friendly tasks.
The next stop was Liscombe’s Gray Matters booth. If the young cyclists had helmets, they were checked for fit and damage. If helmets were not safe, or the kids didn’t have helmets, Liscombe and his crew gave them brand-new helmets.
Liscombe also talked to the kids about how important it is to wear their helmets at all times in language they clearly understood. In fact, the slogan for Gray Matters is “Use your head, wear a helmet.”
The Gray Matters program is 5 years old and includes visits to Durango schools as well as a program for skiers and snowboarders at Purgatory at Durango Mountain Resort. The program has given away about 2,000 helmets, or 400 each year, Liscombe said. He noted that in the United States, between 300,000 and 500,000 kids end up in emergency rooms each year with bicycle-related injuries. About three-quarters of those are head injuries, he said.
Helmets can reduce those head injuries by as much as 80 percent, he said.
The increasing use of bike helmets, as well as other factors, have helped reduce bicycle injuries by 16 percent from 1995 to 2010, according to the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center website, www.bicyclinginfo.org.
Once the kids were done with all of the safety stations, they got to the fun part of the Kids’ Bike Rodeo.
The first was a course that included riding over boards and ramps and even a teeter-totter. The final course was a winding ride through orange trafficcones.