Bike safety is all-important

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Bike rodeos are just as important today as they were four decades ago.

"There's more bicycles on the road today," said retired Eric DeSerranno, retired Norfolk OPP officer at Langton's annual bike rodeo Tuesday morning. "And there is going to be more bicycles on the road. We try to start them early. We try to teach them to be responsible."

Langton's bicycle rodeo is the oldest in Norfolk County.

"We've been doing the bike rodeo here since 1972," said DeSerranno. "It started with the OPP, Constable Crawford, and I think it was a teacher at Langton Public School... and it's been going ever since. I wouldn't even want to guess how many students over the years."

"Initially it was started by Ed Crawford and (Langton Fair's) Shirley Knowles," said Carol Overbaugh, president of the North Walsingham Agricultural and School Fall Fair. "It's close to 40 years old."

Many of Tuesday's volunteers were members of the North Walsingham Agricultural Society, some were friends from the community. About 30 Grade 8 students from Langton Public School and Sacred Heart Catholic School also volunteered.

"It takes 28 or more volunteers to run a successful bike rodeo," DeSerranno noted.

About 100 students from the two elementary schools typically participate in the bike rodeo, said Overbaugh, although it seemed a bit lower this year.

"Usually it's around the 100 mark. And we present trophies at the fair."

Helmets, for anyone who needed one, were donated by Bachmann Law in Simcoe.

Safety is paramount, said DeSerranno, who likes to tell parents, "you wouldn't let them on the ice with skates that didn't fit, why would you let them go out on a bike that doesn't really fit them? And spend the money on a good helmet."

In addition to giving each bike a 'safety check', volunteers and OPP officers (including Const. Ed Sanchuk) measured students' steering and braking ability, maneuverability, balance, and quick thinking.

"Each station has a strategic meaning," said DeSerranno, noting Station 2 tests the rider's ability to control a bike during emergency dodging manoeuvres like swerving when a car door opens or dodging potholes.

"When they come to this one, the four-way intersection, there's usually a police officer. They're asked questions about how to signal right turn, left turn, stop. These hands... these are the blinkers. It's just a way to get them started. If they're at a corner, how many ways do you look? You look all four ways. If they're little, we ask them about crossing a driveway. We go over as much as we can in a short period of time."

Seventeen bikes in Norfolk County did not pass the initial safety check last year. On Tuesday, all of the bikes in Langton passed the test, but earlier four bikes 'failed' in Delhi and were taken off the road.

"No brakes or no pedals," said DeSerranno.

"We had a guy come with no seat, remember that?" said Steve Sostar, who has been volunteering with DeSerranno at bike rodeos for at least 17 years. "No brakes and no seat. And he argued with me, said it was okay."

"That's why we do the bicycle check," said DeSerranno. "If the bicycle does not pass Steve, it's not allowed in this rodeo. And there's nothing worse than telling a kid, 'I'm sorry, but you can't...'" 

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