Students, teachers ride bikes to school

By Tom Joyce

May 7, 2014

Rather than arriving on campus by the usual methods — buses or cars — 17 students and three teachers at Mount Airy Middle School relied on a two-wheel mode of transportation Wednesday.

After gathering at Riverside Park bright and early, the group, accompanied by members of the Mount Airy Police Department, rode bicycles down the Ararat River Greenway to reach the middle school on Hamburg Street.

It was part of Bike to School Day, an initiative to stress bicycle safety which was coordinated through a coalition known as Safe Kids Surry County, and the city police.

Students of the middle school were invited to participate in an activity also held in hundreds of other communities around the United States. Wednesday’s event was scheduled as part of National Bike Month, according to Myron Waddell, an official with the Surry County Emergency Medical Service who is coordinator of the local coalition.

After letters were distributed about the bike day, parents brought students and their bikes to Riverside Park Wednesday in time for their trip to the middle school which began about 7:30 a.m.

The emphasis was on exercise, and “to just have a fun day getting to school,” said Officer Ray Arnder, who also was one of the riders through his role with the city police Community Services Division.

But a biking safety message was included as well, with Arnder and other adults using the opportunity to provide potentially lifesaving information to participants.

The need to wear helmets was especially stressed.

“It’s important for bicyclists to wear properly fitted bicycle helmets every time they ride,” Waddell said in a statement. “A helmet is the single most effective way to prevent head injury resulting from a bicycle crash. But many children still do not wear them. We have a simple saying, ‘use your head — wear a helmet.’”

More children ages 5 to 14 are seen in emergency rooms for injuries related to biking than any other sport, according to information provided by Waddell.

He added that Wednesday’s event involving Mount Airy Middle School was an important opportunity for students to learn how to safely bike to and from campus.

City government officials have recognized that Mount Airy is not exactly bicycle-friendly at present, and have taken steps to address this such as exploring the feasibility of biking lanes in key areas around town.

In the meantime, the Safe Kids Surry County coalition is reminding families to rely on tips including:

• Telling kids to ride on the right side of the road, with traffic, not against it, and to stay to as far to the right as possible. Use appropriate hand signals and respect traffic signals, along with stopping at all stop signs and stoplights.

• Teaching kids to make eye contact with drivers to make sure motorists are paying attention and are going to stop before they cross the street.

• When kids are riding at dusk, dawn or in the evening, make sure they use lights — and make sure their bikes have reflectors. It’s also smart to have them wear clothes and accessories with retro-reflective materials to improve visibility to motorists.

• Parents should actively supervise children until confident that they are responsible.

Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-719-1924 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.