Bicycle event emphasizes safety for children

The bike rally will include bicycle safety education, a bicycle course, and giveaways of helmets and other items.

Families that attend should bring their children’s bicycles and helmets so they can be checked for proper fit and safe tires and brakes, said Officer John Wilson of UC Health.

From 9 a.m to 1 p.m. Saturday outside the emergency department at West Chester Hospital, children can also spend time with police officers and ride bicycles alongside them.

“In my day wearing a helmet wasn’t seen as cool and that’s what we’re trying to change,” Wilson said. “For a lot of kids, bicycles are their mode of transportation.”

During the event, children will go through different stations and then a bike navigation course where they’ll learn how to look both ways and other safety tips, Wilson said.

The Aug. 8 event is a joint operation by the UC Health Police, West Chester Police, Maineville Police, Xavier University Police, West Chester Hospital and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.

Wilson, who’s stationed at West Chester Hospital, said he sees a lot of traumatic injuries involving bicycles, including head trauma from falling off the bicycle and having no helmet or an ill-fitting helmet.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates there are approximately 500,000 emergency room visits related to bike accidents annually.

Bike helmet legislative efforts

“We know that bicycle-related head injuries among children have decreased by about 45 percent following the passage of bicycle helmet legislation in other states,” Hayley Southworth, development and program manager for the Ohio Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), told this news outlet in May. “So, there’s definitely motivation to try and have that here in Ohio.”

There has been a recent push for such a law by state Sen. Shannon Jones (R-Clearcreek Twp.), who has faced opposition from legislators in her own party who don’t support a “nanny state” which mandates safety laws.

“There’s actually quite a bit of significant opposition,” said Ohio AAP executive director Melissa Wervey Arnold. “The thought process being that parents should have the right to determine if this is a safety feature that their children should have to wear or not wear.”

Jones has presented a bill requiring children younger than 16 to wear helmets while riding bicycles. Parents could face increasing fines if children don’t comply. An estimated 20 percent of children wear bicycle helmets in Ohio.

“Our thought process is we’re here to make sure children are protected,” said Arnold, whose organization supports Jones’ bill and has distributed more than 20,000 bike helmets since 2011 through it’s Put A Lid On It program. “They’re not always old enough to make the best decision on their own and parents aren’t always informed.”

This article contains previous reporting by Staff Writer Mark Gokavi.

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