Bike Rodeo Saturday will put safety first

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BENNINGTON — The Bennington Police Association will be giving out hundreds of bicycle helmets to children on Saturday, part of the group's ongoing efforts to promote cycling safety.

The "bike rodeo," designed as a community event, will feature obstacle courses, raffle prizes and a hot dog lunch. It will be held from 9 a.m. to noon in the parking lot of Walmart at 210 Northside Drive.

Some 360 helmets — in various colors and sizes — will be up for grabs to children in Bennington and from surrounding communities following a fitting.

"The only way children are able to receive helmets is if they are properly fitted by a Bennington police officer, so we're not just handing out helmets," said Chief Paul Doucette of the Bennington Police Department, whose officers and staff make up the town's police association.

"There's a lot of kids, younger kids especially, riding without bicycle helmets," Doucette said. "We recognize the need to be able to provide helmets to these kids and try to keep them safe."

He is encouraging attendees to bring their bicycles, so they can ride through the courses that will be set up in the store parking lot. The goal is to teach children about safe riding skills in order to prevent injuries.

There will be six courses, including a makeshift "rough terrain" and a "Banner delivery course," in which participants will toss copies of the newspaper into baskets placed along the route.

Every child who receives a helmet will be entered into a raffle draw, with the top prizes being two bicycles donated by Walmart. Winners could also receive bike paraphernalia, such as headlights and taillights.

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For lunch, which will be available from 10:30 a.m. to noon, organizers are preparing food for up to 250 people. The menu will include hot dogs, potato chips and cupcakes by Walmart.

The helmets were bought with money the Bennington Police Association made during its Protect and Serve fundraiser on March 2. The event, where members prepared and served food at Sunny Side Diner in town, raised $3,500. The association has around 32 members.

"This is us giving back to the Bennington community," Doucette said of the bike rodeo. "The people in the Bennington Police Association are all volunteering their time."

Every year in the United States, according to data from the Cleveland Clinic, about 800 bicyclists are killed and another 500,000 end up in hospital emergency rooms. About two-third of the deaths and one-third of the injuries involve the head and face.

Wearing a helmet can reduce the risk of head injury to bicyclists by as much as 85 percent, the clinic said.

At the Bennington bike rodeo last year, 156 children received helmets.

Since the weather that day brought gray skies and light rain, Doucette underscored that the weather forecast for Saturday is "looking absolutely amazing."

Tiffany Tan can be reached at ttan@benningtonbanner.com, @tiffgtan at Twitter and 802-447-7567 ext. 122.


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