La Mesa Bicycle Rodeo kicks off National Bike Month

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What can feel freer and more exhilarating than the first time the training wheels come off, and you move through the wind balanced on your bicycle’s two wheels? But safe bicycling is key to keeping that freedom, and the La Mesa Community Bicycle Rodeo, held on May 2, was designed to teach kids of all ages biking safety practices. The event was staged outside the Nan Couts Cottage, 5045 Memorial Drive, behind the La Mesa Community Center kicking off National Bike Month.

What can feel freer and more exhilarating than the first time the training wheels come off, and you move through the wind balanced on your bicycle’s two wheels? But safe bicycling is key to keeping that freedom, and the La Mesa Community Bicycle Rodeo, held on May 2, was designed to teach kids of all ages biking safety practices. The event was staged outside the Nan Couts Cottage, 5045 Memorial Drive, behind the La Mesa Community Center kicking off National Bike Month.

A surprise, unannounced prior to the rodeo, was a giveaway of 50 free bicycle helmets. The three-hour morning event also featured stations for helmet checks and helmet fittings, so that children would be wearing head protection effective in preventing injury. A slalom course was laid out with brightly colored half-sphere and traffic cones, wrapping around the pavement, so that the children could practice maneuvering a bicycle through quick turns, wide curls and stops at pedestrian crossings.

Staffers with Performance Bicycle led a companion bicycle ride geared for beginning riders, starting at 9 a.m. from their business at 8706 La Mesa Boulevard, and ending at the bicycle rodeo. Cesar Olavarria, of Performance Bicycle, was one of the volunteer advisors assisting the children with lessons and equipment inspections. He said the kids were instructed in the basics of bicycle safety, “the ABCs,” referring to air pressure, brakes and chains. Parents as well were told about the importance of checking these for a bicycle every day, before sending a child off riding. The volunteers further told the children about how to maintain adequate hydration while bicycling, by drinking water throughout a ride and staying away from soda drinks.

Olavarria assessed La Mesa as a bicycling haven.

“This place is free and ready to ride,” he said. “The low traffic congestion downtown is excellent. This is an awesome place to ride, with awesome events like this one.”

May is National Bike Month, an outreach celebration sponsored by the League of American Bicyclists since 1956. National Bike to Work Week this year falls from May 11 – 15. The associated information campaign seeks to encourage people of all ages to bicycle more, because biking is fun, good exercise, less expensive than most other modes of transportation, and quicker at getting to and from school than walking.

Healthy snacks were handed out to the children at the La Mesa Bike Rodeo. Volunteers explained that safe bicycle riding requires good nutrition to fuel the bike rider’s muscles for riding. La Mesa Lions Club provided the refreshments.

The event’s highlight was the raffling of four bicycles to randomly chosen winners from among those children who finished the safety training lessons and rode the biking obstacle course through the parking lots surrounding the cottage.

Winners of the bicycles were Carleigh Parr, 6, Tyler Drake, 6, Mason Moury, 7, and Unique McKelvey, 8.

The La Mesa Bicycle Rodeo was organized by the City of La Mesa in partnership with the La Mesa Police Department and the La Mesa Human Relations Commission. A mini-grant from the San Diego Association of Governments’ SANDAG iCommute program provided funding for the event, to “encourage biking as a viable transportation choice” in support of National Bike Month.

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