Students learn bike safety |

Students learn bike safety

by Sharlene Irete

Students are learning about helmets, brains, turn signals and protective equipment at Gardnerville Elementary School during Bicycle Safety Weeks, which wrapped up Wednesday.

Physical education teacher Doug Odell became a certified instructor through the Nevada Office of Traffic Safety to teach bike safety. He received a $2,000 grant to provide 345 bicycle helmets to all of the third-, fourth- and fifth-graders at the school.

“Keep the helmets as a gift,” Odell told the students. “But under one condition – you need to wear it. We want to have fun but want you to learn bike safety. Protect your brains – wear a helmet.”

The students learned about safe riding techniques, safety equipment and basic bike maintenance during the Ride Smart – It’s Time to Start program.

Roberto Palomar, 11, said the safety lessons made him want to wear his helmet.

“We had a bowl represent our skull and Jell-O represented the brain,” said Roberto. “The bowl was dropped and it broke – it represented what could happen if you didn’t have a helmet. I already wore a helmet when I ride my bike.”

After several days of preliminary lessons in the classroom, the students took to an obstacle course on the playground. Bikes were on loan from the office of traffic safety so that all students could participate, even if they didn’t have their own bikes.

The students rode through traffic cone lanes, negotiated through tennis ball road hazards and used hand signals for turning and stopping at stop signs.

Odell said he has been focusing on head injuries and the value of helmets.

“What is the No. 1 reason people give for not wearing a helmet?” he said.

“They think it’s dorky,” said Kelly Sonnemann, 11. “If everyone wears it, it’s not dorky.”

Bike safety facts:

— A properly fitted bicycle helmet reduces the risk of head injury by as much as 85 percent and the risk of brain injury by as much as 88 percent.

— More children age 5 to 14 go to hospital emergency rooms for injuries associated with bicycles than with any other sport. Many of these injuries involve the head. Helmet laws ensure the safety of our children.

— Everyone, adults and children, should wear bicycle helmets each time they ride. Wearing a helmet each ride can encourage the same smart behavior in others.

— For a list of helmet sizes, go to the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute at

— For more information on bicycle safety, visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration at