Practicing safe cycling at Carman Elementary

Physical education teacher Gord Stobbe quickly going over some road safety tips with one of the students taking part in the bike rodeo held at Carman Elementary. (Aaron Wilgosh/Postmedia)

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Carman Dufferin Safe Communities recently partnered with Carman Elementary and Manitoba Public Insurance to hold a Bike Rodeo for students at the school last week which led into a new program kicking off in the Town of Carman for young bike riders.

“MPI offers the program in the springtime, usually early May,” said Gord Stobbe, Physical Education Instructor at Carman Elementary. “After a few years of doing this I wanted more flexibility in the times in case of rain, so I took the MPI Cycling Champions course with theory and riding in downtown Winnipeg which was a little scary for me, but the goal is to get people educated in the rules of the road, so I am certified to do these clinics now but it helps to do have the MPI workers out as well.”

Students at Carman Elementary were instructed to bring a bike and helmet to class on May 2-3 to take part in a bike instructional course, as well as have some lunch to round out the day. Participants were brought outside class by class to roll through the signals used while biking among other safety tips.

“We also asked students who brought bikes if they were able to loan a bike out to those that may have needed one,” said Stobbe. “I’ve been doing cycle education at the school for a long time, it’s part of the Grade 3 curriculum, which is right in the middle of our K-5 school, and I think once a student learns to ride in Kindergarten or Grade 1 they need to learn to be safe on their bike and the hand signals, and safety checks for helmets.”

Safety is important for all kids on Manitoba roadways. A bicycle can be a young one’s first experience of ownership and independence when it comes to being outside on their own, and knowing the rules of the road and how to navigate the streets is a necessity.

Grade 5 students Payton (left) and Chelsea weaving through the cones at the bike rodeo. (Aaron Wilgosh/Postmedia)

“If we can prevent one accident it’s very important,” he said. “Every parent loves their child and wants the best for them, but sometimes they aren’t aware of the rules of the road. Cars and bicycles share the road, and they have common rules. Cars have blinkers, and kids need to understand they need to stop at a stop sign and signal their intent just like a car needs to.

“If they’re going to hit a road in Manitoba or Canada, they need to be safe about it,” adds Stobbe.  “Even if they’re at home on their own property they should still be wearing a helmet. This is all related to brain injuries which is more current with all the concussion protocols that are going on. So this two-day instructional get together is a good thing.

Students started off walking through a designed bicycle course created with pylons, stop signs, a rail crossing, and a crosswalk, while motioning the appropriate signals for bike travel on the road. Left arm out means the cyclist is turning left, left arm down at a right angle means stop, and right turns can be signaled two ways, a point to the right with your right hand or your left arm bent upward at a right angle. After students completed the course without a bike, they repeated the course on two wheels with volunteers acting as people crossing, trains, or vehicles passing at a stop sign.

Now as the town moves into spring, students will be seen riding around the community. They are encouraged to use their newfound knowledge to earn some sweet prizes courtesy of Carman Dufferin Safe Communities.

“In the coming weeks, children in the community will have a chance to receive a coupon for a free slushy at the Homestead Coop Gas Bar in Carman or a free small ice cream cone from Syl’s Drive-Inn,” said Carman Dufferin Fire Department Public Education Safety Coordinator, Monica Halbesma. “Kids can earn some free treats when they are spotted by a Safe Communities Member wearing their bike helmets correctly and driving their bikes safely with correct signals.”

Stobbe hopes the students will go on to educate their parents as well, as some may have forgotten about their bike safety thanks to years of driving.