Ride 'Em Cowboy - How to Host a Bike Rodeo

Bike  RodeoFortunately, EMS Week is typically a warm and sunny time of year, making outdoor activities a great way to draw attention to emergency medical concerns. If injury prevention is a priority for you, consider hosting a bicycle rodeo.

"Bike rodeos teach children about bike safety, proper helmet use, bicycle control, bicycle maintenance and street smarts, such as looking both ways and dismounting bicycles before crossing intersections, how to approach pedestrians and using hand signals," said Duane Schulten, a firefighter who helps coordinate bike rodeos for Littleton Fire Rescue in Littleton, Colorado.

Littleton has conducted 5 to 10 bike rodeos annually for more than 18 years as part of its Children's Fire Academy, held at the firehouse. Bike rodeos also may be held at local schools.

To promote the rodeos, Littleton advertises in local newspapers, on various community Web sites, through the City of Littleton and with the schools. The fire department public education officer handles all the arrangements with the schools once they sign up.

Logistical Issues

Bike rodeos last about three hours. The first hour is spent in a classroom and addresses helmet use, brain injury prevention, hand signals and bicycle maintenance. Students are asked in advance to bring their bicycles or scooters, along with their helmets. "We want to see what they are riding and have a chance to inspect the bikes and helmets," Schulten said.

Littleton uses five or six off-duty firefighters to staff its bike rodeos and compensates them for their time. Schulten recommended that crews wear their uniform when they are staffing a bike rodeo. "This builds instant credibility when the students see us in our uniforms," he noted.

Usually 20 to 30 students attend each rodeo. Schulten said that this is a good number to teach in three hours.

After a student completes the session, he or she receives a certificate of completion. Littleton obtains these certificates free from the Colorado Department of Transportation. A sample also is included on the EMS Web site at www.acep.org/emsweek.

"You want to make sure you have something for the kids to bring home, whether it's a certificate or bike reflectors," Schulten advised.

"Make sure the courses are doable for the kids to ride through," he advised. "And film each rodeo. By filming, you'll be able to key in on the kids' interest level and how the instructors are doing and make any adjustments, if necessary, for the next rodeo."

Schulten said that the students learn something from the rodeos, especially about bike maintenance. "It's a wake-up call for some. You'll be surprised at how many bikes we inspect that have flat tires, bent tire rims and poor or non-performing handbrakes," he said. "By the end of their session, the students often tell us they can't believe they were riding bikes in such poor condition."

Essential Elements of a Bike Rodeo

Bike  HelmetHelmet Use: Teach children about brain injury prevention. make a "brain" from gelatin (see Use Your Brain for the recipe), and then drop it on the pavement to show students how vulnerable the brain is to injury from a fall.

Helmet Check: Check riders' helmets and make any adjustments. If a child needs a new helmet, talk to parents and/or send a note home with the child.

Bike Maintenance: Inspect bike tires, brakes, handlebars, etc. to ensure they are in working order. Show children how to take care of their bikes to ensure that they are safe.

Street Crossing: Teach children to use hand signals properly and to walk, not ride, their bikes across an intersection.

Skills Course: Use traffic cones and sidewalk chalk to set up a bike rodeo course. Teach riders to stop quickly, make sharp turns, and brake and accelerate on a sloped area.

 Bike Rodeo Certificate of Completion
Download the Certificate of Completion Word Document

Bike RodeoFor More Information

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is a great resource for free brochures, videos and fact sheets on bicycle safety. Go to www.nhtsa.gov, click on the "Traffic Safety" link, and then on the link for "Bicycles."

• Another excellent Web site for free bicycle safety materials is the Federal Highway Administration at http://safety.fhwa.dot.gov. Information is available in english and spanish.

• The Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute, www.helmets.org, offers lots of the latest information and reviews of bike helmets.


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