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Aug. 7, 2022

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Police Activities League schools young bicycle riders on safety and mechanics

Yes, it is their first rodeo

By , Columbian staff writer
Published:
7 Photos
Arwen English, 7, of Vancouver, reacts after her bike tips over while navigating the obstacle course Saturday during the Police Activities League of Southwest Washington's first annual Bike Rodeo at Evergreen High School. The obstacle course was a culmination of the safety skills children learned at booths as they made their way through the parking lot to the course.
Arwen English, 7, of Vancouver, reacts after her bike tips over while navigating the obstacle course Saturday during the Police Activities League of Southwest Washington's first annual Bike Rodeo at Evergreen High School. The obstacle course was a culmination of the safety skills children learned at booths as they made their way through the parking lot to the course. (Elayna Yussen for The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Kids were fitted to shiny new bikes and helmets Saturday and taught the basics of road safety during the Police Activities League of Southwest Washington’s first annual Bike Rodeo.

Eight-year-old Joshua Ruiz hoped on a brand-new bike, complete with matching blue tires and wheels. He rode it from booth to booth in the parking lot of Evergreen High School, where he was fitted for a helmet, shown to how tighten the bolts on his bike and taught hand signals to communicate with nearby drivers on the road. All of this before taking on an obstacle course of orange cones set up in tight twists and turns to test his skills.

The obstacle course finished with a mock intersection, where riders had to show volunteers their hand signals before passing through.

After years of giving away bikes to kids around Christmas, PAL — in partnership with Waste Connections — created the Bike Rodeo as an opportunity to teach children how to be safe with the toys, while also earning the chance to win a new bike. Waste Connections donated 30 bikes and helmets to give away Saturday. The event was open to kids from kindergarten through sixth grade.

Jenny Thompson, executive director of PAL, said Saturday’s event was also a good reason for people to gather again and have some fun after so many community events were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Thompson said her group hoped to get kids on two wheels right before summer, when they’d have the best opportunities to use them.

Although Faith Autry, 8, has been chasing after her two older brothers on bikes for years, her mother, Michelle Autry, said Saturday’s booths were good reminders about road safety and bike mechanics. It was also a good excuse for them to try something new in the community after moving to Camas from San Antonio six months ago.

Faith couldn’t be torn away from the obstacle course as she weaved through cones on her bright-blue bike — one that has been in her family for generations, Michelle Autry said. Faith’s father redid the bike for her, painting it blue and adding purple handlebar grips.

“It’s such a big deal to have a bike,” Michelle Autry said. “That’s why we pass bikes down.”

Eight-year-old Olivia Long and 5-year-old Owen Long brought their own bikes from home Saturday to take on the obstacle course. Their parents, Ian and Anna Long, said the two talked about how excited they were for the course the entire drive there. Ian Long said his family enjoys going for bike rides and taking bikes on trails.

Thompson said many of the team members at PAL have fond memories of riding bikes during the summer as children, and they hope to ensure that more kids get to experience the same fun. She said the PAL team also enjoys giving away bikes because they can offer kids a sense of independence, while also being great exercise tools.

Ian and Anna Long agreed it’s great to get more kids on bikes and said they plan to come out again next year, especially if they can convince even more of the family to come, too.

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