(Cheryl Weiss, May 21, 2017)
The Oak Park Community Center parking lot was transformed into a Bike Rodeo on Saturday, encouraging kids and adults to stop by, check it out, and join the fun. Dan Parker, Recreation Coordinator for the City of Oak Park, organized the event with many activities for cyclists to enjoy.
The first station at the event was set up for residents to register their bikes with the Public Safety Department, in case their bike is lost or stolen.
Next was the free helmet giveaway, and kids were fitted for a new helmet. Ariella Ross, almost 5 years old, stopped by with her mom, Natasha, and her eight year-old brother, Isaac, after her dance class. She was given a new green helmet. “I love my helmet!” she declared with a smile. She has a pink bike at home that she was looking forward to riding along with her new helmet.
Riding a bike at night is much safer, and more fun, with “bling”, or bike lights. Everyone at the event was given both a light to wear around the wrist as well as lights that attach to a bike.
Participants who came to the Bike Rodeo with their bikes had a variety of events to try out. An obstacle course guided cyclists around one area of the parking lot. In another area, bikers practiced figure eight drills and rode in a zig zag slalom course, which was a definite kid favorite. Another favorite activity was the “minefield”. Bike riders had to quickly ride around “mines” along the course. They could not master this activity just by practicing, because Parker moved the mines around after each rider completed the ride through it, making it more challenging.
If you ride a bike, you know how important it is to have working brakes. So, another activity was the brake test. Cyclists were asked to ride quickly at the start line, ride a short distance, then brake at the stop line. If the bike did not stop right away, participants were advised to have their brakes checked.
Other activities included a balancing drill and an opportunity to review hand signals bikers should use on the road.
According to Parker, the Bike Rodeo event was planned “to promote bike safety in the neighborhood. Oak Park is a bike-heavy community.” This is one of many activities planned in Oak Park this spring and summer to encourage a healthy lifestyle.
Pleshette Hyde, an Oak Park resident since 2014, brought her sons David, age 12, and Joseph, age 8. She noticed the event in an event listing, and wanted to be sure to come because David was recently diagnosed with hereditary high cholesterol. That has changed her family’s life; she has started them on a vegan diet three weeks ago, and makes sure they keep active. “I want to show him that working out is fun,” she shared. They do activities on the Wii, but she wants both boys to become involved in more outdoor events as well. When asked about his favorite activity in the Bike Rodeo, David said, “The whole concept was pretty good.” He participated in all the events, some more than once. He often rides around Best Park, which is the closest park to their home.
Another Oak Park resident, Carolyn Thomas, came to the Bike Rodeo to get her bike registered, as well as “meet new neighbors, and I was hoping to watch kids ride” in the events. For Thomas, riding her bike is not only recreational; it was her preferred mode of transportation for a while. After an auto accident, she decided to ride her bike to the bus stop, and take the bus to work from there. That choice helped her to lose 25 pounds in 2015-16. “That weight can come creeping back,” she said, so she is riding her bike more often again, along with many others in the community.
For more information about upcoming events in the City of Oak Park, check out their website at www.oakparkmi.gov.