DOH, LOPD sponsor bike safety event
Jamie Watcher, Suwannee Democrat
LIVE OAK — Nervous about riding without training wheels, Ashlynn McLeod knew what she didn’t enjoy about Wednesday morning’s bike safety rodeo.
“Falling down,” the 6-year-old McLeod said.
But McLeod, talkative throughout the safety training she received from Morris Sherman, with the Well Florida Council, was suddenly shy following the event at RIVEROAK Technical College, which was sponsored by the Florida Department of Health – Suwannee County and the Live Oak Police Department.
While McLeod couldn’t think of what she enjoyed the most from the event, where she received a free bike helmet as well as some 1-on-1 training with Sherman on safety tips for riding the bike.
Sherman also spent time helping McLeod learn how to ride without training wheels — making sure she didn’t fall — which she did by herself for a few moments in the RIVEROAK parking lot, which had been turned into a bike challenge course for the event.
Earlier Wednesday, Sherman and those helping from DOH-Suwannee and LOPD, taught residents from the Florida Sheriff’s Boys Ranch safety tips as well, including how to handle intersections and being on the lookout for cars while riding on the course.
Kerry Waldron, the health administrator at DOH-Suwannee, said the event was part of the department’s Community Health Improvement Plan.
“We want to decrease unintentional injuries,” Waldron said. “The more kids that we can get with helmets, that we can teach them safety — how to deal with traffic, how to cross streets properly — then we’re reducing their risk of getting injured.
“This is all risk reduction.”
Helping meet that goal was Sherman, who with WellFlorida and the Florida Safe Routes to School, travels to 11 counties in North Central Florida providing the trainings. Sherman frequents the schools within the region and also does events like Wednesday morning.
“It’s a needed training,” Sherman said, noting that Florida leads the country in bicycle and pedestrian incidences as well as fatalities.
“We’re trying to lower that,” he said. “Teach proper riding skills, why we need to wear helmets. And we provide helmets too.”
Waldron said DOH-Suwannee hopes to host another bike safety event this fall. The department is also looking into doing a similar event for swimming/water safety at one of the springs.
“We’re surrounded by water,” Waldron said, adding that the Suwannee Parks & Recreation Department offers swim lessons during the summer, but are limited to how many classes they can provide.
“We’ve got not only the rivers, but we’ve also got lakes. So what can we do to make people more aware of how to respect the water and also be safe on the water.”