Safety first

Kids Bike Safety Day is a hit in the Mount Washington Valley

Special to the Union Leader
May 12. 2013 8:31PM

GLEN — Seven-year-old Finn Murphy of Jackson is a seasoned veteran of the Mount Washington Valley Bicycling Club's annual Kids Bike Safety Day, and he's got the skills stickers to prove it. So do his five-year-old sister, Abby, and three-and-a-half year old Sam Groves of North Conway, who also completed the safety skills course.

On Saturday children from throughout Mount Washington Valley got a rare treat – bicycling around a not-yet-open Story Land, where a safety course with six stops took them around the attraction's paved walkways.

Before entering the park, volunteers made sure the kids' bike helmets fit properly, and if not the children were supplied with new helmets, courtesy the club, which purchased $1200 worth of high quality Bell helmets.   This year, many kids brought back their old helmets to trade in. "It’'s a very encouraging sign," club member Jim Fines said.

Bike technicians then checked the children's brakes, chains and tires, giving the bikes a quick tune-up. Loaner bikes were available, too. Club member Steve Swenson said he was seeing "lots of training wheels." If the child's bike is deemed too unsafe for the course, needing more work, then there are loaners.

Next, children were asked to demonstrate their braking skills. The front registration plate of those who had difficulty was marked with a red W, so designated for walking down the hills instead of riding.

"We're trying to have an event that's good for kids with training wheels and up, it's challenging," said club member Sally McMurdo, who set up the safety course. "Each year we figure out something new we can do." It's the club's fifth year of holding the event, and McMurdo said that the W allows for younger children to participate.

There's also a guided adventure ride course, which goes along the perimeter of the attraction, and in and out of gates.

The children were briefed in the rules after getting their bikes inspected. The Murphy siblings paid close attention when Sgt. Sean Cowland of the Jackson Police Department went through the rules of the road, even though it was their third year. He reminded them to stop before entering the road and to look both ways, to obey traffic signals and signs, and to use hand signals.

He also advised them to stop and get off their bike if they encounter a dog that worries them, and to put their bike between them and the dog as a precaution.

"I have such a great time," Cowland commented, "and the kids get to see me, and know I'm not a scary monster."

Finn, Abby, and Sam had no trouble stopping to listen and look before proceeding across the Huff Puff & Whistle Railroad crossing on Saturday.

Finn was first of the trio over the tracks near the Whirling Whale ride, and quickly headed toward the next safety station, where he had to maneuver his bike around a slalom course of traffic pylons, then through a course with hazards such as mock pebbles and a scattering of rocks. The girls, a little slower because of their shorter legs and also their training wheels, soon followed.

After going through the skill stations, the children were ready for lunch.

"I was good at everything." Abby Murphy said as she parked her bike.

In another decade Abby could be a volunteer at the safety day, like Kennett high School Mountain Bike Team member Meagan Vertigan of North Conway, who was helping guide the adventure rides.

The club had plenty of help from other organizations, too, such as Kiwanis, and sponsorships from local businesses.

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