Cyclists prepare for warmer weather with safety and bike blessing

WENDY CHESTNUT/Sun-Gazette Correspondent Lucas Baer, 6, grandson of Balls Mills United Methodist Church member Lori Baer, Cogan Station, waits while rodeo volunteer Reuben Stugart fixes the chain and reattaches the training wheels. Lucas’s grandmother promised to take him on the bike path this summer to teach him to ride without the training wheels.

BALLS MILLS — One childhood goal easily remembered by all ages is the joy of learning to ride a bike. The speed, exhilaration and independence of traveling on two wheels, baseball cards clipped to the spokes sounding ferocious, with the wind rushing at your face can bring treasured memories to mind.

Quickly following the delight are the head-shaking visions of falling, power wobbles, skinned knees and stunts gone wrong. Connor Harstead, 8, son of Rich and Michelle Harstead, of Cogan Station, said his worst wreck on his mountain bike was when “I hit a patch of stones and fell into them. I got scarred on my leg. I have a mountain at my house and I like riding through the woods.”

To help alleviate any misfortunes, Balls Mills United Methodist Church, 5941 Bloomingrove Road, Cogan Station, recently held a Blessing of the Bicycles in conjunction with a bike rodeo. Pastor Chris Pfleegor read the cyclist prayer of Catherine Mills, a parishioner from St. Edmunds Parish, Loughton, Great Britain.

He read, “Give thanks that we can ride, that the day is ours to ride, that our family, friends and neighbors can join us.” It asks riders to look for the “appreciation of nature’s beauty, deep breaths of fresh air clearing our mind.” Pfleegor added this was the first bike blessing held at the church.

The blessing was held outside with riders revving to begin. Multiple stations were designed by church members Hannah and Sarah Dgien, both 14, daughters of Tony and Vicki Dgien, of Muncy, to help complete their Girl Scout Silver Award project. The girls contacted Kim Smith, state Department of Transportation safety press officer, who helped organize the bike rodeo.

“We hope to teach parents and kids a better understanding of the law. We show how to fit a helmet properly and that all children age 12 and under should wear a helmet. Though the best practice is for everyone to wear a helmet,” Smith said. “The proper fit includes wearing the helmet level on the head, not tilted and the straps should form a V below the ears. The chin strap should be tight enough you can still open wide the mouth but remain tight under the chin.”

According to SafeKids Worldwide, “More children ages 5 to 14 are seen in emergency rooms for injuries related to biking than any other sport. Helmets can reduce the risk of severe brain injuries by 88 percent — yet only 45 percent of children 14 and under usually wear a bike helmet.”

At the church, children rode from the helmet checking station, to bike repair, onto learning correctly how to signal, riding a figure eight and finished with mobility checks between and around cones.

At the bike-repair station, tires, chains, spokes, handlebars, seats and training wheels were checked. It is recommended bikes be checked monthly.

Sarah explained the Silver Award guidelines are to improve the community and develop the project so that it’s lasting. Along with the rodeo the girls collected bike donations, which they are giving to Williamsport Bicycle Recycle in the Pajama Factory, 1307 Park Ave.

“We called PennDOT to help organize the rodeo,” Sarah said. “She (Smith) gave us a ‘how-to’ guide and we put it together and asked the church members to help at the stations.”

A Girl Scout Cadette, Hannah added, “I think it turned out well. The kids learned how important it is to stay safe on the roads and use hand signals if they do ride on the roads. Also, they learned how to weave in and out and stop in an emergency.”

The girls are members of Troop 60265, which meets at the Trinity Lutheran Church in Hughesville. Leaders are Vicki Dgien and Debbie Zachman. The girls have been involved in Girl Scouts since kindergarten, beginning as Daisies.

Another church member, Ginny Springman, of Cogan Station, has ridden her custom built Roak bike 38,000 miles on four continents. Her best advice for bicyclers is “know the safety rules and follow them.” She added, “Ride with traffic not against. A lot of people don’t feel safe doing that because you can’t see the cars coming but it’s better to be hit behind rather than head on.”

The most beautiful place she visited was riding 500 miles in three weeks through New Zealand. “We saw lakes with mountains reflected in the water, glaciers, semi-deserts, a beach and rain forest,” Springman said. Her fondest memory is when a fellow rider stopped at a village in China and tied a ribbon in a woman’s hair who was walking home from the fields with a hoe over her shoulder. “She would rub the ribbon between her fingers and get a huge smile on her face. Then look back toward the village with a straight face to see if anyone was looking and turn around with a huge smile,” Springman said. “They couldn’t speak English.”

The next bike rodeo in conjunction with Safe Kids Lycoming County will be held at 10 a.m. May 12 at the Jersey Shore pool complex.