EDINBURG — After receiving a free bicycle and matching helmet, dozens of children at the Academy Sports + Outdoors here Saturday morning paired with an Edinburg police officer, who guided them through safety training.
Passing the training, which was dubbed the “Safety Rodeo,” was the only requirement for the free bicycle. Children had to make their way through a maze of miniature traffic cones and perform a couple of steering drills.
Officers walked beside each child, making sure they didn’t fall as some attempted to balance on their bikes. The older recipients who already knew how to ride were making rounds around the parking lot, showing off their new wheels and wide smiles. Some of them were donning pajamas because the line started to form at 6 a.m., store director Bea Flores said.
This is the first time the Edinburg sporting goods store participated in the corporate-wide bike donation program, handing out 100 bikes on a first-come-first-served basis that morning.
Flores said that she is excited that her store is taking part in the program now and sees it as an opportunity to build a stronger connection to the community.
“It creates a good partnership between us and the community and emphasizes safety,” said Flores, of Edinburg. “We should be teaching the kids early about what safety means.”
The air was filled with instructions from officers to kids: “stop,” “brake,” “look.”
Genesis Torres, 10, received her first bike that morning and said she has been wanting one for a while. She hoped to bike to the mall to shop at J.C. Penney.
Luzdaniel Zamarron, 9, plans an ambitious bike to DisneyWorld. He estimated that going 25 mph for a year will get him there.
Edinburg Police Officer, Jose Gomez said providing safety training was a crucial part of the event.
“We want to make sure that the kids understand the concept of stopping at all stop signs and looking both ways when they see traffic, because those kinds of lessons are extremely important,” Gomez said.
According to Stanford Children’s Health, an average of about 254,000 children are injured every year from bicycle-related accidents, and 100 are killed.
The event was special for Flores because she remembers the bicycle she had when she was younger and how special it was to her.
“My name is Bea, so my parents got me a bicycle that was yellow and black, like a bumblebee,” she said. “And (riding) it was my favorite thing to do. I was always out there every single day, at the front of my house and all over.”