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Students learn safe cycling at bike rodeo
Planning firm evaluating city bike routes
bike safety pic1
John Ladine, Kellie McGinnis and Naomi Carroll test out their bikes on the yielding course at the Julien Elementary Bike Rodeo on Monday.

Riding bicycles is an eco-friendly form of transportation and a fun way to exercise, but as locals hit the streets it’s important to know the proper bike etiquette in order to keep the road safe for drivers and cyclists alike.

The City of Turlock is working with the consulting firm Alta Planning and Design to develop an Active Transportation Plan to improve bicycle lanes and routes in the area as well as increase safe traveling for all human power transportation including walking, skateboarding, those in wheelchairs and more. As part of the development of the Active Transportation Plan, Alta Planning and Design is in the process of scouting out the areas around school neighborhoods in order to ensure a safe commute for children and families on bikes. With the aim of developing bike routes to each campus in the Turlock Unified School District, the firm is performing audits at each campus to ensure that each school is safely accessible.

As part of Alta Planning and Design's restructuring process, the firm decided to host several Bike Skills Rodeos — 90 minute after school workshops with trained professionals to teach students the basic but vital skills necessary for navigating the road. Monday marked the first of the four Bike Skills Rodeos and over 35 students showed up at Julien Elementary with their helmets and bikes to navigate the four courses created with cones. Instructors used the courses to instruct students on how to confidently start and stop, how to avoid road hazards, the proper turn signals and how to yield to other bikes or negotiate shared space on the road.

"We really just want to equip them with the basic set of tools on how to navigate the road as safe cyclists," said Emily Tracy, a planner with Alta Planning and Design.

According to Rose Stillo, senior planner for the City and project manager for the Active Transportation Plan, while it is important for drivers to be aware, educating cyclists and pedestrians on their role in the shared space is vital to a successful transportation experience.

"While we hope people are driving safe, it is important as a cyclist to position yourself properly on the street so that you are in a safe position. We want to start teaching the kids this early on because we want to encourage them to ride their bikes but to do it safely," said Stillo.

The Bike Skills Rodeo at Julien Elementary was just one of four public rodeos being held this week and many students remained after school to not only test their wheels but hone important skills. According to Julien Principal Linda Murphy-Lopes, between 50 and 70 students ride their bikes to school each day.  Parents were also receptive to the bike rodeo such as Julie Lascano who noted that she hopes the Active Transportation Plan is just the start of a better biking experience in Turlock.

"I would love to see Turlock become more cycle friendly, so just being a part of that process through these events is great," said Lascano.

Two more Bike Rodeos will be held this week for students to have their bikes and helmets properly evaluated and practice skills on the courses. The Bike Rodeos will take place at 1:15 p.m. today at Crowell Elementary and at 3:15  on Thursday at Medeiros Elementary.