First bike rodeo of 2016 zooms through Safety Town

First bike rodeo of 2016 zooms through Safety Town

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Children practice pedestrian safety. Photo by Giselle Barkley

The Town of Brookhaven’s Highway Department in conjunction with the Suffolk County Sheriffs Office STOPPED program is bringing the rodeo to Safety Town on Saturday, April 9, the first of three bike rodeos to be held this year at the Holtsville Ecology Site.

Children of all ages across the Island can bring their bikes and test their bike riding skills and safety knowledge in Safety Town’s kid-sized roadways and obstacles. Attendees can also participate in bike and helmet inspections and helmet fittings during the three-hour event.

According to the Town of Brookhaven’s website, the miniature village was modeled after Nassau County’s Safety Town at Eisenhower Park.

“It’s really a great program where the kids can come and learn on real equipment, while not having to be on an actual roadway,” said Brookhaven Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro (R). “It’s a completely controlled environment with traffic signals, crosswalks, [and] a railway crossing. It really has everything that you would encounter in a [real] roadway.”

According to Losquadro, the department doesn’t limit the number of kids who can participate in this event. While most families stay for a half hour or so, the department will separate the kids into groups if a large number of children attend. The groups will rotate between the Safety Town roadways and a course designed in front of the Safety Town building.

Children practice traffic safety in Safety Town’s small cars. Photo by Giselle Barkley
Children practice traffic safety in Safety Town’s small cars. Photo by Giselle Barkley

According to Traffic Safety Director Jon Sullivan, the department held its first bike rodeo around 2007 in the Brookhaven Town Hall parking lot in Farmingville. The event was moved to Safety Town after it was established in 2009.

Since it was moved to its new venue, Sullivan and Losquadro noticed that kids have a better time remembering the safety rules they learned during the rodeo or through Safety Town’s many programs. The programs cover pedestrian safety, traffic safety and bike safety among other topics. Sullivan added that the mock town and rodeo really resonate with these students.

“Kids will go home [and] they’ll be explaining [the program] to their parents,” Sullivan said. “The parents would then be calling us up saying ‘when can we bring them back?’”

Sullivan and Losquadro alike remembered their experience learning about road safety in their school gymnasium. At the time, some schools used small scooters and cones to help teach students. But Losquadro said learning these same rules at Safety Town is more effective.

“It’s just a very different hands-on experience and being in a physical environment like this, with … real traffic signals, real lane markings [and] not just things on a gymnasium floor … it’s much more impactful to the student,” the highway superintendent said.

Parents can watch their kids learn the rules of the road when it comes to riding bikes, on Saturday, April 9, between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. at Safety Town at the Holtsville Ecology Site located at 249 Buckley Road in Holtsville.

In the event of rain, the event will be rescheduled to Sunday, April 10. For more information about this year’s bicycle rodeo, call 631-363-3770.