I want to ride | NevadaAppeal.com

I want to ride

by Maggie O'Neill
Appeal Staff Writer

Cathleen Allison/Nevada Appeal Fremont Elementary School fifth-graders Arlette Mariscal, left, and Saania Ahmad ride the bike-safety course at the school Thursday. P.E. teacher Denis Coyne teaches students how to use hand signals and navigate obstacles.

Brandon Maffei has learned a lot at Fremont Elementary School about biking – to bend his left arm up and stick it high when making a right turn, to come to a complete stop and look both ways before crossing the street, and one other thing.

“There’s a speed limit for bikes, too. You can’t ride over 60 mph,” he said

Is that going to be a problem, young Brandon? The 9-year-old shook his helmeted head back and forth.

Last week, third-, fourth- and fifth-graders at Fremont Elementary School practiced bike safety with physical education teacher Denis Coyne, an avid cyclist who has taught at the school for seven years.

“There’s two things I want the kids to take out of this,” he said. “That’s how to ride a bike safely in traffic and how to ride a bike safely through obstacles. I want them to be able to switch directions immediately without problems.”

Students used bikes and equipment provided by an Office of Traffic Safety grant awarded to Carson City School District elementary schools several years ago. Along with the bikes, a trailer was purchased for storage and transportation, and cones and helmet were bought.

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Every year, Coyne teaches kindergartners, first- and second-graders about pedestrian safety, and third-, fourth- and fifth-graders about helmet safety and bicycle-riding techniques. One is bending the left arm upward to indicate a right turn.

“Why do we use our left arm?” he asked.

Hands popped up.

“The cars can see you because you’re riding with the flow of traffic,” he said. “You’re going to be on the right hand side of the street, and they’ll be coming past you on the left.”

Under Coyne’s close watch, students learn how to find an appropriate-size bike helmet, how to fasten it, and that they should always wear one for safety. Students learn to come to a complete stop at intersections, to ride with the flow of traffic and to check for cars over their shoulders.

“Cars have turn signals. Cars have mirrors,” Coyne said. “Bikes don’t.”

One at a time, students, like 9-year-old Shania Hicks, rode through a course of signs and cones set up last week on the playground. She first practiced looking over her left shoulder.

“How many fingers am I holding up?” Coyne asked.

“Three,” Shania said.

She didn’t lose her concentration and stayed straight on the course. She then bent her left arm up to indicate the turn around the corner. After 10 feet, she came up to a mock stop sign, where 8-year-old Valerie Garcia stood and reminded her to make a complete stop and look both ways before moving on.

No problem.

Shania then went through “The Village,” a series of small, colored cones placed close to each other, followed by the zig-zags, four mid-size orange cones set back and forth, and finished in “the jaws,” cones tipped on their sides leaving space little more than the width of a tire to ride through.

“I thought I wasn’t going to make it through the jaws,” Shania said getting off her bike. “But I did.”

It was another student’s turn.

Coyne is encouraging all his students to get out and ride when the three-week break comes up for the year-round school. He said the weather is perfect to get a little practice. Many of the students have bikes at home, and he’d like to see more of them bike to school.

“The kids did a great job,” Coyne said. “I think they did very well, and they’re ready to ride on the street.”

n Contact reporter Maggie O’Neill at moneill@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1219.