Pay attention, parents

It seems that a summertime rite of passage for me is the moment I come within inches of hitting some child on a bicycle — and I mean within inches! It happened to me again on Monday. As I drove up Walnut St. in Peabody toward home to eat lunch, a young boy about 8 or 9 years old came flying west on Third St. and crossed Walnut St. right in front of me.

When driving in town my speed rarely climbs to the posted limit. Monday I was crawling along at my regular old lady pace when the young man scooted out in front of me. He never slowed down — much less stopped — at the stop sign at the crossing, he never looked in either direction before entering the intersection, and he would never have know how close I was to him if I hadn’t punched the horn a time or two. He was oblivious — never even glanced in my direction until he heard my horn.

At that point he knew immediately just how close he had come to being hit. I was close enough to him to see the fear in his eyes. If I had been going any faster, we would have collided.

So, it must be time again for the annual speech to parents reminding them that they need to have a pointed conversation with their youngsters about the rules of the road for bicycle riders.

The same rules apply to bicycle riders that apply to someone behind the wheel of a car. Bike riders must stop at stop signs and they must yield at yield signs. They must look both ways before they enter an intersection. They must drive on the correct side of the street. Easy, right? You would be surprised at how few of our children do any of that.

They ride along in our streets, weaving about, oblivious to the several hundred or thousand pounds of vehicle that might be bearing down on them from behind or from a side street. They simply do not pay attention. I often wonder when I see one of them in a helmet weaving to and fro, exactly how much protection that helmet will provide to the rest of the child’s body if he darts across the street in front of a loaded grain truck?

Children also double up on bikes, creating more balance issues for whoever is pedaling and trying to stay upright. A simple shift in the weight on a bicycle and two youngsters could be under the wheels of a vehicle in seconds.

Parents, please talk to your children about bicycle safety. It is not someone else’s responsibility to do it; it is your responsibility. I am a careful driver. I am a “never had a ticket” driver. I pay attention and I do not drive fast. But even as I write this, my stomach rolls at the memory of the fear and realization I saw in that young boy’s eyes Monday afternoon.

Thank goodness the fear and realization in my own eyes were not the last things he saw.

— SUSAN MARSHALL

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