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Use your head...wear a helmet!

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You may have noticed more children on bikes or walking before and after school this week, in honor of the Walk and Bike to School Week in Cloquet.

In addition to encouraging kids to use a more active form of transport to get to and from school, Safe Kids Northeast Minnesota joined Washington Elementary second-graders to celebrate Bike to School Day on Monday. Each second-grader was fitted with a brand new bike helmet thanks to generous donations from Safe Kids Worldwide, Miller Dwan Foundation, Sappi, Wal-Mart, L&M and ARDC. They also learned about bike safety and put their knowledge and skills into action by participating in a bike rodeo, using a bike fleet purchased with a SHIP (Statewide Health Improvement Program) grant last year.

“It’s important for bicyclists to wear properly fitted bicycle helmets every time they ride,” said Jenn Hoff, coordinator for Safe Kids Northeast Minnesota. “A helmet is the single most effective way to prevent head injury resulting from a bicycle crash, but many children still do not wear them.

From 2011 to 2013, 18 bicyclists died on Minnesota roads and 2,634 were injured. Of those injuries,155 or 6 percent were serious injuries. This is a decline from the previous three-year period. From 2008-2010, 32 bicyclists were killed and 2,836 bicyclists were injured.

In 2013, 45 percent of the seven fatalities and 822 serious injuries were in the 15- to 29-year-old age group. Five- to 14-year-olds made up another 15 percent of fatalities and serious injuries.

More children ages 5 to 14 are seen in emergency rooms for injuries related to biking than any other sport. Bike to School Day is an important opportunity for students to learn how to safely bike to and from school.

“We have a simple saying, ‘Use your head. Wear a helmet,’” Hoff said.

Tips for safe biking:

  •  Tell your kids to ride on the right side of the road, with traffic, not against it. Stay to as far to the right as possible. Use appropriate hand signals and respect traffic signals. Stop at all stop signs and stoplights.
  •  Teach your kids to make eye contact with drivers to make sure drivers are paying attention and are going to stop before they cross the street.
  •  When your kids are riding at dusk, dawn or in the evening, make sure they use lights — and make sure their bikes have reflectors as well. It's also smart to have them wear clothes and accessories that have retro-reflective materials to improve visibility to motorists.
  • Actively supervise children until you're comfortable that they are responsible to ride on their own.

Motorist Tips

  •  Be patient when passing a bicyclist — Slow down and pass only when it’s safe. Allow clearance of at least three feet..
  •  Be on the lookout — Watch for and yield to bicyclists before making a turn.
  •  Stay alert and avoid distracted driving — Put away mobile devices, food and makeup.

For information about MnDOT’s  “Share the Road” bicycle safety education program and bicycle crash statistics, visit