Manassas, Virginia. What a great place to grow up! The Manassas I remember had fewer houses and businesses but a lot more trees. Ah, the good ole’ days. The days when my friends and I would ride our bikes all over town. Riding made us feel great. We’d move with speed all around town, 3 to a bike. At times, we’d put one on the handle bars and one on the pegs in the back, and of course, one to pedal and steer. We could get anywhere we wanted. My bike wasn’t one of the new bikes some of my friends had, but boy, did I make it look good! My friends always had the name brand bikes that were decked out with shinny, chrome pegs. Mine, well, I had my old, hand-me-down Schwinn bike that my mom bought for me second hand when I was a kid. Don’t worry though; I rode that bike with style. Some new black grips for the handle bars and black spray paint was all I needed to fit right in with the other bikes. I was unstoppable. We would ride everywhere with the wind ripping through our hair. That’s right, we were pretty reckless. Safety wasn’t even a thought. In fact, the higher the hill, the sharper the turn, the larger the jump – the better!
But, we were lucky. Our carefree bike adventures never ended with anything more than a scraped knee. Others, like a friend of my brother’s, were not so fortunate. I was in my 8th grade year, my older brother who was a sophomore in high school, had a friend that was doing some simple tricks on his skateboard. I’m not sure exactly the cause, but somehow he fell backwards and hit the back of his head on the blacktop. My brother’s friend was rushed to the hospital. Within 12 hours after the incident, my brother’s friend had died. He was only 16 years old. I have never forgotten this. See, he had a little brother the same age as me. I always thought, “What if this had been my brother?” I’ve been a helmet advocate ever since.
When I was younger, there were no laws that mandated the use of helmets for children on bikes. No doubt about it, not wearing a helmet is dangerous…it can be deadly. In 1997, the City of Manassas Park created a code that requires kids under the age of 15 to have a helmet on at all times while they are actively using a bike, skates or a skateboard. Sadly, there is, however, no federal law in the U.S. requiring bicycle helmets. States independently and localities, began adopting laws in 1987, generally targeting children under 18. Presently, 22 States including the District of Columbia have state-wide laws, and more than 201 localities have local ordinances. That’s a huge difference compared to my ‘free-wheeling’ days! And we are all safer for it. Helmet use has been estimated to reduce head injury risk by 85%. 91% of bicyclists killed in 2009 were not wearing helmets. Makes me want to put on my helmet, just thinking about it!
If you love to bike or skateboard as much as I do, make sure to wear a helmet. I want you in one piece when we raise enough money to get a skate park back in the City of Manassas Park. So ride on over to the Community Center WITH YOUR HELMET ON, if you are interested in being a part of our Skate Park Committee, we love getting new people! We meet the 3rd Wednesday of every month at 4pm at the Community Center. We hope to see you there and always remember, no matter where you go, ride safe and put on your helmet!
Brian Hanifin is Recreation Specialist, Teen Coordinator for the Department of Parks and Recreation. He can be reached at B.Hanifin@manassasparkva.gov or 703-335-8872
Community Matters is a blog created by the City of Manassas Park Department of Parks and Recreation. The blog features program updates, announcements of new services, special event notices, or information of general interest.