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Kids Tune Up Their Skills at Norwalk Bike Rodeo

Cooper Gifford, 4, has been using a hand-me-down bicycle helmet. But that changed with a visit to the City Hall parking lot Saturday. "They said we need to trade it in, which is so awesome," said his mom, Joy Gifford of East Norwalk.

'They' were the volunteers at the Kiwanis of Norwalk Bicycle Rodeo, which promoted safety tips developed by the Kiwanis Pediatric Trauma Institute in Boston. Children who had good helmets got a reflective T-shirt, and police officers guided them through a course designed to teach them to stop at stop signs, go around potholes and – most important – be careful at the end of driveways. There was also a drawing for a bicycle donated by R.E.I. and bicycle safety checks by Dave Odice and his partner, Brad Cole, from Utopia.

"What a great time," said Gifford, who also had 7-year-old Jack Gifford at the event. "Both of them got tuneups, and air in their tires. It's great."

Odice said he and Cole, tuned up "pretty much" every bicycle brought to the rodeo by the more than 70 children who attended. "With all bicycles, it's vibration from the road, it's nuts and bolts," he said. "They eventually loosen up. Most of it is just tightening things back up. The most important thing and the biggest thing we've seen today is underinflation of tires. An underinflated tire on a bicycle works the same way as on a car, it causes a lot of instability in the ride and makes the bike a lot less safe for the child. The tire inflation is the biggest thing I've seen all day."

Paula Conte, a Kiwanis member and chairperson of the event, said each safety stations offered a different lesson, including a trip through the Norwalk Fire Department fire safety trailer and a stop with Norwalk Police D.A.R.E. officers. Hula Hoop contest winners -- and there were many, as competitions were limited to just a few children -- were given their choice of a bicycle lock, a bicycle light or a tire pump.

Evania and Shalomi Soljour, both 7, of New Canaan, thought the event was "awesome." They, like Summer Wilmot, 7, loved Sparky, a remote-controlled dog operated by the Norwalk Fire Department.

Conte said sponsors included the Police Athletic League, the Norwalk Board of Education, Norwalk Parks and Recreation, Sound Solutions Entertainment, TD Bank and the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.

Have you checked the tire pressure on your child's bike? Comment below!

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