Hundreds of some of the DeSoto County seat's youngest bicycle enthusiasts pedaled their way around the historic Hernando Square Friday in both safety and style during the city's annual Bicycle Parade.
Thanks to a grant from the Mississippi Department of Rehabilitation Services' Office of Special Disability Programs more than 200 bike helmets for children were made available.
The annual bicycle parade, which came off without a hitch despite the threat of rain, is sponsored by the Hernando Optimist Club. The event, which draws hundreds of children and their parents to the Square, was co-sponsored by First Regional Library and the City of Hernando for many years.
Children and adults rode their bikes and strolled around the Square all decked out in red, white and blue.
The young bikers had a chance to stop by the Bicycle Safety Village off Panola Street following the parade to learn the "Rules of the Road" with Hernando Police.
The Bicycle Safety Village is a miniature town which teaches bike safety instruction for children from kindergarten through sixth grade.
"The Optimist Bicycle Parade is an opportunity to get more children to wear helmets at an early age while riding bikes as well as scooters, skateboards and hoverboards," said Gia Matheny, Community Development Director for the City of Hernando.
Matheny said the Traumatic Brain Injury/Spinal Cord Injury Trust Fund pays for the helmets with money generated from a portion of speeding and DUI tickets in the state.
"We know kids are going to be out having fun on their riding toys this summer," said MDRS Executive Director Chris Howard. "So, it's a great time to remind them to ride safely. If we can keep just one child from experiencing a traumatic brain injury or a spinal cord injury, then it's worth every helmet that we give away. Also, we are hoping if we can get children in the habit of wearing a helmet that they will become adults who wear helmets."
Matheny said the City of Hernando wants to encourage all of its citizens to ride safely.
"I would like to get a helmet for every child in our city who is kindergarten age through sixth grade or riding age if we have the resources," Matheny said. "We have an ordinance in our city that children 16 and under must wear a helmet when riding a bike or motorized recreational vehicle."
Hernando Mayor Tom Ferguson lauded Matheny for obtaining the grant on behalf of the city and it's youngest residents.
"We are fortunate there was a grant out there and that we received the grant," Ferguson said. "We encourage safety among all our citizens."
The Hernando Police Department will also be hosting bike rides for teenagers and adults on Thursdays at 6 p.m. in July to encourage cycling and learn "the rules of the road."
"Participants do not have to be experienced riders and will meet at the police department parking lot. Free bikes will be available from the new bike share program on a first-come, first-serve basis to those who do not have a bicycle.
For more information contact Matheny at 662-429-9092 for more information.
Robert Lee Long is Community Editor of the DeSoto Times-Tribune. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 662-429-6397, Ext. 252