Taking a proactive approach, Riverbank Police Services Chief Ed Ridenour hosted a community meeting or a “Chat with the Chief” during the afternoon of May 12 to discuss illegal bike activity, bike safety, rules of the road and community concerns. There was a mix of adults and youngsters in attendance along with the Chief and Deputies, with officials reporting they felt all those attending had a harmonious and informative conversation.
“I think we had a great turnout,” said Ridenour. “We had several kids attend that have been involved in some of these dangerous activities. I was very happy to see that they showed up with their parents and we worked collectively to find solutions and alternate options for the kids to practice their wheelies. This was also a great opportunity to explain bicycle safety, vehicle related laws, and how they can have fun on their bikes in a safe way. I believe it was fruitful and positive interaction with all parties that attended.”
There have been ongoing reports of juveniles along with some adults that have been participating in a dangerous trend of reckless bicycle activity that has been seen, not only in Riverbank, but across the country. The bicyclists are riding in the middle of the roadways, not obeying the bike laws, and popping wheelies at oncoming motor vehicles.
Topics like riding a bicycle on sidewalks versus streets, bicycle registration, helmets and equipment requirements were discussed at the in-person meeting last Wednesday. A parent raised concerns about vehicles driving too close to their kids when they are on bikes and filming them while they are driving which the Chief noted was illegal.
“One community member talked about hosting an organized group ride so the kids can come out and ride their bikes together in a safe manner,” added Ridenour. “There would be ground rules and expectations that all would follow the law while riding. I encourage safe group rides that are well organized and that keep safety in mind all while following the rules of the road.”
The concern from motorists, bicyclists, and deputies grew and in an attempt to educate the bike riders and public, Ridenour hosted the meeting ultimately with the hope to avoid someone getting hurt or even worse, losing a life. He also advised parents to be aware of whom their children are riding with.
“I believe the only way we will be able to be successful in obtaining compliance is by working with groups who like to ride their bikes on group rides and our community to help find a balance of both safety and the ability for our youth to enjoy an activity they are very passionate about,” stated Ridenour.
For the past few months this dangerous bicycle activity has been seen in Riverbank and there have been several reports from concerned citizens. Although bikes will not be impounded, officials said the illegal activity is not tolerated in the City of Riverbank and kids are being issued citations.
“We are going to explore the idea of expanding our annual bicycle rodeo which typically targets younger children,” explained Ridenour. “The idea is that maybe we have a subset of the rodeo that targets the older kids to have a bike show, and maybe a couple of friendly competitions or challenges where they can show off their skills.”
The week prior to the community meeting, RPS received a report of 20 to 30 juveniles doing wheelies in and around traffic near Patterson Road and Roselle Avenue. Deputies attempted to stop the group with lights and sirens but they failed to stop. The group split up in different directions and deputies were able to stop two smaller groups which were cited for various violations.
“Keeping open lines of communication from the Police Department and ride groups to notify us of group rides so we can inform the community of the routes to hopefully alleviate traffic issues and provide another opportunity for bicycle safety education to the group,” remarked Ridenour of ways to cooperate. “These kids are great kids and they have pretty amazing bicycles and talent. We as adults, parents, and community leaders need to all do our part to help educate and direct our youth to safe ways to enjoy their passion. I know by working together we will accomplish this goal.”
The City of Riverbank has an ordinance that requires all bicycles to be registered with the police department. The fee is $4 for two years that includes bicycle safety education. Not only does the registration add security for bike owners but assists deputies in locating the bike if it is stolen.
“My goal is that both the bicycle riders and our vehicle drivers are aware of each other’s perspectives and they respectfully share the road,” expressed Ridenour. “I also hope to see more community groups organize ride events and ride challenges. Our Police Department is committed to safety and for the bicycle riders to enjoy their passion.”