Several of you commented on my column in the past week’s paper about the young man on a bicycle I nearly hit as he flew through an intersection on Walnut St. right in front of me. I would like to thank you for your support and for your suggestions of how we as a community might fix this problem before we all have to deal with the death of a child.
A couple of people suggested that I should have followed him, gotten his name and that of his parents, and then filed a complaint or at least talked to his folks. Others wondered if the Peabody-Burns Recreation Commission or Peabody Police Department offers bicycle safety classes to help kids learn the rules of operating a bike. Some thought there should be a local ordinance in place to punish the child and take away his bicycle privileges. Those are some interesting ideas.
Peabody Police Chief Bruce Burke told me that his department and the PBRC have tried “until we are blue in the face” to hold bicycle safety classes, both at the annual Safe Kids Camp and independently. Children may show up for the instruction and they may take something away, but when they are on their own with a bicycle under them, Burke said it is almost like they never attended any safety class.
It is doubtful that Peabody City Council would create an ordinance quite so punitive for children, although such a punishment certainly would be better than being struck by a car. If I had not been so rattled, I might have had the presence of mind to have gotten the name of the child in question and I would have spoken to his parents. Yes, I would have. However, would they have listened?
Everyone behind the wheel of a car needs to be aware of our youngsters when we share the city streets with them. We need to slow down and assume they might put themselves in harm’s way.
However, the bottom line here is that parents have the greatest influence on their children and parents should absolutely accept the responsibility of teaching them to safely ride a bicycle. I am still shaken by how close I came to hitting the boy I told you about. I know that if I had, his parents would have blamed me until the end of time. I would have blamed myself until the end of time.
Parents, take care of your children. It is not the job of the Peabody Police Department, Safe Kids Camp, Peabody-Burns Recreation Commission, or Peabody City Council to be sure your children know those things they need to know to be safe and that includes navigating around the community on a bicycle.
The responsibility is yours.
— SUSAN MARSHALL