Tampa PD gives bikes, safety tips to children

- Following a year filled with pedestrian-related accidents on local roads, Tampa Police are offered road safety tips to area children.

Tampa Police raffled off 26 bicycles to children at Copeland Park, 11001 North 15th Street, on Tuesday afternoon. The bikes were purchased and donated by Tampa police squads.
To enter the raffle, children had to pass a bike-safety course.

The goal of the "Winter Safety Land" event was to teach children the rules of the road and allow parents to register bikes given as Christmas gifts in order to prevent theft.

"A lot of kids don't even realize that you need to have helmets, or when to stop, or where to ride your bike in traffic," said Major Lee Bercaw of the Tampa Police Department.

Bicycle officers showed children how to properly wear a helmet, check for traffic at intersections and maneaver their bikes through obstacles.

More than 50 pedestrians were killed this year in Hillsborough County, including 17-year-old Alexis Miranda, who was hit while crossing the street to Chamberlain High School in October.

Florida has the highest rate of biking deaths of any any state in the nation. It's a statistic that's frightening to local parents, like Audrey Lagemann, whose step-son, Sam Walker, rides his bike daily.

"He does ride to school and back, so he does have to cross at least one street," said Lagemann. "I just want to make sure he knows where to ride, which way of traffic to go, just kind of common sense rules."

In early December, Tampa City Council agreed to pursue a plan known as "Vision Zero," stepping up efforts to prevent pedestrian fatalities.

The program, used worldwide, calls for changes in speed limits near high schools, better road designs, and more crosswalks and bike lanes.

Tampa Police made sure every bike given away on Tuesday was registered in their database to prevent the possibility of future theft.

"There are a lot of bikes that get stolen, and that's what we've seen on the rise," said Major Bercaw.

Officers are encouraging anyone who purchased or received a new bicycle for Christmas to make sure it is registered with Tampa Police. It gives the bike an ID number, making it easier for officers to find it if the bike is stolen.

For information on how to register your bike, visit: http://apps.tampagov.net/appl_customer_service_center/form.asp?strServiceID=723

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