A community forum at the Wallingford Public Library this week offers an opportunity to improve the relationship between youngsters who ride bikes and residents concerned that those young bike riders don’t exhibit safe and courteous behavior when wheeling around downtown.
Laurie Plourde organized the event, set for 6 p.m. Thursday. The idea for the forum came about after she posted a video on social media that showed her 11-year-old son’s bicycle getting run over in downtown, according to a story by Record-Journal reporter Jessica Simms.
Comments posted on that video concerned Plourde. Some community members indicated her son was likely among kids who rode bikes in a disrespectful or unsafe way, Simms wrote. She quoted Plourde as saying some commenters targeted her son as “probably one of those kids that rides in the middle of the road and does wheelies.”
According to Simms, Plourde was concerned about several aspects of the situation. She didn’t want to see kids lumped together as “bad kids.” She wants kids to be able to go downtown and enjoy the area, but she also wants to promote bike safety and get families involved in helping their children do better in respecting community concerns and standards.
Plourde used to be a director for an organization in Michigan called Safe Kids, a program that hosted bike safety education classes for parents and middle school-aged children. Now she hopes the upcoming forum will gauge the interest of local families in bike safety training.
To get put her idea into action, Plourde contacted Town Councilor Jason Zandri and gained his help in organizing the forum. He’s previously worked to make downtown more bike-friendly, asking the council to add bicycle racks to the town center. His attempts have been met by resistance, he said, according to an interview with Simms.
Zandri contacted the Wallingford Police Department regarding the forum and an officer will be present for the discussion.
Plourde said the forum is just a way to start a conversation and hear from parents and others in the community as to their concerns and ideas.
Zandri said, “What I would like is to see a lot of parents come out and understand there’s support from the police, there’s support from the town, there’s support from your peers, other parents.”
There are many adult cyclists — who love the activity, promote it, and who are well-versed in safety precautions and rules of the road — so there’s no doubt resources can be found to help Wallingford youth do better at understanding what’s expected of them. For their own good and for others.
Zandri and Plourde noted that there are also issues at parks with, at times, unlawful — or at least unwelcome — juvenile conduct. But getting out in front of the bike situation before summer gets here is important, too, they said.
“I don’t want it to get to the point where there’s a ban that the kids can’t enjoy the downtown area, like where are they going to go?” Plourde told Simms. “They’re just going to get in more trouble.”
This is exactly the right approach, it’s measured and looks at the big picture. If concerned residents turn out, the forum could produce effective plans for helping young people fulfill their responsibilities when they take off on their bicycles. Let’s see the forum move in that direction and leave accusations at the door.