According to the most recent figures from Safe Kids USA, less than half of kids 14 and under wear a helmet every time they're on a bike. Roanoke Fire-EMS says that's a troubling statistic.
"That's crazy," said Tiffany Bradbury, spokesperson for Roanoke Fire-EMS. "That just puts you at more risk for a brain injury."
She says unfortunately, EMS crews see it all the time here in the community - even though Roanoke legally requires kids 14 and under to wear helmets while they're riding bikes.
"Actually, near where I live a child ran into a car and had some severe injuries and was not wearing a helmet," said Bradbury. "That was a seven-year-old child and that happened about a month ago."
Wanting to do something about it, Roanoke Fire-EMS teamed up with Carilion Clinic, Safe Kids, and a handful of other local groups and won a grant from the Virginia Department of Health to buy helmets for local children.
"We're trying to do a community outreach because a lot of these kids, their families might not be able to afford a helmet," said Bradbury.
But they say simply handing out helmets isn't enough to help these kids develop good biking habits.
"We also educate," said Bradbury. "We're not just going out handing out bike helmets. We want to teach these kids how to ride safely."
So they've organized a series of "bike rodeos" in specific neighborhoods across Roanoke, where they teach the kids hand signals, show them how to fit and wear their helmet properly, and let them show off their skills in several obstacle courses.
"It's just a great way for us to get out into the community and give back to these kids," said Bradbury. "And we're hoping that we're making a difference in their lives."
The next bike rodeo will take place Wednesday at 12:30 p.m. at the Villages at Lincoln Neighborhood Network Center. Another event planned for August will take place in the Lansdowne area.