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EMU Police hosting annual Bike Rodeo to promote bicycle safety and community

EMU Bike Rodeo
Eastern Michigan University
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emich.edu
EMU Bike Rodeo

RESOURCES:

Eastern Michigan University to host seventh annual Bike Rodeo promoting bike safety and community engagement – June 15

2024 Bike Rodeo

TRANSCRIPTION:

David Fair: This is 89 one WEMU, and we're here today to take a deeper look into a fun and functional event coming up on Saturday in Ypsilanti. I'm David Fair, and Eastern Michigan University will host its seventh annual Bike Rodeo at the George Gervin GameAbove Center from 9 AM until noon Saturday. Kids and families from the area have the opportunity to learn bike safety from EMU's bicycle police officers and have a lot of fun with a variety of activities, food and freebies. It's also a way to create community engagement and promote better relations with police. My guest has been instrumental in putting on this program and participated every year, and Sergeant Joseph Torres will be there again on Saturday. Thanks for coming by the studios today. I appreciate it.

Sgt. Joseph Torres: Thanks for having me.

David Fair: Before we get into this year's activities, take me back a bit, Sergeant. Where did the idea for the Bike Rodeo come from?

Sgt. Joseph Torres: So, the Bike Rodeo was something that we instituted seven years ago now, when we doubled the size of our certified bicycle officers on campus.

David Fair: And why did the bike officers decide that this would be a great way to kind of reach out to the community?

Sgt. Joseph Torres: Well, one of the things that we do with our bicycle officers--we patrol all over campus and in the surrounding community--we just like to have face-to-face contact with the citizens. So, in order to introduce ourselves and have a kind of fun event, we created the Bike Rodeo, so that all the officers who could attend would come on bicycle and then meet some other bicycle enthusiasts.

David Fair: Now, you just mentioned it. You're riding a bike, so you're more out in the open than if you were in a police vehicle. You get closer to the people. You have that opportunity to stop and have positive interactions with students and area residents. Is that the best part of being on a bike?

Sgt. Joseph Torres: The best part about being on a bicycle is you could get anywhere on this campus or in the city, in between buildings. It's a really versatile piece of equipment to use, but it definitely is about community, community, community--just meeting all the people. And children love to see us on the bikes and stop and wave and shake our hands. And they like to see the police lights on the bicycle. It's a lot of fun!

David Fair: This is 89 one WEMU. We're talking about EMU's seventh annual Bike Rodeo, taking place Saturday morning from nine until noon at the George Gervin GameAbove center. Our guest today is EMU Police Sergeant Joseph Torres, who is an event organizer. Now, bicycle safety is obviously a part of the function of the Bike Rodeo. I don't know about you, but when I was a kid, we didn't wear helmets or pads. We got on, we went. And if we went too fast and couldn't stop, we just found the nearest patch of grass and ditched the bike, right? What can kids in their parents who may have learned, like I did, learn about bicycle safety from you?

Sgt. Joseph Torres: It's really important that people get a helmet and have a proper fit for their home. So, if you come to the Bicycle Rodeo, we will have helmets to give away, and we'll have some people that are trained to look and make sure that the helmet is fitting properly, just to prevent those kind of injuries. But other things that we do: we practice an obstacle course we'll have set up and we'll ride around with families. And we can talk to children about sharing the roads and other safety initiatives with the Border-to-Border Trail and other community groups in the area. Bicycling is just going phenomenally well in this area.

David Fair: Yeah. Do you teach the hand signals and everything else?

Sgt. Joseph Torres: We can teach the hand signals. A lot of times people don't get as interested in that part of it, and they really want to know about the helmets. And we do have mechanics on scene that will do some simple maintenance and safety checks on your bike, because if you had your bike in storage all winter, now you're getting it out. You might not know if the brakes need to be checked or the tires or need to be worked on.

David Fair: Yeah, it is a definitely a bad idea to find out your brakes don't work while you're riding. While safety is important, kids just want to have fun too. You mentioned the obstacle course, but what other kinds of engaged activities are there as part of the Bike Rodeo?

Sgt. Joseph Torres: So, we always invite Swoop to come out. That's one of the things that the kids love to get their pictures taken.

David Fair: Absolutely!

Sgt. Joseph Torres: And we ride around with the officers. I believe the Ypsilanti Fire Department's going to come with their truck and show off.

David Fair: More lights and sirens!

Sgt. Joseph Torres: More lights and sirens! The Huron Valley Ambulance Bicycle Team is scheduled to be there, and they show off an ambulance to the kids. And then, we have all of our police equipment that's really interesting to them. But we do have free giveaways and some free food available, too.

David Fair: So, it really is like a community party.

Sgt. Joseph Torres: Yeah, this is something that we've created, not as a police event, but as a EMU community event. We have a lot of sponsors from the university, but also from businesses and groups within the community.

David Fair: Now, you just mentioned an important word: sponsors. I don't need to tell you more and more people are forced to live hand-to-mouth these days. So, a bicycle itself is a privilege. Getting the necessary tools like a free helmet is so important to some. What are some of the sponsors you're working with to make sure you can best help provide these things and free of charge where possible?

Sgt. Joseph Torres: So, one of my favorite sponsors or groups that participate is Common Cycle. They used to have an office in Ypsilanti. They have an office in Ann Arbor now, and they fix bikes that have been abandoned or found and donate them to needy people that have to have some kind of transportation. But within those groups and within many of the business groups that come, we have so many cycling enthusiasts that will help other cyclists find resources to find a bike or find a way to get repairs done cheaper.

David Fair: Once again, we're talking with Eastern Michigan University Sergeant Joseph Torres about the department's--and university's--seventh annual Bike Rodeo on Saturday. Now, beyond bike safety, there's another component to the Bike Rodeo. And as you mentioned, it is about community engagement and making this not a police event. But there is some mistrust between some members of the community and police department. And this is an opportunity, it seems to me, to get to know each other on a very personal level, as opposed to a professional level.

Sgt. Joseph Torres: You know, a lot of times, community members forget that police are people, too. We're members of this community as well, so just having that face-to-face interaction with people and their families. And my family comes to the rodeo every year. And a lot of officers bring their families to come to the rodeo, too.

David Fair: So, what has been your favorite part of putting on the Bike Rodeo and getting to meet with the community in this way?

Sgt. Joseph Torres: I think my most favorite memory of anything from the Bike Rodeo was during COVID protocols. We had to take extra precautions to make sure everyone could stay safe and still have the event. And a young lady, probably 12 years old, rode up to me on her bike and said, "This is the greatest day of my life!" And that just made me feel really good that we were able to do that, even at the height of COVID when people were still facing lockdowns and uncertainty.

David Fair: When you get to hear from a child who says, "This is the greatest day of my life," do you also look at that as an opportunity to build for the future?

Sgt. Joseph Torres: Well, I think that it's important for the children, but also for the parents to see that we're interacting with them on a level that's not just an emergency response, and that's for the ambulance team, for the fire department and for us. We don't always have to be responding to an emergency to interact with our community.

David Fair: So, you mentioned there's going to be some food. There's going to be some beverage. There's going to be at least a limited amount of free helmets. Is there a capacity do you need to register for the Bike Rodeo?

Sgt. Joseph Torres: You don't need to register. Anyone's welcome to come. We do have limited supplies of some things. We have bicycle locks we're going to be giving out. We have bicycle helmets. We have bags to put all your goodies in. And then, different businesses are bringing other items that are related to or interesting to the families or to bicyclists.

David Fair: You mentioned this is the seventh annual Bike Rodeo. And at its height, it had over 100 people participating. What is the goal? Where would you like to see this kind of community events move in the future?

Sgt. Joseph Torres: Well, starting last year, we had the Ypsilanti Public Library come out with the bookmobile.

David Fair: Fantastic!

Sgt. Joseph Torres: And I think that that is exactly what we're looking for is having an event where all of the community partners that we work with on a daily basis can come together and support safe cycling for the entire season, but also collaborate and meet each other and talk about the summer reading program and other things for families in the area.

David Fair: Well, I thank you for putting on this event. I wish you well with the seventh annual Bike Rodeo. We will also look forward to the eighth! Thank you so much!

Sgt. Joseph Torres: Thank you!

David Fair: That is EMU Police Sergeant Joseph Torres, who is event organizer for the seventh annual Eastern Michigan University Bike Rodeo. It takes place this Saturday from 9 AM until noon at the George Gervin GameAbove center. All kids and families welcome. If you weren't able to write down all the details while we were talking, don't worry about it. You can find them on our website at wemu.org. I'm David Fair, and this is your community NPR station, 89 one WEMU FM Ypsilanti.

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Contact David: dfair@emich.edu
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