Aidee Sanchez’s nightmare became reality seven years ago. Her son Ricky was riding his bicycle near their Big Coppitt home when a drunk driver plowed into him.
“The driver didn’t see him. Ricky was really tiny and the driver was drunk,” Sanchez recalls.
The accident area occurred near a construction zone, and a police officer witnessed the accident. Ricky was wearing his helmet, thankfully preventing him from a life-threatening head-injury, but his spine was severely damaged.
“I thought he was dead. I thought he would die,” Sanchez remembers her thoughts vividly. “That was my biggest fear.”
Ricky began routine chiropractic and rehabilitation, so he could continue to grow at a normal pace, regain his balance, and walk properly. The back injury he suffered still sends him to the chiropractor twice a week. Aidee’s nightmares may never fade, but her son Ricky climbed back onto grey two-wheel bicycle just this spring, after spending years atop a tricycle, learning to regain his balance.
This past Saturday, Ricky and his mom joined the City of Key West, the Community Traffic Safety Team, and Monroe County School’s Office Safety and Health for The Jim Malcolm Memorial Bicycle Safety Rodeo at Poinciana Elementary.
“They fixed his tire today,” an appreciative Aidee said of the volunteers.
The organizers and local bike shops all shifted into top gears. Ty Symroski, a volunteer, says the children learned how to turn, stop and how to ride on both the sidewalks and the streets.
“We practiced teaching them proper signals, how to balance the bike without putting their feet down,” he said.
The future Lance Armstrongs also learned how to dodge rocks, but the most crucial part though, according to Sunny Booker Safe and Healthy Schools Coordinator, is they have to learn to ride like a car when on the road, and act like a pedestrian when cruising the sidewalk.
“It’s really important for everyone to pay attention,” Booker stressed. “Monroe County has the highest number of injuries and fatalities in the state for bicyclists and pedestrians.”
A statistic attributed to distracted drivers, either hurrying to work, or talking and texting on their cell phones.
“Throw inattentive tourists into the mix,” noted John Wilkins rodeo organizer, “and you can see the potential for tragedy.”
“We want to make this a bicycle-friendly town,” proclaimed Chris Bellend head of the Key West Chamber of Commerce’s Love Your Island initiative.
It starts with grassroots efforts such as the rodeo, to educate elementary school age children to stay away from Evil Knievel risks.
After biking the safety course, Ricky had his flat tire fixed and is psyched to be back in the saddle. Even though his mom, an Educator Technician with Sigsbee Child Development Center, is still wary.
“Initially I was hesitant to let him back on the bike,” she admitted, “But I can’t keep him in a bubble. He’s in Key West and sees everyone doing it, and I want him to be like every other child.”
Local Bike Shop owners and technicians came out to grease some gears for the kids. Pictured from Left to Right are The Bike Shop’s Shay Smallbone, Ester Morehead, Jesse Domian, and Jason Goebel from Eaton Bikes. Smallbone says the rodeo wasn’t a small task, he spent most of the morning, “checkin’ bolts and headsets … making’ sure everything’s running smooth.”
Evan Haskell with Re•Cycle says this is the right time of year for his shop to give back to the community. The school year is about to let out and kids will be out riding their bikes and it’s important to keep’em safe. Pictured he is with Ricky Sanchez, Zoe Norman, and Jack Norman. Re•Cycle just opened it’s doors on Stock Island and Evan puts in overtime to keep bike parts out of our landfills.
Rodeo volunteers Tom Wheaton, John Wilkins, and Sunny Booker want to send the message to all bicyclists, pedestrians, and drivers; if we just pay more attention we can lower the shocking statistic of having the most accidents and fatalities in the state of Florida.
The Jim Malcolm Memorial Bicycle Safety Rodeo is named for Jim Malcolm, the former Key West Pedestrian-Bicycle Safety Coordinator. Jim passed away in 2008 from brain cancer. This rodeo is the first following his passing, designed to keep his legacy alive.
Aidee Sanchez entered into a nightmarish situation seven years ago, when her son Ricky was struck by a drunk driver while riding his bike. She brought him to the rodeo because she feels it is absolutely vital he learns bike safety.
Participants were entered to win a $200 gift certificate for a brand new set of wheels. The winner is Zoe Norman. She’s pictured with Mayor Morgan McPherson and City Commissioners Teri Johnston and Barry Gibson. Her mom says, since her little girl already has a bike, she’ll donate the raffle winning to someone less fortunate. Way to go Mrs. Norman!
Jim Malcolm 1953-2008. Malcolm pictured before he passed away, helping a child adjust her headgear. Jim will never be forgotten for his dedication to make Key West a bicycle friendly and safe city for children and adults alike.