How to keep 60 kids safe on a bike path

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I'll have to admit that I was expecting the worst when I volunteered to help chaperone a peloton of 60 middle school pupils bicycling on the Sammamish River Trail this weekend.

Clipped wheels. Face plants. Head-ons with speeding adults trying to shave seconds off their time trial records. Tangles with roller-bladers, dogs on leashes or stollers. Anything could  have happened — but nothing did.

Oh, a couple of kids bumped at the beginning of the ride from Redmond to Bothell (Washington) and back. They picked themselves up, brushed themselves off, and started pedaling again. That was as serious as it got.

The kids were cycling to raise funds for the music program at my daughter's middle school. The teacher who organized the bike ride has done this for years and knew how to keep things safe and orderly:

1. The bikes had to pass a safety inspection. Brakes, handlebar stem tightness, tire pressure, etc.

2. No racing and no passing. Helmets must be worn at all times.

3. Ride to the extreme right side of the trail, and pull off the trail completely at stops.

4. Food stops every 5 miles, including a long lunch break in an area where everyone could run around.

5. Plenty of adult chaperones to make sure rules 1 through 3 were followed and snack and food stops were staffed.

The result: An enjoyable 20-mile bicycle ride along a scenic trail for the kids and chaperones; sightings of horses, ducks, Canada geese and jumping salmon in the river; and $6,000 raised for the middle school music program.

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