WHEELER ARMY AIRFIELD, Hawaii (March 14, 2014) -- Bicycle safety is a hot-button issue on Hawaii roadways these days.

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell announced, earlier this week, plans to create a bike-only lane that would run through downtown streets, bringing the city one step closer to being a cyclists-friendly area.

And while U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii installations resemble little of a busy urban spread, the topic of bike safety is at the forefront of conversation, here.

Recently, USAG-HI's School Liaison Office (a component of the Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation) received an Interactive Customer Evaluation (ICE) comment from a concerned resident about young children riding their bikes unsupervised on Army bases.

SLO's Tamsin Keone said her office immediately contacted on-post schools to find out what they are currently doing to educate students on bike safety.

"They said that they do a fourth-grade bike safety class, but for students who are younger than that or who PCS (make a permanent change of station move) in after the class, there wasn't anything for them," Keone recalled. "When parents have a concern, we want to make sure we address it, so we wanted to go one extra step."

SLO partnered up with Island Palm Communities (IPC) and the Directorate of Emergency Services (DES) to go the extra mile and put on a Bicycle Safety Bonanza at Wheeler Community Center, here, Wednesday.

"Spring break is coming up; then summertime is just around the corner. There's going to be a lot of children on the roads, so that's why we're doing this event," said Sheryl Ferido, community services manager, IPC.

"Another reason for this event is to raise awareness of the actual rules that are in place for bike riding, because when they're followed, the chance of someone getting hurt goes way down," said Sgt. Frank Poppa of the 13th Military Police Detachment, 728th MP Battalion, 8th MP Brigade, 8th Theater Sustainment Command.

"That's what we're emphasizing, and helmets play a huge role in that," Ferido added. "And a lot of parents don't realize that when they buy a bike, they should buy a helmet."

An estimated 30 children, ages 3-14, with parents in tow, attended the first-time event, where they were treated to a hands-on "Rules of the Road" lesson before getting behind their two wheels to tackle a bike rodeo course and a ride along with the DES Bike Patrol around the adjoining neighborhood.

"Bicycle safety is important, especially now, at these ages," said Hope Metzler, mom to sons Ryan, 7, and Zachary, 8, and a volunteer on the Parent Teacher Student Organization (PTSO) at Wheeler Elementary School.

"We've taught them bicycle safety at previous posts, as Mom and Dad, but (the message) is not as strong as when it comes from the MPs," Metzler stated.

Following the ride along, each child had to complete an additional safety out brief and test that underscored the importance of riding akamai (smart).

"It was awesome!" said Zachary Metzler of the safety course.

"It was fun," agreed brother Ryan. "I liked going on the lap around (the neighborhood) and back."

"I learned that not all helmets are the same," Zachary added. "Some are made for skateboarding, but you need to wear ones that are for bicycles."

"The response that I've gotten so far has been very positive," said Ferido, noting that plans are in the works to hold a similar event for USAG-HI south residents in the future.

"It's good for the community to come together and have different programs work together," Keone added, "and then just providing something for the community and for the children, because, you know, sometimes the parents can teach their children, but maybe going through it with DES and being a part of this group will reinforce those lessons. If just one kid can take away something from this, then I feel this event was a success."

Bicycle riding is a fun, healthy activity and a fun way to get around while enjoying Hawaii's beautiful scenery. However, the Directorate of Emergency Services, U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii, reminds everyone that a bike is not a toy -- it is a vehicle, and should be regarded in the same manner as a car or motorcycle. Before your next ride, review the following basic safety tips:
•Inspect your bike to make sure all parts are secure and working properly.
•Adjust your bicycle to fit.
•Wear neon, fluorescent or other bright colors. Also, wear something that reflects light, such as reflective tape or markings, or equip your bike with flashing lights.
•Always ride with at least one hand on the handlebars. Carry books and other items in a bicycle carrier or backpack.
•Remain vigilant of road hazards, such as potholes, broken glass, gravel, puddles, leaves and dogs.
•Avoid riding at night or in the rain.
•And, most importantly, ALWAYS wear a properly fitted bicycle helmet.