Tupper Lake bike rodeo continues to grow, set for June 9

The Tupper Lake bike rodeo’s 2016 course is seen at the Emergency Services Building from a ladder truck. Event organizers say this year’s event will be the biggest yet. (Enterprise photo — Brittany Proulx)

TUPPER LAKE — In its 10th year, the Tupper Lake Police Department’s bike rodeo continues to grow, offering a free, family-friendly day of fun.

The event was started by officer Michael Vaillancourt after he graduated from the police bike school in 2008, giving the department a chance to interact with the town, teaching kids bicycle and car safety and bringing in more and more bicyclers every year.

Santa Clara Avenue will be closed all day as hundreds of tykes on bikes navigate obstacle courses running through every inch of the street, the parking lots and the surrounding woods. These courses are meant to teach kids safe cycling practices, such as reading signs, looking for pedestrians and riding in difficult situations.

The street course will feature a roundabout, pedestrians, teeter-totters and a multitude of street signs.

“We’ll try to trip them up,” Vaillancourt said.

The off-road course will feature a log pile, sand pit and dirt hills, as well as a four-way crossing.

The rodeo has come a long way from 20 people in 2008, growing to 350 to 400 in recent years. With the event expanding every year, Vaillancourt said he will need more volunteers then ever. To volunteer for any part of the event, contact him at vaillancourt@tupperlakepd.com.

The department will give away 150 to 180 bike helmets at the event, supplying them for any kids who don’t have their own. High Peaks Cyclery will provide mechanic service on the bikes and the department has funding this year from local businesses to buy new brake pads and cables.

The event also teaches about driving safety with several simulators.

A simulator with 180-degree screens to show the dangers of drunk driving puts users in the seat after having an increasing amount of drinks and shows how reaction times are reduced and movements are unreliable. The state Traffic Safety Committee is bringing pedal carts with “beer goggles” that simulate drunk vision, and are available for kids or adults to drive.

“The only way to know what it feels like to be drunk and driving is to drive drunk, and the simulator is the closest thing you can do,” Vaillancourt said.

The department is also bringing in a “seatbelt convincer,” which simulates a 70-mile-an-hour crash with a seatbelt to show how the safety device can save lives.

The event will also feature a bounce house, “Flutterbug” the clown, two bike raffles and food … lots of food. Pizza, Michigan dogs, jalapeno cheeseburgers, bottomless Sundaes, cotton candy and popcorn will all be on the scene, as well as TLPD branded sunglasses, fidget spinners and water bottles that change color in sunlight.

Vaillancourt has spent the past six months organizing this event and he is preparing to hand the responsibility over to officer Heather Kennedy, as he expects to retire in a few years.

Currently, Vaillancourt said he is the only bicycle-certified police officer between Plattsburgh and Potsdam. He knows how to take down perpetrators on a bike, a skill he picked up in bike school. Vaillancourt said the 50-mile, nonstop ride he took as a final for the school was the toughest thing he has ever done, even more than his powerlifting days.

He said many had to leave the race because of broken shoulders, wrists and bikes, and that riders had to hold each other up at stop signs because they weren’t allowed to touch the ground.

The department has not been able to support a bike route for around five years because of limited staffing, but Vaillancourt is ready if there ever are enough officers again.

He said he organizes the rodeo year after year because he loves seeing the kids pick up safety skills, and come back year after year.

“The kids that start off really young, I watch them get older and now some of them are volunteering,” Vaillancourt said. “You watch them kind of grow with ya.

What: Tupper Lake Police Department bike rodeo

When: Saturday, June 9 at 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Where: Emergency Services Building, 21 Santa Clara Avenue, Tupper Lake

How much: Free

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