The fourth-grader’s scream cut through the beautiful fall day and whipped my head around. It was the final day of our bike safety class at Roseway Heights in Northeast Portland, we had just started our community ride, and I was sure someone had already lost a leg.
Nope. It was just leaves on the ground.
“What’s wrong?!” his classmates asked.
“Leeeeeeaves! They are enemies of the bike,” he said with a huge smile.
For fourth graders, mock-freaking-out about things (squirrels, dog poop, leaves…) is a lot of fun, especially if there are adults around to witness the scene and treat you like you’re crazy. Soon the whole front of the line was screaming about every leaf they saw. Exaggerated fears about slipping on leaves gave way to stories about being eaten by leaves.
“They got Bob last week,” Andy said, dryly, looking out over the blazing maples on the Rose City Golf Course.
As a teacher, I was dutybound to turn their fun into one of those boring “teachable moments.” We agreed that the two things you should never try to do while biking across anything slippery (wet leaves, ice, metal surfaces) are 1) turning and 2) changing speed. I begrudgingly added “Wheelies” to the list after some discussion.
So this is your reminder. Watch out for leaves when you’re on your bike. All of ‘em. As any Roseway Heights fourth grader could tell you, they’re enemies of the bike. And watch it with those wheelies.