Stepping up for Bike Safety, and for South Milwaukee

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I’m excited to announce the We Energies Foundation has awarded the South Milwaukee Police Department a $10,000 grant to support our student bike safety program.

The pledge – $2,500 per year over four years – will help fund Basics of Safe Bicycling, which has educated more than 5,600 local third-graders since its inception more than 30 years ago, providing a state-approved bicycle safety curriculum that gives kids the knowledge and skills they need to stay safe on the road heading into the summer riding season.

Activities are held during the normal school day at each of our local schools, public and private. This includes students riding bicycles, provided by the police, through several practical exercises designed to reinforce basic lessons and traffic safety rules taught in the classroom by the teachers. The program also emphasizes helmet usage. Students write essays on what they have learned and participate in other fun activities to reinforce the safety theme.

The program has unique and inspiring history. More than 30 years ago, SMPD Officer John Stoll developed the Bike Rodeo program, which allowed kids to come to the “rodeo” on their own bicycles and participate in bike safety events at the department. Officer Stoll was tragically killed in the line of duty in 1987.

In 2002, the current program started, and it grew to include all third graders, and officers brought it into the schools. The department used money from the John Stoll Memorial Fund, along with money from community sponsors, to help fund its revival. A separate grant funded the purchase 30 BMX-style bikes and a trailer to house them. Officers now bring bikes to each school to ensure everyone can participate in the program.

Three officers staff the program, and it takes about five hours to complete each one. That cost adds up – we spend more than $10,000 from the department operating budget on the bicycle safety program each year. Most of those costs are overtime costs.

The We Energies Foundation funds will help defray those costs.

Despite its clear benefits, in an era of increasingly tight budgets for municipalities, it is getting harder and harder to fund this program. That is why we sought support from the We Energies Foundation – and are so happy they stepped up to help sustain this program.

The foundation’s mission is to create brighter futures for the communities in which you do business. This donation brings that mission to life.

Police are the good guys. They are here to help. And it is programs like this that teach those lessons to our children, building stronger and safer communities along the way.

Thanks, We Energies Foundation, for standing behind that.

I also want to thank the Rawson Elementary students who submitted essays about what they learned from the bike safety program. Well done, kids!

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