By FELICIA KRIEG
---- — PLATTSBURGH — When SUNY Plattsburgh University Police Officer Robert Light talks to children about bicycle safety, he often shows them a mangled bicycle — one he was riding when it collided with a Jeep.
That day in 2001, he was biking on Route 374 in Dannemora when the Jeep, driving ahead of him, made a left turn into a driveway and then backed out again.
Light has been told his bike collided with the vehicle; he has no memory of the accident.
He was in the hospital for 10 days and underwent nine months of physical therapy during his recovery, he said.
The reason he survived, Light tells his young listeners, was likely because he was wearing a helmet.
TWO STATE AWARDS
For his efforts is educating youngsters on bike safety, Light has been honored with two state service awards.
In May, at Lake Placid Elementary School, he accepted the New York State Bicycle Coalitions’ 2013 Law Enforcement Bicycling Champion Award.
And he was recently recognized at SUNY Plattsburgh for the distinction.
Light’s Bicycle Coalition award was the first won by an individual police officer, said University Police Chief Arlene Sabo.
Later in the ceremony, Light was surprised with another honor he did not expect to receive, the New York State University Police Professional Service Award.
”(You) threw a little curve ball at me,” he said as he received the award.
”This award is based upon acts that have greatly enhanced the operation of the University Police,” Sabo said.
University Police Assistant Chief Jerry Lottie said the department just recently received word from the State University of New York Police Chiefs’ Association award committee that Light had won the Professional Service Award.
He will formally accept it at a ceremony in Albany in November.
Lottie said Light’s efforts have made the North Country a safer place.
”We are reaching hundreds of kids every year to make sure they are riding safely and, thanks to Officer Light, we are saving lives,” Lottie said.
Light visits area schools to talk to students about bike safety and rides on bike tours to raise awareness, Lottie said.
One of the newest safety campaigns is the Fun on Wheels event, which was established three years ago with the help of Safe Kids Adirondack, Light said.
As part of the event, he rides from school to school in Clinton and Essex counties, fitting second grade students with helmets.
The CVPH Foundation purchases the helmets, and they are provided to the children free of charge.
Light has biked on charity rides, raising thousands of dollars to donate to organizations like Ride for Missing Children and the National Law Enforcement Memorial Fund.
“In Robert Light, we have an outstanding citizen worthy of public recognition,” New York State Assemblywoman Janet Duprey said at the ceremony.
’HAVE TO EDUCATE’
Among the most important rules of the road for cyclists are riding on the right side of the road with the flow of traffic and wearing a helmet for every ride “no matter how short the trip,” Light said.
Bikers should obey the same traffic laws as vehicles are required to, among them stopping at red lights and stop signs, he said.
Light said he isn’t hesitant to stop anyone who violates the laws or isn’t being safe.
Many bikers ride while listening to music through headphones, he said, which makes them less aware of their surroundings.
”I’m constantly stopping (them),” Light said. “I have to educate them.”
Email Felicia Krieg: firstname.lastname@example.orgTwitter: @FeliciaKrieg