DIXON – Laci Long’s new helmet is covered with pink, black and white flowers.
The 8-year-old Dixon girl had asked her parents, Duane and Stacy Long, for a helmet after visiting her cousins in the Quad Cities.
There Nya and Leea Tarpin, 7 and 10, told her she didn’t have to wear one – but then she wouldn’t get ice cream.
Moline, Rock Island and East Moline police officers and Rock Island County Sheriff’s deputies give ice cream coupons to bike riders wearing helmets.
In Morrison, police have been giving free Dairy Queen ice cream vouchers to helmeted riders ages 3 to 16 since summer 2009.
Back home in Dixon, Laci suggested to Police Chief Danny Langloss, a family friend, that his officers do the same. He decided to put her idea into action.
The goal is to increase bike safety awareness, Langloss said, especially with the high number of complaints the department has been receiving about bicyclists not obeying traffic rules.
There has been several serious bicycle-vehicle accidents over the last year, including one in which bicyclist Marc C. McFarland, 50, ended up at Rockford Memorial Hospital in critical condition.
Now Dixon police are handing out challenge coins to kids caught wearing helmets while biking. The coins can be redeemed for free ice cream at Culver’s, 1317 N. Galena Ave., and McDonald’s, 207 N. Galena Ave.
Laci hasn’t gotten a coin yet, but she’s out on her bike practically every day. She doesn’t like walking, she said.
Her brother, Nathan, 10, whose Tony Hawk helmet has gone missing, says bikes are nice because you sit and still go.
“The kids (including Jessa, 13) are very active,” Stacy Long said. “They usually ride along while I’m out walking or running.”
Laci has been riding since she was 3, but before now, never wore a helmet – and, to her pride, never has fallen.
“It feels like I’m wearing a hat,” she said, but a heavy one.