By MADDY VITALE
Young bicyclists showcased their talents in front of local police, parents, other kids and city officials in an event that brought the Ocean City community together for a good night Wednesday.
The bicycle skills and safety event was held in the parking lot of the Sports & Civic Center at Fifth Street and the Boardwalk. It was organized by parent Sarah Gaddy, of Ocean City, in partnership with the police department and the city and highlighted the positive relationships between local law enforcement and young people.
It also highlighted the fact that the majority of kids on bikes are out there to get exercise, relieve tension from a COVID-19 pandemic year and be law-abiding.
For Miles Birch, 13, of Ocean City, biking is his favorite pastime. He took it up six months ago.
There was one way he described what many of the local kids want to do when they hop on their bikes and do tricks and chat among each other.
“We just want to be peaceful,” Miles said.
The event involved friendly competition to win gift cards.
It was in response to recent incidents in which rowdy bicyclists rode through town and on the Boardwalk, prompting police to issue warnings that the actions would not be tolerated. It showed that many of the kids are law-abiding and just want to do the sport they love without causing any trouble.
Brandon Granger, 13, of Ocean City, was one of about 75 kids who came out for the event. He has been riding since last August.
Shortly after doing a wheelie he said, “I practiced every day since I started last August. There are a lot of other kids who are better than me but I like it a lot. I like it because it really de-stresses you.”
He also explained how he felt about the incidents involving some rowdy bicyclists.
“The kids who were doing things were from out of town and shouldn’t come here and start a ruckus because it causes problems for us,” Brandon noted.
In addition to giving a show to the crowd of spectators, the local kids and members of the city’s police department spoke about bicycle safety.
“We want to reinforce the good behavior. Each weekend we will be out in the summer and kids not operating bicycle safety will be issued summonses,” Police Chief Jay Prettyman said.
However, he said that rowdy or disruptive bicyclists are not an Ocean City-specific problem. It is something other communities are dealing with, too.
But Ocean City, Prettyman noted, was one of the first to take a position and an approach to highlight the safety aspect in the positive event Wednesday night.
Mayor Jay Gillian said the event showed how important it is to come together as a community.
“Ocean City is a great community,” Gillian said. “This is what happens when everyone comes together. I’m happy to see so many parents and I want to thank the police department.”
In addition to the mayor, state Assemblyman Antwan McClellan, of Ocean City, City Council members and other city officials attended the program.
Sarah Gaddy, the local mother who was instrumental in making the event possible, looked out over the crowd of kids doing bike tricks and speaking with police, friends and family.
“See, this is what it is all about. The kids are having a good time. It is a great night and the community is coming together,” Gaddy said. “You could feel the happiness and joy just absolutely through every person here. It is just so beautiful to see everybody together. You could just feel the pure joy in these kids.”
Gaddy, who, along with her husband, Calvin, have five children, watched as their 15-year-old son, C.J., performed some high-wheeling stunts while riding with friends.
C.J., who attends Holy Spirit High School in Absecon and plays football, loves biking. It was reflected in his smile as he coasted along the newly paved parking lot next to the Sports & Civic Center.
“A lot of bad stuff has happened over the last six months,” C.J. said of the pandemic. “It has caused anxiety and depression for a lot of kids. Some kids have bad backgrounds and this is a release. They can leave that world behind, even for a moment, and unwind.”
One bicyclist who was performing stunts but was part of the formal competition is sort of a celebrity among bikers. His name is Jeffrey Isackman, 17, of Philadelphia, and he belongs to One Way, a young bicyclists club.
Not only can he stand on his bike and glide along, but Isackman has become a role model for some young bicyclists.
“I came out to help make it a positive thing,” he said. “It is good for these kids to get to know the cops and the cops get to know them. Not all bicyclists are in bike gangs. A few bad people give us a bad name.”
The winners of the competitions were C.J. Gaddy for longest wheelie, Travis Bickley for best swerve and Miles Birch. In a random drawing, Jane Heng won a $1,000 SE Monster Ripper 29” bicycle donated by the Tuckahoe Bike Shop. She donated the prize to her older brother, Joseph Heng.