Tuesday, July 14, 2009


In Pella yesterday an eight year old girl pedaled her bike out onto a street in front of an oncoming car at the intersection of Woodlawn and Hazel. I arrived at the scene shortly after the ambulance, and saw a few people gathered around the front of a gray SUV. The ambulance was parked to the side, and I could see a Pella Police car blocking the street, prohibiting traffic from passing through. Pella PD officer Paul Haase was moving about the accident scene calmly taking notes and photographs. I parked a block or so away, and walked a bit closer, but not too close. Those gathered looked concerned, yet calm, and I felt a bit of relief, hoping that the injuries to the child were not serious. Ambulance personnel were working quickly, but I detected no urgency. Occasionally I caught a glimpse of a small blond head, and saw it nod once. Everything is going to be OK, I thought. The girl was loaded into the ambulance, it drove off slowly up the hill to Pella Regional, and the crowd dispersed. A purple child's bike lay up off of the curb, a helmet close by.

The scene was now quiet, and Officer Haase was sitting in his squad car filling out paperwork, so I walked up to talk.

"She going to be OK?" I asked.

"Yeah," he replied, looking relieved. "Maybe broken arm, that's it. She was wearing a helmet. Could've been lots worse."

I noticed that he had smiled and nodded when he said "helmet."

"Eight years old," he added.

"Any charges?"

"No," he said, shaking his head. "She just pulled out and rode right in front of them--nothing they could've done."

I thanked Officer Haase and walked back to my truck, and pulled away slowly. I turned around and drove back to our studio on the Molengracht a few blocks away, but one thing in my world had now changed. It seemed that everywhere I looked, were kids on bicycles. I had never noticed it before, but Pella is a city full of kids on bicycles. Kids of all sizes and shapes, on bicycles in a rainbow of hues. Swooping in and out, up and down, on side streets, main streets, sidewalks and parks. Bicycles everywhere, and I had never seen it.

Until yesterday.

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