Brittney Lofthouse – Staff Writer

Fourth grades at East Franklin Elementary School will soon be outfitted with new bicycle helmets as part of a grant awarded to the town of Franklin by the North Carolina Department of Transportation.

“On behalf of East Franklin Elementary School and Macon County School Board, the Town of Franklin is happy to announce that East Franklin Elementary School has been awarded a 100 percent bicycle helmet grant for 65 helmets from NCDOT,” Justin Setser, town planner, announced on Tuesday. “This grant is made possible through the ‘Share the Road’ license plate program.”

Each year, an average of 20 bicyclists are killed while bicycling in North Carolina. One in six are under age 16. Children ages 5 to 14 are seen in emergency rooms for bicycle-related injuries more than any other sport. Typically, less than 50 percent of children will wear a helmet. Helmets can reduce the risk of severe brain injuries by 88 percent.

Since 2007, the Division of Bicycle and Pedestrian Transportation has helped distribute bicycle helmets to low-income children through schools, police departments and other groups. Revenue from the “Share the Road” specialty license plate has funded the initiative, which has made thousands of helmets available to children in need. Bicycle enthusiasts across North Carolina can now show their support for bicycle and highway safety while bringing awareness to others by purchasing the specialized license plate. The plate, which features the “Share the Road” traffic sign, was approved by the NC General Assembly on July 11, 2005. The Division of Bicycle & Pedestrian Transportation receives $20 of the fees collected per plate to be used for bicycle education and safety initiatives.

The Town of Franklin voted on the grant Monday night and with unanimous support, was able to secure the grant for new helmets.

“These helmets will be distributed to the 4th grade classes at East Franklin Elementary,” said Setser. “The helmets will be distributed during physical education classes along with the Let’s Go NC curriculum that will teach the students bicycle skills and safe riding technics.”

The grant was also made possible through community collaboration  between several business and organizations such as Active Routes to School, Franklin Police Department, Franklin Planning Department and Smoky Mountain Bicycles who provided support letters in the grant process.

For more information, contact Town Planner Justin Setser at Town Hall, 95 E Main Street, Franklin or at (828)524-2516.