Captain Bicycle Shorts doesn't want to smoosh his lofty hair by wearing a helmet.
He is also fond of donning dark clothes, riding against vehicle traffic and rolling through stop signs and signals.
But at the end of a 30-minute performance by the The Imaginists theater group, the students at Pine Crest Elementary School in Sebastopol shout out instructions to the beleaguered protagonist played by actor Brent Lindsay.
In the end Captain Bicycle Shorts gets the girl, gets his superhero status and learns a lot about the rules of the road.
The format is all fun but the message is entirely serious.
"We have really active kids who ride their bikes to school and they are little," said Liz Schott, Pine Crest principal and superintendent of the Sebastopol school district. "Anything we can do to pop a safety message to them, I'm excited."
The performance is part of an ongoing program between Sebastopol, Roseland and Bellevue districts, and Safe Routes to Schools to encourage students to walk, bike and carpool to campus.
Schools are in their third year of the collaboration, but this year marks the first time Safe Routes tapped the Imaginists to create a performance that would drive home road lessons while keeping things light for their elementary school-aged audience.
"We have done assemblies. They were informative, but they were somewhat dry," said Tina Panza, director of Safe Routes to School for the Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition.
Dry wasn't a problem Wednesday at Pine Crest. There was an underlying love story, jokes about gas and a couple of splattered eggs. And lots of laughs and shouting.
"I liked when he said, &‘Don't shine your shoes with candy bars,'" said second-grader Destiny Cappurro.
Third-grader Rufus Van Hicks said he learned about what to do if he encounters a Yield sign.
"It means to look everywhere."
Even something as standard as a crosswalk got the refresher treatment when actress Tessa Rissacher came on stage as a talking crosswalk.
"I am not a magic maker," she said. "I am only a crosswalk sign, so you want to always use your head before your feet."
The 30-minute program, performed in two installments for $500 at Pine Crest Wednesday, was paid for by grant funds which bring cycling and walking safety lessons to schools in Sebastopol, Roseland and Bellevue districts.
Safe Routes paid The Imaginists used the $1,000 to create the performance, which other schools in Sonoma County can now book for assemblies, Panza said.
The flurry of visits to eight schools over the course of a month is meant to drive home safety lessons as thousands of students are asked to get out of the family car for International Walk and Roll to School Day Wednesday.
The grants that are funding multi-year Safe Routes programs in Sebastopol, Roseland and Bellevue have created curriculum and materials that are free for other schools to download via the Sonoma County Safe Routes To Schools website.
"Once you get children engaged you can show them just about anything, you can feel fairly confident they'll take it in," said Laurie Whiteside, principal at Park Side School in Sebastopol, which will host The Imaginists next month.
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