I think public officials and other community leaders should stop the promotion of helmet-wearing for around-town bicycling and instead, work on all the other issues related to getting people, including kids, to ride bikes more, including doing what it takes to make the activity safer. There’s a considerable body of research to support this.
I have very few, if any, kids reading my Locally Grown Northfield blog. My blog post that’s titled “Photos of Northfielders biking around town without helmets: all the cool kids are doing it” was not aimed at kids and contains no photos of kids. The phrase “all the cool kids” is a generic, cultural reference that doesn’t directly refer to kids but anyone (for example, Suing Madonna, Self-publishing, Quitting Facebook).
But it’s very likely that kids will find out about my helmet-related blog posts, either on their own or from teachers, parents, or members of the local bike clubs. If they ask me, I’ll explain my position.
In Northfield and elsewhere in MN, the vast majority of high school age teenagers using their skateboards and BMX bikes in municipal skateparks don’t wear helmets. Insurance doesn’t require it as long as the obstacles are under 48 inches high. But if you go to a BMX or skateboard stunt show, all the performers wear helmets. Most kids would understand why: speed and height make a difference. An analogy: should parents let their kids play in the street? Pretty much everyone would say that it depends on the age of the kid, the type of street, and the type of play. Kids gradually learn the subtleties of playing in the street and by the time they’re in high school, it’s a non-issue. Likewise, with helmet-wearing.
Boys especially don’t want to appear to be overly concerned with safety. I insisted that my three sons wore helmets from the time they were toddlers but once they were 14 or so, they refused to do it for around-town biking. They had no hesitation on wearing a helmet when I took them mountain biking or road riding.
I’m 100% in favor of promoting the importance of wearing helmets for mountain biking, road biking, gravel riding, and all forms of bike competition and I would hammer this point home and enforce it rigorously with the high school student athletes. And I would not use my coaching/face time with them to promote my position about helmets and around-town biking. Here are some team building activities.
NICA gave me a choice:
…while NICA’s rules do not govern what Griff does outside of the context of his high school mountain bike coaching, NICA does find his position on helmet use contradictory to our risk management and safety standards. Thus, NICA staff are not supportive of his position regarding helmet use nor his public blogging on this subject. NICA encourages Griff to chose between abiding by the NICA rules at all times – in order to serve as a role model – or not coach.
I replied in part:
One thing I didn’t state in my “Griff’s position” statement was that it never occurred to me that my blogging about helmets for around-town biking would have anything to do with mountain biking. I simply never made the mental connection. If I had, I probably would have avoided the issue altogether.
While it’s unfortunate, I don’t regret doing it. I really do believe in what I wrote about the issue so I can’t in good faith go back on it. So I have decided to withdraw as team director and assistant coach.
And while I’ve put in a lot of hours in this over several months, I have no regrets — no bad feelings whatsoever. I’ve really enjoyed and benefited from all of it, especially the two-days of Leadership Summit training…
I met with the officers of the CVCC to clarify my position that I would always insist that anyone on a club-sanctioned mountain bike ride with me would have to wear a helmet. Their response:
In the end, most felt that we can’t as a Club endorse a position which suggests publicly that riding without a helmet at any time on the bike is advisable. It was very tough to decide whether this meant that individuals within the Club are speaking for the Club, but in the end it was decided that anyone whose name is on the CVVC home page “Club Officers” table could be construed as speaking for the Club. Given that your position as expressed in blog posts is in conflict with our helmet policy (and that you stand by this position), we decided that this means your name should not be listed as a club officer.
So as a club member, I can informally invite others to go on mountain bike rides with me. I just can’t be an official ride leader.
I harbor no ill will towards either NICA nor CVCC, even though I strongly disagree with them. It’s a tricky issue and insurance/risk management makes it even more so.
There are many ways for me to contribute to the sport of mountain biking and bicycling in general. I won’t be shy about letting you know what I’m up to. If it’s Northfield-related, I’ll let you know here on LoGro. Otherwise, stay tuned to my Mountain Bike Geezer blog and/or follow MTBikeSkills on Twitter.
If you live downtown and need your car tomorrow (4th of July), move it before you go to bed tonight because the barricades for the 13th annual 4th of July Criterium (bicycle races, for the clueless) start going up at 5 am on the 4th.
One of Mary Witt’s sons, Ben Witt of Milltown Cycles, is the organizer of this event so she was out last night plastering flyers on the doors of all the downtown area residences. The flyer reads in part:
If you live within the course and will need the use of your car during the day of July 4th, you will need to move your car outside of the course prior to the event. Exceptions will not be made and cars will not be permitted under any circumstances during the duration of the day.
After catching a few acts at the Junebug Festival of Music at the Cow on Thursday, Robbie and I were walking back to our car and noticed this woman pulling in – with help from her son—a monster carp on the west side of Riverwalk.
As part of my public health campaign, I’m going to use this blog post to feature photos of Northfielders bicycling around town without helmets. Why?
Because there’s substantial research available showing that:
the promotion of the wearing of helmets significantly discourages people from using their bikes for around-town bicycling
the fewer the number of people bicycling on a given street or in a concentrated geographic area, the more bike-car accident rates rise. Just because the defendant had a duty to operate his or her vehicle in a certain manner, and it is shown that the defendant breached that duty, the Car Accident Lawyer Hollywood Florida will not assume those circumstances caused the plaintiff’s injuries.
In short, riding a bike around town without a helmet is a relatively safe activity. And society benefits (health, transportation, environmental, economic, etc.) the more that people do it.
For some of the photos, I’ll identify people by name. For others, I’ll just post them with maybe a note about where the photo was taken. As I add photos to this blog post, I’ll add a comment to the thread to alert everyone that a new photo has been added.
I bought a PDW Bar-ista coffee mug holder from Mike’s Bike Shop here in Northfield a few weeks ago. Drinking coffee while riding a bike adds a whole other dimension of pleasure to the experience. I’m not likely to add reading the newspaper or listening to music to the activity, as that would be setting a bad example.
It should be noted, however, that adult athletes aren’t perfect when it comes to the latter. While riding my bike by one of the ball fields at Sechler Park last week, there were cigarette packs and beer cans strewn about after a softball game, with a box of empties left behind.
Since I rediscovered mountain biking a year ago, I’ve been promoting the sport to whoever’s willing to listen to my lecture: the new style, erosion-resistant flow trails are hugely fun, even for beginners. And while it helps to have a mountain bike, some of the beginner trails can be ridden with a hybrid bike.
As the new mountain bike ride coordinator for the Cannon Valley Velo Club, I’m going to be scheduling rides for all levels of riders in the coming months. (If you’d like to be kept informed, register here.)
C Level: experienced at riding gravel or dirt trails/roads, few hills, no obstacles
D Level: little or no off-road experience
Riders with A or B level skills are welcome to attend but you’ll be on your own.
Salem Hills was built specifically for beginning/intermediate riders:
The park is about 70 acres, laid out in a long north/south direction with gently rolling hills, a small pond and wet land area. A major portion of the park is reclaimed farm land that has been seeded with natural prairie grasses and wildflowers. The city also has sections seeded with hardwoods along with a few small sections of pine forest and a few sections of hardwood forest.
Wed, June 13: meet at Bridge Square at 4:45 pm if you need a ride. We depart at 5:10.
Meet at Salem Hills at 5:45. We head out on the trails at 6 pm and return to the parking lot no later than sunset, but more likely between 8 and 8:30.
If the trails are wet, they’re closed, so check here for an update. I’ll confirm the ride by noon.
Bring a water bottle. Wear athletic shoes. You have to ride with a helmet on your head. I’ll have tools.
I took this photo of Cody Larson and Jake Olsen biking to work this morning. They weren’t wearing bike helmets, a perfectly reasonable and safe thing to do for around town biking according to the research discussed here.
These gentlemen need to look their best at work, so they leave their helmets at home when commuting and biking around town. Plus, they know that they’re helping to contribute to the overall public health of the community by setting a good example. Yep. The promotion of the wearing of bike helmets for around town biking reduces bicycling and the public health benefits of cycling. Who’da thunk of those unintended consequences?
(It’s absolutely not true that Jake and Cody were smoking cigarettes and texting while biking just before I took this photo. That’s just a vicious rumor circulating on the intertubes.)
Contrast their fresh, cool and professional appearance with the way I looked this morning when I arrived at GBM after a hard commute from my house wearing a helmet.