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.
This is a long sucker, but it rolls through some beautiful, quiet country. Main rest stop is projected at the Straight River Inn Cafe in downtown Hope, MN at about 67 miles. There will be opportunities for water and convenience store food/beverages in Waterville (35 miles) and Nerstrand (113 miles), but it’s wide open country otherwise, so plan food and water accordingly!
Austin and Michael were impressive instructors: very thorough, great storytellers, well-organized, interesting, and funny. Gary treated us royally with breakfast, lunch and even dinner on Saturday, with ample snacks throughout each day and happy hours at day’s end. The only disappointment: it rained all day Saturday and on and off on Sunday so the end-of-the-day-rides had to be cancelled.
I’m pretty enthused about all this. Sue and I will soon host a community info night in Northfield for interested student athletes and parents.
I had lunch earlier this week with Kevin Keane, race team director for the 1 year-old Cannon Valley Velo Club (CVVC). (That’s Kevin on the right in left photo above – photo by Shane Kitzman, Northfield News.) We discussed all things mountain biking and I’ve signed on to be the club’s new mountain biking ride coordinator—hence, the staged photo in my front yard yesterday. (I’m on a borrowed fat bike, as I’m on my way to the Cuyuna Lakes Whiteout up in Crosby-Ironton for my first-ever race this weekend. More on that here on my Mountain Bike Geezer blog.)
I’ll only be coordinating the CVVC mountain bike rides, primarily on singletrack. Others will be coordinating the mountain bike racing and the gravel rides. On some really good mountain bikes.
March 1 is the official start of the club’s annual membership term and Scott Klein, CVVC Secretary, posted this announcement this morning to the CVVC Google Group email list (open to anyone, not just members):
The club is officially one year old and we’re excited to keep growing the club and offering more rides and activities for all riders. For this year, we are planning to offer more ride options with better organization (ie maps and short cuts for those of us with time constraints) and expand the awareness of off-road routes for gravel rides and mountain bikers.
Additionally, we will be working with the Mill Towns Trail organization to promote the completion of this bike trail from Red Wing to Mankato. If you have any other ideas to help promote safe bicycling in our community, we’d love to hear about it. To keep offering these activities and to maintain our insurance policy for group rides in 2012, it’s time to update our list of active members and collect membership dues.
The membership dues are the same amount as last year, so please take a look at the attached document for exact pricing. For existing members, please sign the insurance waiver and release form (even if you filled one out last year) and include it with your payment. Both of these items can either be mailed to our club treasurer, David Foster, or dropped off in person at Tom’s shop, Fit to be Tri’d in Northfield.
Right: I met these guys yesterday (L to R: Tim Larson, David Gavin, Eric Marr and Dan Malecha; Dan is a cousin of Arlen and Galen) while mountain biking the Battle Creek Park Reserve mountain bike trail system on the east side of St. Paul. (Details on my Mountain Bike Geezer blog here.)
If you know anything about the Northfield Bike Club, you know that it is not really a club at all. The NBC is a bunch of bicycling enthusiasts who like to ride together. The only thing the NBC has that resembles membership is being on the club mailing list. That is free and never expires, but it’s also all you get – a way to communicate with other like-minded riders.
The Cannon Valley Velo Club is a full-fledged club with membership forms, matching jerseys – the whole deal. The club reaches out to all riders and also to the non-cycling community to promote good and safe cycling. It offers organized rides for everyone from the complete novice to the genuine racer.