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Education is the Best Advocacy
: Focus on the Texas SuperCyclist Project
: Getting SuperCyclist Started
: Nuts and Spokes: How It All Works
: Knowing Your Age
: Keeping Your Head on Straight — Teaching Helmet Safety
: SuperCyclists, Super Challenges: The First Hurdle
: Second Super Hurdle: Generating Interest
: Arm Yourself With the Facts
: Keeping It All in Stride

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Resources for this article:

Texas Bicycling Coalition

Texas SuperCyclist Project

From A to Z by Bike: the Comprehensive Guide to Safe Bicycling for Kids and Adults
Available from AMC Media Corporation, Box 33852, Station D, Vancouver, BC V6J 4L6. A brief pamphlet for non-cycling teachers or adults who want to educate young cyclists.

Effective Cycling
by John Forester, 6th Edition. Available from MIT Press.

Bike Safety materials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Education is the Best Advocacy:
Focus on the Texas SuperCyclist Project

By Rebecca Johnson
page 5

Keeping Your Head on Straight—Teaching Helmet Safety

  An unlucky egg is dropped to demonstrate the fragile nature of a head without a helmet.
"The big thing about helmets," Tyree notes, "is explaining why they must be worn properly. When kids get beyond the ages of 10 and 11, saying 'Because I told you so' isn't enough." To answer the question why, the SuperCyclists have a few innovative and effective techniques up their sleeves.

Attaching a wig form of "hair" and an egg to simulate a human head, the instructor will place the egg in a helmet and drop it. "We've never lost an egg that way," Tyree says. But without the helmet, for egg-heads and human heads alike, it's a different story.

To show what happens when a cyclist neglects to wear a helmet, the instructor will place the egg in a plastic bag, without the helmet, and drop it. As expected, the egg will crack and its insides will explode—a sobering, bicycling illustration of the old nursery rhyme: "All the king's horses and all the king's men couldn't put Humpty together again."

"The brain doesn't heal, and that's what we try to show the kids. Sometimes we replace the egg with a more life-size melon, but school janitors don't tend to like that one too much!"

When kids get older, the helmet issue often becomes one of style. "When kids tell us, oh, helmets aren't cool, we tell them not to worry about what everyone else thinks. It's your head we're talking about, not theirs."

The SuperCyclist instructors encourage children to decorate and personalize their own helmets to make them stand out, rather than simply "fit in." Fourth and fifth graders respond to the chance to set themselves apart as individuals. "After all," Tyree offers, "this is an age at which kids are beginning to search for their own identity."

And sometimes helmets, as well as knee and elbow pads, become cool.

Nearly every SuperCyclist P.E. class will happen to have at least one student who rides BMX or dirt bikes for fun, and teachers will ask the child to come in and show the class what they wear when they ride. "We'll ask them to come to school dressed in all their safety gear, the kneepads and so on. The other kids get really excited. 'That is cool, that is slick!' they'll say."

next page, SuperCyclists, Super Challenges:
                  The First Hurdle >>

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