Saturday, April 23, 2011

Teacher's Guide for Mick Harte was Here by Barbara Park

Teachers Guide by Gretchen Behrens Lenart

 Barbara Park's book is a great introduction to bike safety and why kids should wear a helmet for 3rd through 8th grade.

For the book  review about Mick Harte was Here click this link.

(Lenart prepared the first draft of this Teacher's Guide in May 2000 as part of her Health and Safety Studies Internship as a student at California State University, Sacramento. This work was completed under the direction of the Bicycle Head Injury Prevention Program of the California Department of Health Services, State and Local Injury Control Section under a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
[Grant U17/CCU911095 October 1, 1997 - September 30, 2000])

Her whole world has been turned upside down….How could someone like Phoebe’s brother die?  Mick Harte was one of the neatest kids you’d ever want to meet—the kid who freaked his mom out by putting a ceramic eye in a defrosted chicken; who went trick-or-treating as Thomas Crapper, the inventor of the modern day flush toilet; who did a wild solo dance in front of the whole school.

Mick was also the kid who would still be alive now—if he’d only worn his bicycle helmet….
Reading Level    4.8          
Pages         88    
Chapters    9              
1995        Random House Publishers      
(800) 733-3000    ISBN 0-679-88203-0      
Price    $4.99

Mick Harte Was Here
can be used in the classroom in a variety of ways to reinforce messages about wearing helmets, traffic safety and dealing with issues of grief and loss while providing engaging characters and yes, humorous reading.

Recreation, Transportation and Sports

There are so many wonderful sports today that are appealing and fun.  Riding bicycles, scooters, skateboards and skates are just a few.  The growth of "extreme sports" is attracting TV and video viewership among our children, both boys and girls.

Wearing Helmets

Promoting life long physical activity is important, but it is also important to understand how to participate in sports safely.  While fun and promoting physical activity, these sports all have risks and recommen-dations for appropriate safety equipment.   Sadly, children often are unable to internalize risks personally and believe that "it won't happen to me" or that safety equipment is uncool.

Traffic Safety

Our communities are congested with vehicles of all kinds.  While "sharing the road" with bicycles and other modes of transportation is being promoted, universal awareness and practice have not been achieved.   Bicycles are not toys, they are vehicles and are covered by state vehicle codes.  Learning to properly care for and ride a bike is a child's first driver's education opportunity.

Grief and Loss

Almost every child experiences grief or is affected by the grief of a family member or friend.  For many children their first experience with death is with a beloved pet or grandparent.  But often there are other losses for which children grieve.  These may include divorce, separation, crime and violence, friends moving away or the family relocating.  Learning about these issues and ways to deal with the intense feelings are important life lessons.
Major Characters

Phoebe Harte

An eighth grade student.  She is the narrator of the story.  She loved to tease her brother, and instigate fake fights.  She thought of her brother as family and as a friend.  After his death, she went into shock.  Once it hit her that her brother would never come home again, she felt bitter, angry, and guilty.  She feels the deepest love for her brother.  The memories about her brother helped her cope with the heart wrenching grief she went through along with her Mom and Dad.
Mick Harte

A seventh grade student.  He lived life to the fullest.  He loved to tease his sister, and have playful fights.  He was always filled with energy and excitement.  A bicycle crash ended his life at the age of 12.  If he had been wearing a helmet, chances are he would have survived.
Supporting Characters


A chemist who is methodical and organized.  Before Mick died she had her whole family on a strict schedule that was to be followed religiously every day.  Her family is precious to her and it was shown through her actions.  She placed their needs before her own on a daily basis.  She completely withdrew when Mick died.  She took sleeping pills and she was depressed.  She seemed to be in a catatonic state most of the time.  

A chemist who is also methodical and organized.  A proud man who expects to be heard when he says something the first time.  He shows love for his family when he tries to shield them from getting hurt.  He is very neat, and does not shift his morning routine because it might throw his entire day off.  He was very casual in the mornings when he walked around with his boxers, socks and       T-shirt on.  After Mick died, his appearance became sloppier.  He didn’t express his feelings, and he shut himself off to the real world.
Zoe Santos

A good friend to both Phoebe and Mick.  She provided a great safety net for Phoebe as she grieved for Mick.  She was able to help Phoebe tremendously by observing that now “Mick was everywhere.”  This helped comfort Phoebe.

Coach Brodie

Phoebe’s soccer coach  
Mrs. Berryhill

Junior High School Principal  
Mrs. Santos

Zoe’s mother  

Phoebe and Mick’s grandmother.  She was able to finally get Phoebe and her parents to eat together again as a family.

Chapter    Summary


Pages 3-13  
Phoebe tells the reader that her brother Mick is dead, and then tells his story.  Mick had a great sense of fun and was excellent at imitating voices.  Phoebe has fond memories of the trouble they used to get into together.  She and Mick loved to play fight.  Usually their parents did not like it, but that was part of the appeal for them.  Their parents expected them to resolve differences in a "civilized and resourceful manner" and her mother always wanted a strict schedule followed so that her kids would not get the opportunity to misbehave.  The day Mick died, they had been fighting and wrestling, Phoebe called Mick a really bad name.  Later, she regretted it since she would never be able to apologize.  This was hard because even though they fought, they liked each other a lot.  They even got into trouble together.  The first time was when Mick was in Kindergarten and they wrote in the fresh cement that had been poured next to the house.



Pages 14-24  
Not looking like a doofus was important to Mick, he was concerned about the way he looked, especially after he found out that he had worn a christening gown as an infant.  Phoebe also thought that a lot of girls had crushes on Mick.

As they walk to school together Phoebe tells Zoe (her best friend) about the bad name that she called Mick.  Zoe reassures her that Mick will quickly get over being mad at Phoebe as he always does.  During lunch at school, Mick asks if Phoebe or Zoe can ride his bike home because he wanted to go to a friend’s house.  Both of them said they couldn't do it.

While Phoebe is at soccer practice, she hears an ambulance's siren, then the school secretary runs to speak to her coach, who comes to Phoebe with the news.  Phoebe feels numb, until she sees Mick’s bike in the road and begins to cry.  She goes to Zoe's house while her parents are at the hospital.  She prays that Mick will be ok.  She and Zoe talk about Mick's outrageous Halloween costumes.


The Serengeti Sucks

Pages 25-35  
Phoebe’s Dad picks her up from her friend’s house, and she knows immediately something is terribly wrong.  Her Dad wipes away tears, and whispers that Mick is “gone.”  When they get home most of the lights are off, so Phoebe immediately turns on all the lights.  All she feels is emptiness inside.  When her Dad tries to shut Mick’s bedroom door Phoebe yells at him to stop.  Her Dad breaks down sobbing, and Phoebe feels helpless.  Looking inside Mick’s room, she remembers how much Mick loved his dog, Wocket.

Phoebe and her parents stop eating dinner together because they never had appetites and they didn't want to face Mick’s empty chair.  Phoebe’s Mom stays in her pajamas all the time, never brushes her hair, and her face is puffy from pill-induced sleep and crying.  After Mick is cremated, they plan the memorial service.  Many family and friends call offering words of wisdom or stop by with food.  Phoebe feels like the nights are extremely long since her brother is not there.


Pages 36-43  
Zoe calls Phoebe a lot to see how she is doing, and to let her know that she is not alone.  Zoe tells her that a grief counselor came to the school for students to talk to if they were having a hard time coping with Mick’s death.  Lots of kids were upset about Mick's death, especially his friends Danny Monroe and Rickie Bowie.  This doesn’t make Phoebe feel much better, because she feels like Mick’s death should be private.  Zoe says that the grief counselor stressed the importance of talking about Mick.  Phoebe didn’t want to hear anymore, because she doesn't care what the counselor thought.  Phoebe thought if she started to feel better, she was being disloyal to Mick.

She stops by Mick’s room and notices how much junk he had collected, and she started to remember things.  Mick called the junk his treasures.  Mick had a fetish about flies, and he took fly swatters around with him everywhere he went.  Phoebe’s memories helped her laugh, and somewhere she felt that Mick was laughing too.  Later that day she wants to talk to her Mom about Mick, but her Mom was not up to it yet.  Phoebe got angry and left.  She ends up at the site where Mick got in his crash, and she started to cry.


Tap Dancing on God’s Piano

Pages 44-53  
Phoebe is very rebellious and tries to get back at her Mom.  Every opportunity she gets, she makes sure to mention Mick’s name loud enough for her Mom to hear it.  When her Mom finally confronts her about it, she runs up to her room crying.  Phoebe is angry with Mick for doing this to their family.  She calls Zoe, because she knows she can talk to her about anything.

Later, Phoebe and her parents go to Mick’s interment.  When they got home, she is upset so she immediately calls Zoe again.  Zoe comes over to her house to talk with her about Mick.  Phoebe really struggles to figure out what "heaven" means and what God does.  When Zoe tells Phoebe that maybe Mick is everywhere, things make more sense for her.  Right before they go to sleep, Zoe lightens the mood by saying that Mick might be in the clouds tap dancing on God’s piano like he got kicked out of choir practice for doing.


Getting a Grip

Pages 54-62  
Phoebe explains that the reason Mick wanted to be cremated was that he got sick over seeing the body in the casket when their Great-grandmother Harte died and they went to her service.  Phoebe remembers her Mom stating that at her funeral she wanted a street parade with jazz band music.

It was time for Mick’s memorial service, and Phoebe is hesitant because she did not want people judging her appearance when the focus should be on her brother.  On the drive to the service Phoebe makes sure not to cross the imaginary line that separates Mick’s side from her side.  Phoebe sees strands of gray in her mother's hair that she never noticed before.  It touches her so deeply that she puts her hand on it.  Her Mom responds by touching her hand and then touching her Dad’s hand so that they are all linked together even though a piece of their family is missing.

The memorial service is crowded, and as they walk to their pew, Phoebe kept telling herself to “act natural.”  Although at the same time she did not know why she had to please others with her behavior.  During the service some of Mick’s friends got up and spoke about him.  Then, it was Phoebe’s turn, and she told a story about a Mother’s Day card that Mick had written when he was mad at his Mom for not letting him get a tattoo.


Dogs Can Laugh in Heaven

Pages 63-74  
Phoebe returns to school the week after the service.  She gets sick to her stomach when she hears a boy in the hall say, “There’s the sister of the dead kid.”  She immediately shoves him up against the wall and says, “Don’t you ever call my brother the ‘dead kid’ again, do you hear me?”

By lunch, Phoebe is shocked that no one has said they were sorry about the pain she felt.  Even when she was eating with some friends, no one mentioned Mick’s name.  Phoebe finally breaks the silence and tells them that she would be fine if they talked about Mick.  This does not help much, because the conversation feels forced and Phoebe feels the tension.  Phoebe decides that she is not ready to be at school yet.  She goes to see Mrs. Berryhill so she can go home.  However, when Mrs. Berryhill tells Phoebe that she was sorry for her "loss," Phoebe gets upset and runs home because she hasn't misplaced Mick.

When she gets home she heads straight for Mick’s room lies on his bed and breathes in the scent of him.  Phoebe falls asleep had has a dream in which she sees Wocket and Mick running towards her.  In the dream she is wrestling with Mick the way they always used to play with one another.  She also dreams that Wocket is laughing at them.  Phoebe wakes herself up laughing.  Her Mom is standing in the doorway looking at her, and Phoebe tells her about the good dream.  Phoebe and her Mom share memories about Mick and actually laugh about them.  Her Mom enters the room, lays down beside Phoebe and strokes her hair, asking to hear more about her dream.

That night, Nana makes dinner and forces Phoebe and her parents to eat together at new places at the table.  Phoebe thinks her Nana has done an amazing thing, because they were all at the dinner table and they were not thinking about Mick’s empty chair.


Common Sense and Good Judgment

Pages 75-81  
There is a dangerous intersection close to Phoebe’s house that her Dad griped about all the time.  Finally, after numerous crashes they put in a stoplight.  But when someone ran a red light, her Dad noted that traffic lights would not make people use common sense and good judgement while driving.  While he was saying this, he almost caused a minor crash.  That ended his talk about using common sense.  Phoebe says that if you luck out enough times when doing stupid things, you start to believe you are invincible, she never wore shin guards for soccer until she got kicked.  Her Mom had never been badly sun burned, but on their anniversary she got a second-degree burn at the beach.  Mick refused to wear a helmet, because he thought it looked goofy and he had never crashed before on his bike. Phoebe can't forget or forgive about the mistake her brother made.

At school, Phoebe is called to Mrs. Berryhill’s office.  When she gets there she learns that the PTA wants her to tell Mick’s story at a big assembly on bike safety.  At first, Phoebe declines the request, but later she changes her mind.

There are eight hundred people in the gym when Phoebe gives her speech.  She talks about Mick and tells stories about him that make the kids laugh until she brings out the bike helmet Mick's parents gave him for his 10th birthday.  There is a gasp and then silence and her message really hits home that if Mick had been wearing his helmet he probably would still be alive today, but he said it made him "look like a dork."



Pages 82-88  
Phoebe is not sure if her speech will make a difference as far as helping people use better judgement than Mick did when riding a bike. The doctors said that just an inch of Styrofoam would have made the difference between his living and dying.
It has been a month since Mick died.  Things have gotten a little better at home because Phoebe’s Mom went back to work part-time and her Nana went home.  They still eat dinner together at their new places.  Since Mick’s death, Phoebe and her parents have gained a different perspective on life.  Phoebe laughs more often now but still feels guilty when she's having too good a time.

Phoebe is trying to deal with the guilt she feels from not riding Mick’s bike home for him.  Phoebe honestly feels that she could have saved Mick’s life if she had done what he asked her to do.  On a ride home from a soccer game she tells her Dad about it while she cries.  Her Dad tells her that there could be numerous “what if” situations that might have saved Mick.  Her Dad feels guilty too, because he knew he could have forced Mick to wear his helmet.  Phoebe’s heart breaks when she hears her Dad talk that way.

It is the official one-month anniversary of the crash.  Phoebe is at soccer practice, and when it is over she sits on the sidelines by herself.  She recalls good memories of Mick.  There are noisy workmen nearby setting new bleachers in concrete.  When they leave, Phoebe notices the wet cement.  She writes “Mick Harte Was Here” in the cement, because it will last forever.

Chapter    Chapter Title    Page    Difficult  Words    Definitions
1    Mick    4  
    resisting authority
3    The Serengeti Sucks    25  
    area in North Tanzania, a developing nation in East Africa
    to reduce a body after death to ashes by burning
5    Tap Dancing on God’s Piano    48    interment    the ceremony of depositing a dead body or an urn with ashes in the earth
or a tomb
9    Forever    83  
    relative importance 

Helmet Use and Bicycle Safety

Bike Safety is a great classroom learning opportunity and lends itself well to activities "across the curriculum."

•    Measuring dimensions of a bike frame
•    Measuring the distance traveled in miles
•    Calculating speed in miles per hour
•    Calculating cost to purchase and maintain a bicycle

•    Inventions necessary for the bicycle to be developed
•    Understanding how spokes and tires work
•    Understanding how gears work
•    Understanding how the shell, helmet and straps of a helmet work together to protect the head

•    Mick Harte Was Here can be adapted for any language arts management style.
•    A variety of writing assignments can be utilized.
•    Understanding new words

Community Service
•    Teach bike safety skills to younger grades
•    Under adult supervision, conduct safety checks on the bicycles of younger students, make minor repairs (air pressure in tires, adjust/tighten seat and handlebars)
•    With an adult volunteer, help plan and conduct a low cost bulk helmet purchase campaign for the school (for free "how-to" manual, contact

Social Studies
•    Development of the bicycle
•    Create a neighborhood map, identifying safer routes for cycling to popular youth destinations and identifying potential hazards
•    Report findings to local city transportation planning department
•    Learn about the state vehicle code as it applies to bikes
•    Learn about the bicycle as part of a cost-effective transportation network
•    Learn about transportation energy use and related environmental impacts--such as air, noise, and water pollution and solid waste.

Health and Safety/Consumer Skills
•    Learn how to properly fit and wear a bicycle helmet
•    Learn about the Consumer Product Safety Commission and bicycle helmet standards
•    Learn how to maintain a bicycle for safety (most communities have bike shops or riding clubs that may be willing to make a classroom presentations)
•    Practicing safe riding (most law enforcement agencies provide personnel to make classroom presentations and will collaborate on conducting bicycle skill building activities, often referred to as bike rodeos)
•    Biking as part of life long recreation and physical activity
•    Maintaining mileage logs as an incentive for cycling
•    Planning and conducting neighborhood family and friends bike rides

Issues of Grief and Loss

Character    Immediate Reactions to Mick’s Death
Denial, shock, resentment, guilt, and loving memories – She felt like she had lost her brother until a friend pointed out that even though he died, he is still “everywhere.”

Withdrawn, depressed and heart broken – She never wanted to hear or say Mick’s name, and she couldn’t get up for work for awhile.

Sad, withdrawn, and grief stricken – He was overwhelmed with strong emotions that he was not sure how to handle, and he felt guilty for not making Mick wear his helmet.

Some of the ways other characters respond to the family’s grief

Both family and friends called to see how Phoebe and her parents were holding up.  It seemed with the words of encouragement there was always a reference to God having a plan for Mick.  Numerous neighbors stopped by with food for Phoebe and her parents to show their concern.

Zoe (Phoebe’s best friend) – She makes sure that Phoebe knows that there is a shoulder to cry on if it is needed.  She talks with Phoebe about how she feels and their memories of Mick.
    Mrs. Berryhill (School Principal) – She responds to Phoebe’s grief by telling her that she lost her mother two years ago.  She was trying to establish a common connection with Phoebe, so that Phoebe might want to open up to her.
Mrs. Santos (Zoe's mother) –  She helps Phoebe’s parents by watching over her while they were at the hospital taking care of Mick.  She also dropped off some food for Phoebe and her parents.
    Cara Cook, Lindy Nelson, and Amy Lightner (Phoebe’s friends at school) – They were afraid to say Mick’s name after Phoebe came back to school.  After Phoebe told them it was fine for them to say his name, all of them seemed hesitant.  They felt uneasy, because they did not want to say something that would upset Phoebe even more.

Coach Brodie – When Mick initially crashes, she gives Phoebe a hug.  When Phoebe comes back to school, but is still not feeling well, she lets her leave soccer practice.   The coach shows understanding and patience.
Nana (Phoebe and Mick's grandmother) – She came from Florida for Mick’s memorial service, and while she was visiting she was able to get Phoebe and her parents acting like a family again at the dinner table.  She rearranged where they usually sat at the table.  For the first time, no one was focusing on Mick’s empty chair at the dinner table.

What Phoebe Does To Grieve For Mick

Phoebe tells Mick's story.  She experiences a variety of emotions--denial, anger, resentment, fear, depression and guilt in coming to terms with her brother's death.  Phoebe was shocked when she heard about her brother.    She found it hard to think about the crash so focused on insignificant things such as the Principal's bad breath.  She kept tight control over her emotions, because if she did not acknowledge that it happened than she thought it might be possible that it was a terrible mistake.

When she finally acknowledges that Mick was in a bike crash, she prays that it is someone else.  Phoebe gasps when she sees Mick’s bike in the road, and her friend Zoe tries to comfort her.  Phoebe feels insulted by this, because she does not want to believe that it is possible that Mick could be seriously hurt.  Phoebe tries to keep the bad thoughts out of her head by thinking of memories of Mick.  The one she was able to laugh about with Zoe was what Mick did for Halloween one year.  That Halloween, Mick went as Thomas Crapper, the guy who invented the modern-day flush toilet.

When she is told that her brother died at the hospital Phoebe is afraid.  When she arrives at her house it is dark and she turns on every light she finds.  Before her Dad goes to bed he shuts Mick’s bedroom door, but Phoebe insists that he open it again.  Her Dad begins to cry and she feels numb from the impact of all that has happened.

Phoebe recalls the memory of Mick's love for his dog, Wocket.  Even after Wocket had to be put to sleep, Phoebe would sometimes catch Mick starting to go feed his dog.  The way Mick felt about his dog is similar to the way Phoebe felt about Mick.  Phoebe thinks of other stories about Mick.

Phoebe tries to talk to her Mom about Mick.  She was curious if her Mom thought Mick could hear them.  Her Mom wasn't able to help, she couldn't even say her son’s name.  Phoebe resented her Mom because she thought

her Mom was only thinking about herself.  Phoebe finds herself at the site where her brother had last been with his bike and she cries.

Phoebe punishes her Mom by making sure to mention Mick’s name as often and loud as she could.  Phoebe gets angry at Mick for leaving and making the family fall apart.  She cries again, and she called Zoe because she needed someone to listen to her.  The advice from her friend enabled her to have some peace of mind.  The idea Zoe offered was that Mick was “everywhere,” and that is what heaven might represent.

Whenever Phoebe rode in the car she made sure to sit on her side, leaving Mick’s side empty as if to say that she had not forgotten about him.  She spoke at Mick’s memorial service, because she felt like someone from her family should.  When she felt like she was barely hanging on she liked to go into Mick’s bedroom, lay on his bed and breathe in the smell of him.   Phoebe had a good dream about Mick and Wocket.

Phoebe’s Dad helped her sort through some of her grief by giving her “what if”scenarios, so that she could deal with feeling guilty about not riding Mick’s bike home.  Phoebe's Dad felt guilty too about not making Mick wear his helmet.  They were able to ease the guilt that both felt by talking about it to one another.

The last thing Phoebe did was to use some cement to symbolize how her brother would be with her forever.  Writing in cement together was one of the first times they got in trouble together.  Phoebe wrote M-I-C-K  H-A-R-T-E  W-A-S  H-E-R-E.
 Questions for Self-study
•    Chapter 1, page 3
Mick's crash happened when:
a.    a car cut in front of him
b.    his tire hit a rock
c.    he ran a stop sign
d.    a truck hit him from behind

•    Chapter 4, page 37
To deal with Mick's death, the
Grief Counselor recommended
a.    saying Mick's name
b.    talking about Mick
c.    both a and b
d.    none of the above

•    Chapter 8, page 78/79
When Phoebe is asked to speak at the PTA assembly she thinks:
a.    it is a great idea right away
b.    it should have happened sooner
c.    the PTA lady really understands how she feels

Who Was Affected By Mick's Death?
Family            Kid Friends          
Phoebe Harte        Zoe Santos  
Mick's Mom            Danny Monroe
Mick's Dad            Rickie Bowie

Other Adults        Others
Mrs. Santos            Kids at school
Coach Brodie        Mick's teachers
Mrs. Berryhill        Family friends
School Secretary      
Grief Counselor
Parents of kids at school

Mick Harte was Here Bike Safety Book by Barbara Park Should Be Required Reading for 3rd through 8th Grades

Book Review by Rick Price, Ph.D.

Award winning children’s author Barbara Park wrote a book in the mid-1990s that should be required reading for upper level elementary and Middle School kids.  Mick Harte was Here is an excellent component in a bicycle safety curriculum for kids from 3rd through 8th grade. 

Rated by the publisher at grade level 4.8 this 88 page chapter book delivers a solid lesson on bicycle safety and the importance of using a bicycle helmet directly to the audience that needs it most:  3rd grade through middle school.

The book is narrated by Phoebe Harte, the 8th grade sister of Mick who was killed in a bike crash when he was twelve years and five months old.  After her brother’s death Phoebe is faced with a roller coaster of emotions, as you might expect.  So is the entire family, of course. 

Park does a wonderful job of describing how the family deals with death, a funeral, grieving, and the resulting change in perspective for the entire family.  One passage resonates with me especially.  My mother, who was a high school English teacher, made it clear to her students and her family that when she died she wanted us all to confront her death head on.  “I don’t want any talk of my ‘passing way,’ she would explain.  “When I die, I’m dead!”  Park has her narrator explode at the school counselor who tries to console her for her “loss.”  Says Phoebe, “I didn’t just misplace him or leave him behind on a bus somewhere.  He died, okay?  Mick died.  But he will never – ever – be lost.”

I have had third graders and third grade teachers tell me that this is a great book to use in conjunction with guest speakers on the importance using bike helmets.  Indeed, this is a book that has breadth and depth for older elementary and middle school kids.  It can be used in conjunction with all types of Safe Routes to School programs, helmet programs, and bike safety curricula in general.

Parents Should Set Example for Kids in Wearing Helmets

 First published in the Fort Collins Coloradoan
April 18, 2011
by Rick Price, Ph.D.

If you are one of those parents that I see on the bike path who makes the kids wear a helmet while you pedal without one, this column is for you.  Oh yes, and you school teachers who bicycle to school without a helmet? It’s for you, too.  Kids imitate the adults around them.   If you don’t wear a helmet that tells your kids that helmets aren’t important.  

                                          Lance Armstrong at the Tour de France, July 22, 2004. 
                                          (Photo by Rick Price)

Kids are six and a half times more likely to crash their bike than an experienced adult.  Maybe parents know this.  And they may also know that almost half of children 14 and under hospitalized for bicycle-related injuries are diagnosed with a brain injury.  But do they know that by not wearing a helmet themselves they are effectively discouraging their middle school age kid from using a helmet?  In fact, only 11% of kids between the age of 11 and 14 wear a helmet. 

I believe that wearing a helmet is the last one of four things you should do and teach your kids to do in order to be a safe cyclist.  The first three things are 1) follow the rules of the road; 2) be predictable; and 3) be visible.   

In the fifty-six years or so that I’ve been riding a bicycle I can remember seven falls as an adult.  I’ve never hit my head seriously, but I’ve had a helmet on every time I’ve fallen.  I tell kids that I ride enough that I expect to fall again, despite my experience.  And with my goal of riding until I’m 90 I can’t really afford a brain injury. 

Macho, usually male, 4th graders often tell me:  “I don’t wear a helmet; I never fall off my bike.”  I suspect that these 4th graders are merely repeating something that they’ve heard an older male relative say. 

At one elementary school last month we invited one fourth grader into several of the PE classes to show us the scars on his face from a fall.  He had a new helmet at home that he got at a school bike rodeo.  But he didn’t have it on the day he hit a patch of gravel and took a spill.  He broke a tooth and visited the hospital but fortunately did no serious damage.

A few statistics help to make the point that kids should wear bike helmets:  1) helmets reduce the risk of a head injury by 85 percent and brain injury by 88 percent; 2) nationally only 41 percent of child bicyclists use a helmet; 3) 80% of bicycle-related fatalities among kids 14 and under are caused by unsafe bicycle behavior including riding into the street without stopping, swerving into traffic, running stop signs, and riding against the flow of traffic.

Of course, if we could just eliminate the crashes we wouldn’t need to wear helmets.  But we’re not there yet.  Please wear your helmet as an example for our kid’s if for nothing else.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Is This another "Bike Path Election?"

Published in the Fort Collins Coloradoan March 28, 2011

Is this another bike path election like the one in 2007 when ultra-conservative political consultant Andrew Boucher wrote that the election that spring was about bike paths?

"What issue will decide the April election? Bike paths. No, seriously. Bike paths," wrote Boucher with some derision. Boucher claimed that if we wanted bike paths, we should support business candidates. Never mind that business candidates, in the past, have seen our bike program as frivolous window dressing.

At the Nov. 18, 2009, entrepreneurs' forum sponsored by the city's Economic Advisory Commission, on which I serve, I asked a panel of entrepreneurs and venture capitalists what we needed to do to attract more business. They responded, "just keep doing what you're doing." These panelists explained that they located in Fort Collins because it has a highly educated work force, is a great place to raise a family and, yes, because it is a great place to ride a bicycle.

My support in this election goes to those who support our great quality of life, our parks, our education system, our natural areas and our bike program, all qualities that will attract businesses that value these assets.

Join me in supporting Ross Cunniff for mayor, Lisa Poppaw, Gerry Horak and Kristin Stephens. This slate of candidates will make a robust council that will build on what we have worked so hard to create.
Is this another bike path election? I believe it just might be.
Rick Price, Ph.D.
Fort Collins