Christine Somerville and I often sit on the deck at the Bike and Bean, a coffee and bike shop which adjoins a nearby rails to trails, and watch the cyclists go by. We comment privately on their bike fit, their riding mechanics and, most of all, on their helmets or lack thereof. Shortly after I became a CAN-BIKE instructor I had a vision of setting up a lemonade stand on the trail. The promise of a drink would lure people in and we could talk to them about helmets and other bike safety topics.
A few weeks ago we were able to do just that. Christine enlisted the support of a local yoga studio where she teaches Pilates and Yamuna body rolling. Fran, the owner, did some publicity, printed handouts that I provided, brought a table and delicious cucumber flavoured coconut water and we set up beside the trail on a busy Saturday afternoon.
We didn't count how many people we talked to but it was a lot. I had made up laminated bookmarks for kids with cartooned fit instructions and we were able to go through the steps with them. Adults appreciated that information as well as a handout on a quick bike check that might prevent problems somewhere down the trail.
I don't think we saw a well-fitting helmet and almost no one knew that helmets should be discarded after a certain period. We certainly saw a lot of hand-me-downs on the kids as well as adults wearing helmets well over a decade old. In one scary instance we met a young boy wearing a completely crushed helmet.
It was sometimes a stretch to step out and invite people over for a drink when we knew that we had an ulterior motive. And it was even more challenging for me to walk into the parking lot and talk to a father about my concerns about his kids' helmets. But our 'galloping' approach was really well-received and ultimately we made a difference in a few lives. I truly believe that there will be a ripple effect in our community because of the information we provided in a supportive and constructive manner.