I was reminded just how cycling-oriented New Albany is as a community as I watched thousands of Pelotonia participants completing their rides at Bevelhymer Park this past weekend.
Funny thing, too: I can't remember seeing a participant without a helmet.
Most adult cyclists, especially Pelotonia riders, understand the value of helmets, and Pelotonia won't allow a cyclist to participate without a helmet.
Parents, I'm asking for your help to have that same rule in your house -- don't let your children ride their bikes without first putting on a helmet. This small act could ultimately save a child's life.
By law in New Albany, anyone under 18 years of age must wear a helmet when riding a bicycle. I would greatly appreciate if residents could ensure your children aren't breaking this law.
The data about head injuries related to youth cyclists is sobering:
* Cycling is the leading cause of activity-related head injuries, roughly double the number when compared to football.
* 26,000 children nationwide suffer traumatic brain injuries every year as a result of bike accidents.
* 75% of all fatal cycling accidents involve a head injury, and bike helmets reduce the risk of head injury by up to 85%.
* According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, less than half of children ages 5 to 14 wear helmets, and older children have even worse habits of not wearing their helmets.
Our child bike-helmet law was created not through the police department but because of a groundswell of concern among New Albany residents who wanted this law in place.
As police chief, I don't want to write tickets to children (or to you).
As an agency, we try to be proactive to all facets of the community, including our children. We want children to understand that we are watching out for them, not trying to get them into trouble.
In fact, our bike officers most often encourage those not wearing helmets to do so, and thanks to our partnership with Johnson's Real Ice Cream, we reward children wearing helmets with a coupon for free ice cream.
At the same time, the law is the law, and the law was put in place in part by concerned citizens who want to help protect children. Thus far, no actual tickets have been written, although those children with a history of ignoring the law (and their parents) soon could receive one.
If you can't afford a helmet, Healthy New Albany has free helmets through a partnership with Nationwide Children's Hospital.
Residents who are interested in receiving one of these free helmets should send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org at Healthy New Albany.
If your child complains about wearing a helmet, put the reasons for wearing it on us. Just tell them it's the law.
Thanks for doing your part to keep our children safe and healthy.
Greg Jones is chief of the New Albany Police Department.