By Tali Smookler, member of 2010 Western Massachusetts Climate Summer Team. This post is a “press release” inspired by our team’s joke about the need to wear helmets not just on our bicycles, but everywhere, all the time. We hope it brings a chuckle to current Climate Summer riders and readers from all over.
BERKSHIRES, MA – In a statement released yesterday to the press, the Western Massachusetts Climate Summer Team, or “WeMA,” has decided to change their message from the importance of fighting climate change, to the importance of building the helmet movement. Henceforth they would like to be called “Helmet Summer.”
New England Climate Summer is a program in which college students travel exclusively by bicycle to work with communities to build the movement to stop the climate crisis. After their 600 mile journey on bicycle, Katie McGonagle of Clark University says, “we just decided that it was more important to advocate wearing a helmet at all times.”
“While we will continue to fight climate change – the greatest threat to the survival of the human race – helmets are our priority. We realized how much safer we were with our helmets on, than our helmets off, and wanted to spread that message,” McGonagle added.
“At first we wore helmets just while bicycling,” explains Caroline Wooten of University of Chicago. “But then we started to try new situations, such as in the grocery store and on the commuter rail.
“At first, we didn’t even notice that we kept our helmets on after dismounting our bikes. But as we wore them more and more we realized that if the sky fell down or we tripped on a rock, we would be better off with a helmet on than no helmet at all,” she says.
Eric Feltham, of the University of Massachusetts, explains that he was the one who pushed for the team to focus on building the helmet movement. “It’s a long story,” he says. “At first it was sort of comical, you know, the idea of wearing helmets all the time. But when you really think about it, in pretty much any instance you can think of, the protection and benefits of the helmet outweigh the cost of wearing it. In a car, going for a run, even sleeping, all pose some risk that could be minimized by the addition of a helmet to the head.”
There is no doubt that helmets are in fact a good idea. But all the time? Says Kara Kaufman of Brown University, “When it gets down to it, I personally feel much safer in a helmet. Sure, it looks a little silly when only a few people do it. But that is why we need to build the movement, to change the underlying system which prevents us from wearing helmets.”
Tali Smookler, of Brandeis University, adds, “We have decided to work with different community groups – such as bike stores, outing clubs, and public safety groups – to highlight what they are already doing on this issue, and to connect them with the broader movement. The more people who wear helmets, the safer we will all be.”
The students acknowledge that climate change is still a huge issue they want to work on. Explains Feltham, “Of course [climate change] is still important to us. However, we feel that wearing a helmet can even protect us against rising sea levels, contaminated water supplies, freak weather patterns, or other dangers of climate change, and so this is our main focus.”
“It’s really been great, living our values by wearing helmets all summer long, on and off the bicycle,” says Kaufman.
In this town, they have held successful events and meetings to raise awareness (of course, everyone attended with their helmets on), and were featured on the radio. On Thursday they will hold a Helmet Vigil at 7PM in The Park, which is open to the public, and they encourage everyone who is interested to attend.
What is next for these pioneering bikers? Says McGonagle, “We are interested in advocating for cheese. It’s just not fair that we have to wait for it to age naturally. We propose a time machine, using clean energy sources.”
Editor’s note: While this article is comical, we do really believe that on bikes you should always wear a helmet and appreciate all the safety helmets provide bikers and other athletes.