College Students Peddle Helmet Message in Massachusetts

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.

Wooten and teammate Tali Smookler live their values on the Boston T subway system

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.”

Building the Movement

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.

No Christmas Photo Would Be Complete Without . . . Helmets

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.”

More information can be found at, and their blog at

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.

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5 Responses to College Students Peddle Helmet Message in Massachusetts

  1. tsmook says:

    Thanks, Daddy, great comment. Glad you wear your helmet!

  2. MIchael says:

    I followed you guys on your Bike trip last summer. I am very proud of your accomplishments.
 I applaud you guys. The world needs more helmet wearers. After I had a bicycle accident last October, I would have been very injured or worse had I not had on my helmet, I started thinking about the very idea you guys are promoting. Sleeping, walking, showering and other daily activities all run the risk of accidents. Eating (especially with food fights and spraying soda cans and bottles) can be pretty dangerous, as well as flossing and brushing. Helmets will protect and reduce injuries. I hope this movement gains momentum and our congressional leaders and President will start wearing helmets and lead by example. I think Apple should start working on the iHelmet, too. Wearing helmets could jump start the economy. Imagine the need for Helmet shampoo.
 Recycling helmets another Green venture to help save the environment. There is potentially no limit to the good that helmet wearing could do. I also think Helmut Summer should go viral as well seasonal : Helmet Summer, Helmut Autumn, Helmut Winter, Helmet Spring as well as the Helmet Solstices and Helmet Equinoxes
    I wish you all the best in your head gear crusade and May the Helmets be with you.

  3. marlamarcum says:

    I just KNEW that life after Climate Summer for Team WeMA would yield some really phenomenal movement-building work! Thanks for the comic relief, and seriously… if you can spoof something really well (like grassroots climate-movement work), it’s evidence that you really know how it works! So I have to say that while I’m laughing (Helmet Summer!), I’m also pretty proud… and such great press release form! Take note 2011 riders, Tali was her team’s Events and Workshops Coordinator… but she clearly learned her way around a press release!

  4. massaction says:

    BAHAHAHAHA. This is hilarious. And it’s so true–the line about “at first, we didn’t even notice that we kept our helmets on after dismounting our bikes”….Reminds me of my beloved team leader. It’s kind of become a running joke with us too. And your pictures are hysterical! I really enjoyed the one of you all reading the newspaper… Classic. Now, as someone with bruises, cuts, and bandages all over me at the moment, I too am a helmet advocate. Thanks for this blog…

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