John F. Russell: Setting a good example

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— In the past 10 years, my helmet has become an essential item in my skiing wardrobe. These days, my helmet is just as important as my gloves, my boots and the skis that I use to ski Mount Werner on a weekend morning in January.

Examples of people who have suffered head injuries on the mountain skiing are easy to find, and it’s not just beginners who get hurt.

But for some reason, the summer heat seems to go to my head, and despite talking about purchasing a bike helmet the past several years, I’ve failed to go to the store and buy one.

Instead, I’ve heard myself use every excuse in the book:

I’m not a hard-core cyclist. I’ve ridden bikes for years and never had a problem. I just ride my bike in the neighborhood, so there is no reason for a helmet.

The excuses sound great when I’m talking, but my guess is that they will not fly when I’m in an emergency room bed at Yampa Valley Medical Center.

The funny thing is that I insist that my children wear helmets whenever they go skiing and whenever we go biking, even if it is just around the block.

Last week, my 9-year-old daughter started lecturing me about my lack of protective head gear as we rolled through my Steamboat II neighborhood, and I could not argue with her.

Not only am I taking a risk with my own health, but as Dr. Jim Dudley once told me, I’m also putting my children at risk by setting a bad example.

It would be like jumping in my car and not using my seat belt, not looking before I crossed a busy street or eating a bucket full of jalapeno peppers knowing that I didn’t have Tums in the medicine cabinet.

I grew up on my bike. I would ride it to school, race it down the street and jump it off homemade ramps in front of my parents’ home. There were times when I would go home with bumps, bruises and more than a few scrapes. My mom and dad used to shake their heads, but I can’t recall any conversations about helmets.

Times have changed, and these days there are more cyclist wearing helmets, but there still are plenty who ride without. If you don’t believe me, just head down to Yampa Street and take an informal count on a sunny afternoon.

There, you will see lots of cyclist enjoying a ride down the street without a helmet, and if you ask, I’m sure you will hear all kinds of excuses just like the ones I’ve been using for years.

I’m not preaching. I think that unless there is a law stating you must wear a helmet it still is a personal choice. But in the end, it’s not the excuses that matter as much what’s under that helmet.

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-879-4209 or email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com

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