Spring is a time when flowers blossom, couples go on walks and bicycles make their way out of sheds and garages and back onto sidewalks.
Almost every child likes to ride his or her bike, and one local group is working to ensure their safety.
For 15 years, the Central Iowa Cyclists have been giving out helmets to third-grade students in Newton. The CIC is accepting donations for its 15th annual helmet giveway event. Each helmet cost $10 and the CIC hopes to raise $2,500.
CIC treasurer Phil Muta has been with the organization since 1986, and held many positions within the club over the years. He said the community has been very supportive of the program.
“We get thank you notes to us — some of them are comical,” Muta said. “We got a lot of appreciation. We couldn’t do it without the people of Newton, and the schools too.”
The CIC gives out small, medium and large helmets. Although a majority of teenagers and adults do not wear helmets, Muta said he hopes the lessons learned from the event will make an impact.
“The only thing we can do is to make sure they have them,” Muta said. “Basically, for the past 15 years, every third-grader had a helmet. This includes all third-graders, this is not just for schools. This is for homeschool, Christian schools — all of them. We want to make sure every kid in Newton gets a helmet.”
Muta said the CIC talks with the children about bike safety, and members talk to the kids about the rules of the road.
Like driving, bicyclists have to follow the rules of the road. Muta said the organization talks about things like stopping at stop signs, looking both ways before crossing the street, using turn signals and obeying the right of way. To keep the children from becoming bored, the CIC likes to keep their safety talks short.
“We can make sure they have helmets, but it is up to the parents to make sure that they wear them,” Muta said. “They are the most important people in making sure that their kids wear the helmets.”
As a serious biker himself, he knows the importance of helmets.
“Anybody that is a fairly serious bicycle rider knows the importance of helmets,” Muta said. “Every one of us has been affected, in one way or the other, either by having a helmet on or not having a helmet on.”
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, “bicycle helmets are 85- to 88-percent effective in mitigating head and brain injuries, making the use of helmets the single most effective way to reduce head injuries and fatalities resulting from bicycle crashes.”
Additionally, the NHTSA asserts that “universal bicycle helmet use by children 4 to 15 would prevent 39,000 to 45,000 head injuries, and 18,000 to 55,000 scalp and face injuries annually.”
In addition to his role in helping Newton’s children stay safe while biking, Muta is also an avid fan of bicycling – he even has ridden his bike in Europe.
“I have done cross-country twice,” Muta said. “I biked across three countries in Europe.”
Muta would like to thank the community and many businesses that donated to the organization, because without them, the CIC could not succeed in its helmet giveaway. He said a large percentage of the helmet funds are donated by businesses in the community.
In a written statement given to the Daily News, CIC Secretary Jill Barr said:
“Over the years we have seen children who have suffered head injuries, some causing permanent damage, because they failed to strap on that helmet before they got on their bike. We hope to help develop safe riding habits at an early age, habits that will continue through adulthood. As the area bike club, we feel teaching safety is our number one goal, followed by sharing our love for biking.”
Those wishing to donate to the annual helmet giveaway may make checks out to:
Central Iowa Cyclists, P.O. Box 911 Newton, IA. Those wishing to write off chairitable donations, the CIC’s tax ID number is 42-1361426 and the group’s non-profit number is 142917.