Sweet incentive offered for cycling safety

August 03, 1993|By Alisa Samuels | Alisa Samuels,Staff Writer

A story on bicycle safety in Tuesday's Howard County edition should have said the county's bike helmet law applies to youths under age 16.

* The Sun regrets the error.

Janet Brown, who became a bicycle helmet advocate after a critical fall from her 10-speed bicycle in 1984, wants local young bicyclists to learn from her mistake. If they do, she says, they'll be able to lick pain, and hospitalization . . . and a free frozen yogurt.

This week, because of her efforts, police officers began issuing "I Can't Believe It's Yogurt" coupons to Ellicott City-area youngsters who wear bicycle helmets and wear them correctly. The program will continue through the summer.

Bicyclists 16 and under can redeem the coupons at the yogurt shop in the Village Green Shopping Center on Baltimore National Pike. The coupons must be redeemed by Sept. 15 at that store only.

Mrs. Brown said she thought of the giveaway as a way to help prevent children from dying or being injured seriously.

"I love children," she said during a telephone interview yesterday. "I'll go the extra mile always to do something for a child so he can reach his potential."

In June, Mrs. Brown contacted the yogurt store owner, John Picciano, and he agreed to donate 150 "kids' size" frozen yogurt cones and cups to helmeted young bicyclists. So far, he has given away two, he said. A father himself, Mr. Picciano said yesterday, "I thought helping children would be nice. Safety is important."

The Howard County Police Sergeants Association is paying for printing the coupons.

Police Chief James N. Robey said, "I see it as a positive way to reinforce safe biking." Youngsters will be rewarded for obeying the law, he said, and officers will have a chance to communicate with them under positive circumstances.

In October 1990, bicyclists under 16 were required to wear a safety helmet while cycling on county public roadways. During public hearings on the issue, Mrs. Brown testified for the helmets.

Statistics weren't immediately available on the number of serious or fatal accidents involving young bicyclists without helmets. But Sgt. Gary L. Gardner, a police spokesman, said 50 helmet warnings have been issued since 1990.

It was Aug. 17, 1984, when Mrs. Brown blacked out on her bicycle near her home on Ebbwood Drive, fell and hit her head on the pavement. She was not wearing a helmet and sustained a concussion and a fractured skull, she said. She was flown to the Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore, where she remained for a week. Doctors suspect hypoglycemia, low blood pressure and stress contributed to the blackout.

The accident created physical problems, including memory loss and speech impairment, she said.

Almost nine years later, she said she has recovered almost 100 percent. "I can walk, ride a bike, square dance and play the piano again."

She said she was determined to recover, and is thankful to her doctors and the therapy she underwent. Most people with similar head injuries died or became "vegetables" back then, she said.

"I nearly lost my life," the wife and mother of three children said. "It was very critical for a while."

Like many people, Mrs. Brown said she felt she was a safe bicyclist. "I didn't do crazy things on my bike. I didn't do wheelies."

To continue to spread her message, Mrs. Brown visited St. John's Elementary School on the last two days of school this year to explain to students the importance of bicycle safety.

When she's out and spots an un-helmeted bicyclist, young or old, she'll stop and give safety tips. "If you're not here, what

happens to the children?" she asks the adults.

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