Prohab seeks to overcome image and cost barriers associated with bike helmets

Since 2002, bicycle helmets have been mandatory in Alberta for all cyclists under the age of 18. But unlike four other provinces (British Columbia, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island) where helmet use has been legally mandated for cyclists of all ages, bicycle helmets are not mandatory for adults in Alberta.

Statistics Canada reported that in 2009, about one third of Canadian adolescents and young adults wore a bicycle helmet all the time.

A local group has tasked itself not only with getting bike helmets onto the heads of more young adults, but also in breaking down image barriers associated with helmet use.

The Prohab Helmet Society is an organization that was formed in Vancouver in 2009. Dustin Bromley and Renee Le Page founded the group after a friend suffered a brain injury in a cycling accident.

Last year, a chapter of Prohab was set up in Calgary. As a registered non-profit group, Prohab’s work is focused around providing high-quality helmets to cyclists in exchange for donations. The group also aims to educate cyclists about the importance of helmets.

Making helmets affordable

Shane Remple and Lindsay Shedden established a Prohab chapter in Calgary in 2011. Remple says that the cost of bicycle helmets often plays into the decision not to wear one.Lindsay Shedden and Shane Remple were instrumental in setting up a chapter of the Prohab Helmet Society in Calgary.
Photo courtesy of: Michelle Verbeek Photography

“A lot of people use cost as an excuse. They buy a bike and then look at the helmet as an optional expense because it tends to be pricy — another $50 to $80 after you buy a bike,” Remple says.

“The basis of the organization is essentially to provide people the means of getting a bike helmet without them having to pay a lot of money for one.”

Prohab suggests a donation of $25 because that is what it costs them to get the helmets through their partnerships with distributors, Remple says.

Remple says the idea behind the suggested $25 donation is that it “perpetuates the system.”

“People give us $25 for a helmet, and then we spend that $25 on another helmet,” Remple says, “By putting a helmet on their heads, they help to put a helmet on somebody else’s head.

“That is how the system is structured, and it works very well.”

Remple says that while Prohab takes a financial loss (they ask you to donate what you can afford) on some helmets, most people choose to donate between $25 and $40.

“They see the value in what we are doing, and also the value in the helmets,” Remple says. “The helmets that we give out are good quality, they are not just bargain-bin helmets. They are the same helmets you will find in sporting goods stores.”

Emphasis on proper fit and use of helmets

While Prohab’s aim is to help make helmets more accessible and affordable, the group places equal importance on helping educate people on the proper fit and use of helmets.

“When we have booths set up and people come for helmets, we don’t just hand them a helmet,” Remple says. “We educate them on how the helmet should feel, how it should fit and how it should be worn.

“We have various sizes of helmets and are always able to find one that will fit. Fit is a really important thing.”

While Prohab is interested in helping people learn about the importance of helmets, the group respects that wearing a helmet is a personal choice.

“We are just trying to make helmets more accessible for people who want them,” says Shedden. “It’s just common sense and we don’t push it on anybody.

“We are just here for people who want access to helmets at a really reasonable rate.”

Group depends on fundraising

The impetus for a Calgary chapter of Prohab came about after a successful helmet safety initiative held in conjunction with the Alberta Motor Association at last year’s Sled Island music festival.

“The Vancouver Prohab group came out and we had a booth in conjunction with the AMA at the main stage of Sled Island,” Remple says. “The AMA bought us a bunch of helmets to give away, and they helped us run the booth.

“We had about 130 helmets to start the weekend. They went quite quickly. I don’t think anybody expected that sort of demand.”

Following the success at Sled Island, Prohab held a fundraiser in October at Broken City. The event raised over $2,000, which Remple says went directly towards buying more helmets.

Another fundraiser will be held on April 14 at Tubby Dog.

Prohab will also have a large presence at this year’s Sled Island festival, slated for June 20-23.

Personal loss motivates group founders

Remple and Shedden were motivated to bring Prohab to Calgary after experiencing great personal loss.

Dan Winnick, a former Calgarian residing in Vancouver passed away from injuries sustained in a cycling accident in 2010. Winnick, a cousin of Remple and close friend of Shedden, was not wearing a helmet.

“Both Lindsay and I have witnessed the implications of not wearing a helmet in the worst possible way,” says Remple.

“Lindsay lost a great friend, and saw all her friends go through it. I still see my family go through it every time I see them.”

Shedden says: “Life is still good, but it’s not as good as when he was in it.I wear a helmet not only for myself, but for all my friends and family as well.”

Ktaylor@cjournal.ca