Provost John Etchemendy and Dean Phil Pizzo help police educate students about the importance of bike helmets

Etchemendy and Pizzo
Provost John Etchemendy and Medical School Dean Philip Pizzo play good-cop, good-cop with helmetless rider Gregory Manker, a sophomore. The Stanford police were running an information campaign on the corner of Lomita Drive and Santa Teresa Street with the able help of the administrators. (Photo by Linda Cicero)

Every time a new hour approaches, hell on wheels rolls across the Stanford campus – a wave of student cyclists, in a rush and inevitably without helmets. The rush is something of a tolerated tradition. The “helmetlessness” isn’t.

“Our students have some of the best brains in the country,” said PROVOST JOHN ETCHEMENDY. “It would be a shame if they were to hurt that by falling off their bikes.”

On Tuesday, Oct. 30, Etchemendy, an avid cyclist himself, was standing at the corner of Santa Teresa Street and Lomita Drive with members of the Department of Public Safety and flagging down bareheaded bikers. One deputy passed out Halloween candy. Another, coupons for steeply discounted bicycle helmets.

“The problem is, there’s no law mandating helmet use over the age of 18,” said Deputy Harris Kuhn. “But we continue to have a few grinding, horrible crashes every academic year where helmets would help.”

Passing out the coupons, which allow students to purchase helmets that normally cost more than $40 for $10.64, has become something of a passion for public safety officers, as well as administrators. Even PHIL PIZZO, dean of the School of Medicine, made an impromptu appearance with the provost.

At least in the short term, the coupons seemed to have an effect on people, including first-year graduate student Alexander Hsu. Did he have a helmet now? No. Would he get one? “I might,” he said, “if they’re $10.”

—Max McClure