Protect the balls, not just the head: Lawmaker backs amendment requiring boys riding bikes to wear crush resistant athletic cups

Yesterday, state rep John Kefalas, a Fort Collins Democrat, talked up a bill requiring kids to wear helmets when riding bicycles, scooters, skateboards and the like.

Sound sensible? Well, Colorado Springs Republican rep Larry Liston argued that it didn't go far enough. He stood up for an amendment mandating that boys who want to pedal or roll wear what he described as "a crush-resistant athletic cup."

If you assume Liston's proposal was a joke, you're partly right -- but only partly. "I did it half in jest," he insists, "but as I got more into it, to be honest with you, I became more serious about it."

The reason? A certain agonizing memory.

"Years ago, when I was a little boy, I got racked," Liston confesses. "I was riding my sister's bike and I ran it into a curb -- and I can steal feel the pain all these years later. I was absolutely black and blue below the belt. I never hurt so bad in all my life. And since this is Representative Kefalas's bill to protect little boys, and maybe little girls, I thought, well, if you want to protect little boys, you should try to protect all of them.

"We've all fallen on our heads at times, but if you get your nuts crushed -- pardon the expression -- you remember that forever."

Maybe so. But that doesn't mean Liston feels his colleague's on the right legislative path.

"I know Representative Kefalas means well," he notes. "He's a nice guy, a very nice guy. But to me, this is a little bit of an over-reach. I think parents are the best ones to make this kind of decision, and parents will assess what's best for their kids.

"Do we really want police pulling over parents and their little kids? Of all the things police have to do, do we really want to put them in the awkward position of pulling over a ten-year-old boy or girl, maybe with their parents there, and give them a mini-lecture? I know this is well-intended, but somehow the world has managed to move on through the millenniums without making it mandatory that two-through-eighteen-year olds wear a helmet when they're on a bicycle or a tricycle or a scooter."

In the end, Liston's amendment didn't go anywhere, and Kefalas's measure is moving forward. Liston expected that, but, he says, "I guess I'm surprised at how much government people want to put in our lives. As if we don't have enough government already, they want it on our bikeways and streets and neighborhoods."

Although apparently not in elementary schooler's pants.

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts