“There was no solution so I made my own.”

Jora and Kabir love to ride bikes with their friends. The thrill of the wind in your face, the freedom of having your own set of wheels before you can drive: in many ways, it seems like a right of passage for kids.

But for Tina Singh, watching her boys zoom down the street used to be a source of anxiety. That’s because the boys in this Sikh family wear their hair in a topknot under a covering called a patka. Traditional bicycle helmets don’t fit over the patka, so Sikh children are forced to rearrange their hair each time they ride or just go without. 

For Singh, forgetting the helmet was not an option. Besides being necessary for participation in many youth sports — and a law for kids under the age of 18 riding a bike in her province — Singh knows that helmets are just plain common sense.

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As an occupational therapist who has worked in the area of acquired brain injury, she’s only too aware of the potential hazards of riding a bike without a helmet.  

So at first, she tried another solution. She hollowed out the inside of helmets so that they would fit over her sons’ patkas. But as the boys grew, and their bike-riding skills and capabilities along with them, this Ontario mother knew it wasn’t a safe solution.

An alarming stat shows that 87% of kids who suffer skull fractures in a bicycle accident are not wearing helmets. Cyclists who do suffer head injuries are three times more likely to die if they weren’t wearing a helmet. In many places (including Ontario, where Singh and her family live) wearing a bike helmet is the law.

“There was no solution,” says the exasperated mother. “So I made my own.”

Singh went about years of testing and design changes to create a unique, domed bicycle helmet that fits Sikh kids safely and comfortably. Her Bold Helmets are now approved for kids ages five and over.

They have the stamp of approval from several safety commissions — including the Consumer Products Safety Commission and the international SGS. Three colours are available: metallic blue, metallic red, and matte black. The website says the helmets are “meant to accommodate Sikh kids while remaining sleek and modern in design.”

Singh’s innovative idea stemmed from a simple observation made by every mother: she just wanted her boys to be able to play safely.

As Singh’s boys got older, they didn’t want their mom fussing over their hair anymore. They wanted to be able to just pick up their bikes and go on adventures with their friends.

Singh knew they weren’t the only Sikh children wearing their religious headwear to be frustrated by the issue. “It’s a part of my kids’ identity…it’s a part of who they are,” she says emphatically.

Rather than force them to make concessions in that area, Singh decided to use her skills to design a helmet that would keep Sikh kids safe while practicing many different sports. Her motherly instinct to help solve a problem her own kids were facing turned into a mission to promote diversity and inclusion in communities and kids’ sports.

Like many Canadian mothers, though, Singh has another sport in mind: hockey. “A helmet is mandatory for hockey, and our kids want to participate,” she said. While her current helmet is approved for many sports — including cycling and rollerskating — some design changes will have to be made for it to get approval for ice hockey. Singh is on it.

Moezine Hasham, the Executive Director and Founder of Hockey 4 Youth says, “the creation of this type of helmet is now going to create an inclusive space, it’s going to foster belonging.”

Freedom of religious expression in sports, politics, and other areas, such as road safety, is often an issue of contemptuous debate. In the past, special exemptions have been granted to helmet laws for Sikh adults riding motorcyclists. Although the intention for inclusion is there, these exemptions miss the mark when it comes to safety.

For Singh, it’s about safety and inclusion and her children’s right to participate fully in society.

On Bold Helmet’s Facebook page, Singh writes: “We are so grateful to have the opportunity to improve safety and inclusion for Sikh kids.”

And it all started when this Ontario mother looked out the window and had a wish that mothers the world over have: to see their kids playing and having fun, in safety. 

Tina Singh’s innovative idea is just an example of a mother doing what she can to make sure her kids feel included in their community. Riding a bike safely seems like it should be a given; and thanks to Singh, many more kids will enjoy that freedom.