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On her way to Santa Monica High School each morning, Lana Biren sees plenty of students riding their bikes or skateboards.

What irks her is that many of them aren’t wearing helmets.

“I don’t think they understand how likely it is for them to get into an accident and hit their head,” she said.

The daily sightings inspired Biren to promote cycling safety through an ongoing project that will help her earn a Girl Scout Gold Award, the organization’s highest honor.

The junior researched cycling accidents and brain injuries and recently launched an educational website as part of her project, which also includes a series of upcoming outreach events in Santa Monica.

Biren will set up a table Sept. 19 at Clover Park during the Kidical Mass community cycling event, which is organized through Safe Routes to School. She’ll have a display board and pamphlets to inform young riders and their parents about bike safety.

Biren also plans to hand out pamphlets Oct. 5-9 for Bike It Walk It week, which encourages students throughout the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District to take alternative modes of transportation to school.

She expects to make her Gold Award presentation at the end of October.

Biren’s efforts follow the proposal of a bill by State Senator Carol Liu earlier this year to make helmet wearing mandatory for adults, a requirement that is already in place for kids.

Many cycling advocates criticized the legislation, Senate Bill 192, arguing for reduced speed limits on certain roads, protected bike lanes and educational outreach instead of a helmet mandate.

The bill was later amended to call for further study of bike helmet use.

For Biren, though, the statistics are already glaring enough. Collisions involving cyclists in California climbed from 11,814 in 2008 to more than 14,000 in 2012, according to state data, an 18-percent spike.

“I picked the topic of helmet safety because I want to have an effect on people’s lives,” she said. “My goal for my Gold Award project is to increase awareness so that students who bike-ride to school will understand the consequences of not wearing a helmet. I think if they know the long-term effects it could have on their life, they’ll be more willing to wear a helmet even if they think it looks cooler not to wear one.”

Biren said the death of Leo Castillo strengthened her interest in transportation safety. The Samohi freshman was killed in May when he was hit by a car while riding a motorized scooter near the intersection of Olympic Boulevard and 26th Street.

“I heard about that and thought it was really sad,” she said. “It made me want to do this even more.”

Biren, a former student at Franklin Elementary and Lincoln Middle schools, has been involved in Girl Scouts for five years.

To develop her skills in computer science, she recently participated in the Girls Who Code immersion program. She is also interested in neuroscience, which she’s considering as a college major.

“I find the brain fascinating,” she said, “so I wanted to find out more about ways to protect your brain.”

And Biren isn’t just doing outreach. She also convinced a Santa Monica cycling shop to offer 20-percent helmet discounts to customers who mention her project. For more information, visit

Contact Jeff Goodman at 310-573-8351, or on Twitter.

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