As far as 14-year-old Kenny Harms is concerned, wearing a bike helmet "looks doofy" and he doesn't want any part of it.
His father, however, hauled Kenny to a bicycle shop in Newbury Park Friday and made him select a helmet.
"It's either this or he's not going to ride his bike," said Wayne Harms, who hovered nearby as his son reluctantly tried on bike helmets.
A state law requiring child bicycle riders to wear protective helmets takes effect today, much to the delight of bike shop owners, who say helmet sales have increased as a result.
"We're experiencing a sharp increase in sales--over 30%," said John Jeffers, a salesman at Newbury Park Bicycle Shop. "We're seeing mostly parents, and parents dragging in kids."
Dennis Foss, owner of Bicycle Doctor in Ojai, said his helmet sales have doubled from about 10 a month to about 20.
Sales of helmets at Cycle Scene in Ventura have gone up dramatically because of the law, said Gary Klein, the store's owner. "We're selling 80 a weekend, where before we would sell 15 to 20 on a good weekend. They keep going out the door."
The law applies to bicycle riders under age 18. Violators will receive only warnings from police during a one-year grace period. But beginning in 1995, those cited will be subject to fines of up to $25 per offense.
At a bike shop in Ventura, Sue Sturnick was already using the threat of citations to force her 14-year-old son to wear a helmet.
But her son, Greg Pike, pleaded, "These things are dumb. I don't want one."
He picked one up, frowned, and set it back down.
Sturnick rolled her eyes and declared, "Gregory, I'm not going to pay for your bike tickets."
Bicycle store owners say many youngsters are reluctant to wear the helmets because they're afraid they will look funny or be teased by friends.
"Bicycle helmets all look like turtle shells," said Phil Carpenter, owner of Matt's Cycling Center in Ventura.
Some parents are also unhappy about the new law, saying that bike helmets are expensive and children may not wear them anyway.
"It seems like a high price to force someone to do something," said Julie Wood, as she watched her daughter, Courtney, 13, try on a $30 helmet. "I grew up without a helmet, and I'm still here. It's a good idea, but I wish it wasn't so expensive."
Mike Donovan, a salesman at Open Air Bicycles in Port Hueneme, said he has lost some sales because parents balked at the prices. Helmets range from $20 to more than $100, he said.
"I had a lady in here the other day, and she didn't want to buy a helmet for her daughter because it was 35 bucks," Donovan said. "But then she bragged about spending $800 in veterinarian bills on her cat. I thought, 'Lady, eat your cat. Your kid's more important.' "
Advocates of the law argue that helmets will save lives and millions of dollars in emergency room medical bills.
According to backers of the measure, nearly 18,000 children were admitted to California emergency rooms in 1991 for bicycle-related head injuries. State figures show that 138 people died in hospitals that year because of bike injuries, more than half of them children.
Thousand Oaks resident Dan Monaco, who has been riding bikes for nearly 20 years, said he required his 11-year-old son, Tom, to wear a helmet as soon as he learned how to ride a bike.
"I've seen firsthand what a helmet can do," Monaco said. "It's too easy to get hurt badly without one."