Just roll with bike statues' message of fun

At first, it seemed like just another item from the ''get a life'' department.

Concerned residents in Montgomery were complaining about a new sculpture. They were calling City Hall and saying that the art was sending a bad message to children.

The bronze piece is titled ''Family Outing.'' It depicts three people - a father and his two daughters - smiling and riding bikes. One girl's hair is flying in the wind. Everybody's having a good time.

The models for this work of art were Tony Grieb and his girls, Sally, 10, and Tonya, 4. Tony is the son of Willie Grieb. The founder of Montgomery Cyclery, Willie donated the sculpture to the city where he started his business.

Mimi Grieb, Tony's wife and the girls' mom, says the sculpture ''captures the spirit and soul of my family. They're very fun-loving.''

The concerned residents say it promotes recklessness. The figures are cruising for a bruising.

None of the bike riders wears a safety helmet. And, the figure of Sally is in big trouble. Her hands are off the handlebars in the ''Look, Dad, no hands!'' position.

This sets a bad example, say the concerned residents. Kids will see this, want to act like the girl in bronze, and fall off their two-wheelers.

Safety first

Life must be good in Montgomery. There's nothing else to worry about?

''We're not all that crazy out here,'' insists Janet Steiner. She introduced Willie Grieb to Gary Price, the ''Family Outing'' sculptor.

And, she's not sorry she did. The sculpture looks very lifelike on the Montgomery Road side of Pfeiffer Park. But she's worried about the concerned residents.

''Where will this end?'' she wonders. ''When these people see the Venus de Milo, will they say it gives them the urge to go naked and cut off their arms?''

This could be the beginning of a new movement dedicated to making America's statues safety-conscious. Think of what will happen to the Statue of Liberty. After all, she's holding a torch and wearing a pre-flame-retardant gown.

Abe Lincoln will lose his seat at his memorial in Washington, D.C. His marble chair is not ergonomically correct.

Then there's that woman atop the Tyler Davidson Fountain. From her Fountain Square perch, her perspiration problem is showing. Water's pouring from her palms.

Smarter than that

There is a serious side to this flap.

The concerned residents think kids are so stupid they don't know the difference between art and reality.

Sally - the flesh and blood 10-year-old, not the bronze figure - knows the difference. In real life, she always wears a helmet and takes a hands-on approach to the handlebars when she rides her bike.

When she heard that some people didn't like the sculpture, she didn't get it.

''But, Mom,'' she said to Mimi Grieb, ''it's not a real person. It's a statue.''

The concerned residents seem to have missed that.

They must be the kind of people who think kids will be warped by the running battles between the Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote. When these kids grow up, they'll run (REALLY fast) to the corner hardware store, buy a dozen Acme anvils and try to drop them on each other.

Christi Gall, Montgomery's assistant city manager, spoke with the concerned residents.

She had to laugh ''when they said kids are going to see this sculpture and ride their bicycles like it. I thought: 'This is not a safety display or a training film. This is art. Accept it for what it is.'''

Instead of seeing those bronze cyclists as an accident waiting to happen, the concerned residents should take a closer look, with their hearts.

The three life-size figures stand near a brick path. They're riding their bikes on ground level, close to the street.

The father wears a proud grin. He's reaching out to steady his look-no-hands daughter. She's in ecstasy with the air blowing freely through her hair.

Down in front, the little sister is having a ball. She's scooting ahead. But not too far. Her bicycle has training wheels.

It's a glimpse of what real families value, a father and his children having fun, racing toward the happiness we all hope is out there.

Cliff Radel's column appears in The Enquirer Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Available to speak to groups. Tips and comments most welcome. Call 768-8379 or fax at 768-8340.

Published Nov. 4, 1996.