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Insurance Expenses Force Cancellation of YMCA’s Minibike Program

August 13, 1986

CHICAGO (AP) _ Rising insurance premiums have canceled a national YMCA program that takes troubled youngsters off the streets and puts them on off-road minibikes.

The YMCA’s national headquarters told 110 program centers in 33 states to cancel further activities and lock up the minibikes by Friday.

″Our negotiators are still hoping to put something together,″ said Solon B. Cousins, the YMCA’s national executive director. ″But at this stage we have to notify all of the deadline.″

Since 1969, American Honda Motor Co. Inc. has contributed 15,000 minibikes, as well as cash grants, training films and service clinics to the YMCA National Youth Project Using Minibikes, or Y-NYPUM.

The program has survived the withdrawal of federal funds for its personnel, but may not survive the new annual liability insurance premiums being charged its local sponsors.

″With current rates, most insurance carriers would require Y-NYPUM chapters to pay $210 per minibike,″ Cousins said. ″That’s up 320 percent from the previous rates.

″Since most chapters have about 20 minibikes, the insurance cost alone would be about $4,200 - a sum beyond their means.″

The YMCA program serves boys and girls, ages 11 to 15, who may have been in trouble at home, at school, or with the police. They sign good-behavior contracts and if they live up to them, they are allowed to ride off-road under the supervision of program directors. They are also taught to maintain and repair the bikes as a form of vocational training.

Cousins said law enforcement studies show only 30 percent of juvenile first-offenders referred to Y-NYPUM had repeat brushes with the police, compared to a national average of 80 percent.

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