Saturday, June 01, 2013

When biking, always wear a seatbelt

Just days after the start of the Citibike Share, I took what should have been a very minor fall (bizarrely close to where I last fell, nine years ago). This recent fall was entirely operator error. For no particular reason, while going uphill at slow speed, I scraped a concrete wall with my left handlebar.

The fall was minor... but in going down at slow speed. I slipped forward off my seat and managed to impale my inner thigh just above the knee on the coolest bell ever. This, unlike the fall, was quite serious. And deep. And also bloody. So bloody, in fact, that I ended up in an ambulance and at the hospital receive something like 15 stitches (the RN said she lost count after a dozen).

[Perhaps it turns out that it's not such a good idea to attach jagged metal objects to your bike? Who woulda thunk it? (Though I am hoping the bell can be safely moved to the rear wheel...)]

So I tell people I have a deep gash in my leg and almost inevitably the question they ask is: "Were you wearing a helmet?!" Well, no, no thank you very much. Did you not hear that I gashed my leg? And I do often wear a helmet, but not when I'm biking slowly on a path to a car-free island oasis of bike paths! I find this almost inevitable helmet question somewhat disconcerting and mentioned it to my Boston friend Scott (who, best I know, has been biking some 40 years without a helmet). He provided a good explanation:
As for the knee-jerk helmet question, I feel your (disquisitional) pain. In my more generous moments I understand these morons are just shocked by the event and are struggling to rebuild their simplistic sense of their world as a logical, ordered, controllable place. But there is a hint of blame placing too, isn't there? Beneath that question is the whispered pronouncement:"Well if this daredevil doesn't have enough sense to value his own skull, who knows what other risks he may have been taking that might have even caused the accident? Why just the other day I saw a cyclist ..." Those are the scolds in my less generous moments I want to punch in the face.

We had a cyclist fatality in Boston recently when a scientist visiting MIT somehow got caught under the rear wheels of a garbage truck and dragged several hundred feet. One television host discussing the incident noted she was not wearing a helmet, added that this "probably" wouldn't have saved the cyclists life and then came the "but". I didn't hear the rest because I was swearing at the television too loud to hear what the stupid cow was saying - and this was WGBH! Meanwhile at the Herald, Margery Eagan thought she'd earn her pay that week by using this tragic death as a lens into her ruminent brain … oh, I mean as an appropriate time to call for a ban on bikes. She may need to be punched in the face - metaphorically speaking of course.
The moral? If it's nice outside, just go to a bar and drink. You'll be safer. (In this fall, I was stone-cold sober, which is a fair question to ask me.) And when biking, always wear your seatbelt.

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