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Riding a bike is-to some including myself- the best way to get around a city. I live on my bike.  

But- recent events have reminded me that I've been pedaling sans helmet again- and that's really foolish. My most recent excuse-fitting-you see, I have a large head. In Austin, it was the heat, oh it gets to hot under there. Then of course,pure vanity, my hair-or, oh at forty something- I'll look dorky? What's really stupid is the fact that the minimal protective armor a helmet provides has been shown to reduce the incidence of catastrophic injury that can occur when skull-bone- meets hard concrete or the steel frames of a moving tons heavy austomobile or truck.

I ride my bike pretty much everywhere I go here in New York City. This past year, while living and working in Austin, I pretty much subscribed to the same practice.

I got back to New York the first week of June and since then, have been using my bike as a primary mode of transporation but also, kissing the city I love so much. There's noting like catching up with familiar sights up and downtown while pedaling from neighborhood to neighborhood each with distinct flavors and sounds. It's also easier to catch the city's waves of infectious street energy while pedaling past the walking masses on their way to meetings, lunch or maybe just the gym. Cycling is the best way to scope out new construction projects across town that could lead to potential new stories for a real estate reporter-like me. And, like a child in a candy store, I've had my I Phone with me everywhere, taking photos and showing them off-in real time- on facebook as well as other social media sites.

But- recent events have reminded me that I've been pedaling sans helmet again- and that's really foolish. My most recent excuse-fitting-you see, I have a large head. In Austin, it was the heat, oh it gets to hot under there. Then of course,pure vanity, my hair-or, oh at forty something- I'll look dorky? What's really stupid is the fact that the minimal protective armor a helmet provides has been shown to reduce the incidence of catastrophic injury that can occur when skull-bone- meets hard concrete or the steel frames of a moving tons heavy austomobile or truck.

Worth noting- cycling in New York City increased 8% between 2010 and 2011, 102% since 2007, and 289% compared to 2001. During the same time, safety increased for all road users. As recently as 2010-of the more than 6,000 New York City traffic accidents that involved cyclists, 36 people died, according to the state Department of Motor Vehicles. Also in New York City- 92% of all bicyclist fatalities occurred as a result of crashes with motor vehicles, and 91% of bicyclists who died were male.

As part of my welcome home to New York City, I've had two close calls on my bike over the past 8 days. The first time-I was behaving foolishly-filming the sights of Times Square while riding on the bike lane. That behavior-despite being called out by a friend who'd spied me texting while riding my bike just days before. Although I was moving slow while obtaining my tourist footage, I wasn't looking ahead or paying full attention to my surroundings. Then suddenly-a cab door had swung open in my path- I hit it- and fell off my bike. That time I landed on my feet. It made for a silly You Tube video moment.

But then on Thursday June 15th at around 730, I was riding my bike along the Hudson west side bike path. At some point, around 105 st, perhaps I was distracted by the beautiful sunset or maybe my chain malfunctioned, as the EMS official later theorized. All I know is that I lost my footing and down I went. No cars, no other cyclist were involved at all-I'd gone against the statistics- this incident was just me and I was not wearing a helmet.

This time, as I flew down to kiss New York in a way I'd never intended, I had horrible and split second fatalistic thoughts that this was not good. Through the grace of God, I didn't hit my head or land in a way that compromised my upper spinal cord. Instead, my big chin took the brunt. Blood was gushing from my face, I felt the flap of flesh on my chin and rubbed my tounge on my teeth- they were all there.

Several people stopped, but two in particular stayed with me and waited until the EMS arrived to take me to the hospital. At St Luke's hospital, I was cleaned up- x-rayed and my chin was sewn up- 7 stitches. (Sweet folks in that ER.) Funny-but I look like Mike Tyson after a bad fight. Lessons learned- we are fragile creatures, eggshells on two wheels so NEVER ride without a helmet. Also, there are angels among us, like the two who stayed with me until help arrived. And friends like those who called and the one who came to get me and take me home- are to be treasured.

After these days of mishap and a painful but mild recovery but in fact-I'm accepting my vulnerability as a human being- I am only human. I only have one body, and one brain that is housed inside this shell called a skull. My spine allows me to walk and lift my arms and even scratch myself because it allows me to know, I have an itch.

Sometimes, accidents do happen regardless of how carefule we are, but it's probably best to to pay close attention to what I'm doing while riding a bike- and always-always wear a helmet. Otherwise, I may not be able to advocate for what I still believe is the most exhilarating, efficient and beautiful way to get around a city- esepcially the one I love most, New York.

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Comment Preferences

  •  So glad to hear you're ok. (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Bob Johnson, chimene, Chi, WakeUpNeo, BachFan

    And thanks for the reminder about helmets.  I agree.

    •  thank you! (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      It was a strong reminder.  Sometimes, I can be told something a million times, but, until you 'as they say' get hit over the head about it, you don't accept how true it is.  I was lucky (albeit in pain right now)- but if my head had hit and not my chin- not a good story.  I have myself a cool extra large helmet on order now.  
      ....oh and here's the texting in Times Square just a few days ago....before last night....that one I wasn't hurt...

  •  T/R for the lesson learned. (6+ / 0-)

    I ride a scooter in the summer.  I also wear a full face helmet.

    2 yrs ago while I was behind a truck it thru a rock about the size of a nickel, over my windshield and into my chin.  Luckily the helmet took the impact.  I love my teeth to much to endanger them.  

    The guys at work teased me for wearing it until i showed them the ricochet mark on the chin of my helmet.  Now they all wear a full face one.

    "Death is the winner in any war." - Nightwish/Imaginareum/Song of myself.

    by doingbusinessas on Fri Jun 15, 2012 at 06:43:47 PM PDT

  •  Wear that helmet! (5+ / 0-)

    I had a nasty mtn bike crash once that resulted in a concussion. If I hadn't been wearing a helmet (less than a year earlier I didn't) I may have never snapped out of it.

    Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.

    by LaughingPlanet on Fri Jun 15, 2012 at 06:44:12 PM PDT

  •  Like you, I use my bike as my primary mode of (6+ / 0-)

    ... transportation. I have for at least 25 years. In that time, I have had my share of mishaps, a few that have resulted in broken bones. But I always wear my helmet. Always. I wouldn't go around the block without my helmet. I'd feel naked without it.

    (Speaking of which, last Saturday night was the city's annual, informal naked ride. Sorry to say, I missed it. But the general attire is helmet sans clothes.)

    Glad to hear your injuries weren't more debilitating.

  •  As a long time cyclist from the streets of L.A. (5+ / 0-)

    Helmets are the only way to go, and I also recommend hard shell elbow pads. A lot of times when you crash you go down on an elbow, and braking one is a bad injury - and you can lose a lot of mobility.

    To quote Colonel Potter; 'Bring yourself home alive - someone somewhere loves you! God knows why.'

    Romney 2012 - My fellow Americans. As a boy, I dreamed of being a baseball. But now, we must move forward; not backward. Upward; not forward. And always twirling, twirling, twirling towards freedom.

    by Fordmandalay on Fri Jun 15, 2012 at 06:55:28 PM PDT

  •  New-tech helmet padding (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ichibon, Chi

    is what I read on 'Gizmag', this little e-newsletter a few months back. It was made for bike helmets, because it's hard to get a good fit. It's just little flexy balls, like a beanbag so it conforms to the rider's head. Fully compressed, each pushes on 12 of its neighbors, so they claim 4X the performance of foam padding. Said it won the Austrian national prize for design or something.

    "Fight the real enemy." -Sinead O'connor

    by mookins on Fri Jun 15, 2012 at 07:04:59 PM PDT

  •  I made my husband a promise (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    elmo, Utahrd, ichibon, Chi, BachFan

    We live in Jackson, Wyoming a far different place to ride than NYC but with its own dangers. Last year my husband was taking my brother and nephews on a beautiful, mostly single track ride with lots of trees, twists, turns and rocks. My husband is a show off and my brother and the boys are in far better shape than him. Hubby refused to wear a helmet, it’s just not cool. Well I very calmly made a promise to him right then that if he crashed and got a serious head/brain injury he would not be very cool sitting/laying around in the dirty adult diaper I was not going to change because he just had to be too cool to wear a helmet.  Nothing happened and they had a great ride. Willie did show off and my brother still laughs about my promise to this day. But I meant what I said. He’s wearing his helmet these days.

  •  it takes 2 seconds to get hurt (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    elmo, ichibon, Chi, BachFan

    I started wearing a helmet in the 80's, after seeing greg lemond wear one in the tour de france.  One day in 2001, I took my minivan to be inspected & threw my bike in the back to ride to a friend's house while waiting...when I got to the garage I saw I'd forgotten the helmet...but what could happen in a mile?  I rode to my friend's, had coffee  & shot the breeze, & headed back to the garage ...then woke up in a CT scanner at westchester county medical center..small bleed in my skull...with a helmet, it would have been a stiff neck..

    Glad you liked St. Luke's..I was a fellow there & met my wife who still practices there 20 years later...I spent many nights moonlighting in that ER

  •  My excuse was hubris. (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    elmo, cooper888, ichibon, Chi, BachFan

    I became an avid rider in 2006 when I quit smoking. I estimate I`ve ridden about 35,000 miles since then, most of them early mornings on the Illinois Prairie Path. I told people I didn`t need a helmet because I know what I`m doing and I know every inch of the trail and I`m not going to fall. June 5th I had my first bad fall. 2 fractured ribs and a fractured sternum. I didn`t hit my head. I bought my first helmet June 9th. I haven`t been back on the bike yet. The doctor told me 8 weeks. I feel much improved already. My next ride will be my first ride with a helmet. I hope after a few rides it becomes rote. I`m glad you`re OK.

  •  How many wake-up calls do you need? nt (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    "I was a big supporter of waterboarding" - Dick Cheney 2/14/10

    by Bob Love on Fri Jun 15, 2012 at 08:03:09 PM PDT

  •  I tell all my patients (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    elmo, Chi, BachFan

    And their parents that 90 % of all the children who end up hospitalized after a bike wreck wouldn't be there if they had just worn a helmet.

  •  Yep (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Bicycle commuter here in Sacramento. ALWAYS wear your helmet. We have many 100º+ days in the summer and would it be nice to feel the breeze in my hair? Of course.

    But when I get weak I remember waiting for the bus in SF and watching this guy screaming down Post Street towards Van Ness on his bike sans helmet. Light turned red, traffic stopped and he didn't as he rear ended a car. Watched him fly over the car he hit and head bouncing on pavement.

    Somehow he walked away, but the memory of head bouncing on pavement? Never leaves me... so thank you hard headed dude who lived to ride another day.

    May 9, 2012 - Evolution Day

    by cooper888 on Fri Jun 15, 2012 at 08:32:55 PM PDT

  •  so... the sunday before memorial day (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ichibon, BachFan

    i had the worst crash of my life..... hit two potholes and went flying

    dislocated my shoulder
    tons of road rash

    horrible and scary.

    no helmet.... and although i didn't hit my head or my face or my neck

    it still scared the hell out of me.

    wearing a helmet now.

    Toleration is the greatest gift of the mind; it requires the same effort of the brain that it takes to balance oneself on a bicycle. -Helen Keller

    by ridemybike on Fri Jun 15, 2012 at 08:39:36 PM PDT

  •  About a month ago (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BlackSheep1, Chi, BachFan

    a friend of mine and her boyfriend were riding their bikes around their suburban neighborhood. They didn't have their helmets on...they were just going around the block.

    A drunk driver smashed into her boyfriend, dragged him down the street, stopped long enough for the body to fall off the hood of the SUV, then sped away.  The victim was careflighted to the nearest ER, but it didn't help. His injuries were too massive. He died.

    Wear your helmets. Every time. And try to ride your bikes as defensively as possible when you're on the road or crossing  one. There are a lot of drunks and psychopaths out there behind the wheel.

  •  No helmet? Just plain stupid! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BlackSheep1, BachFan

    Sorry to be so blunt, but having worn a helmet while riding for over 30 years all I can say is that you're just plain friggin' stupid not to wear a helmet-- even if only riding down to the corner store. Always. No exceptions!

    As to size, in this Internet age, I don't think that's really an excuse. Go online and find a helmet of the proper size.

    As to heat--I've found wearing a helmet is actually cooling. Your sweat, trapped under the helmet, has air flow across and it cools your head. You only start baking when you come to a stop and the airflow stops.

    As to texting or taking pictures while you're riding, how far are you going to push stupidity? That's stupid enough it makes me think you've already taken a hard fall and smacked your head.

  •  Also in the first instance, seems you were multi- (0+ / 0-)

    tasking - not a good idea - riding and taking pics. My tendency is to multi-task but lately it is making me more stressed.

    I tend to bike without a helmet too but trying to restrict it to when I am not on a trail.

    "The word bipartisan means some larger-than-usual deception is being carried out”. - George Carlin

    by Funkygal on Sat Jun 16, 2012 at 03:24:51 AM PDT

  •  Glad you are okay. This winter I tried biking in (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    light snow and slipped and fell down once on the road. Luckily no traffic around and I took a light hit on my butt which was OK. It was scary to think of this happening on a busy road.

    "The word bipartisan means some larger-than-usual deception is being carried out”. - George Carlin

    by Funkygal on Sat Jun 16, 2012 at 03:28:06 AM PDT

  •  Come now (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    It is probably a good idea to wear a helmet when you ride a bike. I generally do. It's probably a good idea to wear a helmet when you drive a car. I generally don't. I don't wear one in the shower either, though the tub is awfully slick. I probably should.

    In many places in Europe where bicycling commuting is common, helmet use is not very common. They are not riding around with their brains leaking out all over the place. Advocating helmet use for bicyclists has become a moral crusade and I think the case is overstated.

    A teen drowned in a local lake this week. Tragic, but now her parents are advocating for a law closing all swim beaches when lifeguards can't be on duty.

    Helmets are a good idea. Telling people they are stupid if they don't wear a helmet while biking is . . . well, not helpful.


    •  There is a debate... (0+ / 0-) to whether the bicycle helmet actually helps or hurts in low-speed crashes. When I was a kid, of course, bike helmets didn't exist. I had tons of spills, some of which wrecked the bike, but I was never hurt... just lucky, I guess.

      Today I ride a heavy cruiser bike on the streets of my town and on paved bike trails. I do wear a helmet (though on a recent vacation to the laid-back Florida Keys, none of the other riders I encountered wore one) on the street, where I'm likely to encounter inattentive motorists, but not always on paved trails.

      I vote we run Rick Scott out of Florida on a high-speed rail.

      by ObamOcala on Sat Jun 16, 2012 at 06:45:12 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I live in a country (0+ / 0-)

    with 17 million people and 20 million bikes. Nobody wears a helmet.

    A helmet doesn't save lives, a good bycicle infrastructure does. Riding bikes that are suitable for city riding helps too.

    In the early 70's, some major protests about the high number of mortalities among bike riders in the Netherlands, resulted in building the bike infrastructure we have now.

    In 1971, 400 children under the age of 14 died due to biking accidents. In 2010 that number was 14.


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