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Helmet Use: And the beat goes on.

Posted Sep 12 2008 10:36am

First let me thank everyone for the outpouring of good wishes and positive thoughts towards my recovery; I continue to improve every day. There was a sudden influx of well wishers last evening, when someone posted the story of my accident on Bike Forums.

This, it turned out started a sometimes quite heated helmet debate. Speaking for myself, I am glad I just happened to have that inch of foam plastic between my head and the side of the vehicle when I hit. To me it is all clear and simple, drop an egg on the hard kitchen floor and it will break, guaranteed.

Put an egg in a padded envelope and drop it on the floor and there is a possibility it may not break, or it may end up only cracked. Which incidentally is what happened to my head; it is slightly cracked. Had my head been broken, like Humpty Dumpty, they may not have been able to put it together again.

I started cycling in the 1950s in England when no one wore head protection even while racing with the exception of track riders. When I landed in the US in 1979 it seemed I had arrived among a nation of Freds*, all wearing those God awful looking, mushroom shaped Bell helmets, with little dentist mirrors attached. And every one it seemed had a story to tell how their helmet saved their life.

I rode all through the 1980s without a helmet; I didn’t see why I needed one. I was a skilled enough rider and I wasn’t planning on falling on my head. When I started back riding this year, I decided to wear one for the first time. I still wasn’t planning to fall on my head, but I could find no reason to not wear one.

Helmets have come a long way and have become accepted by the serious road rider, even worn in the Tour de France. They actually keep your head cooler in summer; after all, they are made of the same material they use to make ice chests. But, most of all I did it as a concession to my wife who is a non-cyclist and was a little apprehensive about me riding again.

Now I realize there is another huge reason to wear head protection. Traffic has increased tremendously in the last thirty years; automobiles have become easier to drive, with more and more protection for the driver. This has all led to a casual, sloppy attitude towards driving; everyone is locked up in their own little steel cocoon, and no one cares about the welfare and safety of others around them anymore.

I wish rather than promote the use of helmets I could change the attitude and driving skills of other road users. I believe that if every person was forced to ride a bicycle on the busy highways for a period it would make them a far better driver, but that’s not going to happen.

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*Fred (n.) A person who has a mishmash of old gear, does't care at all about technology or fashion, doesn't race or follow racing, etc. Often identified by chainring marks on white calf socks. Used by "serious" roadies to disparage utility cyclists and touring riders, especially after these totally unfashionable "freds" drop the "serious" roadies on hills.

From Glossary of Bicycle Terms.
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