Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Stupidity on Wheels

Warning, my friends: I'm about to rant.

I just returned from a five-mile hill workout, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I may have lost some speed since the Philadelphia Marathon, but I'm almost certain I've gained some strength since triathlon training began. It's a fair trade, I suppose.

On my way back down to my apartment, it started pouring rain. Apparently it's not supposed to stop until tomorrow, which is a shame because it's also 67 degrees outside. When you're battling Spring Fever and nature has made it impossible to take advantage of such a lovely temperature, it hardly seems, well, fair.

Anyway...all of this is really not the point. I was stopped at a red light a few blocks away when I saw something that struck me as absurd. In the middle of the usual busy, rainy-day traffic jamming the streets of our dear Nation's Capital, a woman was weaving in and out of the cars riding a bike. Wearing fashionable knee-high leather boots. With no helmet. Holding an umbrella over her head.

Ok, there are several things wrong with this scenario, none of which I probably need to point out, but I will anyway.

1. I'm all for people commuting on bikes and I truly don't care what they're wearing. I was just trying to set the scene with my snarky boots comment. Really, I'd take a gazillion people wearing inappropriate clothing to ride their bikes if it meant there would be no more silly SUVs polluting our world anymore.

2. However, there is never, ever any excuse for not wearing a helmet. I don't understand why anybody would get on a bike without wearing one. It's among the dumbest things anybody can do. Do I think that every state should enforce laws making people wear helmets? No. I don't believing in legislating common sense. But I have a really hard time feeling sorry for somebody who crack their skull in what should have otherwise been a minor bike accident. Helmets have saved lives...and if that doesn't strike a chord, they also save money. In fact, according to the Helmet Safety Institute, direct costs of cyclists' injuries due to not using helmets are estimated at $81-million each year. Indirect costs of cyclists' injuries due to not wearing helmets are estimated at $2.3-billion.

3. So back to this woman I saw earlier today. Really? You're going to protect yourself from the rain by trying to balance an umbrella over your head, while your steering your bike through rush-hour city traffic with one hand? I bet you're going to happy you stayed so nice and dry when you end up face down on the concrete with the paramedics assessing the extent of your head and body injuries.

I could go on and on all day here. But, really, what is so hard about putting a helmet on? I'm imagining that these people are the same ones who can't seem to exert the energy to put their seat belts on in the car either. Is it laziness? Just trying to look cool (whatever that is)? What is the issue? Can anybody help me out here? I mean, if it's a cost issue, there are nonprofit organizations all over the place that give the damn things out for free.

And don't even get me started about all the people in this city who ride their bikes on the sidewalk. I think I better just save that rant for another day.


Javier said...

Its funny you mentioned the umbrella thing. Maybe she is Dutch? When I was in Holland a few weeks ago. I noticed that when it was raining these folks would still ride their bikes, but ride it holding an umbrella. They also do not wear helmets. Coincidence? The difference of course is that throughout Holland the cities have bike Roads, not lanes, they have parallel bike roads dedicated purely to cyclists. At least in the town I was in, Utrecht

Coach said...

Two words: Helmet hair. I agree with the public safety benefit, in other words, the public shouldn't have to bear responsibility for anyone's stupidity. That said, I've done some pretty stupid things in my life and will continue to do so. If I'm riding on a beach cruiser to get milk at the store, I probably won't wear a helmet, mostly because in my mind, if I'm not over 14 mph or riding with automobile traffic, I'm not really riding. I'd be okay if the community asked me to sign a fiscal responsibility waiver so that if my brains get splattered on the asphalt while riding without a helmet, I'm obligated to clean up the financial mess. When I do "ride" I always wear a helmet, so I guess, I'm just taking a finer cut at the whole issue. I don't believe in legislating personal behavior that doesn't affect the lives of anyone but the idiot (me). I have no response to the whole umbrella thing as I have doubts as to its efficacy. Maybe I'll try it and get back to you.