Monday, April 9, 2012

Bike Helmets Protect Against Idiocy, Death

I'm going to apologize for this, but I'm going to have to go solemn here. I'll never forget that day, May 25, 1998. My best friend, Ryan, and I were riding our bikes. We weren't wearing bike helmets, because only nerds wore helmets. Only that day, I wish he had been a nerd.

Ryan flew over the handlebars and cracked his head against the ground. I, being 13, immediately started screaming. However, soon bits of brain matter flew into my mouth, which simultaneously muted my screams and made me want to scream even more. From that day forward, I always wore a bike helmet.

That didn't actually happen.

What did happen is I was riding my bike along Aurora Avenue in Seattle when I was pulled over by a bike police officer. He was wearing a bike helmet, I was not. That $103 dollar ticket severely limited the amount of marshmallows I could purchase. At that point I vowed I never to get ticketed for this again and always wore my bike helmet.

That didn't actually happen either.

Instead, I started wearing my helmet when I ride, because I just realized it was stupid not to. My bike consists of roughly 25 pounds of metal plus my 165 pound frame. When a 3,000 pound Toyota Prius comes barreling at me going 60, there's no way I wouldn't be injured in that collision. Sure, a helmet is basically a glorified piece of plastic and Styrofoam, but it's a glorified piece of plastic and Styrofoam in a very important spot.

For anyone who claims helmets
are dorky looking, let me present
counter-argument A.
I'll admit, growing up, I never actually wore a bike helmet. And I'd do all the stupid kid things too, like hitting jumps, riding no-handed, getting abducted by aliens and turning without signaling. I gave all the standard excuses for not wearing one—dorky, itchy, makes hair look “helmety,” various other descriptors ending with y. I went 20 years riding a bike without a helmet and never had an incident related to it. But I suppose it's a case of growing up and realizing nobody is invincible.

The numbers bear this out. If you're wearing a bike helmet, you're 85 to 88 percent less likely to be affected and have head or brain injuries in a crash. Oddly enough, if you don't wear a helmet, you're more likely to enjoy “Two and a Half Men.” But those numbers skew heavily because of the former could cause massive head trauma and the latter is product of massive head trauma.

Since I do many post-midnight rides along populated highways, I want to put as much of a damper on people running over me as possible. Also, those motorists who think “Look both ways before I run over the biker” aren't helpful either.

I realize a helmet isn't a prevent all, there are other fleshy parts of me that could get torn off in an accident. But I do want to prevent the things I can prevent. So now when I ride, I always toss on that helmet. Yes, all my negative childhood thoughts still exist (and it's kind of itchy too) but I realize all of those negatives aren't actually that bad. And dying sucks, especially when you launch brain matter into your best friend.

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