Thursday morning I passed Boston police giving out traffic tickets to a half-dozen bicyclists at the inbound intersection of Comm Ave and the BU Bridge. The $20 tickets were for going through the red light on Comm Ave. Most of the bicyclists I saw, who appeared to be students, were not wearing helmets.
I’ve biked in for a long time, inside the city and out. I bike regularly with a group of friends, all of whom have logged tens of thousands of miles on bicycles. Everyone one of us has had an accident. As a group we’ve had a broken pelvis and other broken bones, bumps, cuts, abrasions from a face smashing into a guardrail, “road rash”–the euphemism for the byproduct of human skin skidding along asphalt, and concussions. A month ago one of our group was riding on Comm Ave near Route 128 when, keeping on eye on a car that was moving into his lane without seeing him, his front wheel entered a crack in the pavement. The wheel stopped short, the bike flipped, and he went with it still clipped into his pedals, landing on the back of his head and his left hip. A car apparently ran over his back wheel; it was bent in half. As always, he was wearing a helmet. The impact cracked the helmet in five places. He got a concussion, but without the helmet his skull would have absorbed the blow. We all agreed he was lucky, because he walked–limped–away.
Bicycling is dangerous. A split-second’s inattention to conditions, misjudging a piece of road debris, a distracted or hostile driver, and we can go down. There is little between rider and road. Bike shorts and jerseys shred upon impact. We get one skull, one brain. That’s it. Don’t play roulette with them. Don’t be an idiot.
Wear a helmet,