My Semi-Annual Safety Reminder

From today’s BU Today: Student Cyclist Struck by Car, Hospitalized with head injury after Comm Ave accident.

An 18-year-old BU student was rushed to Brigham and Women’s Hospital with a head injury early Wednesday evening after being struck by a car while riding her bike on Comm Ave at Buick Street. Witnesses said the victim was in the bike lane when she was hit; she was thrown onto the hood of the car, and her head smashed the windshield.

You have the use of just one head in this life.  A helmet wouldn’t have prevented the accident but likely would have reduced the severity of the victim’s injuries.

You have the use of only one head in your lifetime.  Be smart.  Wear a helmet.

Don’t Be Stupid II

BU Today’s report that yesterday police were ticketing Comm Ave bicyclists for riding without helmets induced A Foolish Consistency deja vu :  last September’s Don’t Be Stupid, about police ticketing Comm Ave bicyclists for riding without helmets and January’s Sober Reminder, about experienced cyclist and Boston Globe writer Bella English’s crash and serious head injuries.  Personal experience, mine and my friends’ compels me to agree with English’s message:  “sooner or later most cyclists crash. You just hope it’s a soft landing.”  Helmets aren’t foolproof, but it’s foolish to ride without one.

Wear a helmet.

Sober Reminder

Sorry to a gloomy doom sayer, but this story put my paternal–and self-preservation–instincts into overdrive. In September I chastised (Don’t Be Stupid) the many students who bicycle without helmets. Yesterday’s Boston Globe Magazine article by Bella English will chill any cyclist, helmeted and not, save maybe early-twenty-somethings who believe bad shit only happens to others.  Four months ago, riding home on a route she’s ridden “at least 100 times,” a route whose “hills and curves [she knows] by heart,” English apparently hit a pothole while keeping an eye out for cars.  She hit the asphalt hard, hitting her head below the helmet line.  Her injuries include “a fractured skull, bruising and bleeding of the brain, a broken left clavicle, a broken shoulder blade, two broken ribs, a fractured pelvis.”  She’s been rehabbing since the accident and is still on medical leave from her job as a Boston Globe reporter.  She recounts her post-accident life and offers this wisdom:

I’ve been cycling for a decade, and though I’m a careful rider – I write an annual column on cycling safety – I believe that sooner or later most cyclists crash. You just hope it’s a soft landing. Mine wasn’t.

Each of my road biking buddies has crashed, including me.  We’ve had broken pelvises, concussions, broken wrists, broken thumbs, broken noses, and road rash.  We’ve hit potholes, rocks, cracks, ice, sand, curbs, and other bikers.  We’ve smashed faces into guard rails, flipped over handlebars, crashed into trees, hit roadway markers.  And that was just last week.

Sorry.  I had to relieve the grim litany.  You get the picture.  Even if you ride safely, even if you wear a helmet, cycling is dangerous.  As one friend said this morning “of course it’s dangerous to ride a something whose default position is lying on its side.”

What Ivory Tower?

During yesterday’s Internet law class (which, btw, set a course record for most absences (14 out of 40!) on a day other than the Tuesday before Thanksgiving or the Tuesday after Marathon Monday) the sound of police sirens distracted me briefly.  They came, went, came again, and went.  I paid little heed; Commonwealth Avenue three floors below is a busy thoroughfare.  Then this morning I saw this headline on BU Today:  Wrong-Way Car Wreaks Comm Ave Chaos.  The story opens–

A speeding maroon Mitsubishi SUV raced the wrong way up Commonwealth Avenue from Kenmore Square early Thursday afternoon, sideswiping at least eight cars and colliding with two more before the driver stopped and fled on foot.

In other words, directly below my classroom window, on the other side of the street.  At 12:41 pm, 11 minutes after class began.

Put Up a Parking Lot

Classes ended yesterday.  I went to Maine today, my first trip north in almost two months.  I planned to get on the road by 11:30, a plan as successful as most of my scheduled departures–which is not successful at all.  I worked all morning, making progress on some stalled projects, doing laundry, packing the car, and pulled out the driveway at 1:50 pm.   Leaving then, before rush hour on a non-holiday weekend, should have meant arriving about 4:30, plus whatever time I spent shopping for groceries.

I got here at 7 pm.  A tractor-trailer fire on the Maine Turnpike between the York and Wells exits stopped and backed up northbound traffic for miles.  I mean cars-parked-in-the-middle-of-the-highway, dogs-being-walked-in-the-breakdown-lane, w-t-f-is-going-on stopped.   I sampled everything the experience offered.  I let the dogs roam the grass beside the road.  I  strolled southbound and commiserated with fellow travelers.  I made phone calls, checked email, and went to the Maine Turnpike website for news.  I considered a power nap.  It was like the New York Turnpike at Woodstock minus hippies, rock music, drugs, rain, and fun.  Duty made me open my laptop to write exam questions.   Two or so hours after stopping we all started up and began slowly to move, miles of cars, motorcycles, RVs, trucks, buses, flatbeds, and wreckers.  We crawled for miles, three lanes of traffic squeezing left into one lane to pass the accident site.  And what a sight:  a small, charred, twisted pile of metal identifiable as a tractor-trailer cab only because it was hitched to the burned-out hulk of a trailer.  I don’t know if the driver or anyone else was hurt.