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.”

Don’t Be Stupid

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.

That’s stupidity.

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,