Opinion: Speaking of Hard-Headedness
December 1, 2011
There are three types of people in this world: those who bike wearing helmets, those who don’t, and those who bike with helmets on their handlebars (to those who don’t bike: bear with me. A helmet’s like a seatbelt in a car). We’ll go over each individually.
Those Who Wear Helmets: ‘The Smart Ones’
These are the rational ones. They shun needless risks and accept the fact that no one looks good in a bicycle helmet, no matter how hard you try (notice they never print pictures in magazines. Yes, you do look that dorky, sorry). These people are also the more serious bikers. They know the consequences, they’ve been stained and bloody and found it wasn’t that fun, or they have an iota of common sense. They also do riskier things (or at least are entitled to). Problem is, that’s not really how the cookie ends up crumbling.
The (Helmetless) Rebels
People in this group are kidding themselves if they think they’ve never crashed before and that they never will. Enough with the self-denial! One problem with the road is that there are people on it considerably less careful than you. Maybe you won’t make a mistake, but the 18-wheeler behind you might and by the time they scrape you off the road and carry you to traffic court in a plastic bag it won’t really matter.
Paradoxically, these rebels are the people that flaunt laws the most. They bike up the wrong sides of busy roads, ride at night without lights, wear all black and regard traffic lights as suggestions rather than binding rules. Admit it: you know someone like this and it pisses the hell out of you how they always manage to get away with it. Trust me, their time will come. If you happen to do this on a motorcycle (‘donorcycle’) then multiply those insults by a factor of ten. If helmets are good enough for Charlie’s Angles, they’re good enough for you.
The Danglers: “God, give me strength…”
This is the pits. By leaving your helmet dangling serendipitously from your handlebars you declare to the world, “I own a helmet and probably have a fairly good idea that this is stupid, but can’t be bothered to lift this life-saving device the necessary two feet to attach it to my cranium and prevent my brains from ever being strewn along the tarmac like a dead squirrel corpse (the sad part is, no one will know the difference after the first week).”
It says, “My parents forced me to bring this helmet with me, but I’m too damn stubborn to listen despite the glaringly obvious fact that a) it’s the law and b) it can save my sorry ass.”
The worst part—they don’t even have the chutzpah to just leave the helmet at home. If you went to all the trouble of biking to school day in and day out it with it swinging from your handlebar and tangling your spokes, why not just lug it on your head? The Dangler’s motives are a complete mystery. Perhaps they actually believe having a helmet anywhere but your head has some remote effect on safety, or maybe it’s the opposite; they have to flaunt their cavalier nonchalance for all to see: “I need to constantly remind you that I’m a badass who doesn’t wear a helmet. Look! I’m making a conscious decision to screw myself over!”
When asked, people will usually try and squeeze out a rather sheepish, “I forgot it was there” or “I like the feel of the wind through my hair” or “I’ll never crash, so what does it matter?” I’ve no doubt that every single biker you know has crashed, and will crash again in the future. Heck, Lance Armstrong crashes all the time and I’m fairly certain he’s spent more time on a bike than you have. So give us a break and put the darn helmet on. No, you won’t appear startlingly attractive to a member of the opposite gender, or feel the rush of the wind through your hair but you might, just might, live to see your next birthday. I think that’s enough, don’t you?