Greetings, weary travelers!
Copious thanks for your presumed forgiveness of yet another (longer) hiatus. But guaranteed, we’re most definitely back with the type of bloody vengeance only attained after a weeklong braincleansing of clear skies, 80+ degree waters, serene white-sand beaches, and an alphasequentially-named tropical storm or two. (There’s your hint if you feel like guessing at TheBikeMensch’s recent vacation spot.)
Needless to say, many a Scrabble game was played under the cover of reinforced-steel thatched roofs. And, yes, your trusty wordsmith took home the Overall Trophy #NotEvenHumbleBragJustRegularBrag. (Though, his ladyfriend might argue said trophy was actually for Overall BigDumbStupid Jerkiest Scrabble Jerk of all time. But hey, a win's a win.) Plus, there was rum. Lots and lots of rum. Holy crap on a Caribbean crocodile, so much friggin’ rum.
And don’t worry, I just made that up. A caribbean crocodile's totally not a thing. Except, like, in the Florida Keys or something.
Hm... I wonder... *Googles “caribbean crocodile” *
. . .
From the American Crocodile's Wiki Page: “It also lives on many of the Caribbean islands such as Cuba, Jamaica, Hispaniola, Grand Cayman, Greater Antilles, and the West Indies.”
Apparently I just dodged some large crocodile-shaped bullets.
Anyways, back to the rum—
There was rum with pineapple; rum with orange; rum with pineapple and orange; rum with coconut; rum without coconut; rum with tequila; rum with gin; rum with tequila and gin; rum with tequila, gin, pineapple-orange, coconut, lime, a dash of club soda, with a mouse-sized umbrella on top.
That last one they called a Cross-Eyed Goat. (Seriously. I wish I made that up.)
There was so much rum that I’m going to have a hard time getting a buzz on for the next six months. Enough rum to drown Jack Sparrow five times over. Quantities of rum that would make a sugarcane blush. Though—and this is very important: never so much rum to make us tired of rum.
Why, you ask? Because, simply—
All-in-all, it was truly the trip of a lifetime, something that I’m not likely to repeat anytime soon, if ever, and I’m supremely and eternally grateful to the folks that brought me along for the ride. It has proved to be a thorough and hearty brainspace reset (likely due in no small part to the induced speed-of-thought brought on by all the damned rum), and I’m ready to tackle all my projects, both new and ongoing. The juices are a-flowin’, people.
But it’s important to note that one doesn’t need to fly oneself thousands of miles away to free up some RAM in your head. Remember our roadtrip concept? It’s the escape that matters. Just get out and go—out of your house, out of town, out of the country.
It can be a week, a few days, a couple hours even—
Just get out; slow it down for a bit.
I don’t envy Seattle for all the fun I missed during the past week. High winds, thick swaths of (much-needed) rain, fallen trees, power outages, even a few fatalities. Weirdly congruous to our own trip, though. Sounds like this one deserved a name, too.
I can't even imagine biking in those conditions. Must have been pretty rough, but I heard a few of you pulled it off. So, to he/she that had the brass to brave Storm Freddie on your bikes, first off—
You idiot, you.
You’re lucky to be alive. 50 mph winds on rain-slick streets in Seattle traffic?
I hope you were wearing your brain bucket, some kevlar, and enough reflective clothing to scare off Nicki Minaj on Halloween.
I expect nothing less in dark and stormy weather.
Wait a second...
We haven’t discussed the concept of the bucket yet, have we?
Bike helmets, ever the controversy among cyclists, motorists, and pedestrians alike.
I have this conversation probably every few months or so with a new group of people. And considering I haven't bothered you guys with it yet...
Oooooo, this is gonna be a fun one.
To start off—
how do you ride?
Helmet? Bareheaded? Cycling cap? Beanie? Scally cap? Top hat?
One of these, maybe?
(For those wondering, the designers have a whole line including:
Yes, a butt.)
So what's yr steez, bro?
Because let me tell you (for all the TL;DRers out there):
There's no right answer.
Now before you guys rage-spit that coffee all over your phones and monitors, let's powwow.
Many assume that since helmets, by nature, serve as pretection for your head they should therefore be worn at all times while riding a bicycle. A no-brainer, right? (lol. I crack myself up. Ha! I did it again!) Morbid jokes aside, any rational person will concede that an additional layer of cushion between your skull and a curb is a good idea. If you find yourself in such a situation, and there's even a chance that a bulbous, plastic helmet-thing can protect your noggin, why not wear it? So, yes, helmets can, of course, reduce the chance of serious injury to the cyclist, particularly in the brain/headal region. This is true.
However, the operative word there is can.
A collision scenario where a bike helmet will be effective must be relatively low speed, very precisely angled, and (duh) involve the rider's head.
Few collisions ever end up fiting all these criteria. Problem number one.
But again, even given the low odds, better to have one than not, right?
Short answer: maybe-but-kind-of-not-in-the-long-run.
Let me state that I personally wear a helmet 100% of the time on my bike, and, at least for the time being, no one is going to change my mind. Don't get me wrong—this isn't me waving the shame flag in your face. By all means, do what feels right, assuming you're not breaking any laws. Call me paranoid, but if there's a chance, however slight, that a helmet is going to prevent some heinous stuff from happening to my dome, I'm going to rock the headgear.
This next part, though, is going to sound a little weird.
I think it might be sort of a selfish thing to do, and I'll get to why in a bit. Yes, I'm saying that wearing a helmet may actually be hurting bike safety on the whole.
It's not as black and white an issue as most people think. Bike helmet collision data is notoriously dodgy, with the Feds and public health officials erring on the side of extreme caution. This by itself isn't necessarily a bad thing. But the truth is, the efficacy of the helmet itself isn't the biggest factor in overall safety when you're on the road. Really, it shouldn't even be a priority in our community bike safety discussions.
For a lot of thinking cyclists, the whole issue ends up being a weird kind of chicken-and-egg question. To dissect this further, we need to delve into some theory behind bike safety.
For the rest of this post, let's assume that bike helmets are extremely effective at preventing head injury. They aren't always (or, according to some data, even barely often), but that's a separate issue. Today, they are the good lord's gift of safety to cyclists. And we're going to be focusing on urban areas where, statistically, most cycling takes place. In less populated, less dense areas with fewer cars, more collisions occur between cyclists and the ground rather than cyclists and cars, and the point we're trying to make applies to multivehicular communities.
Now, all that assumed, let me ask you this, and don't just react with your gut—think about it for a second:
As a cyclist, which is safer: no helmet on a road with fewer cars, or a busy road with a helmet on your head?
Oddly difficult question, isn't it?
So let's assume there's been a collision on a busy street. Now let's dig a little deeper. How about this:
Shouldn't that collision have never occurred in the first place?
The issue of bike helmets now becomes a matter of the whole scope of bike safety and where the burden of responsibility actually lies. The helmet doesn't inherently "make you safer" (some studies have shown they have the opposite effect and drivers actually allow a few inches less room for helmeted cyclists as opposed to unhelmeted), and we shouldn't be teaching that it does. Wearing a bike helmet shifts the focus of that burden solely to the cyclist, and that's just not right, especially in cases where the cyclist is the victim. Saying, "Well, he should have been wearing a helmet," after you've just t-boned a cyclist that landed on his unhelmeted head doesn't make that cyclist an unsafe cyclist. A careless one, perhaps, but it mostly makes you an unsafe driver (as well as a huge dick) and proves that you and your lack of awareness are the real problem.
The helmet itself should be the last line of defense, not a go-to excuse for whose fault the wreck was.
It's not just the cyclist's job to practice safety. That responsibility falls to all of us: cyclists, motorists, and pedestrians, in equal parts. Everyone should be mindful of safe riding/driving/walking practices, and until that starts happening, we aren't going to have any fewer collision-related injuries.
So, while there is in fact a small chance that a helmet will help protect you in the event of a very specific kind of collision, it doesn't get at the core of the issue. The most effective ways to decrease cycling injuries are by increasing ridership, advocating safety and awareness, and lobbying for better protected bike infrastructure.
Demanding mandatory helmets laws is not going to make cycling any safer.
This actually ends up creating a culture of fear around something that is then perceived as inherently dangerous activity. This decreases ridership and lowers awareness, which will theoretically cause more collisions. In addition, people that are hoping to use local bike sharing programs would be required to keep helmets on their person. When you're not a regular cyclist, this becomes a barrier of entry, and you're less likely to use the bike at all. Again: fewer riders on the road = less awareness = higher likelihood of collisions.
Ultimately, our focus should be on raising awareness, and, as with many controversial issues, one of the best ways to do this is by protesting. For a lot of cyclists, this means brazenly weaving through traffic with a uncovered scalp. (Sidenote: If you're one of those that doesn't wear a helmet because you think they look silly, you're just the worst. At least read the rest of the rest of this post so you have better ammo next time you're accosted on the street for not wearing a helmet due to your "aesthetic preferences.")
I choose not to do this.
I respect and admire your spirit of protest, fellow cyclist. I believe that in the long run your actions will serve to make us all safer. But in the meantime, it's a rough world out there. And if it means that I need to hinder the safety movement to keep my brain how it is right now, regardless of whose fault it is, regardless of how small the chance of it helping is...
It's still a chance.
Paranoia, remember? I trust my own safe riding skills. I don't trust yours.
But, the next time someone tells you that you're being unsafe by not wearing a helmet on your bike, that you're setting a bad example and ruining it for the rest of the "safe" cyclists out there that wear helmets—Tell them you'll start when they start, be they on four wheels or two legs.
It makes about as much sense.