Recently a letter came across my desk. It was from another cyclist who is a frequent rider and in fact a ride leader. It had some sobering content. It essential presented these facts:
- The ride leader regularly leads a 5AM ride
- While cutting through a parking lot the ride leader reached down to take a drink of water from their water bottle
- At that moment they hit a speed bump that they hadn’t noticed because they were concentrating on drinking water
- The rider lost control of the bike and hit the pavement hard
- The rider struggled to get to their feet but could not walk once they were able to stand
- Their spouse was called and they went to the local hospital to have their injuries checked out
- They had managed to fracture their pelvic bone in 3 places
- As a result they will have to be off their bike for about 6 weeks
Usually at about this point on a bicycle forum the ‘know-it-alls‘ emerge to tell us:
- helmets are completely unnecessary and wearing one only makes people think that cycling is inherently dangerous
- then they will point out that this rider did not suffer a head injury so why bother discussing helmet use or for that matter bike safety
- they will immediately decide that the best course of action is to have the rider call their favorite ‘ambulance chaser‘ who should be able to secure for them a 6-figure settlement
- and then another will warn off the continuance of the discussion in the event the owners of the parking lot are looking for mitigating circumstances
Bicycling is dangerous all by itself. Driving a car is dangerous, all by itself. Doing something as innocent as taking your eyes off the road at 60 mph can get you dead! We sometimes cluck our tongues and give knowing glances to one another because we fervently believe in the ‘War on Cars‘ and see this as further proof that these ‘cages of death‘ should be removed from the roadways.
But when reminded that the simple act of drinking water while riding a bike is also fraught with danger we turn our backs on the speaker and decide that ‘for the good of the Urban Cycling Movement is it best to ignore the news‘.
Willful Ignorance Is Not Helping
These same cyclists who will not broach a serious discussion on helmets are the same ones who bicycle drunk on roads where the speed limit approach 40 mph and see absolutely nothing wrong with it.
But this is the current trend among Urban Cyclists. They see nothing wrong with ignoring traffic controls.
- Ride, hustle, kill, repeat: the underground cycle gangs of Los Angeles | Cities | The Guardian (PDF)
Are We On A Fool’s Errand?
There is only so much you can do with respect to bicycle infrastructure. You simply cannot remove the threat of injury and mortality from even places like Amsterdam. But how will you ever know that your efforts are working (or not) if you taint the data by willfully ignore the Rules of the Road?