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Biking's Abatross: the Safety Fetish

May 19, 2016


It's boggling to me how people put bicycling into this weird separate category in life where safety fantasy is a fetish. Yet most folks just for grins do all sorts of things that are tons riskier. Nor do they have such views of safety elsewhere in their life. Like people who go by few rules will go ape for rules in biking. Or people who are carefree about who they hang out w will suddenly get strict on who they bike w!

Biking is being picked to be the bogey. This has to stop. It's holding back biking. It's making parents needlessly more worried about their kids. It throws a MASSIVE barrier between normal people and biking.

The results of "riding a bike" are as plain as anything: it's fun, it works out. You don't get boo-boo's any more often than doing anything else. Yeah, you can get hurt. Sometimes a little, sometimes a lot. Let's try not. Why get overly fussy w the factor parsing. Same as anything else. If you're a bit clumsy, armor up to suit -- if you ride in the fog then turn into a lighthouse. Go for low hanging fruit. No need to be a completist. ...Or to get socially warped.

Why not for a change put a wee bit LESS concern for safety onto biking. Just use your own eyes and behavior and totally average responses to guide you.

If you wanna be seen, wear a bright color that day -- something w a little red, white or yellow in it. If you wanna be safe around strangers, ride w some friends. Try that. Give "KISS" a test.

See how your results compare to other areas of life where you start putting MORE concern. Like, stop wearing a helmet while slow-casual biking. Go find a ride where not everyone wears a helmet. See what that's like. Then start wearing a helmet while trail-running or driving or walking on sidewalks in winter, or while XC skiing! Definitely while XC skiing and ice skating. As a test.

I know! Since you're both thick-skinned and thin-skinned enough to have been commenting on how you can't be around people if they're doing this or that, as a test start avoiding people or potential friends who don't wear a helmet while ice-skating or XC skiing and see how that feels socially and psychologically... Yeah, and definitely shout at or correct or "teach" anyone you see ice skating or xc skiing or walking on icy sidewalks w/o a helmet...

Let's never post pics of bad wrecks saved by a helmet. Would the frickin bathroom appliance industry get anywhere by posting the MILLIONS of injury photos of the carnage that happens every day in bathroom slip'n'falls? Helmets would save MOST of those! So let the ER docs deal with all that, and handle the psychological fallout in their own private way. Don't tell us about it! Yes, we can get hurt! Big deal! Just try not to. DO NOT TREAT BIKES IN ANY WEIRD WAY! Treat bikes just like anything else you do. Because biking is the same!

Biking is not a contagion full of alarming bloodbaths.

Yes, we do crash and bleed fairly often. It's part of the fun. Do not do anything to let it be a turn-off!

Biking is not something we should subject to statistical analysis and corrective action except in the privacy of bureaucratic offices. Do not let blathering about "studies" mess up the PR for biking!

They're starting to look into the head-whacks that mess up EVERY pro footballer. Good! Analyze that! There's no maybe's about it there.

Stop the fear-mongering about bikes right now! Just knock it off!

Start various orgs with awkward acronyms dedicated to exposing the public to the risks of walking, skating and XC skiing and how trauma can be reduced thru various protocols and see how much your efforts boost the popularity of the activities!

OK, no don't.

Is casual neighborhood biking like being a professional chainsaw lumberjack?

Is it like rock-climbing or white-water kayaking?


Every activity where a lot of people start wearing helmets will fill with anecdotes and data about improved safety. It's obvious. So why not wear helmets all the time? So what if an activity is more or less risky than another activity. There's no need to get fussy. Just wear a helmet and you're simply less likely to get hurt. For every single activity the life-saving and injury-saving will pile up.

Car driving, ice skating, trail running, walking outside in winter, XC skiing: add helmets to all of these and you'll save thousands of lives and injuries.

Ice skating in particular: I bet there's a concussion each week at any rink. Requiring helmets would drop that to zero. The feet out, vertical drop on head scenario of ice skating is perfect for helmet protection.

How about if we take all the pressure of biking for a change. Why single it out, anyway? Put it on all those other activities. Or ANY other activity. Or just forget about it.

Wear a helmet if you like. Wear one where it makes sense to you -- or to the race organizer.

Yeah, probably uncoordinated brittle older folks are gonna be armoring up more than youth. Great! Let em have it. Don't draw attn to em, tho. It's embarrassing enough.

Like rollerbladers: some do, some don't. When you're racing in the hills most will suit up more. For a casual glide, do as you like.

But there definitely are those who socially shun those who bike w/o a helmet. Really, they need to just stop. But if they won't, then those people need to shun all socializing. Whenever you're with other people some of them are definitely doing harmful things that hurt themselves and others. Like when you go to church, concert, bar or stadium: quite a few in any gathering are having unprotected sex and definitely causing illness and sometimes death. Not wearing a helmet puts you at a theoretical risk where groups ride for years w/o incident. In any group of people there are those who are definitely spreading bugs that hurt. No theory about it. Just don't go. Stay pure. You can't be seen being around places where risk is accepted! No way! At any stadium or concert folks are drinking too much or getting in fights and filling up the frickin ERs. Shun those definite fools! We've had 100's of social rides and zero trips to the ER yet I have definitely heard otherwise normal people refuse to ride w us for this moronic helmet reason. That's fine but I don't want to see them out in public where people are definitely doing preventable things that are actually putting a bunch of them in the ER. Get yerself in that house and don't come out!

My main beef is we need to get rid of odd social behavior in cycling. It's bad form. It hurts cycling. Never holler at someone "where's yer helmet." If someone does that they need to be sentenced to Copenhagen to stand on a corner for a year and holler it at the thousands of bikers who pass them each day.

Biking is quickly normalizing in the USA. We need to do some things to push it that final bit. Like getting rid of the geekery. Helmets are fine. You can even wear one in a bar and people won't look at ya very funny. But take off the rear view mirror when you go inside. And back off the lycra where possible. Especially with garish colors. Chaos ads are ugly -- just keep that in mind. Safety gear is fine if you're a hard-hat worker coming in for a cold one after hours. But just like they do: take it off if you can: it's good on the job but hi-viz it hurts people's eyes. It's like shining yer frickin headlight in people's eyes. Would you leave your headlight shining on your head in a bar? Mostly: just ride and wear regular clothes. Don't overdo it. Unless you really want to or it's really helpful, like when going fast in a pack. If you're just doing a short casual ride -- which you should be a few times a week! -- just get on and ride. Nothing fancy needed! And try not to segregate yourselves too much -- most of the time when bikers go to a bar or other social gathering they should just go there, like normal people. Don't group off to the side. Blend in. If you'd blend in when out normally then blend in when out on a bike.

As soon as more of us bikers do more of this we'll be in like flynn.

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