The collision seemed to take an eternity—an eternity my hope that it wouldn’t be too painful or damaging. A few seconds of inattentiveness could have resulted in a lifetime of impairment, or worse.
When my wife, Anna, and I began cycling several years ago she was insistent that we wear helmets whenever we rode. I, of course, didn’t believe it was necessary and in my own mind, thought they made us appear somewhat silly. Besides, I prided myself in my ability to be careful at all times.
However, in the spirit of harmony in the home I capitulated and purchased a shiny new one. You know the drill; if momma’s happy, everybody’s happy. Soon it was standard procedure to buckle up the helmet before stepping onto the pedals.
A Momentary Lapse
Recently, while crossing a main thoroughfare in Duncan, my left shoe came unfastened from the pedal clip so I glanced down to see what was happening. The pedal had turned so I spun it around and locked in. While my head was down I checked the gears on the rear wheel to see what sprocket I was on.
When I looked forward—I was at the curb on the opposite side of the street, traveling fast.
A quick turn to the left stopped me from hitting the concrete edge dead on, but when the tire glanced off it, the front wheel kicked out from under me and I crashed, right hip and leg first onto the sidewalk, followed by a loud bang and a ringing in my head.
Without the now ever-present helmet, the poor young girl across the street would have been frantically trying to get an ambulance for me.
As it was, all I received for my temporary lapse in concentration was some road rash and bruising on my right calf and hip. A few ounces of Styrofoam and plastic had, perhaps, saved my life.
Only six provinces have helmet laws with BC and Nova Scotia including all cyclists. (BC Motor Vehicles Act, s.184.) My former hometown of Whitehorse, Yukon also has a helmet law. It appears that enforcement is lax in all jurisdictions.
7500 people are seriously injured in bicycle accidents in Canada each year. ICBC statistics indicates a five-year average of 290 bike accidents on Vancouver Island in a typical year, two of them fatal.
These numbers, of course, do not include the myriad accidents that occurred that are not reported to them.
Vancouver Island Health Authority Motor Vehicle Collision Report of 2012 shows that from 2003-2007 there were 999 cyclist accidents on Vancouver Island. 327 of these riders were not wearing helmets.
Interestingly, statistics show that women wear helmets more often than men and that men are even less likely to use headgear between the ages of 15 and44.
A blurb in a cycling magazine once coined the term for those without helmets: POD – Potential Organ Donor.
The message is this, “Wear a helmet whenever riding your bike, anywhere. Whether you are in traffic or on one of the many trails available to us, use safety gear.”
Oh, yes, note to self: Don’t be looking at the gears when biking.