Friday, June 4, 2010

Tip#6: Helmets, to wear or not to wear

Helmets are required for minors in the City of New York when riding bikes and scooters and perhaps other contraptions.  They are not required for adults.  This blogger has no interest in changing that.  The focus of this blog post is whether we should or should not wear a helmet.  Better yet, I explore, within my limited knowledge, the pros and cons of the issue.  At work as I was leaving, the chief of staff saw me leaving, and asked, "Why don't some people wear helmets?"  I was wearing a helmet and I suspect he was commenting as much as he was asking so I didn't belabor the matter.  I shrugged and said, "Maybe they have nothing to live for," and continued along my way.  I realize it is a very broad statement and I didn't mean it just that way.  I knew, however, why I wore a helmet: I am 40+ (You stop counting after forty.), a father of three children, and I have a wife I've grown rather attached to, so I take reasonable precautions.  Younger folks think they're indestructible and often have no dependents.  Thus, I might have spoken better if I'd said they have no one to live for besides themselves. 

I do not suggest here that the matter is quite that simple.  I often question whether I should wear a helmet.  The question is a simple one.  Do I want to live if I get into a really bad accident?  There are many stories of folks who exhibit great courage in the face of adversity following catastrophic injury, but there are also tales, equally valid, of those who pray for death.  I suspect I would be in the former category.  I wear the helmet and gamble that it is worth wearing because it may prevent a minor injury from becoming a major injury, but it is just a gamble.  If we're judging costs, then I judge the cost of insurance in the case of death to probably be less than the cost of caring for someone who can no longer care for himself.  The life insurance money will also be more useful to my family than my broken body on the couch.  Morbid?  Maybe, but true nonetheless.

There is another reason why I wear a helmet.  It is because of perception.  Let me clarify, I am not one who worries much about what other people think of me in general, or tries excessively to fit in.  Despite this, I think I've learned a thing or two about human nature and the power of perception.  Nonetheless, the following is admittedly highly speculative.  I find that a helmet obscures just enough of the head and face to make one more anonymous.  This anonymity can lessen familiarity and thus lessen driver contempt.  It prevents drivers from being able to readily stereotype you and act according to their prejudices--whatever those prejudices may be.  That doesn't save you from plain old crazy drivers, but it lessens reasons folks can find to dislike you.  I also find that a helmet suggests one is a serious cyclist and adds an air of respectability to the endeavor.  Just think about it.  


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