WOSTER: No helmet? That's crazy!
My hair is thinning, it's kind of fine and it's totally unruly, so when I wear a cap or hat or bicycle helmet, it creates the kinds of patterns that make my granddaughter Sage laugh and point and say. "Spikes. Spikes.''
Even so, I've had a few growths removed from my forehead and been told by my family doctor that I should wear a head cover when I'm out in the sun. For the last half-dozen years or so, I've been trying to do that, usually with a baseball cap of one sort or another, sometimes with a western-style straw hat like the ones I wore back on the farm as a kid.
I'm not keen on wearing hats and caps outside. I kind of like having the sun bleach my remaining hair and brown my aging face. For the sake of my health, I choose to follow sound medical advice and wear a head cover.
For pretty much the same reason, I choose to follow sound public-safety advice and wear a helmet when I ride my bicycle. I don't ride as often as I'd like, but I ride. I don't ride the long-distance, endurance, crank-me-down-the-highway sorts of tests that would have me sharing the roadway with beasts made of steel and moving 65-75 mph just inches from my pretty much unprotected body and bike. Most of my bicycle riding is on bike paths through parks or along the river. There isn't much danger to it, although now and then when I ride in wooded, shaded, secluded areas along the river bank, I wonder if maybe a mountain lion will decide it's time for a quick meal.
If that's my biggest threat on a bicycle, I'm pretty safe, right? Even so, I wear a helmet whenever I ride my bicycle. I used to laugh at the old "Don't Thump Your Melon'' safety slogan, but I heed it. Many bike riders don't always wear helmets. Especially in town on the city streets and in the parks, it seems the riders believe they are immune from injury. The same people who would never go without a helmet if they were riding the shoulder of Highway 83 find it convenient go to bare-headed on their bicycles on short jaunts around town.
I suppose it's no different from the people I used to know — and I think the number has diminished a lot — who would religiously buckle their seat belt for a trip across the state but who would go unbuckled on a trip across town. "I'm only going a couple of blocks,'' they'd say. "What could go wrong?''
I'm thinking of helmets and bicycle safety these days because I'm sitting in the kitchen at my son's house. He's in the next room, trying to get some sleep on the couch. He just got back from surgery for a detached retina. Pretty good chance the injury happened when his bike crashed as he was making a routine, same-thing-he-does-every-day ride over on the Cedar Shore road across the river. He hit some gravel, the bike went out from under him, and he crashed. His head struck the pavement, and his helmet cracked in half a dozen places.
He suffered a concussion. The helmet was a total loss. Before it got that way, though, it did the job it was designed to do. It protected his head from injuries that could have been much worse. These are the kinds of things a guy can't say for sure, but I'm pretty convinced my son would be dead if he'd been helmetless. He took a terrible blow to the head.
I write a bit, then I get up to check on him, then I write a bit. Mostly what I'd like to write is simple: How in the world would anyone consider climbing on a bicycle without a helmet? It's crazy.