Wearing a bike helmet matters

Posted: Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Monday morning I received a not-so-subtle reminder about the importance of wearing a bike helmet, even on short trips without much traffic.

A car slowed and motioned me to turn in front of it onto Lake Street from Etolin Way, just as another cyclist was pedaling by in the next lane. As I turned left onto Lake, I looked back to make sure the car was staying stopped and I wasn't going to veer into the path of the other cyclist. Somehow I accidentally squeezed my left (front) brake handle, and when the brakes grabbed my momentum threw me headfirst over the handlebars.

The other cyclist stopped to see if I was OK, and he said it looked like I landed right on my helmet. I have road rash and bruises on the palms of both hands, my right knee and left inner thigh (and I tore a pair of pants). But I have no damage to my head, not even a scratch. The brain bucket worked, likely saving me from a concussion or worse fate.

If you're a cyclist, please learn from my little incident that you should always wear your helmet, including on short trips. Even the most experienced cyclists can take a tumble (I'm not an expert, but I've been commuting by bike off and on since gas cost less than $1 a gallon). I was only a block from my apartment, and on clear pavement with no rain or gravel to make it slick.

If you're a parent and your kids ride a bike, skateboard, scooter, in-line skates or similar vehicle, please be aware there is a Sitka helmet ordinance that requires helmet use for anyone younger than 18 years old (Chapter 11.70.010 of the Sitka General Code, www.hss.state.ak.us/ dph/ipems/injury_prevention/helmetSafety/bicycle/legislation.htm). I've seen a lot more kids riding without helmets, and parents need to be aware they (the parents) can be fined if their child is stopped by police for not wearing a helmet.

Charles Bingham


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