My cycling commute has taken me over 1,000 miles so far, and thanks to my bike helmet I have many more miles ahead of me. After a recent bike accident, I have become a strong advocate of bike helmets and bike lights. Becoming a bike commuter has been a huge learning experience for me. Despite the advantage of watching Joe over the years, when it comes to my own journey I am in a brand new world. In a recent post I offered a lot of suggestions to make life easier for us working women cyclists.
Related Post: 7 of the Best Bike Lights for Street and Trail Cycling
Related Post: When to Use Flashing Bike Lights
Now I want to add a few tips about cycling safety
Last Thursday I was leaving the office to meet up with some friends for an early dinner halfway between my office and home. It was a lovely night, nice and warm but with a slight nip in the air that signals the coming fall. As I was leaving the office it occurred to me that I should just wear my casual clothes and forget the bike helmet just this one time. After all, bike helmets are something you make your kids wear, not something that adults have to wear, right? (Even though it’s my stylish Yakkay helmet, which I reviewed here.)
But as I was getting changed I realized that the skort I had planned to wear to dinner wouldn’t be comfortable over the cross bar of my road bike. Fortuitously, I revised my plans and changed into my regular cycling gear, including the bike helmet. As I was unlocking my bike I noticed that my front bike light was not working. I must have forgot to turn it off that morning after my ride in. Rats. But not a big problem as it was still broad daylight.
As an aside, below is the world’s first invisible bike helmet. To clarify: it looks like a collar until you have an accident, and then it puffs up into the round-the-head-airbag you see above. I guess the advantage is it does not mess up your hair unless you have an accident, and at that point you don’t care.
In any event, on that evening I was wearing a regular bike helmet, I was eager to get to dinner, and everything was going well. A few blocks away from the restaurant I was heading towards an uncontrolled intersection. No cars in sight, just two cyclists heading towards me traveling west. They slowed and indicated they were making a left turn, which one of the cyclists immediately did. The second cyclist stopped, I assumed because she saw me approaching her. But as I entered the intersection she suddenly turned directly in front of me, giving me no time to react. I T-boned her bike, sailed over my handle bars and we both went down – hard. I did a full somersault in the air, felt my head hit the pavement and landed flat on my back, winded but okay. This was my first somersault in at least 30 years – it is NOT something I do regularly!
As I hit the ground, I felt my bike helmet hit the ground, and realized that COULD have been my bare head. I was never more grateful for having worn my bike helmet.
I am fine and so is Vanessa, my fellow cyclist, our bikes maybe not so much. However, what happened next was truly heartwarming:
- All the cyclists in the vicinity stopped to make sure we were both okay (see Joe’s post on The Kindness of Strangers – the Cycling Community).
- The other cyclists helped us collect our gear and get off the road, and one sweet guy aligned my seat for me and chased down my water bottle half a block away.
- Vanessa and I exchanged information just in case there was any lasting damage to our bodies or our bikes.
- Instead of being angry and upset with each other, we repeatedly apologized to each other and kept checking in to make sure we were both physically okay. I have seen motorists turn very ugly with each other after accidents, especially if their expensive cars have been damaged, and this was a very different experience. We were concerned about our health, not our possessions.
- We helped each other get our chains back on and rode away wishing each other a“safe ride”.
So again I’ve learned – A LOT.
- First, cyclists are a supportive, caring community.
- Second, ALWAYS WEAR YOUR BIKE HELMET!
- Third, LIGHTS are as important for bikes as they are for cars, even during the day. Read all about lights in Joe’s Guide to Bike Lights, which tells you everything you need to know about saving your life with bike lights.
I was worried about messy hair instead of my health! There is no doubt in my mind that I would have left that accident in an ambulance if I hadn’t been wearing my helmet. I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately about the helmet debate and I was feeling ambivalent about it. But now bad hair and clever anti-helmet arguments be damned – my helmet stays ON.
As for lights – a bus driver once told Joe that he liked it when cyclists used lights in the day because he could see them from two blocks away. Since then we make a habit of using lights both day and night. Actually Joe goes to extremes and regularly uses his over-the-top MonkeyLectric Lights, reviewed here … but on the bright side, I am sure he can be seen from space!
Oddly, I got the same lights for my bike, but was STILL hit by a truck, as I write about here. You can light up your bike, but you can’t fix stupid!
However, that day the batteries in my front light were flat. Vanessa was traveling west in the early evening, directly into the sun. She was not wearing sunglasses and told me later that she had not seen me at all. Had my front light been working she would have noticed my bright pulsing light and would have known that something was approaching.
By the way, Joe and I are still searching for the perfect bike light system, and would welcome any advice/suggestions. The pic below shows a home-made lighting system which its creator calls “The Face of God.” However, I am looking for something a little simpler!
Also, there is a right way to wear your helmet, and several wrong ways. Here are two of the wrong ways to wear your bike helmet:
This picture shows the right way to wear your bike helmet.
Finally, your LOCAL BIKE STORE is your life line.
I limped my bike into Different Bikes in Burnaby on Friday afternoon and Jordie did a full triage and fixed me up in a half hour.
My cycling commute has taken me over 1,000 miles since July 2nd and thanks to my bike helmet I have many more miles ahead of me.
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