Monday, 13 July 2009

Too cool for a helmet?

With the coming of the summer at last.... Hooray!!! comes a new road user, the fair weather or summer commuter. I'm all for this... if it were up to me I'd adopt the same sort of system that you see in Holland or Denmark. The roads have designated cycle lanes and cyclists have the right of way, when crossing the road at junctions, very much like the rights given to pedestrians at pelican crossings here at the moment. These sort of systems are safe and allow individuals who are neither road safe or bike competent the safety of their own lane.

Unfortunately this is neither Holland or Denmark, and most motorists in UK despise cyclists more so than the old fashioned milk floats that they used to overtake. They will cut you up, attempt a left turn in front of you and force you into the curb. As an urban commuter, you must be streetwise, second guessing drivers by trying to predict what will happen in front of you. Be aware of parents on the school run, these are often the worse offenders. Often trying to ferry the kids to school with only one eye on the road and the other on the argument going on in the back seat, the chances of them noticing you are slim....
Be aware also of pedestrians stepping out in front of you whilst either on the phone, or listening to their Ipod. Pedestrians will often take one step into the road before turning to look up the road in your direction. Of course this is where you are most likely to be.....and Its fair to say that at a speed of over 30kmh both of you will take a tumble.

In the time I've been riding, I've had lots of crashes, some of them in races where I was careless taking corners too fast- my fault, and some of them where I was taken out by another rider who clipped me - not my fault. I've been hit by cars, been over the bonnet and even been over the roof. I've hit pedestrians who have stepped out in front of me. I've been unconscious, bleeding and lost whole shards of skin, ripping off my Lycra cycling gear in the process. I've been taken to hospital and stitched up but despite this I still love cycling!!!!

There are some things that you can do to avoid this... riding defensively, signalling etc, but my saving grace has always been that I wear a cycling helmet!!! So far I've been through maybe 6 helmets which have all cracked on impact, serving their purpose and protecting my head. I've seen guys hit the deck at 50kmh and be OK.... their helmet detonating on impact saving their skull, very similar to how a car's crumple zones work. They may have picked up some hardcore road rash, but they'll live to ride another day.

So if you think helmets are just not cool - Think Again!!

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