Opinion

Helmets, people

A few weeks ago I was going around the corner where Main Street turns into 187th Street in Glenwood on my bike when I heard a loud ding.

I felt it, too.

At that corner is one of those temporary stop signs that folds over. I didn’t see it, and I clipped it with my head as I went by, producing that distinctive musical note. Ding.

Luckily, I was wearing a helmet, so my head was entirely unscathed. The helmet was only slightly scathed, just a scratch. Without the helmet, though, the old head would have been seriously dented.

The author’s head is not quite that big. That’s a helmet, required attire when
venturing forth on two wheels. (Eric Crump/H-F Chronicle)

Actually, it wasn’t luck. I always where a helmet. I have for as long as I can remember. A nurse I used to go riding with used to refer to his helmet as a “brain bucket.” I think he’d seen the result of people who crashed without one.

I know bike helmets are not very sexy, but neither is ending up in a vegetative state after suffering a traumatic brain injury.

A few weeks after my glancing encounter with the stop sign, I passed a couple of young people zipping along a trail, happy but helmetless. It was all I could do to keep from shouting at them: “Helmets, people!”

Helmets are not expensive, especially compared to the cost of long term care from traumatic brain injuries or, worse, funeral expenses. They can be easily obtained locally from GoodSpeed Cycle, Target, any number of other stores, or, if you must, from Amazon.

It’s spring. Everybody’s riding again after a long winter. When you dust off your bike, be sure and dust off your helmet. Anybody who goes riding without a helmet and doesn’t feel naked and exposed is doing it wrong.

Helmets, people!

More courteous driver encounters
I’ve been known to rant on occasion about the fast and infuriatingly furious drivers hereabouts, especially on 183rd Street (but they are everywhere, of course). But I keep running into considerate drivers, too.

In the past week I’ve had four drivers stop when they didn’t have to so I could cross a street safely on my bike.

I don’t know who you nice folks are, but your patience and consideration are appreciated. Thank you!

Courteous cyclists
One Saturday a few months ago, when I was ranting about crazy drivers down at village hall, Mayor Rich Hofeld reminded me that motorists aren’t only ones guilty of bad driving. He told a story of a cyclist at a red light zip between two lanes of cars and cross the street against the light.

I don’t think I’ve ever done anything like that, but I’m guilty of running my share of stop signs, especially in residential areas where there’s no traffic around. But really, cyclists need to follow the rules of the road, too, and I’m trying to get better about that.

I was at GoodSpeed a while back and noticed they have handy little wallet-sized copies of the Illinois Bicycle Laws.

I thought maybe I should start sharing bits from that little flier occasionally, because cyclists don’t have to pass tests to join the traffic, but we still should know and observe the laws.

Here are the first two pages:

Bicyclist’s Status
Traffic laws apply to persons riding bicycles. Bicyclists riding on a highway are granted all of the rights (including right-of-way) and are subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle, with certain exceptions.

Lane positioning
When riding on roadways and bicycle paths at less than normal traffic speed, ride as close as practicable and safe to the right-hand curb or edge of roadway except:

  1. When overtaking and passing another bicycle or vehicle proceeding in the same direction.
  2. When preparing for a left turn.
  3. When reasonably necessary to avoid fixed or moving objects, parked or moving vehicles, bicycles, motorized pedal cycles, pedestrians, animals, surface hazards or substandard width lanes that make it unsafe to continue along the right-hand curb or edge. A “substandard width lane” means a lane that is too narrow for a bicycle and a vehicle to travel safely side by side within the lane.
  4. When approaching a place where a right turn is authorized. When riding on a one-way highway with two or more marked traffic lanes. Here, bicyclists may ride as near the left-hand curb or edge of such roadway as practicable. 

You can find the flier online.

There’s also good safety information and guidelines here and here.  

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