My bike stands near the door – in a corner by the window. Yes, I feel bad that I have not been using it nearly as often as I would like, but I hope that by positioning it by the window – I make up for my neglect even if only a tiny bit.
As I wrote that, I sighed. Should I add biking to a list of things I want to do regularly? Will that make me feel better or will it just aid in me pulling my hair out more often as I already struggle with finding time to do the basics? I chose not to write it down, but to make more of an effort to start biking at times when I am not drawn to do much else. Instead of zoning out in front of a movie I do not like, I might as well get some fresh-ish air and exercise.
My father taught me how to ride a bike on a gravel road in front of our family house. However, I was only allowed to practice in the yard, which meant navigating a walkway that had turns every five feet. Riding on the grass was off-limits.
On Sundays, we would go on longer bike rides as a family, and I really enjoyed those times. We would go exploring the nearest forests, creeks, mountains, and more. Even though I had a mountain bike, I did not really know how to use the gears to my advantage, which meant that we would bike to wherever we were going and then walk our bikes a bit. It allowed all of us to rest and enjoy the moment. Good times. Then, one day, my sibling – while riding on the top tube of my father’s bike – managed to get their leg too close to the wheel spokes and got their shin’s skin quite a bit scraped. They have the scar to this day. We stopped going for a while until my sibling got old enough to bike on their own. Sunday bike rides resumed and I was having a blast riding ahead and feeling free. One day, while running errands, my mother went flying over the handlebars. We think she squeezed the wrong break. She sprained her arm and I believe that was when we stopped going on adventures together. Two biking-related accidents were enough. Plus, back in the day when we went on our trips, we lived on the outskirts of town that did not have a lot of through traffic. That had later changed and riding a bike on a narrow street with cars driving as if they were on the highway became an extreme sport.
A few years ago, when I reawakened my desire to bike, I chose scenic routes with bike lanes away from car traffic. I was lucky to live in a city where those were present. You could ride and ride for miles, stopping only to rest and/or get your water bottle refilled. Sure, there were areas in which pedestrians insisted on walking in the middle of bike paths, but… you learned how to deal with that (either by taking deep breaths or scaring them to death by yelling ‘boo’ behind them).
While there were bike paths on some of the streets, I avoided taking those as much as I could because I was aware of the potential risk – too many crazy people out there and the risk of me getting critically injured was far greater there than on the path by the lake.
Where I currently live, dedicated bike paths are present but not as near to where I live as I am used to. Most of them are a car ride away, which I use as the most frequent excuse not to bike – I cannot bike for hours to get to a bike path and I cannot drive my bike in my car, so… For the time being, I bike in parks nearby. I can walk to those places, but biking makes it faster and I get to spend a little bit more time in nature once I get to where I am going.
As you read the above paragraphs, have you wondered if I wore a helmet?
Helmets are the topic of this post.
The answer is – no. I don’t remember my parents ever insisting on me wearing a helmet. They might have tried, but I think that in the end, we all agreed that we were careful, did not bike often enough, and stayed away from danger (i.e. cars). (We were all super relieved that my mother did not suffer a concussion when she had her bike accident. She was a tough cookie.) Are those solid reasons? Probably not, but they were good enough to me. I was never ‘hard-core’ enough to warrant a helmet.
Enough about me. Let us turn our attention towards Seattle – a city with a large population of regular cyclists. For decades, if you lived in Seattle and you biked, you had to wear a helmet. However, that has recently changed. And no – it is not because people took to the streets to protest that they were safe enough on their own. It was because the law was found discriminatory.
Are you raising your eyebrow like I did? Apparently, the law was deemed unfair to ‘people of color’ (That is a phrase the source article uses, but I am not sure if it is the ‘right’ one anymore…) and the homeless population.
All but one of the lawmakers agreed that the helmet law saved lives. However, they decided to put that (the reason why the law was established in the first place) aside and focus on a study that found what it was looking for. The results revealed that the law was not always enforced, but when it was – 40% of the situation between 2017 and 2019 were given to homeless people. After 2019, that number rose to 60%. Could it be because the homeless population in Seattle grew even more during that time? The study did not look into that, of course.
Another study found that African-Americans were four times as likely to receive a citation than Caucasians. Could it be that there are more African-Americans biking without a helmet in Seattle? We will never know because the study did not factor that in.
Critics of the law said that it appeared discriminatory, even though they acknowledged that there were some things missing from those studies that could contribute to the illusion of discrimination. Is it possible that more African-Americans biked recklessly? We will never know because the study did not look at that either. There is no helmet law where I live. I have seen people walk or bike into traffic quite a few times in my life. What is my observation when it comes to which race does so more frequently and dangerously? You would probably call me racist if I told you…
Additionally, I just want to remind you that not all studies are created equally. Sometimes, in order to get a full picture, you have to review a few. It is too easy to arrive at a specific conclusion if you already have one in mind before even constructing that study. In order for your research to be valuable, you need to go in with an open mind, ready to find things supporting your thesis as well as those that will contradict it. That kind of study article allows the reader to make up their own mind based on all of the arguments.
Do I think wearing a helmet should be the law? Not necessarily. But to say that wearing/not wearing a helmet is a race issue is a bit much. It seems to me that while there are some valid issues in this country and around the globe, the ‘discrimination’ answer has become a blanket one too easy to use, which might lessen its value (if it has not already…).
- Do you wear a helmet when you ride a bike?
- Do you think helmet-wearing should be regulated by law?
- How do you call the Affrican-American population?
- Do you think Seattle’s argument to abandon the law was valid?
Did you enjoy reading this post?
Have some thoughts on the topic?
Share in the COMMENTS.
Do you regularly enjoy my blog?
Be sure to FOLLOW.
Are my posts getting lost in your busy Reader?
Want to get to know me better?
Check me out on TWITTER @SamGoldieKirk.