The Best Time You Didn’t Wear A Bike Helmet
I don't know if you read The Hairpin. But if you don't, and you like cool, weird things on the internet, you probably should. More specifically, The Hairpin's series "The Best Time I..." which is a collection of stories where something terrible or weird or awkward happened to the author (personal favorite: "The Best Time I Took My Ex To The Hospital For A Rectal Exam").
Anyway, in the most recent edition, writer Erica Sacklin describes that one time she got hit by a car riding her moped in D.C. And no, she wasn't wearing a helmet:
Once I’d walked into a motorcycle shop and almost bought a helmet, but the sales guy had made some sexist comment about how because I was a girl my neck probably wasn’t strong enough to hold up a real motorcycle helmet anyway, and I’d just walked out. But, truthfully, I was also just too lazy to use one. And too 22. I didn’t just ride that bike without a helmet on, I rode it in short skirts and flip flops. I rode that moped like a bicycle, dodging through traffic and running red lights. I rode it for fun, and to find cobblestone streets and pretend I was in Italy. I didn’t want to have to worry about helmet hair, or what kind of road rash a crash would give my bare legs.
It’s ironic then that when I actually did get hit by a car it wasn’t my fault. Sure, I was driving home along busy 14th Street, but for once I was obeying the traffic rules. Here’s what happened: In the distance I saw a woman in a minivan driving toward me, and she was about to make a U-turn. I slowed down. Then she looked right at me, and stopped. Thinking she was letting me pass her, I sped up, only she sped up too, and before I knew it we were on a path to collide and no amount of breaking was going to be enough. At that exact moment in time, these were my thoughts:
2. Oh fuck oh fuck oh fuck.
3. Whatever you do, don’t hit the car.
4. Whatever you do, don’t hit the car.
5. Fuck, you are hitting the car.
6. Ok, whatever you do just stay on your bike.
7. Don’t fly off your bike.
8. Whatever you do don’t fly off your bike.
9. Don’t fly off your bike.
10. Oh my god, you are in the fucking air.
11. Is that the ground? You are flying towards the ground.
12. Ok, whatever you do, don’t hit your head.
13. Just don’t hit your head.
14. Why didn’t you listen to your goddamn mother and buy a fucking helmet.
15. Just don’t hit your head.
16. Just don’t hit your head.
17. If you hit your head your mother will have been totally right.
18. Just don’t hit your head.
20. Fuck, you just landed your head.
21. Am I dead?
Sacklin eventually got to a hospital (I checked with her via Twitter and she said it was Washington Hospital Center) and after two hours saw a doctor. She's okay now, and says she "almost always" wears a helmet.
On my 2.5-mile bike commute, I'd say about 60 percent of riders—mostly, but not always, Capital Bikeshare riders—go sans helmet. I do not (black girl hair issues and all) except for that time I forgot it and felt extremely scared and self-conscious the entire ride.
Still, not wearing a helmet is a phenomenon well-documented in these pages. What say you?
Photo by Darrow Montgomery