The Mountain Bike Life

Yesterday Rivers and I spent a fun, relaxing afternoon cycling through some of the finer neighbourhoods of our city. A commuter ride together is a nice way to connect, especially on one of the first truly beautiful spring days of the year. There was only one distracting annoyance – one that I’ve been wanting to write about, but just wasn’t sure how to do it without sounding like the token mom on the site (which I am) or like a harpy on a soap box. I’m still not sure how to avoid that, but I’m not willing to be quiet any more. The thing is, I am shocked how many apparently intelligent adults are out there riding without helmets.

The charity at which I work provides fabulous service to survivors of brain injury. Getting to know our clients and their stories means I can’t be cavalier about how many brain injuries (90%) are completely preventable. I know there is not a single survivor or their friends or loved ones who wouldn’t wear a helmet for the rest of their lives just to avoid the life-shattering accidents that changed everything for them. So if you are someone who thinks wearing a helmet somehow infringes on your fun, your style, or your freedom of expression, all I have to say is … well …  grow up.

Photo courtesy of Brett VA

At work, we have a campaign going into schools to teach children in grades 5 and 6 how important it is for them to wear helmets, not because mom and dad say so, but because their brain matters. The presentation includes an explanation, in age-appropriate terms, of how injuries to different brain structures impacts different physical and mental controls. It’s hugely popular and successful. Though it makes me wonder, if 11 and 12 year-olds get it, why don’t adults?

I don’t wear my helmet because it is the law in British Columbia – if laws were effective at impacting behaviour, none of us would ever speed, push the yellow light, smoke weed, or throw our recyclables in the garbage. I wear a helmet because I value my brain – my brain makes me me. It gives me my intellect and my personality. My brain is how I make my living. That matters to me more than a ticket that, to be honest, the police around here are VERY unlikely to give out.

It would be easy to pad this post with statistics about brain injury – that they are most likely (by a wide margin) to happen to men between the age of 18 and 35. That up to 58% of homeless men have brain injuries, and that for 66% of these men, the brain injury predated the homelessness. That 90% of marriages fail after one of the partners suffers a brain injury.

Brain injury is also a hot topic in professional sports right now. All kinds of people are thinking and talking about football players killing themselves, and about Sidney Crosby’s ongoing recovery from multiple concussions. Locally, a 15 year old is being touted as the poster boy for helmet wear since being struck by a car last week while on his bike and declaring that his helmet saved his life. Rivers himself credits his helmet with saving his life on multiple occasions.

Photo courtesy of the Times Colonist

The thing is, statistics and moving stories and big name examples don’t have any more effect at changing behaviour than laws. Yes, most riders we saw yesterday, and there were a whole lot of people enjoying the May sunshine, were wearing helmets. But what, if anything, can we say to the people who simply refuse to join the helmet brigade.

Sure, you can claim it’s a personal choice – does that mean that the life-long support that many brain injury survivors require will also be your responsibility? Because that’s what grown-ups do. Grown-ups make choices and take responsibility for the results of those choices.

As for me, wearing a helmet is my style. Yes, it’s my choice – I would love to feel the wind through my hair as I swoop down a hill, but I value my brain more than I do a fleeting feeling.

Bike Style in France
Product Preview: Spank Spike Goodies