by Ken Gooderham
Simply put, it’s the best thing you can do to help make your biking safe. Even the venerable “Consumer Reports” says so… right along with where they say when it comes to sports-related head injuries seen in emergency rooms, there are more caused by bicycling than even from football.
The magazine also cites studies that found you can cut your risk of severe injury by 58% if you wear a helmet while biking, or that 60% of those who died in 2014 from bike accidents were not wearing a helmet.
And it’s not just wearing a helmet, but wearing it properly (which is also covered in this article). That means having forward on your head, tight enough to stay in place and strapped right to stay balanced. (Most bike shops are happy to both sell you a helmet and fit it for you as well, since repeat business is improved if you can keep your customers alive and healthy.)
This being ‘Consumer Reports’, they also rate the safest choices or best buys – but money doesn’t necessarily buy you better protection. Almost any helmet will improve your safety, although you may want to check the date inside the helmet; one rule of thumb has been that a helmet more than five years old loses some of its protective capacity. (And if you can’t read the date on the label, that’s probably a good sign the helmet has a number of years and miles on it.)
You don’t have to wear a bike helmet in Florida… unless you’re under age 16, when it is required by state law. A helmet may also be required to participate in organized rides or races, where the organizers want to protect you (and themselves) from potential injuries or are required to mandate helmets as part of their sanctioning or insurance.
Otherwise, it’s your choice to wear a helmet while biking. Many people don’t, for a variety of reasons (most of them not very good ones). Helmets are lighter and better ventilated than any hat, and come in enough styles and shades to suit any taste. Don’t think they’re cool? Neither is a traumatic brain injury.
If you want to ignore the studies and statistics – and the fact that most serious cyclists and all pro riders wear them – fine. But if you love your bike and you love your brain, why wouldn’t you grab a helmet when you grab your bike?
Breakdown service for your bike
All you AAA members out there who also like to cycle, good news: The Florida branch of the auto club has expanded its roadside assistance service to include bicycle breakdowns. Just call them and a technician will pick you up and take you and your bike wherever you want to go… your car, your bike shop or your home. It’s included on all levels of AAA membership, but you do need to be accessible from a road or parking lot – so you off-roaders may be in for a walk. Find out more at aaa.com/bicycle.
If you want bike and auto or just bike-only assistance, that’s also available from Better World Club, which promotes its eco-friendly stance as well as its AAA-comparable services. They offer a lot of bike information as well as insurance, and coverage includes the U.S. and Canada (in case you’re planning a longer bike ride in the future). Details at betterworldclub.com/roadside-assistance/bicycle-roadside-assistance.
Ready to ride or run?
Run? Longer races rule this weekend, with the 10K Race 4 FISH on Sanibel Oct. 15 (ftmyerstrackclub.com) and the Rocktoberfest 10 Miler & 2x5 Mile Relay at North Collier Regional Park (eliteevents.org). If you want even more distance, on Oct. 22 there’s the Race The Roof 15K run, 5K run/walk and tot trot at the Verandah Community east of Fort Myers (ftmyerstrackclub.com), and the Gulf to Gulf 80-mile Relay that starts and ends at Cambier Park in downtown Naples, goes through Bonita Springs and Fort Myers Beach, with a turnaround at the Sanibel Causeway (gcrunner.org).
Ride? A temporary gap in the popular Critical Mass rides is being filled on Oct. 23 by the Tour for Epilepsy (15-, 30- and 62-mile rides, starts/ends at Coastline Cyclery, 10676 Colonial Blvd, Unit 50, Fort Myers -- caloosariders.org) and the Tour de North Port (15-, 35- and 65-mile rides plus 25-mile “Gravel Grinders” off-road ride) Info on both at caloosariders.org . The Critical Mass rides return Oct. 28-29, so don’t despair.
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Ken Gooderham writes this on behalf of BikeWalkLee, a community coalition raising public awareness and advocating for complete streets in Lee County - streets that are designed, built, operated and maintained for safe and convenient travel for all users: pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists, and transit riders of all ages and abilities. Information, statistics and background online at www.BikeWalkLee.org.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR RIDE:
Have a favorite route you like to bike, or a unique walk you’d like to share with others? Tell us about it at email@example.com, and maybe we can feature it in an upcoming column.