Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 30, 1999

ANNA MONICA / L’Observateur / June 30, 1999

It looks like it will be, or already is, a law. At a certain age you are absolvedfrom the foolish act of donning a helmet to ride a motorcycle. And won’t it beexhilarating to glide down the highway with the wind blowing freely through your hair, leaving the cares of the world behind. Let’s not infringe upon anyone’srights, including the right to not wear a helmet, because everyone knows everything is all right – as long as everything is all right.

Quite frankly, I wouldn’t even go around the block on my bicycle without a helmet. Actually, by chance I rode to my sister’s house about 60 seconds awayrecently without one to have O’Neil inflate my bike tires. I didn’t mean to do itand the realization made me quite uncomfortable. You see, I have seen the resultof helmet-less riding first hand. And, I have seen the value of wearing a helmet.I am a 10-year veteran of the MS Tour for Cure 150-mile bike ride. The firstyear I rode I did some training with a friend who not only fell during her training rides, but fell again on the ride itself. Each time, she came out with adamaged helmet, but the rest of her was pretty well intact.

The MS Tour is a joy to do – once you’re finished. But it is most definitely tiring,grueling and extremely hilly. In fact, the older I got, the more gears BicycleCharlie had to add to my bicycle so I could make it up those hills a little easier.

1997 was the last year I rode. I had planned to become a volunteer with Charlie(Watkins) last year, but those plans were canceled because of an illness.

During the years I rode it was not uncommon to see an accident or two, although there were very few in proportion to the number of riders. For the MS ride therule is you must use a helmet. Well, that last year I rode I saw the result of oneof the worst cycling accidents ever to have happened on the tour. The good newswas I heard about it from the accident victim herself.

The young woman had been riding with her husband, and while cruising at a high speed down a steep hill (the higher the hill, the greater the speed), her bike hit a twig in the road, which got tangled in the spokes and caused her to flip a couple of times over the bike handles. I don’t remember if she hit head-first, buther helmet was just about demolished. The point is, her head was not. She wasX-rayed and came back from the hospital covered with scratches and bruises.

Her head was fine! Her husband, who saw the accident, was so relieved. They became greatbelievers in the value of helmets.

Statistics say that wearing helmets doesn’t necessarily save lives. That is truein the context that if you have a really bad accident you can be killed or do heavy damage to your body, regardless. But in the lesser scheme of things, ahelmet is good protection for the head.

Dana, a friend and fourth-year medical student, told me about a professor who got hit in the head by the mirror on side of a public transportation bus. He maystill be in a coma. She explained to me what happens with a closed-head wound.It’s not pleasant. But, often it can be prevented.I don’t understand why any cyclist or biker would be reluctant to wear a helmet.

I don’t understand that anymore than I understand increasing the speed limit from 55 mph to 70 mph and now the 60-mph limit on bridges (which no one seems to pay mind to, anyhow). Nonetheless, it’s a good idea to use our head -and put a helmet on it.

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