Dave Moulton

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Helmet Use: And the beat goes on.

First let me thank everyone for the outpouring of good wishes and positive thoughts towards my recovery; I continue to improve every day. There was a sudden influx of well wishers last evening, when someone posted the story of my accident on Bike Forums.

This, it turned out started a sometimes quite heated helmet debate. Speaking for myself, I am glad I just happened to have that inch of foam plastic between my head and the side of the vehicle when I hit. To me it is all clear and simple, drop an egg on the hard kitchen floor and it will break, guaranteed.

Put an egg in a padded envelope and drop it on the floor and there is a possibility it may not break, or it may end up only cracked. Which incidentally is what happened to my head; it is slightly cracked. Had my head been broken, like Humpty Dumpty, they may not have been able to put it together again.

I started cycling in the 1950s in England when no one wore head protection even while racing with the exception of track riders. When I landed in the US in 1979 it seemed I had arrived among a nation of Freds*, all wearing those God awful looking, mushroom shaped Bell helmets, with little dentist mirrors attached. And every one it seemed had a story to tell how their helmet saved their life.

I rode all through the 1980s without a helmet; I didn’t see why I needed one. I was a skilled enough rider and I wasn’t planning on falling on my head. When I started back riding this year, I decided to wear one for the first time. I still wasn’t planning to fall on my head, but I could find no reason to not wear one.

Helmets have come a long way and have become accepted by the serious road rider, even worn in the Tour de France. They actually keep your head cooler in summer; after all, they are made of the same material they use to make ice chests. But, most of all I did it as a concession to my wife who is a non-cyclist and was a little apprehensive about me riding again.

Now I realize there is another huge reason to wear head protection. Traffic has increased tremendously in the last thirty years; automobiles have become easier to drive, with more and more protection for the driver. This has all led to a casual, sloppy attitude towards driving; everyone is locked up in their own little steel cocoon, and no one cares about the welfare and safety of others around them anymore.

I wish rather than promote the use of helmets I could change the attitude and driving skills of other road users. I believe that if every person was forced to ride a bicycle on the busy highways for a period it would make them a far better driver, but that’s not going to happen.

*Fred (n.) A person who has a mishmash of old gear, does't care at all about technology or fashion, doesn't race or follow racing, etc. Often identified by chainring marks on white calf socks. Used by "serious" roadies to disparage utility cyclists and touring riders, especially after these totally unfashionable "freds" drop the "serious" roadies on hills.

From Glossary of Bicycle Terms.


And this was with a Helmet!

The abrasion on my head was actually caused by the helmet though a cotton bandana that I was wearing underneath. (See my previous post.)

I am convinced without the helmet it would have been instant death. As it is I have a hairline scull fracture, and the day it happened I had a big ol’ knot on my head the size of a tennis ball.

Being old, old skool, having first started riding in the 1950s when nobody wore head protection, though the 1970s when we wore the token “leather hairnet;” it was only this year when I started riding again did I use a helmet for the first time.

Most serious roadies wear a helmet these days, but parents need to get their kids to wear them too. Don’t buy a bike for your child without buying a helmet and making them use it every time? Okay, so I fell on my head a few times as a kid and survived, but the big difference was, we didn’t build make shift ramps and try to jump over shit. Plus of course traffic is so much worse now.

And what about our motorcycling brothers; the State of South Carolina does not have a motorcycle helmet law. I know, it is a personal choice and I shouldn’t even go there, (I'm in enough bleedin' trouble.) but when that SUV pulled in front of me, it could have just as easily been a motorcycle going a hella'va lot faster than I was.

I want to thank everyone for their kind comments and well wishes, they sure are appreciated. In addition to all the comments posted on my last blog, I have received many personal emails.


Just when you think you are Infallible

Reality sets in to show you you’re not.

I was out riding on Tuesday, when an SUV coming in the opposite direction turned left on front of me. I had the wind behind me and was going at a pretty good lick; there was no time to react and I slammed straight into the side the vehicle.

My helmet took most of the impact but in spite of this, I have a hairline skull fracture. I have just spent two days with the mother of all headaches, vomiting most of the time. This morning I feel much better.

The prognosis is that I will make a full recovery. The most annoying part is that I have severe double vision, so bad I am typing this with one eye shut. Apparently, the nerve that controls the movement of one eye is damaged.

My bike is in bad shape too; it will not recover without some major surgery. I can’t show you pictures as the bike is at the police compound; I haven’t had time to pick it up yet.

The driver of the SUV was cited to appear in court for failure to yield.

Y’all stay safe out there; it’s getting to be a lot like Christmas, and people are driving crazy.


Can't we all get along?

In the words of Rodney King after the LA riots in the early 1990s: “Can’t we all get along.”

When I took the post by a local Charleston blogger; (See my blog yesterday.) and posted it on bike forums, I was hoping for the response I got. His blog received over thirty comments, most of them pro cyclist. I wanted to show that cyclists are people not some anonymous sub species.

Most of the comments were intelligently written and to the Blogger’s credit, he posted them. There were a few he didn’t post that had hate comments like: “I hope you die,” or “I hope you get a cancer.” This was extremely unfortunate because the blogger’s wife happens to be a recent cancer survivor.

If some of the responses were juvenile, it is because many of the people who frequent online forums are juveniles. I am very sorry that happened.

After writing yesterday’s blog I went out for a ride. During the ride a woman driver passed me leaving inches to spare, this was particularly annoying because she had about five feet of space on the driver’s side between her and the next lane.

Now I am one of those people who have a very short fuse; I tend to blow up very quickly. I shook my fist at the woman; which was pointless because she was not looking in her rear view mirror, and was probably oblivious to the fact she had passed me so closely anyway.

If I blow up quickly then my other trait is that I get over it just as quick. I realized to shake my fist was a dumb thing to do. She didn’t see it but other car drivers did, and that did not create a good impression. I made myself a mental note to try not to do that in future. Road rage only brings on more road rage.

I am a road rider with a helmet and Lycra clothing (To set the record straight it’s Lycra not Spandex; let’s get our man made fibers correct.) I am in effect wearing a uniform, that of a professional cyclist.

Although strictly speaking I am not a professional, I am not paid to ride a bike; that is how others see me. If I want respect and if I don't want to be lumped together with every other turkey who rides a bicycle, then I must show respect and dignity.

I guess I’m starting my New Year Resolutions early this year.


What scares me more than reckless drivers?

It is people with attitudes like this.

A local man who goes only by the name of Lee wrote a piece in a blog. He was commenting on a story about a 19 year old girl who killed a cyclist with her car while downloading ring tones on her cell phone.

Here’s a quote from his blog:

“The driver was guilty of doing something stupid- but that's a pretty common offense for teenagers. It's what they do.
For my money the real idiot was the guy who got on that bike and decided to ride it in traffic. When you put yourself in that situation, and you're an adult who understands the potential consequences, you're an idiot.
You hear bicycle riders complain about bad behavior on the part of car drivers and how we should all "share the road", but they are idealists who are only kidding themselves. "Share the road" is a fantasy that only exists in a Utopian world.”

End of quote.

My comment: Share the road is a common courtesy, and unfortunately, common courtesy is disappearing from our society. Let’s face it there are drivers out there that don’t want to share the road with anyone, not just cyclists. That is self evident by all the horn blowing, and racing to get around slower drivers. Comments like yours only enflame people like these, and pretty soon it's open season on cyclists. That is what I find dangerous.

Blogger Lee continues:

"Now, I have seen my share of cyclist road warriors in their helmets and spandex tights that ride almost in the middle of the road with a line of vehicle traffic plodding along behind, trying to get around them in the face of oncoming traffic."

My comment: Now that is just not true. I have often been riding where the traffic lane is at least 12 feet wide; (I believe this is the State minimum) that is 3 feet for me, which is plenty, and 9 feet to pass. That is more than enough room to pass safely without crossing the centerline, but often drivers will not do so if there is opposing traffic. The result traffic backs up, and Mr. Lee at the back of this line gets the impression that the damn cyclist is riding in the middle of the road.

Drivers, especially those in SUVs, do not know the width of their vehicle and over compensate when passing a cyclist. This is evident when they do pass and go clear over to the other side of the road. While I appreciate the extra room, I don’t want anyone to put themselves or others in danger. I have eighteen-wheeler trucks pass without crossing the center line and give me more room than some compact cars. The difference is these are professional drivers.

I posted this story on Bike Forums. Here are some of the excellent comments, take a moment to read them Mr. Lee; try to see the other man’s point of view.

Lee said on 12/1:
"Share the road" is a fantasy that only exists in a Utopian world.

Lee said on 11/28:
Common courtesy and simple politeness is, little by little, vanishing in American culture.

Nice disconnect there.

The hilarious thing is that this guy doesn't think he's assuming a risk by getting into his car and driving it.
Has anyone read the Time magazine article from last week about perceived risk and real risk?

Ahh... I did. Interesting read. In many ways it would seem to support what many of us believe about cycling, i.e. that it's overall a pretty safe activity, and that the health benefits far outweigh the true risks. But because our psyche focuses on immediate things (getting run down by a motorist) we sort of ignore the comparatively tiny probability of that versus dying a long, protracted, painful death from, say, the complications of type 2 diabetes if you don't exercise.

Read it. very interesting article actually. they talk a lot about how feeling in control leads you to think you're safer. That’s why many people feel safer driving than, say, flying. Even though 44,000 people die per year in automobile accidents and only a few dozen die in airline travel.

They also talked about real and immediate dangers as opposed to hype. Take heart disease, for example, which kills something like 600,000 people per year. Then take the avian bird flu, or mad cow disease, which has killed 0 people in the US. You’d think more people would be concerned about taking care of their heart, but it's not the reality.

Thankfully 99.9% of drivers are very cool or we'd all be friggin DEAD.

Yes, we are vulnerable, but cycling is on the roadways is NOT a major risk...unless riding in oblivious bliss is your riding style. We're also vulnerable doing countless other things during the normal course of our lives...of which cycling doesn't even make the top ten - yet we do them anyway.

So what are the statistical odds of being killed while riding a bike? Isn't the average in the U.S. about 800 a year? It's probably a lot lower than your odds of dying from the flu. I hate this line of reasoning, because it's stupid. Yeah, we're exposed to a 2-ton plus vehicle, but what do you do about a silly microbe? Stay home? Didn't think so...
Another thing I hate are bloggers like this guy who have comment moderation enabled. Hey you wanna blog, then let us respond fairly, and post the comments! Otherwise stop wasting our time...

Just my observation
have a some non-cycling (in fact not athletic at all) friends and some day after few shots of vodka we started talking about cyclists and traffic and rights on the road - I was shocked how match they hate us. The only term they refer us is "Those idiots". Seriously, we few have cyclists in our company and we all are friends but when it comes to "share a road" - they just don't get it. And this is in Bay Area where on some roads you can see more cyclist than cars and supposedly tolerance level is pretty high.

Life is fatal 100% of the time. Do what you enjoy and stop being so darned scared.

Maybe he'll approve this:
I am also a cyclist but the fact that a cyclist is involved in this incident is almost beside the point. This driver was so far off the road that she hit him with the LEFT side of her car.
That means the victim could have been you walking down the sidewalk with not a care in the world, or a young mother pushing a stroller.

As far as the earlier comment - "A bicyclist who demands his rights on the roadways are just living in their own little worlds as well. Hmmm, 1/2 ton car vs a Schwinn, who do you think will win that one?"

I'll respond with this - Compact car drivers who demands their rights on the roadways are just living in their own little worlds as well. Hmmm, a 1/2 ton car vs a fully loaded 18-wheeler, who do you think will win that one?

The fact is cyclists ARE entitled to share the road, and drivers are obligated to treat them as motor vehicles. Sure, we'll lose the physical battle every time. However that doesn't make the auto driver any less wrong for causing the accident.

Here's the comment I posted on his blog. Let's see if he makes it visible:

Consider a different context: Who's the bigger fool? Smith, who works in a smelting plant? Or Brown, who also works there and carelessly knocked Smith into a vat of molten steel?

Being on the road is similar in that it's a potentially hazardous activity for all users, including the 44,000 non-bicycling fatalities each year. That shared risk demands a few things a all roadway users (and all employees at a smelting plant, for that matter): a level of attention to the task at hand, an extra dose of attention to compensate for those who may not have enough of their own, and a consideration for the risk one is posing to the other users. The workplace slogan of safety being everyone's concern is equally true of roadway users.

A bicyclist using the rules of Vehicular Cycling (Google "John Forester") is fulfilling every obligation that a roadway user has, and is acting in a responsible manner. Any attempt to make such a cyclist the guilty party in his accident or death is wrong. It is absolving the auto driver of his responsibilities and obligations as a roadway user, and is transferring the blame to the victim. It's akin to blaming a woman for her rape.

Using your type of reasoning, let's determine the fault in any auto-auto accident by putting the two vehicles on a scale: the lighter vehicle's driver is at fault automatically because he put himself at risk knowing there are heavier vehicles on the road. Then add how much of a shame it is that that's the way the roads in this country are, and wouldn't it be peachy if everyone took the bus instead.

Lastly, your prior blog post is about the loss of manners in society. Doesn't manners include looking out for the other person? If it applies to "Do you mind if I smoke?", how much more does it apply to "Do you mind if I kill you?"
End of Bike Forum comments.

The responses are still coming in so go to Bike Forums to read more.

I find it interesting that Mr. Lee as part of his personal profile answers a questionnaire. Here are two pertinent questions and his answers:

What is your single greatest fear? Loss of my independence, to live in a hospital or nursing home.

My comment: Keep yourself healthy, cycling is a great way and it is not a dangerous as you think.

What is the meaning of life? We're fellow travelers on a one-way trip to the grave. We should look after each other.

No comment necessary.