Bike helmet safety: Don’t wait until it’s too late

I have been living on the West Side for two weeks and have already successfully managed to get hit by a car while riding my bike, which is my main method of transportation.

I have a really great limp I’ve been lovingly referring to as my pimp step and an overwhelming amount of shame and embarrassment from the accident, which was entirely my fault and made worse by the fact I had decided to wear a really revealing crop top that day and got hit in front of a large group of young men loitering outside of my local mini-mart.

I blasted through a stop sign and I have paid the price with physical and mental pain.

As the black BMW SUV collided with the left side of my body and my bike, my first thought, besides the illogical “I can’t afford to buy a new iPhone, please don’t be broken,” was “I need to learn how to ride a bike.”

Not just ride, obviously. I need to learn how to ride a bike like I learned how to drive a car.

I have been enjoying the obvious perks of being a cyclist—the bike lanes, the close parking, the hour of cardio I automatically get in on a daily basis now—without truly understanding what it means to be a cyclist.

As it turns out, you need to be just as alert, if not more, on a bike than you would be in a car. It sounds so obvious, but cruising up the bike lane is so relaxing it can be difficult to remember there are giant pieces of metal and fiberglass flying by next to you, cursing you to get out of their way so they can pass this car trying to turn left.

The same people who have spent years lecturing me about texting and driving and fiddling with the radio while speeding down the expressway have now spent that same amount of time lecturing me about wearing a helmet and defensively riding my bike.

“But nerds wear helmets!” I whine back in response. And as soon as the words exit my mouth I hear how ridiculous I sound.

So I strap on my helmet, and everyone at work makes fun of me now when I walk my bike out. But my loved ones have successfully guilted me into being responsible.

Defensively riding my bike? I had no idea I was supposed to be doing this. I always had some smug, unrealistic notion that a driver would never hit me because they would be in a ton of trouble.

Accidents happen. But not only did I get hit by a car, I got hit with a heavy dose of reality, too. So now I look both ways before I cross the street like we teach our preschoolers, I try to remember where the stop signs are, and I don’t worry about my helmet ruining my hair anymore.

Adrienne Boudreau can be reached by email at [email protected].