As I was ready to leave the house this morning to go for a bicycle ride on a beautiful, spring Saturday, I grumbled as I had to go back upstairs to get my bicycle helmet. My grumble to my husband was, "I need to make sure I wear my politically correct bicycle helmet so I can stay under the radar." What I think I meant was that I did not want anyone to see me riding my bicycle without a helmet on and taking some sort of mental note.
So why did I feel this way on a beautiful, sunny and cool Saturday morning? To be frank bicycle helmets bug me. In the 1970's when I learned to ride a bicycle, there were no helmets. My father taught me to ride on a neighborhood school playground on a used blue girl's bicycle with brakes in the pedals and NO TRAINING WHEELS. Dad bought the bicycle from a family in the neighborhood whose daughter had outgrown it. I remember Dad running behind the bike and holding it. I also remember looking behind me one time to find that Dad was no longer running behind me holding the bicycle, panicking, falling over with the bike, and hitting my chin on a rubber tire that had cement and a pole in it. (Those were allowed on playgrounds back then.) Dad and Mom determined I was not hurt, but they gave pause as this was a critical moment in the teaching of a child to ride a bike: would she stop crying and get back on? Clearly, since I ride today at age 46, I got back on.
So back to the repressive bicycle helmet. It is not yet the law, so I can ride without and not be fined. But what I don't like is the "looks" from other adult bicycle riders. They convey to me, "Why is she not wearing a helmet?" "Who does she think she is that she does not need a bicycle helmet?" "See children, that woman is not wearing a helmet while riding her bicycle and she could fall and suffer a brain injury." I just couldn't take the pressure, so even though I was trained to ride a bike without a helmet, and I rode bicycles without incident for a few decades without a helmet, I finally bought one at age 40 or so.
You will laugh when I tell you the actual motivation behind buying a bicycle helmet at age 40. It was because my serious bicycle riding friend was taking me on her special ride along scenic back roads where we lived and I thought, well I need the helmet for this ride in case I get run over by a car.
I wish I could remember where I read it and who the author is of a sentence that sums this all up. It went something like this, "We need a $20 helmet for a 10¢ bike ride." We know why this is so. It is for the same reason that there are now free bags for wet umbrellas. Please note that I use the politically correct wet umbrella bags and I tell others to use them as well so I can stay under the radar.