So what happened? Did I go flying over the bars, land on my head, and immediately break into a celebratory helmeted headspin because I was uninjured thanks to my plastic hat?
No, the manner in which a helmet saved me had nothing to do with head protection at all.
See, as a semi-professional bike blogger and recovering Fred I have like eleventy million bikes, most of which I keep under lock and key. And like anybody with eleventy million bikes under lock and key, I have a ridiculously crowded dungeon master-like keyring on which I keep most of my bike lock keys:
Well, this morning as I prepared for my bike commute I reached for my dungeon master keyring only to find that it was not in its appointed place. I panicked. Without it, not only would I be unable to access the majority of my Fred sleds, but we'd also be totally locked out of the Familial Smugness Fleet:
(By the way, as you can see from the foundation in the background of the above photo, we do live in a castle, which explains why I keep my Fred sleds in a dungeon.)
My first thought was that maybe I'd left my keys in the wheel lock of my WorkCycles because that's exactly the sort of stupid thing I'm liable to do, so I fetched my oil lantern, grabbed a torch off the wall, and ran downstairs to check:
At this point you're smugly thinking to yourself one or both of the following:
1) Don't you keep spare keys to all your bike locks in a safe place?
2) Remember how you made fun of those "smartlocks" you can open with your phone? Who's laughing now?
Well, here are my answers:
1) Yeah, right.
2) Nah, still stupid. You think someone who can't hold onto his keys is capable of keeping his phone charged?
Anyway, just as I was about to ask the Con Ed crew down the street if they had an angle grinder I could borrow I realized that the last time I'd used my bike keys I'd been schlepping not one but both of my human children. And anybody who's unloaded more than one child at a time from any kind of vehicle--a bike, a car, a plane, a boat, what have you--knows that it's a complete shitshow as you attempt to juggle both them and their belongings. I mean sure, noted actor Liev Schreiber may look dashing hauling the kids around on his WorkCycles, but just wait until he has to get them off of it:
Just kidding, everybody knows noted actor Liev Schreiber has a smugness butler whose job it is to unload his bikes for him, and everybody also knows if you get too close to him with a camera he'll throw a terrier at you:
Well, I should say everybody but me. But now I know too, and I've got the bite marks on my face to prove it.
Anyway, as I remembered leaving the bike with a child under each arm and about fifty tote bags in my teeth, I hoped against hope that maybe--just maybe--in all the mishegas of disembarking I'd put my keys in the baby's helmet. Because really, let's be honest: the only thing even remotely useful about helmets is that you can hold them by the chin strap and use them to help carry stuff when your hands are full.
So I ran back upstairs:
And wouldn't you know it, there were my keys, safe inside the baby's brain bucket.
Therefore, the helmet saved my life, because without access to my bikes I am nothing. NOTHING!
So now, having failed to get me on the "smartlock" thing, you're probably wondering: "Hey Bike Snit, you're always talking crab about helmets, yet you make your precious baby wear one. Doesn't that make you a hypocrite?"
Well, maybe yes and maybe no, but the reason I put a helmet on the baby doesn't really have anything to do with safety. See, I don't think wearing a helmet on a bike makes him appreciably safer--and if I did I'd make him wear it in the house too, since that's where the real danger is. When you consider all the dumb stuff babies do in a house--goading the cat, rappelling down the bookshelves, launching themselves head first into an empty bathtub--you realize that strapped into a seat on a bike and traveling at slightly more than walking speed is just about the safest place they could possibly be, regardless of what they've got on their heads.
No, the reason I put a helmet on the baby is mostly to pre-empt any criticism, because even though I do my best to ignore other people's opinions even I have my limits and don't relish the idea of debating with strangers. (Though if I know you I'll happily tell you to go fuck yourself.) Plus, the truth is that kids love to wear helmets. My older kid will often insist on wearing his, even though I tell him it looks stupid, show him pictures of a bareheaded Jaques Anquetil, and scream about how he's ripping out my heart. Even the baby likes wearing one, and he'll bring it to me when he wants to go outside, which is adorable. Then he'll try to brain the cat with it.
And if you're wondering which helmet I slap on the baby, I'm using the "Baby Nutty," which sounds like a good name for a rapper:
What I really can't stand though is the smug little decal they put on every single Nutcase helmet, child or otherwise:
When I see this on a child's helmet I think, "Oh please, you don't even know what a brain is, and if you saw one you'd cry." And when I see it on an adult I just think, "Screw you and your brain, you're a freaking idiot."
All that aside, if you're going to strap the illusion of safety onto your kid's melon, Nutcase is a good way to go--though I might start selling an upgraded sticker kit so you can cover that decal:
Now I've just got to do something about his shoes, because like all babies he removes them and throws them off the bike while we're riding, which I don't realize until we arrive at our destination. In fact the other day I had to backtrack quite a ways in order to find one:
You can just make out my nonplussed visage in the bell:
Maybe I should get him some SPD baby shoes and make some footrests out of an old pair of mountain bike pedals.
Anyway, once I had my dungeon keys I was able to liberate an appropriate Fred sled for my morning commute, which was a good thing because it's a beautiful day today even though the trees are still dead:
This street is right by my castle. If you squint while you're climbing you can almost convince yourself you're on a mountain pass somewhere, but really it's a New York City street with a number and everything.
In other words, I spend a lot of time squinting while I'm riding, and generally live my life in a state of constant denial.
Speaking of cycling in New York City, much of our bike infrastructure was implemented by former DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, who has a new book out:
Which was recently excerpted by New York magazine:
Never underestimate the anger directed at bicyclists. They ride too fast, terrorizing pedestrians. They ride too slow, dangerously obstructing drivers. They don’t wear helmets or reflective bike gear, jeopardizing themselves. They shouldn’t ride in streets, which are hostile, car-only zones. They shouldn’t have their own lanes because there aren’t enough of them to take away space from cars. Yet there are so many of them that they’re running down pedestrians and therefore shouldn’t ride on sidewalks.
Tell me about it.
I particularly enjoyed this trip down (bright green and buffered, presumably) memory lane:
The bike backlash of early 2011 were the toughest months I’ve ever endured professionally. Newspapers, radio stations, and blogs delivered damning quotes from shopkeepers, people in cars, schoolteachers, and crossing guards to inflame the debate. We were accused of ignoring community views and ramming projects down communities’ throats, making streets dangerous and killing businesses. Every day brought new stories of misery, not just about Prospect Park West but about every bike project old or new, plazas already constructed, and phantom projects that hadn’t even been proposed.
A reporter questioned a bike-lane project on Manhattan’s Second Avenue that ran near the Israeli consulate. “Imagine if the man on the bike was a terrorist!” John Cassidy of The New Yorker claimed that our polices represented the views of “a small faddist minority intent on foisting its bi-pedalist views on a disinterested or actively reluctant populace.” In the New York Post, Cindy Adams dubbed me the “wacko nutso bike commissioner.” Blistering critiques of the bike backlash and my starring role in it fueled a major story in the Times. The lead quote in that piece came from Anthony Weiner, at the time a candidate for mayor, who said that during his first term, “I’m going to have a bunch of ribbon-cuttings tearing out your fucking bike lanes.” The backlash landed on the cover of this magazine with a photo illustration containing every urban street-fight cliché: two aggressive men riding bikes the wrong way; horrified pedestrians; a car blocking a bike lane; and the headline “Not Quite Copenhagen. Is New York Too New York for Bike Lanes?”
Sadly I'm not sure you can declare the bike wars over until the city and state stop sanctioning homicidal driving and the NYPD ends its official policy of "no criminality suspected" when it comes to dead cyclists and pedestrians, but that doesn't make the sheer scope of what Janette Sadik-Khan accomplished as DOT Commissioner any less impressive.
Speaking of new books, I know someone else who's got one coming out:
And with the weather turning pleasant there's a very good chance I'll use its impending publication as an excuse to hang out somewhere nice and give people some free stuff in the very near future, so stay tuned.
Lastly, I have glimpsed the future, and it is the Running Bike:
Which, as far as I can tell, combines the leg-pumping motion of the ElliptiGO with the sheer misery of PowerCranks:
They really should be marketing this to roadies. Put that drivetrain on a carbon frame and cite some spurious data about "fitness gains" and they'll be all over it.