This past weekend we set out on the smugness fleet for a totally leisurely and utterly unambitious ride around the neighborhood: a little shopping, some lunch, a stop at the playground... You know, pretty much the opposite of this:
I mean good for them and all, but as far as I'm concerned no fucking way.
Anyway, at one point we were strapping our 1.5 year-old human child into his little kiddie seat when an elderly woman approached us, and in an accent I couldn't readily identify said:
"Please, you be very careful with my baby."
I gave her a tight-lipped smile and then proceeded to ignore her, but what I really wanted to say to her was the following:
1) It's not your fucking baby. It's our baby. We paid for him. So unless you want to start contributing to his college fund you can drop that "my baby" shit right now;
2) Do we look like we're not being careful? This is the very finest in Dutch bike technology, and he's even wearing a helmet--which, to be honest, I only bother putting on him so concern trolls like you don't bother me. But it doesn't even seem to be working for that, so I might as well chuck the damn thing in the trash can on the corner. On second thought, why don't you do it for me? [Hands woman helmet, pedals off indignantly];
3) We're traveling about one (1) mile, at maybe 9mph tops, in a quiet residential neighborhood. The risk factor here is maybe slightly higher than pushing him around on the sidewalk in a stroller. Meanwhile, car crashes kill thousands of child passengers every year, yet I don't see you walking around the neighborhood exhorting parents to be safe with "your baby" as they strap their kids into their SUVs.
[By the way, some people complained my posts last week were too upbeat. Please. When you consider this is the dialogue that runs through my head when I encounter well-meaning old ladies, you'd be out of your fucking mind to question my misanthrope bona-fides.]
Anyway, I forgot about all of this because as a cyclist in a car-centric society I'm used to people having a completely skewed perception of risk, but then I remembered it again when I read this:
Getting children to mow the lawn is a common way to teach them responsibility. But a new study found that more than 9,000 youngsters are injured in the U.S. every year while mowing the lawn.
The researchers compared pediatric-mowing injuries during a recent 10-year period with the previous 15 years. The number of children who get hurt annually hasn’t changed in more than two decades, they found.
Yes, apparently while we're busy fretting about kids and bike helmets it's a fucking landscaping bloodbath out there:
Cuts, burns, fractures, amputations and projectile injuries caused by flying objects thrown up by the mower were the most common injuries. Most injuries affected hands and fingers, followed by toes, feet, face and eyes. Many injuries were disfiguring and would become even more so as children continued to grow, the study said.
So why is it that we see bicycle helmet PSAs like this:
But the only child lawnmowing PSA I can think of is Lawnmower Deth's seminal 1990 album "Ooh Crikey It's... Lawnmower Deth?"
Which, I might add, is worth it for the song "Satan's Trampoline" alone:
Big and fat and bouncy,
Rectangle on the floor,
You bounce and bouncer,
'Till you can't take anymore,
You'll bounce for ever, you try and look so mean,
You'll wish you'd never been on Satan's Trampoline.
And yes, the American Academy of Pediatrics does recommend that kids wear safety goggles while mowing, but they devote a hell of a lot more ink to tricking your child into wearing a plastic bicycle hat at all times:
If you own a dog then most of these tips should be familiar to you, because teaching kids to be safe is less about making them think and more about eliciting a Pavlovian response:
Reward your kids for wearing helmets
Praise them; give them special treats or privileges when they wear their helmets without having to be told to.
Also, it's important that they know helmet use is an all-or-nothing proposition, and if they don't wear one they're going to be stranded or abandoned:
Don't let children ride their bikes unless they wear their helmets
Be consistent. If you allow your children to ride occasionally without their helmets, they won't believe that helmet use really is important. Tell your children they have to find another way to get where they are going if they don't want to use their helmets.
And don't limit the scaremongering to your own child. Make sure you frighten and confuse the shit out of all the neighborhood kids as well:
Encourage your children's friends to wear helmets
Peer pressure can be used in a positive way if several familis in the neighborhood start making helmet use a regular habit at the same time.
Let me tell you how all of this works in practice, because I see it every time I go to the playground: A bunch of kids are tearing around on foot, climbing and jumping and generally having a blast, and then they all decide to jump on their shitty plastic scooters--but as they do their parents leap from the benches and shout "PUT ON YOUR HELMETS!" This totally kills the vibe, and the kids put on their ill-fitting helmets with the straps hanging down to their knees, then they push themselves around on their scooters in a desultory fashion for a few minutes before abandoning them again.
The end result of all this is that they perceive any human-powered conveyance with wheels as a pain in the ass and associate it with their parents' shrill, panicked cries instead of with fun. In fact, many of them don't even graduate from scooters to bikes...because why would they? Then when they grow up they decide, "Fuck it, I'm leasing a Hyundai."
But sure, helmet use is important, because head injuries can occur AT ANY TIME:
Remember: Head injuries can occur on sidewalks, on driveways, on bike paths, and in parks as well as on streets. You cannot predict when a fall from a bike will occur. It's important to wear a helmet on every ride.
All of this goes for running too, which is why I can't wait until they start making kids wear helmets in gym class.
You know what I'd like to see instead of "How To Get Your Child To Wear A Bicycle Helmet" from the American Academy of Pediatrics? How about "How To Get Your Child To Ride A Bike?" Yeah, no chance--but they're happy to tell you all about death by tricycle:
Tricycle accidents were the most common cause of toy-related deaths in children in 2012, yet there is little research available to the public regarding tricycle-related injuries in the pediatric population.
Granted, tricycles are fucking stupid, but come on.
And while motor vehicle injuries are a leading cause of death for American children, you'd be hard-pressed to find anything discouraging you from putting your kid in one, though you will find advice for how to get your obese child in a car seat:
Indeed, the number of child vehicular heatstroke deaths alone is roughly equal to the number of child bicycle deaths:
So basically we're a nation of helmet hysterics who are too stupid not to bake our children like potatoes.
Of course, none of this is to diminish the threat cycling children face from drivers, but let's not forget that here in New York City it's perfectly fine for the drivers to run them over while they're walking as well. In fact, a Queens judge has now ruled that the Right Of Way law is "unconstitutional:"
A Queens judge has ruled that a key portion of Mayor Bill de Blasio's Vision Zero plan is unconstitutional, a ruling that threatens to upend the mayor's pedestrian safety program. NY1's Grace Rauh reports.
To refresh your memory, all this law does is make it a criminal misdemeanor for a driver to injure or kill a pedestrian in the crosswalk with the right of way--and police barely enforce it anyway.
At this point I think it's fair to say New York City's institutional sanctioning of killing people with cars qualifies as a human rights violation, and I'm now looking into how to bring the issue before the Human Rights Council:
On 18 June 2007, the Human Rights Council adopted resolution 5/1 entitled “Institution-Building of the United Nations Human Rights Council” by which a new complaint procedure was established to address consistent patterns of gross and reliably attested violations of all human rights and all fundamental freedoms occurring in any part of the world and under any circumstances.
The complaint procedure addresses communications submitted by individuals, groups, or non-governmental organizations that claim to be victims of human rights violations or that have direct, reliable knowledge of such violations.
Like the former 1503 procedure, it is confidential, with a view to enhance cooperation with the State concerned. The new complaint procedure has been improved, where necessary, to ensure that the procedure be impartial, objective, efficient, victims-oriented and conducted in a timely manner.
Hey, I know we've got it incredibly good here by global standards, but that doesn't mean our lives should be worth less than your right to drive your Hyundai with your head up your ass.