26 February 2019

I'm Such A Rulebreaker, Sort Of...

I wear a helmet when I ride.  Well, most of the time, I do.  Whatever the naysayers might say, I have had two occasions when wearing my helmet probably, if not saved my life, then at least prevented serious injury.  In the second of those incidents, my helmet actually broke in two but I escaped with only a few scratches.

I admit, though, that I've ridden bareheaded, even after those incidents.  When I ride in Florida, I don't wear a helmet:  Even on cool days, most riders, it seems, aren't wearing them. And on my recent trips to Paris, Rome, Cambodia and Laos, I went sans casque, except on the Grasshopper tour in Siem ReapI think the only reason we had those is that Grasshopper tours is run by Westerners and was probably covered (pun intended) by insurance regulations in the US or someplace else.  Otherwise, in Southeast Asian countries, I'm not sure I could have even found a helmet: I didn't see any in the bike shops I peeked into, let alone the bike stalls of the market places. 

In the Italian capital, I followed the age-old advice: Do as the Romans do.  I did the same in Paris, which meant that in both cities I didn't wear helmets.  It wouldn't have been hard to find a hardhat in either city:  In fact, some rental services offer them. But it seemed that no one else was wearing them, so I didn't.

So, even though I have had occasions in which wearing a helmet might have saved me, I am still hesitant to support laws requiring every cyclist to wear one.  We don't have such a law here in New York, though every once in a while some police officer tickets an unsuspecting rider who isn't wearing one. In some places, like New Jersey, helmets are mandatory for kids; a few other places require them for adults.  But even though helmet-wearing has become more or less the norm in much of the US, there are still relatively few places that require it.

I am more ready, however, to support another ban:  one on headphones, at least ones that cover the ear.   Right now, the city of Washington, DC forbids cycling with headphones.  So do a few other jurisdictions; more, however, do not allow motorists to drive with mini-speakers covering their ears.

Now some startup company, Conduit Sports, has come out with a headphone that doesn't cover the ear and block the ear canal.  Its creators say their device allows for "situational awareness". By that, I assume they mean that you can hear horns and other traffic sounds while you listen to Cardi B or Brockhampton.  

Riding with such headphones may well be safe.  Still, I'll stick to riding without them, or without any other audio stimulation other than what's provided by my surroundings when I ride. Even if I'm doing a ride I can do in my sleep, I prefer to hear what's around me, in part because it helps me to think, meditate or simply relax while riding.  Also, I reckon it's safer than riding even with those new headphones.

But I'll still wear my helmet. Most of the time, anyway.

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