Nomological Net

Stray thoughts from here and there. The occasional concern for construct validity. No more logic. Fish.


faults in the clouds of delusion

Monday, June 30, 2008


There's a sequence of little articles in the Sunday NYT today, all about various aspects of the rising gas prices. In one of them, this woman writes about how she's persuaded her two teenaged daughters to cycle to most places, but there's this big problem she faces with helmet hair. That is, the teenaged daughters object to how their hair looks after they wear their helmets -- and they refuse to wear these helmets if they're going to any place that concerns "boys". The author says that the girls' rationale is that the few dollars they save by not driving will be more than offset by the years of therapy they'll have to undergo if the "boys" see them with helmet hair.


Last week TPB and I decided that dinner at the Chinese restaurant down the road was a more attractive proposition than the (undeniably tasty, yet multiply recycled) leftovers that inhabited our refrigerator. We popped onto our bikes and the-equivalent-of sauntered down for a relaxed meal in the late evening twilight. Before leaving, I had an aaah-what-the-hell moment as I contemplated my helmet and then decided that we were just going down the street, and we'd stay on the sidewalk anyway. We sauntered back after dinner with the leftovers, and on the way back across the street I saw this family with four kids riding away from us on the sidewalk, all helmeted, all with flashing lights under the backs of their seats.

The next day was sort of rainy so I decided to drive instead of bike to school. One the way home, two blocks from my street, I had one of those surreal moments. The music was on (the Stones). The traffic was flowing along at an even thirty. The lights were changing as I approached them. The penultimate one, the one before my turn, an unusual scene appeared to my left. This was where a side street ran away from me. A few cars had stopped at random angles in the intersection. A woman dressed in white was standing in the middle of the street. She was looking down. Her hands were by her ears. From the way her body moved, she was shrieking at the top of her voice. Despite the fact that I was barely ten meters from her, I could hear nothing. I followed her gaze. A bicycle lay on the road, one wheel spinning. A man lay next to it, face down. Dark brown blood was oozing from his forehead. It hadn't reached the ground yet. One arm lay crumpled under him. Another stuck out at a strange angle. It was twitching spasmodically: one, two, three, four times. All this I saw, as I floated past at 30 mph. Other on that side of the street cars stopped; other people got out. Many had cell phones to their ears. I decided that 911 had already been called -- it was best for me to move on.

I reached home and parked. Entering the house, I spoke for the first time since witnessing the accident; for the first time in a minute. I said to TPB: "Promise me -- neither of us is *ever* going out on our bikes without a helmet. This is a rule." She nodded. I described what I'd just seen.

I went in and got a drink of water.

Ten-odd minutes later, I heard an ambulance arrive.

Twenty-odd minutes later, on my way out to meet my tennis partner, I realized that all traffic had been diverted. Someone said that four cop cars had sealed the area off.

I thought about that poor twitching guy all evening. The local newspaper's website mentioned the accident, but very briefly. The images didn't leave me; worsened by the knowledge that the twitching may well have meant serious brain injury. The next morning I checked again, there was nothing, but by evening they'd updated to say that he had a cracked pelvis and head injuries, but was "alert" in the morning.

And that's the last I have heard of him. The poor fool who was riding helmetlessly.

Believe me, I'd rather have "helmet hair" than end up like him. It's just stupid to not wear a helmet.


Blogger Vivek Kumar said...

Those girls probably need some counseling *now*...

6/30/2008 9:52 AM  
Blogger Rahul Siddharthan said...

I just had my bicycle repaired 2 weeks ago (it had been rusting for over a year) and started cycling to work again, and now I read this.

And I don't even know where to get a bicycle helmet around here. Quite a few motorbike riders still don't wear one here, and hardly any pillion riders do.

6/30/2008 10:45 AM  
Blogger ??! said...

Very bad, cycling without helmet!

I can't even think of cycling down to the local grocer (about 45 seconds on the bike) without one - there are enough crazy drivers around, and I've had enough idiots swerving close by, to not even consider going helmetless.

//The worst kind of helmet hair is if you go cycling just after you've washed your hair. They give these ...waves. Very funny they are.

Any shop that sells bike should have helmets. And if you're cycling in India, you definitely need one.

6/30/2008 6:48 PM  
Blogger km said...

It's just stupid to not wear a helmet.

Tortoises have known this fact for at least 2 million years, professor.

//I still think it's madness for cyclists to be driving around American cities.

6/30/2008 8:29 PM  
Blogger Tabula Rasa said...

big time! think of the dollars they'll save in medical expenses.

beats me how motorcyclists get away without it -- it really should be mandatory.

well, it's different if you live in *london*.

what if said american cities have bike lanes? i didn't mention that two people had commented on the original newspaper report -- one said the street where the accident happened has a bike lane so it was definitely the fault of the driver; the other said cyclists in this town never obey any laws and terrorize pedestrians so it must have been his fault. the next morning's report had more details -- eyewitnesses said the bike had hit the *back* of the car. that makes me think it was probably the cyclist's fault.

(tortoises *don't* wear helmets -- they wear only body armor.)

6/30/2008 8:38 PM  
Blogger ??! said...

it's different if you live in *london*
True...but then I don't cycle in London.

6/30/2008 9:06 PM  
Blogger Sam said...

absolutely!!! dats why they presribe it!!

7/01/2008 2:08 PM  
Blogger Tabula Rasa said...

or environs.


7/01/2008 7:37 PM  
Anonymous Lekhni said...

I have also seen some bikers/ bicyclists going around without wearing helmets. We were talking about this the other day and wondering why no bicyclist in India ever wears a helmet.
Then I remembered - in India, even the ones who drive around on motorbikes and scooters don't wear helmets. Why? "Helmet hair", it feels sweaty. Otherwise rational people become completely irrational when they think of helmets.

7/02/2008 12:28 AM  
Blogger MockTurtle said...

Ok, true story;
This kid who was in college with me was riding his Yamaha back to the hostel after a night of heavy drinking.
A telephone pole near our college gate had fallen over during the evening and the wire was stretched across the road.
This guy rips down the road with no lights on, straight through the wire and it sliced his head - CLEAN OFF!! Helmet and all. God's honest truth.
No real point to the story, but that's some weird shit, huh?

7/02/2008 1:17 AM  
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7/02/2008 5:58 PM  
Blogger ??! said...


7/02/2008 11:22 PM  
Blogger km said...

??!: moral of the story is to never lose your....never mind, this is just too obvious.

//And Rambhai makes a cameo on your blog too, TR. I hope you will subscribe to his newsletter.

7/03/2008 12:03 AM  
Blogger Cherubic said...

when somebody could drive, put on make up, send text, eat all at the same time and you happen to be the unlucky one...helmet or no helmet you are screwed

your story is reminds me of the movie OMEN.

7/03/2008 8:36 AM  
Blogger Tabula Rasa said...

yes, i have no idea why this happens. the only mitigating point i can think of is that traffic on indian streets travels at much lower average speeds.

what a story.

ex-iima guys need all the help they can get - thanks for doing your bit.

hope springs eternal, right?

*if* somebody *could* do all of that, i'd like to meet them.

7/03/2008 8:02 PM  
Blogger The_Girl_From_Ipanema said...

I was just heading out to bike. I often leave the helmet behind (enjoy the feeling of wind in my hair and all that- and mostly bike on sidewalks since we don't have many bike lanes around here), now on I'm going to take it.

7/06/2008 6:30 AM  
Blogger Tabula Rasa said...

safety first!

7/07/2008 7:20 PM  

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