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.