Time to get serious about head injuries

April 11, 2015 § 24 Comments

California state senator Carol Liu’s attempt to mandate helmet usage for cyclists ran into a roadblock when cycling advocates presented nearly uniform opposition to the bill. With the exception of blogger Patrick Brady over at Red Kite Bore, who took a “Doesn’t affect me” stance, the LA County Bicycle Coalition, California Association of Bicycling Organizations, and the California Bicycle Coalition vehemently opposed the bill.

As a result, the helmet law was scrapped and instead morphed into a bill to require that the Department of the Highway Patrol conduct a comprehensive study of bicycle helmet use. I heartily applaud this new bill because it clearly seeks to provide a scientific framework around which to base future helmet legislation. Requiring helmets to prevent head injuries is likely crucial to protecting our vulnerable population of cyclists, however, the legislation does not go far enough.

The study should be expanded to include all head injuries in California. A clear understanding of what causes people to injure their heads, if based on hard science, could lead to a revolution in head protection throughout this country, and ideally the world. In addition to requiring helmets for cyclists, a science-based study would almost certainly lead to other areas where the use of helmets would greatly improve the safety of our population.

I propose a “Protecting America” movement that will help expand Senator Liu’s bill to include a study of all head injuries and that will hopefully lead to full-time helmet usage in the following areas:

  1. Caging: More than 16,000 youth drivers suffer acute head injuries in accidents every year. All cagers in driving school, as well as those in their first five years of driving should be required to wear helmets. Since it is impossible to say whether the caging public at large will at any given time be hit by a youth driver, all drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists should likewise be required to wear helmets. Protecting our youth is our nation’s highest priority.
  2. Bathing: Over 235,000 people each year get injured while bathing and showering, with a disproportionate number of falls affecting women, youth, and those over age 85. Legislation should be directed to require women and elders to never enter a shower or bath area without full head protection. Since many of the injuries result in hip fractures, particularly for the elderly, Sen. Liu’s study should also include a comprehensive review of the effectiveness of “bathing armor,” i.e. clothing that can be worn while bathing that will protect fragile joints.
  3. Shitting: Shitters over the age of 65 are particularly prone to injury while getting up and off the toilet. “Injuries getting on and off the toilet are quite high in people 65 and older,” says Judy Stevens, an epidemiologist at the CDC. Research on helmet usage among shitters over age 65 should be included in the bill, with a view towards requiring implementation of shitting helmet standards for the elderly, along with in-home surveillance systems similar to red light cameras that can observe helmetless shitting violations and issue citations.
  4. Fucking: Although statistics are hard to come by since emergency room patients usually ascribe their injuries during sex to another cause due to embarrassment, head injuries during coitus can be devastating, especially among younger, more adventurous sexual partners who are attempting sex acts on mountain tops, in moving vehicles, or with firearms.  By expanding Sen. Liu’s research mandate to include copulation-related injuries, we can get a better handle on the dangers associated with this activity and hopefully come up with legislation that will require fuckers of all ages to be helmeted before, during, and after sex. Elder Californians having sex while sitting on the toilet in the shower should have particular legislation drafted to ensure their safety.

I hope you will join me as I support Sen. Liu in her attempt to make our state, and hopefully our galaxy, a safer place, a galaxy where head injuries will eventually become a thing of the past.

END

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What a Liuser

February 19, 2015 § 43 Comments

State Senator Carol Liu from Pasadena (to that area’s undying shame) has introduced a bill to make helmets mandatory for bicycle riders. Scofflaws will get tagged with a $25 fine, and the police will have something really significant to spend their time doing, finally.

Here is a thoughtful discussion about the issue, but it’ll be a CBR crit without wheelsuckers before I sacrifice eighteen minutes of my life to hear clever people debate stupid things.

Of course the problem with the helmet law is that it doesn’t go far enough. Like lots of well-meaning mommy state legislation, it only protects part of the intended maroon, in this case his or her head. For the law to really work, and I believe it’s important for state and local government to play a role in bike safety (especially when the pepper spraying, handcuff clinking, baton swinging, pistol packing police are involved), the law must completely protect us.

Heavy gloves, joint padding, and full downhill MTB armor are what’s needed to ensure that little kids going to school don’t fall off their bicycles and get a boo-boo on their po-po. In addition, the bill needs to be amended to cover the crucial areas of bike speed and componentry. A statewide bike speed limit of 12-mph should be included, because the faster you pedal your bicycle the more you get hurt when you fall off it for being drunk or stupid or racing or all three.

The 12-mph speed limit would also ensure that most triathletes don’t get dropped in bike races, and would allow the weak and infirm to catch back on after getting shelled on hard climbs.

Bike dangerousness should likewise be addressed with weight restrictions. Heavier bikes have been shown to go slower and to act as excellent self-defense weapons in sketchy neighborhoods. Getting whacked over the head with Strava Jr.’s 2-lb. full carbon rig which is all carbon and made of 100% carbon isn’t nearly as big a deterrent to crime as getting pounded by a 50-lb. steel-and-lead composite frame.

It’s unfortunate that Liu’s bill is such a liuser and that she doesn’t really care about our safety. But there’s another reason to support helmets, body armor, bike speed limits, minimum weights, and materials legislation: Brad House hates it.

Basically, Brad is a libertarian, which means “Let me make the laws.” Brad opposes all laws which are against his personal interest or which haven’t been personally approved by Ron Paul. This is a law that will drive Brad whacky(er). He will rant. He will rave. He will talk graphically about his exploits in and out of the bedroom. He will join political movements, overwhelm social media, and dash hither and yon in those black shorts with the back panels that expired back in ’96, blinding everyone with his hairy, unblinking brown eye. He might even sell his $2 Stetson and move back to California.

Let’s face it. California has gone to shit since Brad’s departure and the only way to make this once-proud state great again is to get Mr. Nuttypants back. Supporting Carol Liu’s law and getting it amended so that we’re completely protected is the way to do it, and by protection I mean mandatory condoms, measles vaccinations, and impact-proof welding goggles for every rider over the age of three is the only way we’ll truly make cycling safe and have Brad to kick around for another year or so.

Our only other option is to enforce existing traffic laws and force cagers to stop running us over.

Naaaaaah.

END

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Post-traumatic jackass syndrome

April 11, 2014 § 30 Comments

If you don’t know Adam Myerson, he’s a member of the Lost Generation. These were the guys who came of age during the reign of Lance, and unlike Hincapie, Vaughters, Leipheimer, and those who have gone on to profit greatly from their misdeeds, Adam took the Nancy Reagan option. He just said “No.”

Adam and I are friends on Facebook, which is to say that since we’ve never met we’re not friends at all, at least not in the way that I grew up understanding the word. Rather, I lurk when his posts pop up on my feed and I like his approach towards cycling in particular and life in general.

Yesterday he opened up with a simple question. “Is there a medical term for the long term stress caused by being taken within an inch of your life, every day, multiple times a day, for the simple act of riding a bicycle on a public road?”

I glanced at the tail end of the comments and was surprised by the number. I was also surprised by the tenor of at least some. This was pretty much a softball question that any rider could relate to. Nothing is more ubiquitous in road riding than the constant fear of death and mutilation, and no preparation is more essential to the task of cycling than mentally girding yourself for the physical, verbal, and emotional onslaught that is the price we pay for daring to take our legal piece of the pavement.

Blame the victim

Incredibly, at least one commenter (since self-blocked and self-deleted) put the blame, or at least tried to shift it, on Adam. Surely there was something in his riding that precipitated at least some of this hostility?

All hell didn’t so much as break loose as it organized a freedom train.

And although the pro-Adamites greatly outweighed the anti-Adamites, the dialogue quickly assumed the air of a back-and-forth about who follows the rules and who’s a more law-abiding cyclist. All I could think was, “What the hell does that have to do with it?”

The price of pedaling

I know a lot of people who take great pride in their letter-perfect traffic behavior. I’m not one of them. I follow the rules when it’s to my advantage and I break them when they aren’t. I can feel the daggers when I cruise through controlled intersections, and I can hear the honks when some jackass in a giant pick-up vents at my infraction of the moment.

He can kiss my ass, because until the laws are set up to protect me, I’ll keep on surviving, thanks very much. As a reminder of how worthless you are on a bike here in SoCal, Jorge Alvarado’s killer just received the incredible sentence of 90 days in jail. We wouldn’t want to ruin that kid’s life, after all.

Nor am I on a mission to make cagers love me. The ones who accept me, accept me. The ones who hate me, hate me, and the ones who are going to mow me down because they’re texting or drunk or fiddling with the radio, well, I can’t do anything about them anyway. The only ones I care about are the crazies who want to kill me, and they’re not going to be mollified just because I put a foot down.

As Adam said, more or less, why should the price of making a mistake on a bike be death?

Post traumatic jackass syndrome

The unfortunate answer is, “Dude, that’s just how it is.”

But what’s more unfortunate is that his original question was such a good one. What do we call the mental condition of being constantly under assault or threat of assault?

I think PTJS is a good start, and although I can’t really describe its symptoms, I can describe the absence of them. Take the bike path and you’ll see what I mean. Suddenly, the cager exits your mental picture. As you pedal along the path you’re watching for peds and bikes and dogs and kids and skateboards and roller skaters and perhaps also the first thong of spring, but you’re doing it without the constant awareness of whether or not you’re about to receive a 1-ton solid steel enema.

There is a lightness to your grip on the bars and a relaxation of your shoulders and neck. You’re no longer afraid.

There. That’s the thing that riding on the road hangs around your neck no matter how good, how fast, how quick, or how experienced you are. The factor of fear, sometimes slight and sometimes screaming so loudly that you tense up enough to taste your own death, that’s the thing that you take with you when you’re wresting your legal piece of pavement from the jaws of the cagers.

The safety of the bike bath

Of course many riders eschew the beach bike bath in the South Bay because they claim it’s far more dangerous than street. They may be right.

Surfer Dan was pedaling along and prepared to pass Mitzy and Bohunk on their cruiser bikes. “On your left!” he said, loud enough for them to hear but not so close as to startle them.

Mitzy moved over, as she and Bohunk were hogging the whole path, but Bohunk didn’t budge. Dan eased over to pass. “Slow down, asshole!” snarled Bohunk.

Surfer Dan is a pleasant fellow, I suppose. But he’s also a coiled pack of solid muscle, the kind of muscle you get from a lifetime of surfing big waves, and he’s a coiled pack of mental muscle, too. You don’t earn your place in the lineup just because you surf well. You earn it because you can defend it, too.

Playfully, Dan looked at Bohunk, a giant, hairy, stupid creature who oozed ill will. “Please, don’t!” Mitzi begged. This obviously wasn’t Bohunk’s first brawl on the bike path and you could tell he relished the opportunity to beat up another wimp riding around in his underwear.

Dan grinned at Bohunk and said, softly, “Wanna go?”

Bohunk lunged for the bait. “Fuckin-A, you asshole! Let’s go!”

Dan eased his rear tire to within an inch of Bohunk, ready to whack the cretin’s front wheel out from under him in case the guy was crazy enough to try and get into a fist fight over being passed on the bike path. He had no intention of cutting his knuckles on this guy’s teeth. Bohunk reached out his left leg and aimed a mighty kick at Dan’s bike, but Dan easily moved over just as the full thrust of the extended, trunk-like leg fully extended into the open air.

Bohunk lost his balance and splatted hard on his shoulder, bouncing his concrete-like head against its brethren, the asphalt of the bike bath. With a long smearing sound of skin against pavement and sand, the aggressor then fouled the rest of himself up in the still-moving chain and rear wheel.

“Have a nice day!” Dan said, smiling as he rode off.

I’m guessing that he’s not suffering from post-traumatic jackass syndrome as a result.

 

END

Guts ‘n Gore Alley: Malibu & PCH

August 25, 2013 § 20 Comments

The City of Malibu has posted an online survey at http://malibu.metroquest.com/. You can take the survey to let the city know what you think are the most important issues regarding safety improvements to PCH.

Or, you know, you could just do something else.

Let me give you 10 reasons to take a few minutes out of your busy life and complete the survey.

  1. Marisela Echevarria, 36, lost control of her bike on PCH as vehicles passed by, and struck her handlebars on a parked vehicle, causing her to veer into the side of the bus. She was then dragged under the bus and killed when the bus crushed her with its rear wheels. Date of death: 10/13/2012.
  2. Luis Adolfo Olmedo, 53, was struck and killed by a cager on PCH between Encinal Canyon Road and Mullholland Highway. Olmedo had just finished fishing near El Pescador State Beach and was crossing PCH from the shoreline side. Date of death: 2/26/2013.
  3. Sarah Salam, 21, was struck and killed by a cager driving a limo as she attempted to cross PCH after leaving Moonshadows restaurant.
    A burned out streetlight, located steps away from the collision, and other preventable maintenance considerations likely played a role in her death. Date of death: 4/20/2013.
  4. Rodrigo Armas, 45, was struck and killed on PCH by a drunken cager who worked for the City of Malibu. He was participating in an annual organized ride. The cager fled the scene of the accident. Date of death: 7/5/2009.
  5. Christian Armas, 14, was struck by the same drunken cager who killed his father, and sustained injuries to his leg and multiple bone fractures.
    The pair were equipped with regulation lighting for night cycling. Date of injury: 7/5/2009.
  6. Amelia Ordona, 74, was crossing PCH in the early morning to catch a bus on the way home from her job as a caretaker, when she was struck by a hit-and-run cager, then run over by multiple other cars. Most of the cagers who ran over the corpse didn’t bother to stop. Date of death: 3/18/2010.
  7. Emily Shane, 14, was run over on PCH by a distracted cager while she was walking along the side of the road in order to meet a family member at Point Dume Village shopping center. Date of death: April 3, 2010.
  8. Erin Galligan, 29, was was hit from behind while cycling on PCH and dragged to death by a hit-and-run cager in a pickup. Her body was thrown so far from the point of impact that police had to search for her body. Date of death: July 10, 2012.
  9. Numerous other fatalities including two Pepperdine Law School students who were killed in a head-on car-to-car collision with a drunk cager; a tow truck driver killed by another hit-and-run cager while he working on a vehicle, and myriad cyclists and pedestrians who have been seriously injured by cagers in the last ten years on PCH.
  10. You, aged 40-something, were riding down PCH on Sunday morning when a cager drove by so close that you were almost knocked off your bike by his mirror. There was only a narrow three-foot space on the edge of the road, covered with rocks, debris, glass, and cracked pavement, onto which you could veer for safety. You were almost killed, and it ruined your ride.

Although many Malibu residents come across as hateful, vengeful, stingy, selfish, and filled with venom towards bicycle riders, they are a small minority. Most Malibians are just like rich entitled cagers everywhere: They don’t like it when shit gets in their way and slows down their car, whether it’s a slow-moving truck, a traffic jam, a bicycle, or, you know, a corpse in the middle of the highway.

The city recognizes that PCH is a death trap and that they have traffic fatality and injury rates commensurate with a city many, many times larger. This survey is part of a planning process that may — may — eventually ameliorate the toxic combination of crazy-fast speeders and crazy-slow bicycle riders. Rather than gutting up for the next memorial ride to commemorate the life of another bicycle rider killed by a cager in Malibu, please take a few minutes to complete this survey.

Thanks.

Law of the jungle

August 1, 2013 § 52 Comments

Every so often I see an article  like this: “Cyclists! As long as you keep breaking the law motorists are going to keep hating you. We must show that we are law-abiding members of the public if we hope to be treated with the respect we deserve.”

This is stupid and it’s wrong.

Cagers hate you because of the law of the jungle. When a tiger and a mouse meet on a path, the mouse steps aside. Your bicycle, a weak and puny plastic thing, impedes the forward motion of a hulking 2,000-lb. slab of steel. The jungle law says you must step aside, but the California Vehicle Code does not. So the cagers hate you even when they yield the right of way.

Before you start whining you should ‘fess up: You’re no different from the soccer mom in the SUV. Remember last Sunday on the bike path coming back from Malibu, and how the path was clogged with all those fucking walkers? Remember how you roared past them at 15-20 mph shouting “On your left!” Remember how annoying it felt, especially since the path said “Bikes Only”?

Yeah. The natural human reaction when a slow moving, weaker bicycle obstructs a faster moving, bigger car, is to be pissed off, and you can’t tamp down the cager’s road rage by stopping at the stop signs.

Here’s another example. Have you ever seen a cyclist on Hawthorne or PCH during rush hour and thought “What the fuck is that fucking fuckfuck doing riding on this busy fucking street at rush hour? What a fucking moron!”

Of course you have.

As long as bicycles get in the way of cagers, the cagers are going to hate them and it won’t matter if you stop at the stop signs. They will still shoot you, splat you and run away, kill you, kill you, and then finally, yes, kill you.

No one ever had his rights vindicated by being nice

You have a right to ride on the road. It can’t be taken away because you ran some red lights.

“Mr. Smith, due to your abysmal record of having run ten red lights and thirty stop signs this year, the court hereby revokes your right to ride your bicycle.”

Not gonna happen, although your scofflaw approach may get you run over and killed.

The only thing that obeying the law on your bicycle does is increase or decrease your chances of being hit, depending on the situation. It will never make any cager anywhere stop hating you. It will never stop someone who has made up his mind to hit you from hitting you. Most importantly, it will never cause someone to intentionally hit you if they haven’t already decided to do so.

Think about motorcycles. Most cagers who don’t ride think motorcyclists are batshit crazy sucides. But it doesn’t make them want to kill the guy on the Ducati in flip-flops and a t-shirt and an eggshell brain bucket who’s splitting lanes on the 405 at 70 when the traffic’s at a standstill.

At worst it makes you think “That dude’s gonna die soon and I’m not gonna feel sorry for him one bit.” It never makes you intentionally hit him. By the same token, seeing some old fart on a Goldwing with his wife, dog, and three kids on the back doesn’t make you love motorcyclists or change your opinion that this is their death wish.

The take home? Motorcyclists still have the right to be there. If they break the law they can lose their license — unlike cyclists — but you’re really fucked up if the way a person rides a moto makes you decide to kill them or not.

You have a right to be in the road on your bicycle. The only way you can keep that right is to exercise it. You won’t change the hearts and minds of the hater cagers by being a Boy Scout, although you may thereby avoid becoming a statistic. The only thing that will really change the way people think is making bicycles a permanent part of the traffic landscape.

Until then, the best thing you can do to change attitudes is to … ride your bike. Simply existing will piss off certain cagers, no matter how you ride.

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