I CAN be an arrogant arse at times.
I know! Some of you are saying, “Arrogant? No, you’re not!” (thanks mum, and Aunty Sue) but sadly, it’s true. And it could also be true of you – prepare to navel-gaze.
I admit this unenviable trait is not completely obvious – it’s not like I throw tanties at restaurant wait staff over below average food, or refuse to let cars merge in front of me on Kwinana Freeway. It’s something more subtle.
It’s the harbouring of ingrained attitudes that really are just plain selfish. Let me explain.
As some of you may know, I had a bicycle accident a few years back, and no, I wasn’t wearing my helmet. Apart from my bitumen-biting chin, my head remained injury free (on the outside, anyway) so I was very fortunate not to have sustained more serious damage…even when you consider my two broken arms, I got off very lightly. I thought I knew this.
Turns out I don’t . Or I didn’t. Until a couple of weeks ago.
With a long Sunday riverside bicycle ride tantalisingly ahead of me, I made the decision not to wear a helmet, and discarded it like yesterday’s news because “I’m an adult, I shouldn’t have to wear a helmet if I don’t want to. Bloody nanny state!”
Before I go on, the ride was blissfully incident-free. I rode along with an unencumbered head like some faux European, wind blowing through my loose locks, a sensory-overload smile on my face.
The riverside dual use path was a popular route and it was a bit like peak-hour traffic at times, especially with the addition of dogs, prams, toddlers, errant soccer balls and chatting or headphone-wearing pedestrians.
Slowly but surely, as I passed and was passed by my smug fellow outdoorsy types, it dawned on me that I had not seen one other cyclist not wearing a helmet on their precious head.
The realisation hit me like that bitumen did all those years ago and I immediately tried to rationalise it; the Lycra-clad racers needed helmets in case they ventured onto the road, it was part of their trendy uniform. But recreational riders, too, were wearing them. Maybe it’s because they are a bit doddery and have a higher chance of falling off. (Yes, I realise that was both arrogant and hypocritical).
The only person I did see without a helmet was a boy of about 13 and even if he is arrogant, he has youthful ignorance on his side.
Belatedly, I’ve decided I should know better and pledge not to endanger the lives of others or my own by not wearing a helmet when I ride a bike. There. Now I’ve typed it in black and white I have to honour it.
But seriously, being the only one not wearing a helmet made me realise how incredibly selfish that is. I was basically giving the finger to all other pedestrians in my vicinity, ignoring the fact that they were taking as much responsibility for their own safety as possible. Even if I caused someone to fall off their bike, their helmet would go some way towards hopefully protecting their cranium, and saving me the added trauma of feeling responsible for causing them a traumatic but preventable head injury.
Yep, sometimes I get quite cosy gazing into my own navel, despite the lack of lint furnishings.
I think it was all that fresh air in my hair as I rode along, giving root to some profound thinking processes.
Anyway, if I’m brutally honest, one of my main “concerns” about wearing a bicycle helmet is that it causes helmet-hair and makes me look even sillier (for those of you familiar with my rat’s nest, you’ll know what I mean). But, honestly the mat of hair created by the wind was no better.
Culturally, perhaps it goes back to women and girls being conditioned to think they need to look ‘pretty’ at all times. If that’s what prevents some of us from being safe, its well past time we discarded that baseless notion. As Swifty says, “shake it off”.
So, featuring far too many similarities with another community service announcement, simply put, if it’s not on, it’s not on!
NB – You have no idea the difficulty I faced trying to find a useable image of a woman wearing head armour! These femme fatales were either holding their helmet for show or it just didn’t feature in their warrior uniform, replaced instead by arbitrary long flowing locks. (teamed with very prominent breasts, but that’s another story)….