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Staying Alive in the Big City

Last night, I went out for a bike ride with a few friends. Denver, Colorado is a great place for bicyclists. Small group, four people, two six packs of Newcastle Brown Ale, easy smiles, light rain.

I've never been one to be overmuch concerned with how fast I'm going down a street, or whether or not cars are paying enough attention to me--it's not as though I can make myself and my 2004 Trek 7100 Hybrid any more visible than it already is. Panniers on the back, wrapped with self-contained bright-yellow poncho-like covers make me even more noticed, one would think. I ride my bike everywhere I possibly can, to work, to coffee, to dinner. It's a commuter bike and I look like a commuter bicyclist.

Last night, after seeing all my friends home, I started the trek back to my apartment. Down a hill, a bit too fast. My front tire clipped between the sidewalk and the wet, shining grass. It split down the side, spraying Goop all over, and spinning the leading tire back towards the street. Without air in the tire, it became an unmanageable mass of metal and rubber. I was tossed over the handlebars, though "tossed over" isn't really the best way to describe it. I took them into my chest, leaving me with a nice set of scrapes and welts.

The bike leaned to the left, towards traffic. In an effort to maintain control, I leaned to the right, hoping to regain a direction. I won, my weight being more than the bike's. So we leaned to the right, and we fell to the ground. I took the first impact with my knee, the second with my brain bucket.

The helmet almost immediately split in half, a ragged break starting where it met the asphalt, ending on the opposite side. Acting purely on instinct, I pulled myself and my bike together and got out of the fast-approaching traffic. Onto the sidewalk. To stare at the two halves of helmet I had in my hands. A pound of lightweight, sturdy plastic and fiberglass and foam had saved my life. A $30 investment kept me from having my brains splattered all along Colorado Blvd. like so much cheap plastic. It was over and done with in just a few seconds, couple blinks of an eye.

Helmets save lives. The next one might be yours.