As Daughter and I were riding along the Coast Road cycle path last week, one of the many people who use it as their commuting route overtook us. I’d seen him coming up behind, and were were in single file on the left to let him pass. For some reason, he took the far right of the path, actually passing between a lamp post and the crash barrier.
Then something unusual happened. He was riding so close to the crash barrier that his front wheel glanced off one of its steel uprights, and this metalwork jammed between his bike’s fork and the wheel. The rider was catapulted into the ground, landing squarely on his head.
The only visible injury he sustained was a cut to the bridge of his nose where his helmet’s shell had hit. The helmet though was a total write-off, in about four or five pieces. I couldn’t get him to stop and sit down to recover, but checked his bike over for him before he set off again.
The bike was in dire need of some TLC, and not from the crash – I’ve rarely seen so many nuts, bolts, bearings and brakes so loose!
I told him he should probably go to A&E after the bang on the head he’d sustained. But he pointed to the shattered helmet, and said that he didn’t need to – the helmet had done it’s job.
Talking with Daughter about it later, she siad that it seemed like a good reason to wear a helmet more often. Is that a conclusion that fits the observation? Because the thing is, how you viewed all this would very much depend on where you stood:
“Cycling is DANGEROUS. Something bad could happen at any moment, but technology will protect you”. This is an exaggeration, but how I’d characterise the guy who’d had the accident. He will probably keep that helmet as an heirloom and proudly bring it out to ward off bad things, declaring that the helmet obviously saved his life: “Look, IT broke, so my head didn’t.”
“Sometimes shit just happens” is the view of the fatalistic who see road traffic “accidents” as inevitable – nobody is to blame, and there’s nothing to be done. Because of this, everyone should do everything they can at all times to avoid the consequences of capricious fate. Wear a helmet, wear hi-viz, flashing arm-bands, and blow your whistle, because if someone drives into you IT’S NOT THEIR FAULT.
“Most accidents are due to avoidable errors” is closer to my view of the world. In air accidents, some are described as a “controlled flight into terrain”, in which for some reason, the pilots ignore the instruments, or common sense, and fly into the mountain. Not colliding with avoidable scenery is a basic skill.
Is there any other way to view this?