Proving My Point About Helmets


Chinese word of the day:  头盔
(tou2 kui1)  helmet

Jack says he wasn’t riding fast.  Far from it. He was coming in the little east gate of the campus.  Ahead of him was the traffic barricade and a pylon.  He was leaning forward on his handlebars to look around the pylon and didn’t notice that there was a two inch drop in the pavement.  Going over it, the bump caused his hands to slip off his handlebars and because all his weight was forward, down he went.  It happened just that fast.

Picture: Jack with the helmet that saved his head.  Jiangnan University, Wuxi, ChinaJack landed on the back of his head.  Here’s what his helmet looks like.

Picture; The back of Jack's helmet, split and broken.  Jiangnan University, Wuxi, ChinaLately I’ve been feeling a bit silly about wearing my helmet all the time, and preaching to students about the value of a helmet.  There is a loud and vocal, if misinformed, anti-helmet lobby that is active now, including a TEDx talk by a very persuasive man who has spent several years researching and campaigning to get people to stop wearing helmets and revoke helmet laws. (Strange fixation on his part, and it’s my belief that he’ll be responsible for quite a few deaths before he himself is dead and forgotten.) A good friend of mine bought the arguments, and told me that she is no longer intends to wear a helmet.

The anti-helmet activists make some valid points, and we don’t want a “nanny state” with laws about every possible hazard and danger, but helmets still make good sense.  My brain is too valuable to me to put it at risk simply to feel the wind in my hair.  I continued to tell students about bike helmets, and to wear my own.  But really, I lost my inspiration and initiative and lately… yes, I’ve been feeling a bit foolish.  Nobody else on campus wears a helmet, except for my wife and Jack.  I haven’t fallen off in years.  Riding a bike doesn’t feel dangerous.

And now Jack proves my point.  I don’t know whether he would have been seriously hurt, or suffered any brain damage, in his fall.  We can be fairly sure he would at least have had a headache and a bump.  He could have lost everything – his short term memory, his long term memory, his ability to remember his own name, his ability to control his body, his ability to teach a class.  He could have lost it all.  I’m very glad he was wearing his helmet.  And I’m glad he renewed my faith in my bike helmet campaign.

It’s a nice bit of closure as we’re about to leave China and return to life in Canada.

Bike Helmets in China


Chinese word of the day:自行车头盔
(zi4 xing2 che1 tou2 kui1) bicycle head helmet

I’m seeing more and more bicycle helmets here.  For our first few years in China we didn’t see a single Chinese person wearing a helmet.  But just this year I must have seen a couple of dozen or more.

I’ve been saying for years that China will adopt the bicycle helmet, just like we did in Canada.  My theory is that we adopted it primarily because the baby boomers had kids, and we had to set a good  example. And today, while riding to Starbucks for my weekend 超大杯那提啊 (chao1 da4 bei1 na4 ti2 a1 =venti latte), we happened on this father and son at a stop light.

Picture: Father and son wear bike helmets, first time seen in China.

For years I’ve been making the same speech to students:  Some day, maybe twenty years from now, you will be out on the street with your child or your grand child, and you will see that everybody who is riding a bike is wearing a bicycle helmet.  When that day comes, I want you to remember this crazy foreigner who told you this would happen.

It’s so very strange to see my predictions coming true so quickly, and I wonder whether all those students I told this to will actually think of me when they see this kind of thing, and whether they will laugh.