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have you hurt yourself on a bicycle?

So follow up from a few days ago... Josie got a bike with training wheels for her fourth birthday. We've gone out every night, I walk the dog and she's close by me on her little bike, pedaling her heart out, she loves it.

Bikes are awesome. My bikes led me to many adventures and happy memories throughout my life.

My first bike also lead me to bust my teeth out of my face when I was ten. Now, when I was a kid NONE of us wore helmets. They were commercially available, just dorky, I don't even remember if we owned them before my accident. Nowadays someone would probably call child services if you let your kid ride a bike with no helmet. One of those "how did we survive?" things.

I'm still wondering what's going to happen to Josie on this bike though. I don't think a helmet would have saved my teeth. And since we've been finding her in dangerous situations since before she could walk, she's obviously not the most careful child. As awesome as bikes are it's like opening pandora's box.

So let's look at the statistics with a poll, shall we?

What have bicycles done to you?

I never had a bike, or never rode much
I have happily ridden a bike for years without suffering any injuries
I've had cuts and scrapes but all fixable at home
Accident requiring medical attention, but not hospitalization
Long term damage/days of hospitalization



( 16 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 12th, 2014 01:32 pm (UTC)
I have ridden bikes since I was tiny; and these days my bike is my primary transport (and my pride-and-joy). I have never worn a cycle helmet (and the evidence for their usefulness is ... controversial).

I have fallen off my bike quite a lot; as an adult largely due to having forgotten how to handle snow and ice (once due to overloading my basket with stuff). As a child due to usual childish lack of skill. I have never needed medical assistance, although I have needed plasters and hugs; I have hurt myself worse falling over running (I broke both my little fingers that way as a child).

Personally I think I benefited a lot from taking some martial arts and gym classes young - where I learned how to fall.
Jun. 12th, 2014 03:59 pm (UTC)
I've ridden bikes long-distance for exercise and also for commuting for over 10 years. The worst accident I've ever had was on a hilly, winding park road during a leisurely morning ride (not a race or anything competitive). A friend of mine riding in front of me slipped on a wet patch and went down. I swerved to try not to run over him and went down myself. Because we were going downhill at nearly 30mph I did smack my head pretty good and had some really gnarly road rash requiring first aid attention. My helmet was cracked into 7 different pieces, but it saved me from a concussion, or worse, having my brains plastered all over the road. I took that helmet to our cycling club's meetings for months after that, proselytizing about the need to ALWAYS wear a helmet, whether you're going a mile to the grocery store or 60+ miles for exercise.

My sister had a similar experience to yours: braked hard to avoid hitting a neighborhood dog at the bottom of our steep driveway and knocked her front teeth out of her face when she was 7 years old. The helmet didn't save her teeth, but it did save her brain.

I've had several other minor tumbles, none of which resulted in head injuries. I've been run off the road by cars and other cyclists, run off the sidewalk by pedestrians, hit rocks or other debris causing my tires to lose traction. Each time I've been glad to be wearing a helmet even if I didn't hit my head that time, because I COULD have hit my head. I value my noggin too much to leave it unprotected.

In European countries where they have protected (even curbed!) bike lanes so that cyclists are protected against pedestrian and motor vehicle traffic, they scoff at Americans' obsessive use of helmets. They say it gives riders a false sense of security. I disagree. In America where we have to share the roads with cars (or people expect adult riders to be on sidewalks sharing with pedestrians, so dangerous), I believe helmets are absolutely necessary, EVERY time you ride. Those with anecdotes about riding their bikes as kids without helmets and no harm came to them just got lucky and are completely dismissing legitimate risks.

You never know what kinds of hazards you'll run into. Shit happens, and when it does you're not going to be able to think, "Uh oh, better not hit my head!" and react effectively. IMO, instilling safe habits for Josie early on will ensure she will respect the risks of cycling and other activities in the future. A helmet will not guarantee she won't get hurt ever, but it will mitigate the risk of irreparable brain damage when she does fall.

Edited at 2014-06-12 03:59 pm (UTC)
Jun. 12th, 2014 04:00 pm (UTC)
My mom's friend's daughter died bicycling to school when she was 14 when she was hit by a car. So in our family biking always had a bit of a shadow cast over it. To this day, the friend is still incredibly bitter about how her daughter died and talks about it all the time, so it was a story I heard a lot when it was still fresh...

I road a bike as a teen around the neighbourhood a bit and got a few scraped knees but that's it. I wasn't very adventurous and didn't learn to ride until I was 12 or so, and I never left our circuit (i.e. onto busier roads.) I don't think it particularly enhanced my life. And I think that people who ride bicycles as a form of transport- particularly here in the UK with narrow roads, bad/fast drivers, and no bike lanes- have a death wish.

All and all I don't really see the appeal. I think it's good for kids to have a sense of independence, and in more rural areas that's probably the only way. (Half of all deaths occur on rural roads though).

Edited at 2014-06-12 04:03 pm (UTC)
Jun. 12th, 2014 04:22 pm (UTC)
My last injury was Sunday and I scraped my shin and fell. I kept telling Luke, "This is why I wear a helmet!" I had forgotten it that day.
Jun. 12th, 2014 05:04 pm (UTC)
Kids on bikes are adorable. I have a pretty negative opinion of many adults on bikes, though. It's insane how many accidents they are responsible for and how many of our clients have been permanently maimed because bicyclists aren't required to learn the laws they are supposed to be obeying. In California, you have to share the road with bicyclists, which I feel is all kinds of idiotic because the lanes aren't wide enough for that to happen safely. Part of sharing the road also means that bicyclists are supposed to go on the correct side of the road WITH the flow of traffic.

When I was pregnant, a woman was riding on the sidewalk, against the grain of traffic, and on the wrong side of the road. She slammed into my car while I was at rest and then had the audacity to threaten to extort me for $300. I refused--she was breaking the law on three different counts. When she started hounding my insurance agent, I told her to take her demand and shove it, and get familiar with biking laws while she was at it. Hilariously, she ended up calling my husband to represent her, not realizing who he was--and after explaining the conflict of interest, told her exactly why, if she continued to harass us, we would take her to small claims court for the damage done to my car and win. She left us alone after that, but I'm sure anyone she tells the story to must consider it a grave miscarriage of justice. Thesis: don't break the law.

I really wish California would let bicyclists go on the sidewalk instead. It's a lot easier for a pedestrian to bail out of the path of a bicyclist riding down the wrong side and against the grain of traffic than it is a vehicle. We have a case right now that is heartbreaking. This guy is severely injured, probably for life. What's worse, in trying to prevent killing the drunk bicyclist who was breaking every biking law, he ended up crashing into a vehicle and killing a person inside. We're representing the dead person's family and we have no choice but to go after the other motorist's insurance to do it because the bicyclist is judgment proof and bicyclists aren't required to carry insurance. Even though the person himself will never have to pay out a dime (that's what insurance exists for, folks) the way the court of law works is he is named as the party being sued and it's always scary to be named party to a lawsuit. He didn't do anything wrong and if there was a way we could make our client's family whole going after the bicyclist, we would.
Jun. 12th, 2014 06:00 pm (UTC)
I got a few cuts and bruises as a child but nothing serious... even when I went over handlebars!

Since getting a bike last summer, after a twenty year gap, I've had no accidents although the roads here are very flat and fairly straight which makes them somewhat safer.
Jun. 12th, 2014 06:30 pm (UTC)
I rode my bike quite a lot as a kid along canal towpaths and in parks, but when I got to Cambridge, I realised I wasn't cut out for bicycling as a commuting tool. I do it very rarely now for fun, but I'm not suited to doing it alongside traffic.
Jun. 12th, 2014 09:59 pm (UTC)
my son broke his two front (adult) teeth off, in half, just before turning 8. He now has filings, and has already broken one of those and had to have it put back again. (about a three months after the original break) eventually he will have to get crowns on them, in his teen years they said.

what dangerous thing was he doing when this catastrophe happened? picking up a piece of trash from the ground to throw away. he hit his face on his desk at school :-(

can't bubble wrap them. i believe the benefits of bike riding (physical and emotional) out weigh the risks. wear a helmet, have fun, the end.
Jun. 13th, 2014 01:30 am (UTC)
I was going to post something along the lines of "why shouldn't they call child services, it's against the law!!!" but then I did a quick search and found that it's only illegal in Lawrence, KS, but not the rest of Kansas. Interesting.

In the entire state of New Jersey, it is illegal for anyone under 17 to not wear a bicycle helmet when operating a bicycle, scooter, skateboard, etc.

And on a similar note, my sister was on her bicycle (with a helmet) and was hit by a 20-year old male driver; he was young, with 3 of his friends, the music was too loud, he was distracted and not paying attention. She broke her teeth like you did, but if she didn't have her helmet, she'd probably be dead, in a coma, or something very serious.

Helmets save lives, yo!
Jun. 13th, 2014 01:43 am (UTC)
My cousin had a handlebar go through is cheek and knock out his teeth when he was 4. He was walking on the sidewalk and an older kid lost control of his bike. Moral of the story, Josie's teeth are no safer playing than they are on the bike.
Jun. 13th, 2014 01:59 pm (UTC)
A few years back I stopped myself from ~20 mph with my face. Wound up with six stitches in my upper lip, but no broken teeth. The helmet didn't help that. That was the most serious accident I had; lots of other bumps and scrapes, skinned knees, elbows and hands, but I still love riding.
Jun. 13th, 2014 04:15 pm (UTC)
my first accident requiring medical attention was when I re-started cycling at 16. i hadn't got quite used to the brakes, was cycling to school, down the side road where the driver-parents would drop off kids, and a kid walked out in front of her father's people-carrier just as I approached. I slammed on the front brakes, the bike went head-over, and I needed stitches in my head (although it was, you know, fine). At the time I wore a helmet regularly and true to sod's law had forgotten it that day.

That wouldn't happen to me now because (a) I have learnt to be properly alert while cycling down roads full of parents and kids and (b) I know how to use the brakes so the bike is unlikely to go head-over, although I might still topple sideways with an emergency stop. I think learning cycling skills is much more important than wearing a helmet and although there are a few situations where the helmet would help, it mainly creates a red herring where safety skills and visibility considerations should be talked about.

The next time I needed medical attention I skidded on a manhole cover and landed heavily on a wrist. I don't know if you'd say it /needed/ medical attention. It was painful and I couldn't lift it to brush my hair or do a shoelace or type or anything, but when I got it looked at they said it was just badly bruised and I couldn't do anything except take painkillers and wait. I was 27 or so then and cycling down a main road in a hurry. I don't see that being a problem for Josie just yet.

The bike I had then I never ever fell off and hit my head. Something about the balance of it meant that when I did go, it was always a knee or a hip or a wrist that got bruised. (I've got a new one now of more standard shape and I do feel a bit more vulnerable on it).

One of my friends did nasty damage to her teeth when she was cycling through town with an ice-axe on the handlebars and it got tangled up with the front wheel. Ice axe in the face: not recommended. Don't do it.

Jun. 14th, 2014 04:27 pm (UTC)
One front tooth chipped on a country road at age 12 (crowned then and also 20 years later) — I wasn't wearing a helmet at the time but I don't think it would've made a difference.

Having a bionic incisor hasn't messed with my quality of life.
Jun. 14th, 2014 08:50 pm (UTC)
Broke my wrist the day before Mother's Day when I was 10... riding downhill no hands- remember the bone sticking out at an awkward angle and it was pretty horrible. Just had a teacher colleague tell me about how she was riding her bike alone on a trail and ended up having to be *helicoptered into the hospital* after suffering a concussion and breaking several bones... she has no idea what happened, she blacked out, but she was not an inexperienced rider. Around here a lot of bikers are injured by cars, it's in the news a lot, and somebody was killed in our neighborhood a few years ago- big memorial at a major intersection for a long time... think it was a hit and run. Anyway, I <3 bikes. We need more dedicated bike lanes.
Jun. 18th, 2014 04:30 am (UTC)
One of the girls in my grade had a younger brother who got in an accident. His helmet saved him from any long-term damage and the mom brought it to school and showed us all. I mean it was obvious that his helmet saved him; it was in bad shape.

That being said, I don't wear a helmet when I ride now. I only bike on a paved path and rarely get over 15mph. No one in my family but me has ever broken a bone, and my break was just a freak thing that wasn't really preventable or foreseeable. We also all know how to fall properly to prevent injury and are fairly cautious in general.

If you have a history of broken bones in the family, or any reason to suggest Josie has a more fragile bone structure, I'd make her wear more stuff. When I was learning I was bubble wrapped to start (helmet, knee & elbow pads, and wrist braces) and slowly got to remove everything but the helmet as I got better. It was unnecessary, but it alleviated everyone's anxiety.
Jun. 20th, 2014 07:09 am (UTC)
worst was when i hit a large flowerpot and tore my entire shin open. fixable at home but lifelong scar.
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