Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Can You Actually Watch Your Head?

Here's an interesting thing to me: New York City has just begun a Bike Share program, sponsored by Citibank. Okay, that might not be too interesting, since major metropolitan areas across the country are starting to get with the whole idea of communal transport. In a city famous for its traffic jams, this is a way around the gridlock. So far, Citi Bike claims to have ridership that has pedaled more than a million miles since the program started a month ago. And guess what? They're doing it all without requiring helmets. Even Joseph Gordon-Levitt saw fit to protect his noggin while racing around the streets of the city that never sleeps. I thought that was interesting.
First of all, as a bicycle commuter from way back, I can remember how profoundly shamed I was when a colleague of mine at school called me out for not wearing a helmet as I rode up to the elementary school in front of all those impressionable youngsters. "What will they think if they see you, their teacher, riding around without the proper protective gear?" Upon reflection, I could have said, "I would be significant to me if they were to pay that kind of attention to detail." But I didn't. I started wearing a helmet, conscientiously, the very next day. So wouldn't you expect that Mayor Bloomberg, he of the anti-Big Gulp anti-smoking anti-transfat anti-gun measures, would want his citizens to strap something on their craniums to increase their chances of arriving at their destinations alive?
Nope. Helmets are "encouraged but not required." Visions of how horribly wrong this could have gone were initially rampant. Sorry to disappoint the doomsayers, but there have only been a few cuts and scrapes, but no decapitations. In New York City, that would be big news. The no-decapitation days, that is.
Still, since the bulk of bike sharers are tourists, and it would be bad for tourism if there were too many crushed skulls as a result of bicycling about the Big Apple. To that end, you can get ten dollars off the purchase of a helmet if you become an annual subscriber to the Citi Bike program. Down the road in Boston, they require you to get a helmet before you hop on one of their rental bikes. And just maybe they'll have a cup holder on the handle bars that will accommodate that fifty-ounce soda you're going to need to get you all the way from the Bronx to the Battery.

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