It’s been a long, rainy week here in Boston. Just when I thought it was relenting, yesterday served up steady drizzle and temps in the 40s (Fahrenheit). Is this May? It can’t be. Only a car in the shop could get me out on my bike every day this week, so I’ve ridden right through it, not nearly as miserable as you might suspect, but nothing close to loving the “Belgianness” of it either.
On Tuesday, I didn’t wear a helmet. I sometimes don’t on my commute, because it’s relatively short and I greatly prefer the feeling of riding without. That said, the combination of rain and helmetlessness got me thinking about safety.
I can’t quite explain why rain makes me feel less safe on the bike. It might have something to do with questionable traction. It might have something to do with the shrinking of the road’s shoulder with deep puddles. It might have something to do with the diminished visibility, both mine and the drivers’ streaming past me.
On Wednesday I put my helmet back on, but because of a pre-work errand I ended up riding more direct, and thus busy, routes to work. My usual pattern is to seek the calmest, quietest roads, even if they are slightly less direct to my destination. Again, I found myself thinking about safety, wondering how my chances of getting hurt might have shifted, statistically, based on route and weather. Whatever psychological benefit I received from wearing a helmet seemed offset by the increased traffic.
I don’t want this to turn into the helmet debate. Suffice it to say some people will think I’m stupid for ever not wearing one. I am comfortable with that. We all make our choices.
This week’s Group Ride asks, how do you feel safer on the bike? What things do you do that make you feel safer? Are there routes? Ways of riding? Equipment? My own approach is really about riding where there aren’t cars as much as possible. This is as much about lowering my stress level and allowing me to focus on riding, rather than spending a lot of cycles anticipating what other people are going to do. Wearing a helmet does make me feel slightly safer, but not as much as riding the back roads does.