Last week I mentioned an episode of This American Life that discussed a phenomenon known as the flow, but the real theme of the episode was meeting the pros. It included stories about average people who get to talk with, observe and maybe learn from the pros. For example a casual poker player who gets to sit down with a pro from the World Series. My own story is not nearly as interesting but I saw this headline and it seemed like a good segway.
“Learn to Bike Like a Pro”
I should mention that I’m in the process of helping to plan a bike to school day for Emory, specifically the school of public health. So when this ad popped up in the campus paper it caught my attention and my criticism. The first thing it does is romanticize the bike messenger. I don’t wanna get started on hipsters (as I write in my BLOG! [so cool]) but while bike messengers may actually be pros it is not the goal that most of the class’ participants will hope to achieve. Notwithstanding the overdone wardrobe (cog patterned shirt) and ‘extreme’ styling (frosted tips) of this biker, messengers tend to ride in some of the most intimidating conditions, and tend to do so dangerously. The current trend is to ride a fixed gear bike; the same they use at the velodrome. This is a bike that does not have a flywheel like your old ten speed and so the pedals move with the wheel (forward and back). It only offers you a single gear but more importantly the only way to stop is to slow the pedals by resisting the momentum you created in the first place. In other words they have no brakes. A precarious situation for those who ride (fast) in the intersection laden traditional grid patterns of most urban centers. Most importantly, these guys lacks a helmet. The graphic artist tried to hide this blurring the photo at the top but it had the added effect of making it look like he’s going really fast. So bike fast, without brakes or helmets like the pros.
But it turns out that it’s not just the pros, they start em young too. Stunningly this example comes from a book entitled Urban Sprawl and Public Health. It co-authors include both the current and former head of CDC’s National Center for Environmental Health. Somehow the kids on the cover made it onto the book without helmets. It may be because they live on those icons of the suburbs, the cul de sac. The streets gained such popularity with American families because of their low and slow traffic volumes, which allowed children to play in the street without great risk of automobile collision. Now they’re being rethought since one of the reasons they have so little traffic is because they go nowhere. I should say here that all of my crashes have only involved me and the cement, never any other cars.
Vargo lives and bikes (fast, but with brakes) in Atlanta. He didn’t always but now he never rides without the helmet. He also listens to his iPod while biking.