Not sure when National Bicycle Safety Month began, but I’m pretty sure there wasn’t such a month when I was riding my neighborhood streets in northern New Jersey on my trusty bicycle.
Anyway, welcome to National Bicycle Safety Month. All 31 days of May are dedicated to the endeavor of making sure adults and especially children don’t begin the month of June with any broken bones, bruises, abrasions or cuts due to bicycle accidents.
The thought of injuring myself from a bicycle mishap never once crossed my mind. When I got off those training wheels, it was joy on a banana seat and baseball cards in the spokes. And this is during the pre helmet-wearing days of today, which seems like just slightly after the dinosaurs roamed the earth.
OK, I’ll be truthful. There was THAT one day in my childhood and I suppose that’s all it takes. Just when a kid thinks they can do no wrong on a bike, can brake properly and all that good stuff, it’s one moment that can change everything.
Until THAT day, bicycle riding as a kid was about the second-neatest thing behind only going to Dairy Queen after a baseball game wearing your jersey.
Oh the countless times I departed the driveway of 446 Lafayette Ave. on my two-wheel mode of transportation. Sometimes the excursions were for no purpose, sometimes they came with a purpose. The greatest purpose was my good friend Chris and I taking off on our bikes on a Saturday morning and heading for the store that sold baseball cards.
It was a decent distance from our homes and the route was down a steep grade to reach the baseball card-buying mecca. We put our kickstands down, walked in, bought our TOPPS cards and then pedaled across the street to the diner where we bought our usual plate of French fries, found our favorite booth, compared cards and I surrendered my stick of gum to Chris.
Then came the day that my bicycle introduced me to the grown-up world of getting a job. I became a newspaper carrier. Courtesy of my bicycle and the addition of baskets, now I was cruising down Lafayette Avenue with a really, really cool purpose while earning a little income at the same time.
My bicycle even enabled me to dream of new horizons, wonder if the grass was indeed greener on the other side of the fence. That’s because one of my customers was immediately on the other side of a “Welcome to Hawthorne” town sign. Nope, the grass looked just as green in Hawthorne as it did in my town.
My relationship with my bicycle was totally wonderful. Then THAT day arrived.
The grounds of my elementary school was always a fun destination. On weekends, the campus offered an empty parking lot, perfect for bike riding. So on this particular day, I biked around the ramp leading to the empty parking lot that was meant for cars to park by the youth baseball field. Like the other trips, I biked myself silly until I tired of the exercise.
Time to go home. I could almost hear Mom putting out the utensils for me to place on the dinner table. Oh brother, that darn ramp meant I had to build up lots of speed in order to reach the top. With my head down, and my legs pedaling as fast as they could, I reached the ramp.
But on this day, the ramp brought a momentary end to my bike riding. At the very top of it was a heavy-duty, don’t-mess-with-me metal chain to prevent cars from reaching the parking lot on weekends. For whatever reason, on this trip, on this day, I completely forgot about the chain.
Still with my head down in an effort to reach the top of the ramp, it dawned on me that I was no longer going forward. My legs were still wanting to pedal, but I had come to a standstill.
The chain caught me across the neck and gently tossed me off the bicycle.
As I was laying on the ramp, staring up at the sky, I couldn’t understand what just happened. My answer was the chain swinging wildly back and forth, my bike underneath it.
Because there was slack in the chain and I had greatly slowed down likely kept me from a possible serious injury. My first post-accident thought that raced through my head was, Gosh, I hope those two girls about 30 yards away didn’t see that. A thought of embarrassment sure beats a thought of how do I stop the bleeding?
I could recite some unfortunate statistics from the National Safety Council regarding bicycling. For adults and children alike, not all bicycling trips end happily is what those statistics say. I only had a temporary red mark across my neck to remind me of my accident. Others aren’t so fortunate.
During National Bicycle Safety Month, take advantage of the emphasis on bike safety. Especially review it with children in the house. After all, it’s a terrific and enjoyable way to get exercise, no matter the age.