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Brains, Bikes, and Rules of the Road

We are all aware of the benefits of riding a bike as opposed to driving a car everywhere. Biking is much cheaper, better for the environment, and provides great health benefits. Well, it provides great health benefits unless you do something really stupid.

This week, a 30 year old biker in my home town died in an accident with a car. He was going too fast, didn’t yield to traffic where he should have, and t-boned a huge SUV. He didn’t die of a ruptured aorta or complications from a broken femur. He died of massive head injuries, because he wasn’t wearing a helmet. I try really hard not to be preachy, but IF YOU ARE GOING TO RIDE A BIKE, WEAR A HELMET AND KNOW THE TRAFFIC RULES.

I have done my fair share of road biking, and I admit, sometimes it gets a bit hairy if you are surrounded by cars. I can’t imagine riding in a big city without bike lanes, but there are some key points to remember to keep yourself safe while biking.

Helmets People

  • The most important thing you can do as a biker is to wear a helmet. Yes, wearing a helmet does mess up your hair, but between flat hair or a cracked skull, I’m pretty sure which one I’d choose.
  • I love a good bargain, but you probably want to buy a new helmet if you don’t know the accident history of a used one that is for sale. If it has been in an accident, it might not have the structural integrity to withstand an impact.
  • Make sure it fits. You want your helmet to be adjusted and padded to fit your head properly. It does absolutely no good if you do not buckle it or wear it on the side of your head like a beret.

Bikes are Just Like Cars

If you are riding a bike on the road, you are required to follow the traffic laws just like a car.

  • Stop at all stop lights or signs, yield if you do not have the right of way.
  • Use hand signals when turning.
  • Travel in the same direction as a car would, not against traffic.

If you want to use a crosswalk, get off the bike and walk it. Cars are required to stop for pedestrians in crosswalks, not bikers. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve almost hit bikers because they jumped off the sidewalk and zoomed across the crosswalk right in front of me.

Don’t Assume the People in Cars Know the Rules

People driving cars often don’t know the traffic laws, especially about bikes. I’ve seen cars go first at a four way stop when I was obviously there before them. Try to follow the laws yourself, but continuously be on the lookout for cars, and don’t assume they are always going to see you.

If you are riding with others, stay in single file if someone in a car is trying to pass. Nothing infuriates non-bikers like a gaggle of riders who are taking up the whole road. If you don’t want the bike haters to write angry letters to the editor about the hippie bikers who won’t let you pass, then be courteous.

Biking and Money

I know you came here looking for financial wisdom, and besides the fact that biking can be an expensive hobby, how does that have anything to do with money?

Everyone reading this has a brain. Our brains are wonderful because they do all kind of things like tell our lungs to breathe, make our hearts beat, and cause excruciating pain if we need to remove our hand from a hot burner. You always have your mind, regardless of how rich or poor you are. Your brain allows you to determine how to make a budget, decide what to purchase, or plan for retirement. I might not know this if I had a severe head trauma, but as I sit here with a sound mind, it would be really sad to lose the brain that has gotten me this far.

I love biking, and it’s really sad when someone gets hurt or dies from injuries in a bicycle crash that could have been prevented. I also can’t imagine how bad a driver who kills or maims a cyclist must feel. Let’s all share the road, be safe, and wear our helmets. Last time I checked, you can’t buy a new brain.

Do you wear a helmet when you ride a bicycle?

To earn money for your new bike helmet, don’t forget to enter the cash giveaways for $100 or $900!

About Kim Parr

Kim Parr is a private practice optometrist, freelance writer, and personal financial blogger. You can follow her journey to 20/20 financial vision at Eyes on the Dollar.


  1. I absolutely wear a helmet, and actually convinced one of my co-workers to start wearing one as well. We both have advanced degrees that we worked very hard for, why put all of that knowledge (as well as the knowledge of how to feed ourselves) at risk for the sake of fashion?

  2. People definitely should wear helmets when they bike. I also gripe about bikers trying to act like cars but NOT respecting traffic laws! You can’t just go whenever you want regardless of a stop sign/light, yet they seem to go as they please.

  3. We’re not really bike people right now because our kids are so little. However, I hope to be bike people again in the future! I am definitely going to make my kids wear helmets whether they like it or not.

  4. I don’t wear a helmet on a bicycle, and here I may be one of the only bikers who does wear one. Isn’t CO a state where you don’t have to wear a motorcycle helmet legally? Apparently there are more accidents involving reduced vision by helmets than deadly falls. I tried once and hated it, felt really vulnerable going so fast with no helmet.

    • You do not have to wear a helmet in Colorado, and there are lots of motorcycle riders. Most of the time, they don’t crash, but when they do, it’s usually bad.

  5. I haven’t rode a bike in years I used to love it as a kid. My girls are always trying to sneak out a ride their little bikes without helmets. I won’t even let them do it in the grass. I am very big on bike safety.

    • My mom only let me ride my bike in the grass when I was a kid, but one day I snook over to the nursing home parking lot across the street to ride on the blacktop. I did an endo and scraped myself all to pieces. I wasn’t wearing a helmet and was lucky I didn’t crack my skull!

  6. We bike with helmets…seen all of my kids fall off their bikes not to.

  7. We recently bought bikes but did not buy helmets. We need to buy some though!

  8. We’re not huge bikers as the kids are so little, but will likely be as they get a little older. A helmet is a no-brainer in my opinion.

  9. Definitely bike and always have my helmet on. I know its kind of obvious, but people texting and driving (not just teenagers) is such a problem that you become more aware of when biking. I was even hit by a car because they were texting instead of looking both ways before making a turn: http://teachingdowndebt.wordpress.com/2013/05/15/progress-report-fiscal-april-13/

  10. When I was riding my old road bike, I would have never stepped out of the house without one, but when I bought a beach cruiser (and sold all the other bikes) I stopped. Why? Because I followed everyone else (not good) because no one riding a beach cruiser wore one. I admit something in the last couple of months has made me pause every time I walk out with one, because it only take one time to have an accident and get a brain injury. I need to not care what “everyone else is doing” and think of my own health and safety. Thanks for the reminder.

  11. I have been a bike rider for over 20 years. I always wear a helmet and realize how important it is when I was in an accident. I had serious accident when someone opened their car door on the street and I went over the door. I broke my collarbone! I no longer ride on the street.

  12. A friend of mine survived a really terrible bike accident (in a coma for slightly under 2 weeks) because he was wearing his helment. The MD said the only reason he didn’t die (and didn’t have TBI and post-accident brain loss) was because he was wearing a helmet.

  13. Helmets are an absolute must! They are not sexy but neither is brain damage or worse. Given our mild weather, we definitely have a ton of bikers in LA and you have to be on the lookout for them. Some are not very good at the obeying traffic laws and just zip across the street without bothering to stop or look for cars.

    • I don’t know if I would be brave enough to ride in LA traffic, but I guess you get used to it. I might need full on knee and elbow pads.

  14. My husband rides his bike but he is totally Mr. Safety. Always wears a helmet and never wears earbuds or headphones. I can’t believe some bikers do that, it’s so dangerous.

  15. Speaking of bikes, I honestly don’t know what’s going on. It’s like I’ve been cursed or something. Over the past year and a half I have bought 5 bikes. Each of them had a chain problem (the part where you switch gears). Luckily I have warranties on all of these.

  16. I had a friend get hit from behind by a distracted driver and her helmet saved her from massive injuries. I always wear one and I make it cute with a little spandex Thor cap on it, complete with tiny wings.

  17. I don’t own a car so I ride a bike exclusively. And I always wear a helmet.

    Last year, I skidded on the ice on the edge of a pot hole and went down with no cars anywhere in sight. I hit my head hard and cracked my helmet in half. Was very glad to crack the helmet and not my head.

    Now if only I could convince my 70+ year old parents to wear one when they ride. I keep telling them I don’t want be feeding soup to my previously vibrant healthy parents after their head injury but they have yet to listen to me.

    • Wow, I’m so glad you were wearing a helmet! I think it’s sometimes harder to convince the older generation about safety features because they didn’t have them growing up. My Dad only wears his seat belt if he’s in a car that keeps beeping at him. In his old truck, he never puts it on.

  18. I always wear a helmet! I have a road bike so I’m either A: going 15-20 mph or B: riding on a ROAD…or both! When we lived in Ohio it was required that cyclists wear helmets, no so here in Nebraska but you’ll still find me with helmet ALWAYS ON! 🙂 15mph doesn’t sound all that fast but I don’t fancy meeting the pavement with my head at that speed!

  19. Yep, The human body can absorb tremendous trauma and doctors can usually put you back together again. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for head trauma. I never used to wear a helmet when I was child (nobody I knew did either) but if my children ever get to the point where they can ride bikes, they will certainly be wearing a helmet. It goes far beyond just being a good bike rider. You can’t account for what a distracted driver of a vehicle might do in any given situation and you should have the protection to help you live through it.

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