Finally winter is over. I feel just like a school kid! All giddy with grandiose dreams of running, climbing and riding my bicycle. But unlike a kid, I’m also concerned about safety, because pain doesn’t discriminate and bad things do happen.
Growing up, I shared one bicycle with my four cousins. It was a used Schwinn bicycle that my Uncle found in the trash. It was a green bike with a seat, a handlebar, two wheels and no brakes. We fondly named it “The Suicide bike” and took turns trying to ride it.
The axles were so rusty that the wheels wouldn’t spin freely. We didn’t have oil, so we spit on them for lubrication. In order to ride the bike, you had to step down full force, with all of your weight on the pedal, from side to side. But even then the bicycle barely moved forward. I was the smallest and too light to make it move; until the day we discovered gravity! The bicycle worked fine going downhill.
So, we took turns pushing it to the top of Dove Street, no easy feat. But once there, you’d climb aboard her and call out to make sure no traffic was coming. Dove Street ran perpendicular to Dacia Street and one kid had gotten hit by a car, so we wanted to be safe. Once the “Ok to go!” was sounded, you’d shove off!
Seated atop the green beast, legs stuck out to the sides as the wind rushed past, it didn’t matter that the bicycle didn’t have brakes. It felt good to be able to fly down the street! No helmet. No gloves. No shin guards. No mouth piece. No knee pads; just the bicycle, your flesh, your bones and the asphalt.
At the bottom of the street the kids stood cheering you on and reminding you to turn the handlebars, otherwise you’d crash into the house that lay at the bottom, opposite the street. There was another reason you needed to turn the steering wheel, the no brake feature. So all of us would yell out, “Turn the wheel!” It was the only way to slow the green beast down, to break the momentum, that or to fall. And this was the thrill of the ride. We stood in line as if we were at an amusement park waiting to climb into a roller coaster car. Excited to get a turn to fly down the hill and not fall.
But of course, every one of us got hurt. There were scrapes, cuts, broken bones and hurt feelings; but no one died. And there were no head injuries; apparently being a little daft was our collective pre-disposed condition, as we all took a chance on the bike.
Thankfully, times have changed. People have a little more commonsense, that is generally they’re not giving kids bikes that don’t have brakes and letting her/him ride it downhill into traffic.
There’s improved helmets to protect heads and technology like ICEdot, a gadget that alerts someone when you’re hurt and can help medics locate you, as quickly as possible.
Winter is over. Get out. Play and be safe!