Always wear a helmet

By Gary Ficklin

I have two short accident stories I would like to share.  The purpose of sharing these stories is to encourage other bicycle riders to always wear their helmet!
            The first accident happened while I was riding locally on a residential street.  A friendly dog came out of its yard to greet me and ran past on the right side going in the opposite direction, then made a U-turn behind me and ran up beside me on the left.  About that time, the owner called the dog from a house on the right side of the street.  The dog responded by running directly in front of my bike to return home. 
My front wheel caught the dog directly in the ribcage.  I lost control of my bike, went over the handlebars and hit the pavement.  I got up to find that I had numerous abrasions and a slight headache.  I knew that I had hit my head on the pavement, so when I returned home later I checked my helmet.  I found that it had been cracked.
            The second accident happened on an organized bicycle ride with hundreds of other riders.  A friend and I were riding along on a major highway and pulled up behind a couple of other riders who were going somewhat slower than we were.  We decided to pass, and my friend led the way.  As we passed, I looked over at the other rider to exchange pleasantries.  I didn't notice that my friend had slowed to do the same.   I looked back about the same time my front wheel clipped my friend’s rear wheel.  I lost control again and hit the pavement in the opposite lane just over the crest of a hill. 
This time when I got up, I was a little groggy.  The other riders who stopped to assist noticed the whole side of my helmet was broken and hanging by the strap.  I was fortunate in two respects:  one, that I was wearing a helmet and that it absorbed most of the impact instead of my head, and two, that a car did not pop over the hill while I was lying in the middle of the highway.
I'm not sure if wearing a helmet during either of these accidents was a lifesaver, but I am sure that I would have suffered more serious head injuries if I had not been wearing it! 

Gary Ficklin is an Environmental Scientist II with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment



  1. Anonymous9/25/2014

    I can relate to your dog story. When my boxers were pups, they knew only 2 speeds, walk and run as fast as you can. I got this bright idea one day that I would take them running while I rode my bike. One at a time, of course. While my female, Sofie was running alongside my bike and we were going down a hill, she got a little too close to the bike and that must have spooked her. She then crossed directly in front of me. Needless to say, that caused me to crash. Luckily, neither of us were seriously injured. I, too, was wearing a helmet.

  2. Gary, thanks for taking time to write about your experiences. My friends tease me about going a little overboard about safety...but a recent "oops" on my bike, resulting in nothing more serious than a few nasty bruises, was enough to confirm my choice to ALWAYS wear a helmet!

    Glad you were not more seriously injured - paved roadways are not very forgiving!

  3. Bob Kennedy KDOT9/25/2014

    I too had a bike crash, 3 broken ribs, 2 broken clavicles, and a broken thumb. I was wearing a helment as well. I still have vivid memories of knowing that my head was going to hit the concrete, thinking this is gonna hurt. I was wearing a helment and it took the brunt of the impact. I still have that helmet as a reminder that it saved my life. It is easy to see the cracks in both the plastic and the foam. Always wear your helmet because you never know when you will need it.

  4. Steve Swartz9/25/2014

    I'm always impressed that the simplest precautions - wearing a helmet, using a seatbelt - have such big benefits when one is involved in a crash. And I'm always puzzled that people won't take the simplest steps to avoid catastrophe. Thanks for reminding us, Gary.

  5. I just bought a bike again at 50 something years old. Thank you for the reminder that I need to wear my helmet every time I ride.

  6. My helmet probably saved me on one occasion. I don’t use that helmet anymore but still have it as a reminder. It has a gash on the surface and the lining is cracked in numerous locations from flipping over my handle bars on a steep downgrade while mountain biking. I notice I had an hour differential between the clock and my trip meter after finishing my ride which included a 5 mile trip home on city streets. While I was pretty much out of it due to a concussion, without the helmet it would have been a lot worse. It is a no-brainer to always wear a helmet.