Paris, sept 4th 2013
In the Bois de Boulogne, on the west side of Paris, cyclists of all levels train day and night around a 2, 5 miles track, called Longchamps. No need to go to the Frankfurt Cycling show, the most famous in Europe, to see the last bikes, last derailleur, last wheels: they are all at Longchamps. Not only that: celebrities train at Longchamps, at least those who ride a bike. Among them Gerard Holtz, a french sportscaster very well known to the French , who has been commenting since 30 years on the public channel Antenne 2 most sports events, including the Tour de France.I know Gerard, who is the nicest guy in the world, because I bought his second hand motorbike 12 years ago, but I had not seen him since then. I met him again in painful circumstances today: he was training at Longchamps with his son and riding at around 25 mph, when father and son touched each others wheels. Gerard fell heavily on the road, and another cyclist behind him fell on him. The kind of collective incident we often see on the Tour. We stopped, called 911, warmed him, reassured him. He was taken to the hospital but released after a few hours, with no member broken. Happy end.
After the spill I immediately scrutinized his helmet to see if his head had been hurt. The helmet was badly damaged, dented and scratched. Which proves that if he had not worn it, his skull could have been fractured.
Now , is wearing a helmet still an issue? Yes and no.Road bikers do wear a helmet. But city bikers rarely do. Not elegant, they say, too uncomfortable, too big to carry around.. However it is in cities, or at least cities like Paris where cyclists share the streets with cars, buses and trucks, that riding is the most dangerous. But regulators know that if they make it compulsory to wear a helmet, many occasional riders will drop out.
What is the solution? Bike lanes in cities, separating clearly bikes from cars, and thus reducing significantly the risk of spills and head concussions. They do it in the US, as seen everywhere last summer. American cities are now a safe heaven for bikers. Why not Paris and the rest of France? After all we have been able to build roundabouts all over the country in less than ten years. Why would not we manage to build bike lanes?
Vive le vélo!