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VCB eNews, Volume 12, #20 Just In Case, Wear A Braincase

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Volume 12, #20: Just in Case, Wear a Braincase
Shelley Porter, Editor
Editorial: Just in Case, Wear a Braincase
Rides Captain’s Report: Intro, Part 9
Grand Lake Road Multi-Use Trail Update
Notices of Rides and Events
Loose Chain Links
Bike Buy and Sell
About That Funny


“I didn’t start wearing a helmet regularly UNTIL AFTER I WOKE UP FROM THE COMA.”
  • Rick, bicycle crash survivor

I fell this morning. I was walking down an ice-covered hill, a hill that’s been ice-covered to one degree or another for about a month, a hill where I think just about every morning “If I am going to get injured, it’s going to happen here”. I was walking because it was too slippery to cycle safely. I was walking fairly slowly, carefully, in good boots – and my feet went right out from under me. I hit the ground so fast I didn’t even know what was happening until the back of my head was bouncing off the frozen substrate and the pain bloomed in my head, radiating down my spine into my chest. Then I was looking up at the lovely blue sky and saying. “Oh, my god”
 This was a classic fall, the kind of fall on ice where you hear the person died, or at least suffered a concussion. I remained still for several seconds assessing how I felt, and when it appeared all my faculties were still intact I rolled up onto my side. I took a few more moments to make sure everything was working. My head still hurt when I got back on my bicycle, but the pain subsided as I continued on my route. By the time I got home, I had only some stiffness in my upper back and neck. My head was fine.
When I removed my cycling gear, it was very apparent why my head was fine: my helmet wasn’t. A wedge of plastic was missing from the back section and the plastic shell was dislodged – the part that had hit the ice instead of my head. The helmet had hit first, absorbing and distributing the shock that would otherwise had gone into my cranium.
There is a fair amount of controversy about helmets and helmet laws. Some claim helmet laws deter cycling and reduce use of bikeshare programs. Some ER doctors say you should always wear a bike helmet, that they will save you from serious head trauma. Other ER doctors say don’t waste your money, the data don’t support that claim.
I’ve worn a bike helmet ever since the law came into effect in Nova Scotia. I’ve never been under any illusions that a helmet is going to do me much good in a collision with a motor vehicle. There are a lot of personal bits south of my cranium that could suffer a lethal injury that a helmet won’t protect, and the forces involved when you are hit by a vehicle probably won’t be absorbed by your average helmet. However, looking at my personal data, I know I fall off my bicycle, in a “single vehicle accident” style, several times a year. I usually hit the substrate with anything but my head, and have the scarred knees, elbows, and hands to prove it. Still, just in case, I wear a helmet when riding my bicycle to protect my head if I happen to hit the substrate head-first when I fall off.
A helmet won’t save you from every accident, and I certainly am not about to start wearing one every time I venture outside in winter – after all, I was walking, not cycling, when I fell. But a helmet can save you from nasty injuries in a lot of bicycle accidents that you are likely to have, and I am really, really glad I happened to be wearing mine today. This incident proved to me that a helmet will do its job of preventing serious injury in the type of fall I am most likely to experience:  just me against gravity and a hard surface.  My helmet now has flattened polystyrene foam, and a smashed, displaced plastic shell. It will have to be replaced. My head, however, is still in good working order. I used it to get on the internet and order a new helmet.
The Editor’s helmet, with smashed plastic outer shell.  Always replace a helmet if you have suffered a fall wearing it. (S.Porter, photo)
Before the fall, the black polystyrene and blue plastic cover were flush. The impact flattened the polystyrene and broke the plastic. (S.Porter, photo)
 Winter seems determined to hang on with more snow for Sunday (15th), so now is a good time to tell everyone about a trip I did last summer. I flew out to Vancouver to see the Gipsy Kings, a great group to see and hear. The weather was beautiful and one of the things I did while there was to go on a bike tour of Stanley Park. We covered about 12 miles in 5 hours - a very slow pace indeed. But we truly got to stop and smell the roses. This is one of the really great things about cycling. It is very easy to stop and pull over when you see something interesting, something not generally possible when riding in a car. On this ride we had a tour leader who explained some of the history and highlights of the park and the city itself. Friends and I also did a bike tour while in New Orleans a year back, again with an organized tour. New Orleans is a fascinating city with a rich history, as different from Vancouver as apples and oranges .These types of guided tours allow you to see a great deal of the place you are traveling to in a relaxed manner. With a good map there is nothing to stop you from renting a bike and riding around and exploring by yourself. That is what I hope all our Velo members will attempt at some time, when next they are visiting a new or familiar spot. Relax, enjoy the day, stop and smell the roses. Pretty soon, although it doesn't seem like it now, our own roses will be in bloom.  Good riding everyone.
Grand Lake Road Multi-use Path Update, 2015-03-17

As we all moan and bemoan the length and harshness of this winter, it's time to check out what new cycling infrastructure is coming our way in CBRM:
The Grand Lake Multi-use path is a 3 metre- wide, paved, off-road, 10 km path that will run parallel to Grand Lake Road, the major and most direct connection between Sydney and Glace Bay. It was identified as a signature project in the CBRM Active Transportation Plan, completed in 2008. Detailed design for the path started in 2011and construction began last year. The project is funded by three partners.  The implementation of the active transportation plan as proposed by the municipality would see the municipality funding 1/3 of a million dollars yearly and then securing matching funding from the provincial and federal governments.  Last year the municipality committed to three year funding for this project and identified it as the priority active transportation project.  Funding from the provincial and federal governments has been on a year-by-year basis. 
What 's been done and what will get done this year (if funds are found): 
To date 2.3 km of the 10 have been finished.  Work began in Reserve Mines and a 1.7 km stretch to the airport was constructed.  The landscaping along the path will be completed this spring. This work also included the installation of a new crosswalk that connects the path to the sidewalk on the opposite side of the street and allows the cyclists to move on to the path from the 1.5 m wide paved shoulders that already exist in Reserve Mines.  The crosswalk includes an RA-5 flashing light to control traffic and the speed limit was lowered to 50 km/h near the new crosswalk. On the Sydney end of the path 0.6 km was built starting at the Grand Lake Road Fire Station.  This summer, if matching funds are found, the path will continue from the airport to Forest Haven Memorial Gardens, a distance of 1.5 kilometers.  On the Sydney end, the section from the Mayflower Mall parking lot curving behind the fire hall and the Tasty Treat and meeting the new path (0.3km) will be done.

How do you get on and off this path and what does it connect:  The path connects a major commercial area, home to the Mayflower Mall, Home Depot, Canadian Tire and Walmart, to Glace Bay via the University and Community College.  From a commuting perspective it connects major destinations to major population concentrations.  To access the path from Sydney you can use the paved shoulders (1.5m) on Spar Road if you are leaving from the North End or Whitney Pier. From Ashby and the South End you would get to it via Upper Prince Street - a low volume, largely residential street - and the proposed Highway 125 pedestrian and cyclist overpass. In Reserve Mines the path ends in a 50 km zone with 1.5 m paved shoulders and continues into Glace Bay with shoulders of 1 m.  In addition, cyclists coming from New Waterford have paved shoulders of approximately 80 cm and can access the path via a signalized intersection at Gardiner Road.

Finally, who's going to use it:  During the design phase, cyclists were identified as the principal users.  Largely because it is a fairly flat and easy ride but also the distances between major points are short.  For example the distance from university to the Mayflower mall is 5kms, from Reserve Mines to the university or community college is also just 5 kms.  Over 20 thousand households in Sydney live within 5 kms of the Mayflower Mall.  These sorts of distances on superior pathways make commuting by bike an easy choice.  The path also has recreational potential: it's the perfect distance for novice or younger riders and the proposed rest stops along the way make the ride a more pleasant experience. The rest stop by the university, for example, will overlook a tree-lined brook and will include a seating area well away from the road.  The section from Reserve Mines is already popular with walkers, who use it and the old airport road as a walking loop.

So, the weather may be bleak right now (and that's being very polite) but surely we'll all be out on our bikes next month!

The Endless Bicycle Helmet Debate:
The bicycle in winter:
Self-guided, curated city tours:
Why wear a helmet (if you really want to freak yourself out, read some of the accident accounts on this site and watch the videos):
American survey of people who’d like to bike, but have misgivings:
Converting space for parked cars into space for moving bicycles:
US Bike Summit:
“Do they have bike lanes here?”

Nothing new this week.

This is too good not to share with all the winter-weary Atlantic Canadians:
Velo Cape Breton is the island-wide voice of cyclists, working for better cycling in our great island. Visit our website that will introduce you to some of our activities.   If you have any question(s) or suggestion(s), please contact us
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