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July 15, 2019 / bikesbytesbites

Cape May – Part 2

Wednesday, July 3 2019

This morning started with a run along Beach Ave. Yesterday at the Lighthouse Museum Store, I bought the booklet “Cape May Bike Tour”, published by the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts & Humanities. It highlighted many historical buildings. So the plan was to visit those, booklet in hand, the rest of the week.

IMG_0434Stopping at the houses featured in “Cape May Bike Tour” is not a very good training run, but an excellent chance to see the neighborhood and to realize how little I  know about 19th and early 20th century architecture — Cape May had its first tourist boom in the 1830s (!!) and the oldest buildings, those that weren’t destroyed in a later fire, date to then. It was popular until the end of the century, hence the Victorian architecture, when Atlantic City started to overtake it in popularity.

Today was the day for a “long” bicycle ride.  But that happened AFTER a visit to Swain’s Hardware Store (established 1896) and the clothing consignment store. The goal was to explore West and North Cape May and visit the Aviation Museum and Cold Spring Village. The goal was a bit unrealistic, given my late starting time and the fact that I wanted to get to the beach this afternoon.

West and North Cape May are a fascinating mix of nature preserves, farms, and suburbs that look like they date to the 1950’s –  1960’s (split levels and ranch houses that reminded me of a development near my house in central NJ dating from that time period.) This neighborhood provided a good alternative to continuing on a county route.  Another highlight – two men restoring an old church which was moved to a spot just north of the Cape May Canal .


The highlight was the Naval Air Station (Wildwood) Aviation Museum, built in Hangar 1 of what started life as Naval Air Station Wildwood, where aviators were trained from 1943 through 1945 for air combat and landing on air craft carriers. 


After the war, the building housed various other ventures, including South Jersey Airlines (!!), until it fell into disrepair, from which it was rescued starting in the 70s. This was the closest I had ever gotten to airplanes — the teensy (relatively speaking) ones from WWI through a MiG!  Worth a visit and the price of admission.

IMG_0451A return trip is needed to spend more time in the Aviation Museum and to visit the Forgotten Warriors Vietnam War Museum across the street.

On the way home I discovered the Cold Spring Bikepath, which parallels Route 9.

IMG_0459As per its name, it goes right by Cold Spring Village, a collection of  historic buildings moved to the spot fairly recently — kind of like Wiliamsburg. I looked around, and that was enough. However, I did miss the Brick Church, twin to the church I saw being restored/converted into a residence earlier today.

There are only 3 miles of bikepath and then you have to finagle your way through a traffic-ey intersection to get back to Cape May. However, the bikepath will (sometime soon?) be part of the Cape May County Bikeway, which will extend through the county.

Tonight was our celebration night, to eat dinner out. There are lots of places to choose from — we chose the early bird prix fixe dinner at the Merion Inn, which was excellent. 

Thursday, July 4 2019 – Cape May to Rio Grande

The ride I set out to do today was to Starbucks, in Rio Grande. That would allow me to get a little farther north in Cape May county and to return to the city via the ocean route through the Wildwoods. I consulted “The Cape May Shoreline Route”, which I picked up from the Village Bikes, the bike store/rental near the bus terminal/old railway station.

The route out of town duplicated routes I’d previously ridden — there are only three ways to get across the Cape May Canal and I was saving one of them for the return trip. I got to new roads once I passed Cold Spring Village and also found a new bike bike path — the Middle Borough Bike Path, which goes north from the Cold Spring Bike Path.  Some of the agriculture I passed included vineyards — the oldest vineyard in NJ is near here somewhere.


The bikeway ends a little before Rio Grande so, once again, I zigged through a 60s-70s neighborhood to get most of the way to Starbucks, where I drank an iced Americano and bought some decaff instant Italian roast to replenish my stock. 

The way east, to the ocean, was on state route 47, a major road but with a nice shoulder marked as a bike path.  This being the July 4th weekend, I was moving faster than the car traffic, until we got over the bridge over the Intracoastal and into Wildwood.  The part of Cape May just south of Wildwood is industrial and commercial.  Good to see that Bumble Bee Foods still has a manufacturing plant (and fishery?) here.


There’s a toll bridge to get back to the mainland, but bikes aren’t charged. I headed to the honey store, to buy some Pine Barrens honey, then to the cheese store, where I picked up a local newspaper that is very New Jersey.


Then to the beach, for the first time today.  We returned to the beach later that night to watch the fireworks — fired from a barge in the ocean just offshore from the Convention Center.  Happy Independence Day!

Friday, July 5 2019  – Ferry, then to Annapolis and Home

Not much to report.  We said goodbye to each other and to Holiday House.

There is free long-term parking for cars at the ferry terminals. Next trip, I might just leave the car in the lot at Lewes and bicycle from the terminal in Cape May to my destination — I didn’t drive the car once I got to Cape May anyhow.

July 4th weekend traffic slowed down progress, but I made it to Annapolis and then home safe. 




October 24, 2018 / bikesbytesbites

My 50-mile shopping trip, er, bike ride

This past weekend (Oct 20-22) I took part in the Bicycle Club of Philadelphia‘s (BCP) fall weekend, based in Hanover PA. It’s actually billed as the Hanover-Gettysburg weekend since, I guess, Gettysburg is a bigger draw than Hanover; plus, many of the rides go to Gettysburg, some exploring the battlefield.

Gettysburg was not that compelling for me.  It’s relatively easy to get to from Washington DC, and I’ve ridden there many times. So  I decided to head in the other direction, east to Loganville. Conveniently, a ride was scheduled to leave for Loganville at 9 AM on Saturday.  I had gotten up early and was ready to ride by 8 AM. Therefore, I decided to start with a small detour, heading into downtown Hanover, to explore. I had even planned where my route could intersect the ride route and hopefully join up with the group.

Early in the ride, I passed the R H Sheppard Diesel Museum (!!) which wasn’t open. It turns out it is only open by appointment, but it was an intriguing store front.


My first real stop was the Hanover Market. It’s a farmers-market-plus, with nice produce, other food items (the best selection of rooibos teas I’ve ever seen) and some handcrafts. Purchases: one of those rooiboos teas, some Halloween candy for the group, and some non-pasteurized wildflower honey.  Who knew that most honey was pasteurized? And I was glad I decided to equip my bike with panniers to carry stuff.


I left the market in time so that, if I hurried, I could make it to the corner where my route would intersect the ride route, just a little bit behind the ride. Alas, another distraction: just before that corner was a factory outlet for Snyder’s of Hanover Pretzels. That’s a slight simplification: the factory outlet was for  Snyder’s Lance, a large conglomerate that owns Snyder’s Pretzels as well as lots of other cookies and snacks.  That explains why the building across the street said it was the Snyder’s Lance Research Facility.


The walls are hung with the trademarks and packaging of sample products. When I questioned one of the sales clerks, “Really? Does Snyder’s of Hanover own Pepperidge Farm?”, I was corrected: Campell’s owns Pepperidge Farm; but it also owns Snyder’s of Hanover.

20181020_3_SnydersI sampled some pretzels-with-peanut-butter and bought some candies.  I had to resist buying a large package of pretzels to give out for trick-or-treat: although I could have carried it on today’s ride, I was also riding partway home from Hanover, with my panniers packed with the weekend’s clothes and sundries, so there would have been no room for the pretzels. Rats.

After that little shopping excursion, there was no way I was going to catch the group ride, so I tootled along enjoying the scenery. The route didn’t actually go on the Heritage Rail Trail, but it paralleled it for a bit.  I happened to glance at the trail as I was passing Hanover Junction, and just had to take a picture of one of the sculptures (?), with my bike added for scale.


I actually did see a group of cyclists as I was approaching the rest stop; it turns out it was a group of BCP riders that had left half-an-hour after the group I had wanted to join, and was going at a more relaxed pace. Anyhow, I ended up not having lunch at Brown’s Farm Market (too busy), but enjoying the free snacks (apple cider, various samples) and making another purchase: honey crisp apple sauce.


I don’t know if I can count the next stop as part of my “shopping expedition” since the only thing purchased at Rutter’s was for immediate consumption: a sports drink.  I keep thinking that Rutter’s must somehow be related to Sheetz, since their color schemes are similar, but no; in fact, they are competitors.

The ride back to Hanover was west-by-southwest, which seemed to be exactly the direction the headwind was coming from. So, it was nice to stop at Sonnewald Natural Foods.  Even nicer, they were selling a brand of protein powder I had been wanting to try — Whole Foods stocks it, but only in one flavor in a giant-size package. Sonnewald had multiple flavors in single-serve packs. Into the shopping basket and into the panniers.


It was good to get back to the hotel, away from the wind. A very enjoyable ride, even using a detailed cue sheet and not 21st century technology. Thanks, BCP, for organizing this weekend.

June 4, 2018 / bikesbytesbites

Yesterday’s Adventure/Misadventure


Interesting day Sunday. I was attending a triathlon in Rock Hall MD.  (Not participating because of lack of training due to injuries, but my share in the AirBnB house had already been paid for.) Anyhow, I cheered on my teammates at the start and left for home around 10 AM.

Really bad news: When I got home and unpacked, I realized I had left my pocketbook at the house. I called my housemate, but she didn’t answer. I thought that maybe she had already left for home, since it was a sprint triathlon and the weather was so lousy.  So I started to drive back to the Eastern Shore. (My wallet and driver’s license were in my waist pack, which I was wearing.)

Mini bad news: The entry to the highway was blocked by an accident. I waited five minutes for it to be cleared and then got going.

Great news: About forty minutes later, my housemate called. She was at the house and found my pocketbook. We arranged for me to pick it up at her place when she got back to town.

Good news: Because of the delay caused by the accident, I was five minutes closer to home when I turned around. On the trip back, I stopped at the Wegman’s in Lanham MD, just 2 miles off route 50. So, I got in a trip to my favorite grocery store, which I had skipped on my first drive since it was raining so hard. And because routes 295 and 695 into DC were showing B-A-D traffic, and I was already off US-50, I explored a new, alternate route to get back into town, which worked out very well.

All told, I could have lived without this adventure/misadventure.

November 24, 2019 / bikesbytesbites


The local Cranksgiving Ride was held the Saturday before Thanksgiving. ArlNow has a pretty good write-up of the event. Except you collect more than clothing — also toiletries and cleaning supplies — but mostly clothing.

I had great fun during the ride — navigating between the six locations and visiting them. Some were old haunts — I had just been to Phoenix Bikes the night before, to participate in their Friendsgiving potluck; I was thrilled to go to Casual Adventure, where I’ve been a customer for years; and I’m at the the Crystal City Water Park quite often.  It was  the first time I had been in the Target in Potomac Yards, and to Hops ‘n Shine, although I’ve ridden by there a gazillion times on my way to Delray. (Gotta get back there and actually buy something to eat and/or drink when there’s more time and when the weather is nicer — there’s a great outdoor patio.)

Cranksgiving 2019

My team (“the Schleppers” — thanks, Ken Notis, for the name) carried our acquisitions from the shopping list —  clothing and toiletries from the shopping list, both donations and items we bought —  back to Ireland’s Four Courts on our bikes. Once there, the organizers toted up our score while we enjoyed the company and the food and drink.

The only disturbing part of the ride was that it reminded me of all the places around Arlington where I had been involved in bicycle crashes.  I’m going to plan a (somewhat macabre) bike ride that visits these sites, explaining why and how I had the crash. The good news is that two of the roadways/intersections are being or have been redesigned (!!) to make them more pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly and eliminate factors contributing to car crashes. I’m glad that my being a statistic has had a beneficial effect.

November 15, 2019 / bikesbytesbites

RIP Toyota Tercel 1981-2011

I was driving to my sister’s in Annapolis for Christmas Eve 2011 dinner, bringing a bunch of presents.  When I was about 1/4 mile from her house, the car started to shake uncontrollably.  I slowed down to under 15 mph, and the shaking stopped.  Over 15 mph, shake, rattle, and roll.

I parked the car on the street. Out of the question to try to get it fixed then, even if something were open, with dinner waiting. Also out of the question to try to get it fixed on Christmas Day.  So, my brother-in-law drove me to the New Carrolton metro. I schlepped back to Annapolis in the middle of the week (via folding bicycle and Dillon commuter bus). The car started, and drove just fine as long as I stayed under 15 mph.  With my brother-in-law behind me with his blinkers flashing, we made it the two miles to the service station. A few hours later I had the diagnosis: broken (rusted through) rear left control arm.  Unfortunately, the service station didn’t have a fix, since the part was unobtainable through normal channels. (Last time I had to replace a part on that 1981 Tercel, in 2009, it needed to be fabricated.  The time before that, 10 years previously, it came from a salvage yard.)  The guy at the service station urged me to try the find the control arm on the Internet.

However … I figured that this was a clear sign that I should replace the car.  My sister was thrilled. She hadn’t let me drive her kids around in it for years, since it had no air bags and no rear-seat seat belts.  Also, I was getting kind of tired of having a top speed of 75 miles per hour — on a downhill, with a tail wind.  And not having air conditioning.

Post-script: I now have a Honda Fit. (An comparative study on the internet showed that the Fit fit my criteria slightly better than a Toyota Matrix or a Hyundai something-or-other.) Just the right size for me and my bicycle. Air conditioning. Rear-view camera. A place to plug in the phone.  Automatic (not manual) transmission, which I sometimes regret, but not usually. Not all the current fancy doodads, but at least: Welcome to the 21st century.

Oh, the Tercel had approximately 57,000 miles on it.

November 15, 2019 / bikesbytesbites

Bike Maine 2018-née-2016 – Days 5 and 6

Day 5 (Sept 12) – Lubec to Milbridge (74 miles)

This was our longest mileage day. We were on the bikes from 8:40 to 5:15. Our moving average speed was over 11 mph but as usual there were lots of stops.

With the exception of one out-and-back segment to the Quoddy Point Lighthouse, the route was as direct as it could be while minimizing the time spent on US-1. At first I was reluctant to ride the additional 4 miles but what the hell. I’m very glad I did, not only because I got to see the lighthouse, but also because of unscheduled stop/attraction/- USCG Station decommissioned in 1970 now run as an inn by Bill, a justice of the peace.


This was another day when stores or even towns were few and far between.  We headed along the coast passing not much until the harbor at Cutler and a rest stop at the library. We were carrying food for the day so ate some and filled up on water.  We thought we had found a place to buy some snacks when we passed by Looks Gourmet Food Company, which advertised a retail store. Alas, no. It turns out that the building is a cannery, where they package Bar Harbor foods, and sell the packaged goods.  An interesting visit, but no snacks.  But it was good to see some commercial activity and source of employment that wasn’t based on tourism.

Looks Gourmet Food Company

Looks Gourmet Food Company

We then headed inland. The scenery changed from harbors and boats to farms — acres of blueberry fields! Maine wild blueberries, inspiration for Maine blueberry pie, probably on just as many menus as Maine lobster.

Wild Maine Blueberries

Blueberry field at the Pasmaquoddy Wild Blueberry Co

I didn’t need iNaturalist to identify those plants as blueberries. However, the app did come in handy in appreciating the Incredible Edible program in Milbridge.  An “Incredible Edible” sign indicates a free pick-your-own fruit or vegetable. There were many of these, right in the town; unfortunately, it’s past the season for most of the edibles, including the strawberry plants that iNaturalist told me about.


The Red Barn Motel in Milbridge is just off the corner of route US-1 and scenic route 1A — the center of town. It was a short walk from there to the restaurant in town that was open for dinner — another excellent Maine meal.

Day 6 (Sept 13) – Milbridge to Winter Harbor (33 miles)

This was our shortest mileage day, since we intended to start the drive home in the middle of the day.

We left Milbridge around 7 am, planning to have breakfast at the North Street Cafe in Cherryfield.  The first 6 miles of the route were wonderful,  along the Narraguagus (pronounced gway) River. In the nineteenth century there were dams on the river powering several mills. The mills must have fostered the growth of Cherryfield, which had gorgeous Victorian houses and estates. Cherryfield farms, some of whose blueberry fields we rode past yesterday, is the largest food Corp in Maine. The only disappointment was that the North Street Cafe wasn’t open for breakfast.

We continued through Steuben on parts of US Bicycle Route 1 which unfortunately includes stretches on US-1.

Lunch at J.M. Gerrish — This was our last meal in Maine so I had the DownEast Lunch – clam chowder, mini lobster roll, and blueberry pie. Worth every calorie.

November 4, 2019 / bikesbytesbites

Philadelphia Bike Expo 2019

I helped the Bicycle Club of Philadelphia set up their booth on Friday afternoon.  They have some great bike-related accessories — LED-powered ankle straps; USB rechargers; lights — in addition to T-shirts and jerseys emblazoned with the club logo and events.  Their events are also worthwhile — I just did the Hanover/Gettysburg Fall Weekend. I’ve been missing other events because of conflicts, but they’re worth checking out.

There are too many booths and seminars to adequately summarize: you’ve got to go. Some people drive or take the train up from DC/MD/VA for one day; I usually make it a weekend.

My more technical friends were very taken with the presentations on frame building (Richard Schwinn) and the custom frames on display. (Ok, I attended the presentation on “Are woman-specific bicycles really necessary?”, organized by Georgena Terry. )

My retro friends loved some of the vintage bikes and accessories.  And also the custom frames.  (Another admission: I bought an Avocet Women’s Racing II saddle from Via Bicycles. Avocet was the first company to make woman-specific saddles, and I LOVE this saddle; I added this one to the stash.)


  • The ride on Saturday morning through the streets of Philadelphia, with the turn-around point at the top of the Ben Franklin Bridge in the middle of the Delaware River. I rode on streets of Philadelphia I’d never seen before.


  • The Georgena Terry presentation and talking with Georgena and another of the presenters, Anne Barnes.   And later talking with the person at the BikeCAD booth, who said that Georgena Terry was one of his users.
  • Buying some (more) stuff from Vespertine NYC — a reflective vest  and reflective shoe laces. The new vest, lighter than the one I current have, is in the lower left of the photo. I also adored the scarves, but they were a bit too much of a splurge.


  • Cleverhood – Great stuff, but I’m fully equipped with rain capes.  They are having trouble getting their stuff made in the US, because the ancient sewing machine of their seamstress keeps breaking down.
  • Lots of folding bikes and electric bikes. Some of these Terns are both.


  • The presentation by Mike McGettigan of Trophy Bikes on “Earth vs the Bike Thieves”. I thought I knew everything about bike locks and preventing bike theft. I was wrong. And I won a Kryptonite lock!
  • Talking with John Schubert of Cycling Savvy (Thanks, Larry Black for the recommendation). I’m now investigating becoming a Cycling Savvy instructor.



October 31, 2019 / bikesbytesbites

Hanover Cycling Weekend with BCP

I’ve been going to the Philadelphia Bicycle Club‘s Fall Foliage Weekend in Hanover/Gettysburg PA for several years. It happened this year on October 22-24. I have mixed thoughts about this weekend.


  • It’s very well organized.
  • I get to see old friends and meet new people.
  • There are excellent snacks, munchies, and road food.
  • The rides cover new ground for me  — especially if I head north and east, farther from my home base of DC-MD-VA .


  • It has become VERY big – this year, over 250 people, filling up two+ hotels (Hampton Inn and Holiday Inn) on the north end of Hanover.
  • The cue sheets are from the last century, and I missed the email that included references to the electronic routes. ARGH.
  • I’ve always wanted to ride into York, which I remember fondly from previous bike trips, but there’s no route that goes there.  I fixed that this year.

I devised a new route, from the hotel in Hanover to the Central Market in downtown York.   This route had some pluses and minuses: The roads either seem to be very hilly or too busy. So I compromised — a scenic, longer route to get to York and a more direct route back to Hanover. Perfect — the hills and most scenic views were at the beginning of the ride  …


… and the scenery was more eye-catching because it was the weekend before Halloween.


The last four miles of the outbound leg were on the York County Heritage Rail Trail. It’s packed limestone, easy to ride on a road bike. It continues, traffic-free, right into the historic center of York.


The York Central Market is a perfect place to “rest”: A classic building in the historic center of York, with adequate bike parking and a wonderful assortment of food vendors. I had pierogis for lunch (excellent). I wish I had had a bike with panniers with me — I would have stocked up on exotic, local foodstuffs.  (There’s an especially large assortment of raw honeys and local maple syrup.) Oh well, next year…


I was impressed with downtown York.  The murals — though looking their age — are still impressive. There is a bikeshare progam. Municipal buses from Rabbit Transit (great name!) were running. There’s even a bus that runs between Hanover and York; I thought it might be good for a bailout measure, but it only runs on weekdays.


The ride back to Hanover was an exploration of more neighborhoods near the historical center, followed by some industry (a quarry!), then farms (I was especially taken by this guard donkey and his goat) interspersed with small towns.  And I got back to the hotel before the rains came.


October 15, 2019 / bikesbytesbites

Film Noir DC – Weekend #1 (Oct 10-12)

The AFI theater in Silver Spring hosts a film noir festival every year. It’s going on now. I bought a series ticket; it shouldn’t be a problem to see 15 films to make the purchase worthwhile.


This past weekend, I would have paid for nine (9) (okay, eight, since one was free) :

10/11/2019 3:00 PM The Turning Point 1952
10/11/2019 5:15 PM Pickup on South Street 1953
10/11/2019 7:30 PM Laura 1944
10/12/2019 1:00 PM Tomorrow is another Day 1951
10/12/2019 3:10 PM Angel Face 1953
10/12/2019 5:20 PM Phantom Lady 1944
10/13/2019 3:30 PM Trapped 1949
10/13/2019 5:30 PM Pushover 1954

Friday: Two New Ones (to me), Two Classics

The Woman in the Window is one of the initial films of film noir and an absolute must-see. Directed by Fritz Lang, starring Edward G. Robinson and Joan Bennett. And a twist ending.  (Don’t read reviews before you see it; many of them give it away.) Great plot, great acting, great everything … Would see this one again in a heartbeat.

The Turning Point has more than historical interest,  and is a good film and noir. You can’t watch this film (or the Woman in the Window, either) without thinking, “Boy, has police and judicial procedure changed.” But good early William Holden and Edmond O’Brien, and a great woman’s role filled by Alexis Smith.

I’m a big fan of Samuel Fuller, so Pickup on South Street was a must-see.  I’d seen the film years ago and would see it again. The “good guys” (Richard Widmark, Jean Peters, and a fantastic Thelma Ritter) are grifters, and the commies are the bad guys. Great introduction by Foster Hirsch, the guest speaker for the weekend.


I wasn’t going to see Laura, but was just going to listen to Foster Hirsch’s introduction and sneak out.  Well, that didn’t work out, and I stayed to see the film.   (When I got home from the AFI on Saturday, Laura happened to be playing on TV (TCM), and I watched the last hour again!)

Saturday: Two New Ones (to me), One Worth Reseeing

Who the h*ll is Steve Cochran? An actor who made a name for himself if films noirs such as as Tomorrow is Another Day before his untimely death in the 60s. Not a bad film — about an ex-con and a B-girl on the run — with a happy ending!

My original plan had been to listen to Foster Hirsch’s introduction to Angel Face then sneak out and go for a bike ride (too gorgeous a day to spend it inside, in the dark). But that plan met the same fate as the plan for Laura — I stayed to see the movie. Glad that I did. Fantastic Robert Mitchum, good Jean Simmons, a P*O*W of an ending.  See this one!

Phantom Lady is mostly historical interest. You should be able to guess the killer about a third of the way through. The 1940’s police and judicial work is jarring and the psychology of the villain a bit over the top. But there are some nice touches in the detective work of Ella Raines, looking for the phantom lady… and phantom hat.


The 7:30 movie was Double Indemnity — I drew the line on seeing that (again), and got on a train for home.

Sunday: Two New Ones (to me)


Sunday was supposed to be three films, but I didn’t make it to the first, The File on Thelma Jordan, which I wanted to see for Barbara Stanwyck.  Alas, the emergency repair on my stove took place too late in the morning for me to get there. But I did have enough time for a lovely bike ride to Silver Spring in time for the mid-afternoon show.

Trapped was free — a restoration by the Film Noir Foundation, presented in conjunction with the National Gallery of Art.  I learned a lot about counterfeiting from this one — I wonder how much would still work. The earliest Lloyd Bridges I’ve seen, although he had been in films for at least 10 years.  Great introduction by Foster Hirsch — mentioning that the budget for this film was so minimal that they had to work around Lloyd Bridges getting sick mid-way through.  (Hmm, I wonder what the original script was.) Historical interest mostly.


The last film of the weekend was Pushover, Kim Novak’s screen debut. I wasn’t crazy about her, but thought Fred MacMurray and Dorothy Malone (two years before her supporting Oscar in Sirk’s Written on the Wind) were fantastic.  And so was the camerawork and the finale in the Lost Angeles trolley barn (RIP).

October 14, 2019 / bikesbytesbites

Philosophy and Bicycle Helmets

Blaise Pascal, a 17th century French author, wrote a book of essays. One of the most famous (it has its own Wikipedia article) is “The Bet”. (Ok, usually translated as “The Wager”, but I prefer the more colloquial “bet”.) Every time I think of “The Bet” I think of how Pascal’s argument and conclusion can be applied to the discussions of whether to wear a bicycle helmet.

“The Bet” is, basically and a bit simplistically, about the existence or non-existence of God, and which side you should bet on (in terms of your behavior). According to Pascal, there’s no way to prove whether God exists or doesn’t exist. If God exists, however, and you behave morally, you will get an infinite reward, an afterlife in heaven.  If God exists and you behave immorally, you get an infinite punishment, in hell. Therefore, even if the odds are slim, you should behave as if God exists, because of the potential pay-off. The Wikipedia article ( ) has a great discussion about how “The Wager” is actually the “first formal use of decision theory”. The decision matrix boils down to:

God exists (G) God does not exist (¬G)
Belief (B) +∞ (infinite gain) −1 (finite loss)
Disbelief (¬B) −∞ (infinite loss) +1 (finite gain)

So, how does this apply to bike riding and helmet use? There may be a very low probability that you’ll ever be involved in a bicycle crash where a helmet would save your brain or save your life. It wouldn’t help, for example, if your body was slammed against a tree by a car speeding 75 mph. And wearing a helmet would be equally irrelevant if you were never involved in a crash or fell off your bike.  However, there is infinite (as far as you’re concerned) gain if you ARE involved in such a crash AND are wearing helmet (you maintain your life and brain function) and infinite loss if you are involved in such a crash and are not wearing a helmet.

Bad Crash (C) No crash (¬C)
Helmet (H) +∞ (infinite gain) −1 (finite loss)
No Helmet (¬H) −∞ (infinite loss) +1 (finite gain)

Therefore, I will try to religiously [sic] wear a helmet.  I have even bought a folding helmet that’s easier to schlep around with my folding bike or when using CABI.