Wind beneath my moped wings

Fear and Loathing in Waynesboro column by Chris Graham
freepress2@ntelos.net

I’m trying to resist the temptation to wonder aloud if tattering on the freedom to ride a moped in Waynesboro sans chapeau is a better-to-do-with-our-time kind of thing or not.

Because I didn’t realize until I read the editorial in today’s News Virginian that city council might be sapping my liberties by considering making it mandatory for me to wear a helmet if I follow through on my threat to get one of those 100 miles-to-the-gallon machines to zip around town on.

I’ve been helmeting for years on my bike, dating back to the summer when Mark Warner invited me and NV staffer Bob Stuart on a bike ride through the Valley, and neither of us could take him up on the offer because we were so blasted out of shape. I took up cycling a few weeks later, and made it a point to buy a shiny new helmet when I bought the bike after what happened to Warner on that fateful missed ride.

The governor famously flipped face-forward and broke his wrist, and said afterward that he could have sustained a serious head injury had he not been wearing a helmet that day.

I’ve ridden a bike exactly once since without a helmet, earlier this year on a trip to Virginia Beach, when I borrowed a friend’s bike to go riding in First Landing State Park but didn’t have a helmet.

I felt as naked without it as I do when I go out to the parking lot to move my car from one space to another and don’t wear my seatbelt for the trip. Yes, you can call me conditioned at this point.

Me saying that gives the hint that I can understand, to a degree, the point the NV was making about overregulation. Honestly, I feel the same way about how their fellow travelers in the ultraconservative set have decided to overregulate the lives of gays and lesbians, for example. And how their jihadist friends have tried to push their narrow view of religion down our throats in the form of public policies on a woman’s right to choose and the phony baloney that is abstinence-only education and creationism disguised as something called intelligent design.

The question I would ask with respect to helmet laws is … could we maybe require those who wish to go helmetless to sign a waiver in the event that they suffer head injuries that could have been prevented with a helmet absolving their insurance companies and any government entities that might otherwise have to bear the burden of unpaid medical bills from having to assume costs related therein? OK, requiring someone to sign a waiver is probably too much. How about we pass a law stating that those who ride helmetless do so with that as the implicit understanding, making it an effective contractual relationship?

Because, see, this really isn’t about making somebody do something for their own good. The absolutists like to make it seem like that’s the case, but they’re so blinded by their ideology as to have difficulty discerning where the sun comes up in the morning. For me and others in the common-sense set, it’s the cost factor that is paramount here. Same as with seatbelts – it’s great that we can survive car crashes that would have killed us a generation ago, but it’s even better that we get to live on as productive members of society who get to raise our kids into becoming the same without the world having to assume the costs of extended hospital stays and funerals.

What the NV doesn’t seem to understand, and honestly, they’re not alone, because I think most ultras who prattle on and on about their liberties miss this point, too, is that none of us is an island. The roads that we drive our cars and mopeds on neither sprang fully formed from the foam nor were built by individuals acting with their individual interests in mind. They were created collectively by our tax dollars, and as such, we, the people who created them have a right to lay out some basic terms for how they are to be used.

It’s called living in a society, where we agree to give up certain liberties (being able to shout “Fire!” in a crowded theater, for instance, or being able to murder and pillage indiscriminately) so that we can enjoy certain securities that life in total freedom (e.g. the animal kingdom, where the primary freedom is to kill or be killed) cannot afford us.

And in this case, of course, you can still ride your moped sans chapeau even after the passage of a law requiring you to wear a helmet when driving your moped on our roads. Because nothing would stop you from building yourself a road on your private property, and letting the 40-mph wind blow through your hair at your leisure.


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