By Jim Hackler
The Urbane Environmentalist

I gave up my car six years ago and get around Atlanta almost exclusively on my bicycle. While the U. S. Department of Transportation advocates that biking reduces emissions and lessens traffic, I’m here to tell you that the biggest benefit is a bodacious butt. I’m only 10 days younger than President Obama, but still fill out a pair of jeans on par with a back-up dancer from High School Musical 3.

I have to admit I like to show it off in my black bicycle shorts, but I draw the line at wearing those nylon jerseys that mimic a mutant kangaroo (the pockets are on the back) and have more garish graphics than a fully-sponsored NASCAR race car that was designed by a color-blind drag queen. I know it’s a good idea to be visible to traffic, but I don’t think we mean airplanes.

Another fashion challenge for cyclists is the helmet. I upgraded from one that looked like I was wearing an enormous blue M&M to an aerodynamic model that reminds me of the monster from the Alien movies with Styrofoam “teeth” jutting out of the back of my head.

Its air vents do a good job at keeping my head cool but they crimp my hair making me look like a flapper from The Great Gatsby when I take my helmet off. Why is it that when a motorcyclist wears a helmet, he either looks tough like a Hell’s Angel or she looks incredibly sexy in that slow motion, flipping your long hair back and forth when she takes it off sort of way?  In contrast, bicyclists look more like a mobile fleet of giant bobble heads.

Maybe that’s why more than half of Americans who ride bikes say they never wear a helmet according to a survey by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA). Personally, I think it would be safer for Charlie Sheen to administer my anesthesia during brain surgery than to cycle the streets of Atlanta without a helmet.

My own experience of literally “hitting the pavement” happened when a minivan of Dunwoody housewives illegally turned into my right of way on Peachtree Road in front of Houston’s restaurant (a waiter working the patio actually ran down with a bag of ice – I just wish he would have brought a pitcher of margaritas to go with it because I needed it). I ricocheted off the van landing flat on my back in the middle of the street so hard that my helmet broke in half like a paper shell pecan. Fortunately, my head didn’t. The truth is the road rash and the three hour wait in Piedmont Hospital’s emergency room was the biggest pain.

I honestly believe that if I hadn’t been wearing a helmet I’d be hooked up to a machine with a head full of gazpacho. I encourage any Atlanta cyclist to embrace unflattering fashion and bad hair to sport a CPSC-approved helmet because in the end, all the attention will be focused on your great butt.

For more about Jim, visit his website at TheUrbaneEnvironmentalist.com.

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.