Monday, August 1, 2011

Unintended Consequences – The Success Paradigm

I have been riding my bicycle on a route between Indy and Lebanon nearly everyday day recently. Often I am in downtown Indy or on other roads where I encounter heavy traffic loads and ride within close proximity to the vehicles. People whom I know sometimes tender their unsolicited advice about my safety. For many it is not without validation as I was once nearly killed in a collision with a vehicle. Still, their concerns are often based upon false pretenses or illogical conclusions.

I may straddle the white dashed lines or the solid yellow lines in a roadway as I weave my way through traffic. Sidewalks, alleyways and being tightly juxtaposed to turning vehicles allows me to get throughout downtown at a more rapid pace than most vehicles. I do all this riding without a helmet. That is a result of my paradigm for which I approach helmet usage based upon my introduction to bicycle helmets.

In the mid 1980's I was licensed by the United States Cycling Federation as an amateur cyclist. At my pinnacle I competed in about 100 races per year and rode about 500 miles in a typical week. In the few years of doing this I crashed three times. The final being the one where doctors stated that if I lived through the night I would survive. I was unconscious for about half a day. My rating on the Glasgow Coma Scale was low but the effects still remain. I was not wearing a helmet at the time of the collision.

So as I am riding along Lafayette Avenue heading to Lebanon a week ago I started thinking about helmets. I had been watching the final stages of the Tour de France and noticed nearly all of the riders wore helmets. When I was a professional cyclist such was not the case. Helmet usage by professionals was a rarity.

The exclusion of helmet usage by professionals is what hastened my ascent from an amateur cyclist to being licensed by US Pro as one of the less than 200 professional cyclists in the United States. The catalyst was the adoption of a helmet usage mandate by the United States Cycling Federation which was the governing body of amateur cyclists in the United States. The policy was a direct result of input from and consultation with insurance and legal professionals, not cyclist.

What all of these brilliant minds had acquired in formal training in their respective fields fell well short of what they lacked in intelligence, but such is often the case. It was the safety of those of us who were out there racing through the streets of our cities and winding roads of the countryside whom these academically astute consultants had no concern about. What they were unable to see was unintended consequences. They had no vision beyond that for which they had be guided through unsupported premises and theories and their end goal of providing the appearance of having a proactive safety policy.

Unintended consequences is a factually based result. This science requires its adherents to have the ability to think abstractly. It is this thought process that I applied to the helmet issue in 1989 and that which I still apply in life coaching today.

In 1989 the typical bicycle helmet was a modified version of a motorcycle helmet. It weighed about 3-4 pounds, completely encased the head with a hard styrofoam packed into a hard plastic shell with chin straps. The helmets impaired both visual and auditory input.

So here is the spoon-fed version of the helmet issue; 1) Cyclists get involved in collisions with each other or vehicles; 2) sometimes their heads come into contact with the vehicles or ground; 3) some of these contacts result in brain injuries or death; and finally 4) helmets reduce the severity of the impact and can reduce brain injuries or death in those cases.

Here is the unintended consequences version of the helmet issue.

Riders who were dislodged from their bicycles had a four pound weight attached to their head for which their necks had not been sufficiently reinforced to withstand the sudden acceleration or deceleration associated with the collision. This resulted in more neck injuries and more cranial contact with the ground.

Since these helmets impaired both visual and auditory input the cyclists were then more likely to collide with each other or vehicles which they could not see or hear. Thus, there were more collisions from which the helmets could “save” these cyclists from severe injury or death.

The solid shell design of these helmets resulted in no airflow around the scalp. Anyone who has engaged in high intensity workouts in the heat is keenly aware of the necessity for cranial airflow to help cool the body. This obstruction of airflow reduced the body's cooling capacity. Since racing 100+ miles in temperatures often exceeding 90 degrees was not uncommon incidents of heat stroke or passing out increased. The reduction in brain functioning or complete disengagement of the conscious mind because of heat related conditions led to an increase in wrecks.

In the end those who suffered from a cranial-rectal impaction who crafted such absurd policies rejoiced in the results of their misguided policy. For them they saw victory in that these cyclist who became much more dangerous that year and crashed more often were being saved from more severe injuries or death because they were forced to wear a helmet during these sanctioned events.

The wiser mind finds no solace in creating a danger from which to save someone. The professionals continued to race without these helmets and did so without harm.

If you allow yourself to be conditioned to accept the directed purpose and consequences of actions then you will continue to suffer the unintended consequences. He who has the wisdom to see past the disinformation of carefully worded marketing campaigns can excel in life. If you have read this and gleaned something new about the purported safety of bicycle helmets then it may be time to become a student of self-fulfillment.

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©2008, 2011 Stuart Showalter, LLC. Permission is granted to all non-commercial entities to reproduce this article in it's entirety with credit given.

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