Quote of the day

From MSN Money:
It is only now, during this period of acute crisis, that individuals who won't go on a bicycle without a plastic-foam helmet are coming to grips with what business risk really means. And that is why a childlike innocence is dying along with the stock market this week, making people feel as sad, helpless and angry as when they first discovered the truth about other realities of adulthood.

Read the rest of the article for a reality check, although I think the author is wrong about one thing. It's not ignorance of the realities of investing that drives middle-class individual investors, it's willful delusion, tempered with the good old-fashioned American belief in the concept of 'hitting it big'.

I loved the helmet dig, though. Ok, people: it's actually more dangerous, minute for minute, to drive a car rather than ride a bicycle. So why don't I see more people wearing helmets when they're driving a car? Oh, because it's uncomfortable, cumbersome, and inconvenient. Hmmm.

I'm not sure the author regards helmet wearing in the same light that I do. He sees it (probably) as most people do - as a way to mitigate risk. I see it as a knee-jerk reaction to a perceived risk, without actually understanding the real risks that cycling involves. The majority of fatalities on bicycles happen in an encounter with a motor vehicle traveling at a high rate of speed. In this case, as in the recent Puyallup death, a typical cycling helmet is unlikely to offer adequate protection.

Helmets may be risk mitigation, but far better to understand the actual risks involved in cycling, weigh them intelligently, and make an informed decision. If you really want risk mitigation, lobby for better infrastructure, tougher driving laws, and (it'll never happen) more stringent driver licensing requirements. Right now, though, I'd settle for tougher banking regulations.


alex said...


My sister-in-law, one of the smartest people I've ever met, contends that we'll see people wearing helmets to drive cars in our lifetime... I agree with her. I've seen helmets on the snow go from the "for retarded kids" stage to "normal operating procedure" within a decade, for example.

I think the main problem with all of this stuff (bike safety, crime, roads, wars, deficits, investing, really anything) is that people don't do the math, or are unable to do the math. Statistics be damned, they'll massively overstate risks and misunderstand the numbers. It's maddening. I hate it.

deprogram said...

I'm all for people wearing helmets. On the other hand, I don't think it should ever be mandatory - unless, of course, you're racing, either on a car or a bike - I just think people should be able to make their own decision.

However, the basis on which they seem to be making that decision is 'Everyone else is doing it. It must be a good idea'.

Herd instinct. One of mankind's most loathsome evolutionary traits.

alex said...


...gotta run: have to shave and put on my acceptable business attire, sidle up to my cubicle, and put in some hours for a gigantic worldwide corporation...