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Joe Workman – Rides through everything. Rain, Snow... Accidents. And will be buying a helmet.

Updated: Jul 6, 2018

The Brown Bike Girl rider, Joe. Daily rider, commuter and recreational cyclists. Max distance 65.8 miles with eyes on doing 100. Rides a converted custom vintage Fuji road bike single speed. Survived a car crash... Yesterday.



Joe (right) with friends after the Brown Bike Girl "Oh The Places You Can Bike" ride to the Bike Expo


What’s your neighborhood?

I live in Bedstuy, but I spend a lot of time riding to visit friends in Brownsville and I've also joined several of The Brown Bike Girl rides out of Brownsville like this year's ride to Bike Expo in May. I could have joined you all at the park [pick up spot in Bedstuy] but I like long rides so I didn't mind coming to the beginning of the ride [an extra 4 miles away]. I'm there at least every Friday to hang out.


[Then out of nowhere Joe says...]

Joe: I got in an accident Friday... with no helmet. [Today is Saturday]

Me: What?!

Joe: Yep. My head went into a windshield.

Me: You're alive? And why didn't you have on a helmet!?


Joe shares that an irresponsible driver with no headlights on turned the wrong way on a one way street and hit him. Joe had his front white light and red back light on his bike as he should according to NY state law for bikes operating before dawn and after dusk. The lights likely helped the driver recognize that they were going the wrong way and slow down rather than speed up before the collision. Joe owns a helmet but didn't wear it this time. And frequently does not.


Joe!! Why didn't you have a helmet on? We talked this about! (Helmets are required on all Brown Bike Girl group rides)

I know. I even own a helmet but I don't wear it. I hate to admit it but its for vanity. I'm a New Yorker and have been riding my whole life. I dont like to wear it. It's uncomfortable and I'm vain. I feel like I look like I don't know what Im doing when I'm wearing it.


It happened so fast all I remember is I woke up in hospital with my dad standing over me.

[laughing] My hard head saved me.


I know I'm lucky though. The doctor came through the door looking at me like I was a ghost, or in amazement like one of his own children had been born and said "Mr. Workman, you should be in a coma, paralyzed, or not even be here." The first thing he asked me was why didn't I have on a helmet. He said considering everything else was alright that it would have at least saved me 7 staples to the head.


Joe misses his vintage Fuji.

I didn't lose my life but now I'm sitting here wishing I could ride. I see people riding past and I'm jealous. I called the precinct and they haven't gotten back to me yet. They took [my bike from the site of the accident]. Now I have to buy a new bike for $500-$700. But I do want my bike back. It was my aunt's that died and it has sentimental value.


Man, I miss riding my bike. You don't understand. I love riding. I'm addicted to it.


Me: You know a new bike doesn't have to cost that much. You can get a rebuilt bike at to Recycle-A-Bicycle or Mechanical Gardens. Their bikes cost like $100, no more than $400 max.

Joe: Ok you'll have to send me that information because I dont have a pen on me.

Me: Ok.


.... This wasn't what I planned to talk to you about, but let's talk about it then -- Lots of people are scared to ride a bike because they're scared of getting hit. Having very recently been in an accident what would you say to someone who is scared or has been in an accident an is scared to get back on?

Look. [Stuff] happens. Don't get discouraged. I've been riding bikes my whole life since I was 2 or 3, and rollerblading with no accidents. And I'm 33 years old now and this is the FIRST time I've ever had something happen [including riding against traffic which he admits he shouldn't]. And it wasn't my fault. I've gone 33 years on this earth! I ride motorcylces and 4-wheelers and all kinds of stuff and never had anything happen. They shouldn't let [the small possiblity of something happening] stop them.


So, but back to you and this helmet though... You're to go get new one since you don't like the one you have?

Man.. Sometimes I look at helmets and they be like $45.

[Reader FYI: Helmets don't usually cost more than $25 and the NYC Dept of Transportation has free helmet giveaways around the city. See dates here.]

And? You just said you were gonna go get a used bike so that just saved you $200 right there. So now you got money for a helmet.

I didn't say I couldn't afford a helmet.

You were just complaining about the cost...

I wasn't... Ok,yeah I was... I can afford a helmet. That's not the problem.

Here's the thing. I just don't like the way they look. My whole life I been about about fashion! If I got one I want the kind that's like round. People put stickers and stuff on them... You know what I'm talking about?

What?? No. I got stickers in my helmet. You want me to just buy you a bunch of sticker for you to get you to wear a helmet?

No. [sucks teeth] I'll have to send you a picture. The ones that come all the way down in the back.

Oh you mean like a bucket helmet?

Yes! Like that. Those fit my style. Maybe I'll get one like I got my son, with the Mohawk on it. Or something cool with some style. Or some devil horns...[thoughtfully pauses]


Yeah... I'll do that. I'm glad we're having this conversation. I'm gonna get on [online retailer] and look for something like that tonight.


A bucket style bicycle helmet. Also popular with skateboarders.

That's good to hear. So at this point if you had some advice for other people who have similar feelings about wearing helmets, what would you say to them?

Even if you have to go above and beyond [and put some effort into shopping beyond a bike shop] get something that matches your personality. That way you'll wear it.

In the same vein about switching up the way people ride: Different styles of bicycle are built to enable riders to do different of things. BMX bikes are small and built for doing tricks. But some people ride them for transporation like the way you ride to work. – What do you say to folks who are riding BMX bikes for transportation?

Riding a BMX for transportation makes absolutely no sense! They are okay for short distances if you have to, and like you said tricks. You have to stand up on that to ride. It just doesn't make any sense. Anybody who is serious about riding a bike [for distance] needs to be on a road bike.


I'd tell them they should try to start transitioning to a mountain bike, a lightweight one. I see they are slimming down mountain bikes if you don’t want to jump on a road bike.


I was riding a mountain bike before I got serious. I got my Fuji from bike from clearing out my aunt's garage in Boston after she passed. I took it to a bike shop and got it converted to a single speed. That's why I'm sentimental about it and want it back.


But, yeah, I went through all the bike phases including BMX. But if you really want to ride a bike [in the city] you need a road bike. -- I used to not like the feeling. Going from a mountain bike to a road bike I felt constricted. You know, going from a mountain bike with your arms out wide like a Harley Davidson to a road bike is different. But eventually your body gets used to and it starts feeling natural.


Me: Ah... And do you think that parallel between switching from a mountain bike to a road bike is possible for you with the helmets?

Joe: How do you mean?

Me: You said it used to be uncomfortable then it became natural. You said you don't like wearing helmets because they feel uncomfortable...

Joe: Oh, I see what you did there.

Me: Yep.


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