09 February 2011

Shopping for insurance: I know why people are afraid to ride with motor traffic

Much ado has been made about this article in Grist, and any number of previous articles in other places, on how bicycling is actually, factually, considerably less dangerous than sitting around doing nothing. And believe me, as someone who now makes a living sitting around doing nothing [what else do you call freelance editing?], I tremble in fear of a long, slow, expensive death by getting fat.

But do you know what scares me even more? Perusing my medical bills for my bike accident last June. Well, okay, it was more like "being a dumbass and trying to beat the storm" than "an accident," but for our purposes here, they amount to the same thing. And that amount was, let's see, $564.23 in out-of-pocket expenses, which is rather a lot of money to be irradiated a couple of times and then told there's nothing wrong with you after all, dumbass.

However, had I not been insured (ie, if this had happened during the storm just last week, and assuming costs haven't substantially increased since last summer), I'd have been on the hook for $5055.25---roughly ten times more and probably enough to cause considerable financial distress for the rest of my foreseeable future.

So, you're on your bike, you get caught in some unfortunate mishap (perhaps because of inclement weather---I'm pretty tired of people scolding me, by the way, that I, of all people, should not be so irrationally afraid of being hit by a car), you fall and hit your head or possibly break something, you go to the ER, and WHAM you're hit with a one-time expense of hundreds or thousands of dollars, and I guarantee you that the satisfaction of benefiting the overall public health in the long term does not make you feel any better about it when it comes time to pay those huge bills.

Whereas the long-term effects of a nonactive lifestyle tend to manifest more gradually, with regular expenses spread out over months or even years---unless you have a heart attack myocardial infarction or something, but these days you're probably put on prescribed all sorts of drugs as a preventative measure before that even happens. So the total cost of being unhealthy and fat, even if it is indeed only a small fraction of the total cost of an accident or two, is spread out over, say, half of your lifetime.

Hence, the risks associated with sitting around doing nothing are more acceptable than the risk of some bike-related medical emergency, especially if you're uninsured. And this, I think, is why people are afraid to ride in traffic.

As for the risk of driving on Lake Shore Drive in the middle of a blizzard out of the northeast, well, that one is still beyond me.

So, don't fear bikes, cars, or even chairs. Fear wind gusts in excess of 50 mph.


At 09 February, 2011 18:04, Blogger Jennifer said...

In addition, experiencing a serious injury is probably a lot more traumatic than going in for a routine checkup and being told that you have high everything and need to lose weight.

I suppose I could fall down the stairs tomorrow and seriously injure myself without my bike ever being involved, but see, I rarely fall down the stairs, whereas I seem always to be banging myself up while riding, or even carrying or simply rolling, my bike. I'm a bike klutz. I wear a helmet for protection against tree branches and those railings on the stairs of Metra cars. One time I even succeeded in dropping a hex wrench on my face.

People like me just should not drive. Did I ever tell y'all about the time I backed into the neighbor's gas meter?


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