Helmetless Biker Takes a Lashing From Readers

Georgina Ardalan says she wears a helmet while biking but removed it when this photo was taken.
Georgina Ardalan says she wears a helmet while biking but removed it when this photo was taken. (Courtesy Of Alex Ackemann)
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By John Kelly
Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Let's dip into the ol' "John Kelly's Washington" mailbag. And when I say "mailbag," I mean "e-mail inbox and paper-covered desktop." The JKW mailbag is more figurative than literal.

As I suspected it might, my column about Georgina Ardalan brought a few howls from readers. It wasn't the column as much as the photo. Georgina, whose bike went briefly missing at Union Station, was pictured riding without a helmet. Wrote Calvert County resident Rebecca Beeman: "If she argues that it will mess her hair (akin to those who don't want to wear a seat belt because it will wrinkle their clothing) and continues riding her bicycle without a helmet, messed hair will be the least of her worries; she should visualize her hair matted with blood and gray matter."


Silver Spring's Bruce Shulman also chided Georgina. "Stand on any busy corner of D.C. downtown and you will see cyclists wearing no helmets, having no reflectors or lights (particularly at night), failing to stop at all at lights or stop signs, attempting to make lanes for themselves by squeezing through incredibly narrow gaps between cars, riding the wrong way on one-way streets, riding on the sidewalk, etc."

Bruce insisted that he isn't anti-bike -- he said he himself rides occasionally -- just that "whether one is a motorist, a cyclist or a pedestrian, he or she should obey the law."

Well, Georgina, what do you have to say for yourself?

"I really appreciate the citizens of D.C. rallying around bike safety as it is an important topic and am really happy that they brought this up," she responded. "I guess I was a little vain and wanted my picture in The Washington Post to be one where I didn't have a helmet covering half my head so I removed it for the picture. I think anyone can appreciate that I wanted to look good during my 15 minutes! I do typically wear a helmet."

It seems to me more cyclists are riding on the sidewalk in D.C. these days. Is it legal? Depends. It's not legal to ride on the sidewalk in the Central Business District, a roughly 300-block area stretching from Massachusetts Avenue in the north to D Street in the south and bounded by 23rd Street on the west and Second Street to the east. Wouldn't it be great if the police issued a few tickets?

Speaking of photographs, the picture accompanying my column about '50s crooner Eddie Fisher's connection to Washington caught the eye of Richard Mains Jr. of Poquoson, Va. "Just to Eddie's left, squatting behind the reel to reel, is my father, Dick Mains," Richard wrote. His dad was the leader of the U.S. Army Jazz Band at the time Eddie sang with them. Before that, he played trumpet with the Teddy Powell Orchestra and Benny Goodman's orchestra. Dick Mains went on to become a sergeant major, playing often at the White House.

Richard added: "And as a footnote, Eddie and my dad became pretty good friends, and Eddie saved my life from drowning when I was only 2 years old by jumping in the Fort Myer swimming pool and pulling me out. Thanks Eddie."

Yes -- thanks, Eddie. We can't afford to lose a single subscriber.

My column about my undying affection for my new high-definition television brought a veritable e-avalanche of mail. Most of it fell into one of three categories:

a) Guys who wanted advice on setting up their HDTVs.

b) Guys who wanted to give advice on setting up an HDTV.

c) Guys who wanted to gloat about how their HDTV was bigger than mine.

There was also this, from Carol Arnold of Arlington County: "I'm still getting a fabulous picture on the Sony Trinitron my parents bought in 1968. I keep saying, 'Die, TV, die,' and it just keeps going."

It might be time to play ball inside the house. Badly.

Finally, I mentioned in that column that My Lovely Wife was putting our old TV on Freecycle. That's a nifty Web site ( http://www.freecycle.org) where people can give away unwanted items. People give away just about everything, from broken bricks to old linens. Gaithersburg's Charlie Bryant noticed this recent posting:

Offer: Crystal Body Deodorant Stick, Petworth

It just doesn't cut it for exercise. Pick up after 5:30 Wednesday or

Friday, after 8:30 on Thursday.

That's right. Someone was offering an apparently used stick of antiperspirant.


My e-mail: kellyj@washpost.com. My address: 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071.

© 2008 The Washington Post Company