Broad changes, not just helmets, key to bike safety

Broad changes, not just helmets, key to bike safety.

I doubt there are many people more adamant about wearing a helmet than I am. As I wrote in a previous post (“thanks Bell”) – my helmet saved my life.

But I don’t support mandatory helmet laws for adults. This article outlines some of the main reasons.

Cycling is very safe. We cyclists often like to talk about our close calls, bad drivers that nearly hit us, wipe-outs, the challenges of riding on icy roads, blocked bike paths, etc. We play up the dangerous aspects because it’s the aberrations we notice, not the mundane circumstances that make up the overwhelming majority of our riding.

It’s just not very interesting to relate a story of yet another uneventful ride. While cycling is immensely enjoyable in and of itself, it’s not very interesting to hear about second hand.

So we relate our stories of danger. It makes us feel and appear brave, and it’s exciting. But it doesn’t give the true picture.

What it does, predictably, is lend the perception that cycling is dangerous. Which discourages potential cyclists from getting on a bike. Which, ironically, makes cycling less safe. One of the most effective means of ensuring cycling safety is by getting more cyclists on the road. Cyclists are treated as if they belong when there are more of them out there.

Many more people would ride except for the perceived danger. Ironically, driving a motor vehicle is much more inherently dangerous, but it doesn’t stop people from doing it because the danger is primarily to other people, that is, people on the outside of the car (I’m not suggesting most drivers aren’t concerned with the safety of others, but it’s only natural to feel safer when wearing seatbelts surrounded by a metal box). And you can’t fall off a car.

So, let’s think twice the next time we start to relate some of our harrowing tales. And let’s concentrate on how enjoyable the activity is, how good it is for us, and how much money we save over driving. The more people we have driving, the better.

And, please, (says to self) WEAR YOUR HELMET!

4 Responses

  1. I’m with you on keeping things positive. I like to encourage people to cycle whenever I can.

    Yes, broad changes are needed. Unfortunately, That’s why a helmet law is probably more likely to occur even if it is ineffective. It will require less effort on the part of government and put the onus on the smaller group of active cyclists rather than the society at large.

    I always wear a helmet myself even when I’m riding my 3-speed and feel like I should be wearing a tweed cap.

  2. I don’t know if you’ve seen them, but they have tweed hat bicycle helmets. Seriously.

    I agree with your appraisal. I think a bike helmet law has more to do with appearing to do something than with doing anything that would actually make a difference.

    It needs to be stated up front – bike helmets are designed to protect cyclists when they fall off their bike, and they are only good for a single impact.

    I always wear my helmet.

    But mandatory helmet laws will certainly discourage people from cycling.

    I doubt most people proposing mandatory helmet laws are regular cyclists themselves.

  3. Tweed helmets? I’m actually tempted.

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