Helmets, usually, but not always, and that’s okay

This photo of the new leader of the New Democratic Party was making its way through my social media newsfeed. I love it.

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I 🚴🏾 Halifax . I 🚴🏾 Dartmouth . #CycleLife

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But some friends worried about the lack of helmet. Not me. I don’t always wear a helmet. I’ve rented bikes in Amsterdam and not fussed about a helmet, for example. Here’s proof:

And I’ve written about helmets too even though it’s a debate I hate getting into. Mostly I wear them. On my road bike, always. But on a coaster bike, going slowly, I sometimes go without. Bottom line, it’s about choice.

Also, insofar as helmets mark cycling as a special scary activity they result in fewer people on the road. Yet the single biggest variable that affects bike safety isn’t helmets. It’s the number of people on the road. It might be safer overall if everyone put on a helmet for riding but that’s true of walking too. See Women, cycling, and safety in numbers.

One thought on “Helmets, usually, but not always, and that’s okay

  1. When it comes to cycling, my husband always has a cogent response, like this one. 🙂

    “Wow. where do I begin?

    “Q: what do you call a cyclist who doesn’t wear a helmet?
    “A: An organ donor.

    “The idea that wearing a helmet is somehow telegraphing the notion that cycling is unsafe is the most incredibly stupid argument against common sense that I’ve ever read. I am amazed. If wearing a helmet telegraphs any notion to the non cycling public, it’s that we’re a bunch of geeks and dorks – which may actually be true now that I think about it.

    “That being said, I do love the diversity of the cycling community. I love the sense of freedom that cycling gives us and part of that freedom is the ability to choose what kind of bike we ride, how we ride and where we ride. We can choose how we dress and the equipment that we carry along for the ride. We have no speed limits. We can go as as fast or as slow as we like. We can ride anywhere except the majority of interstate highways. All other streets, highways, paths and trails are ours for the taking. We don’t even need a marked path or trial. We can ride through virgin forests and up mountains. The last thing I want is various governments or other cyclists stepping in and telling us what, where and how to ride. When I clip in, I ride my way and every other cyclist should have that wonderful opportunity as well. I’m not going to tell anyone that they are doing it wrong.

    “The following has been my experience though:

    “proper clothing – we don’t want to wear clothing that can get caught up in the drivetrain, restricts our movement or rubs us raw. But if we are just riding around the neighborhood on a cruiser bike, sure, just roll up the legs of our jeans and go.

    “basic repair equipment – we don’t want to flat 20 miles from home with no means of fixing things up to get back home. But if we’re just cruising around the neighborhood, who needs all that stuff.

    “head protection – we want to wear a helmet anytime we head out on the road or trail. we always want to protect our noggins. but if we’re just doing a leisurely cruise through our neighborhood? I am still going to wear a helmet because cars are pulling into and out of driveways, and drivers are often times at their most preoccupied at the very beginning and very end of their journeys. Drivers commit more errors in judgement at these times. Statistically, more accidents occur at these times. As cyclists, we tend to let our guards down – we’re not as dialed in mentally if we’re just goofing around on a cruiser. Any cyclist can do as they please, but I’m gonna wear a helmet even if it’s “just around the block”. Besides, I feel naked without it (said the middle aged man wearing lycra and an inch of ass crack showing).”

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