Adult bicycle helmet laws draw no end of passion on both sides. We don’t call them the “bicycle helmet wars” for nothing. But until recently I was under the mistaken belief that there were few – if any – jurisdictions in the United States that actually had laws regarding adult usage of bicycle helmets. This belief was shattered on a recent trip to Washington state where, coincidentally, two totally different people completely unconnected made comments about King County Washington having a helmet requirement for adults.
I’ve ranted and raved about helmets and the odd fact that no helmet manufacture seems to advertise their testing strategies. I always found it odd that auto manufactures will show somewhat gruesome footage of crash test studies to show how safe their cars are, while helmet advertising never seems to even mention the word “safety.” Instead, we get sold $100 upgrades for improved cooling, better looks and lighter weight.
Well, now those crazy Swedes have proven me wrong. Keep reading →
For as many times as I’ve rambled, made fun of, attacked, or complained about helmets, you’d think I’d have come across this before. Ironically, it was a coworker that pointed this cultural phenomenon to me.
So we take the worry about helmet hair and replace it with a hair helmet. That’s what you call turning a frown upside down.
I was leaving work – late – the other night in what seemed a normal manner. It was dry and clear, but dark as I’d stayed at work solving a problem (funny how you can be most productive in an office environment when 80% of the rest of the company has already left.) I grabbed my bike off the rack, flicked on the lights (they are nice and bright) and roll out the door.
About halfway home from the office I’ve got this strange feeling something isn’t right. I’m riding on lit streets, but on a whim I put my hand in front of the Planet Bike Blaze 1/2w Headlight mounted on my handlebars. It barely illuminates my palm at 4 inches. Damn. Dead batteries. While I’m at it I stop and check the tail light. Completely dead. I try to turn it on. Dim light then nothing. Damn. More dead batteries.
Cycling helmets seem to be a recurring theme here on JustAnotherCyclist as of late. To wear or not to wear. To promote or not to promote. Blah blah blah… There has got to be some way to resolve the issue. Perhaps with better technology?
Folks seem pretty happy with the air bags in their cars. This probably has a lot to do with the reams and reams of evidence for their collective benefits. Unfortunately the same concept does not apply to bicycles. First off there is simply no practical way to mount an airbag on the handlebars of any but the most heavily customized bikes. More importantly is the fact that it is usually the ground or a car – and not the handlebars – that you smack into if you are injured in a cycling crash. If only there were some way to get that same level of passive protection on a bicycle…
Maybe there is.
I may, however, be changing my mind. And you, dear reader, get to come along for the ride.
So to stop skirting the issue, I’ll state my opinion, as it exists today:
I don’t really mind wearing a helmet, but I really don’t think they do squat to protect me. The risks the helmet protect me from are the same risks I experience when walking down the street. I’m just as comfortable riding my bike without a helmet as I am walking across my living room without a helmet.
And that is when the “Say what” and “this guy’s nuts” comments come on. “Clearly you’re safer with a helmet on. It’s obvious. Anyone who thinks otherwise is a moron,” is another possible retort to my sentiment.
Ah bicycle helmets. The topic that I just can’t leave alone. While I try to remain non-judgmental to the choices of others, and personally can take it or leave it, I still remain decidedly against helmet laws.
Bicycle helmets. They are the subject that I just can’t seem to leave alone. As my daily commute has significantly changed, so as my approach to that commute. One of those changes – without any specific intent that I am aware of – is the fact that I’ve shed the helmet for more of my commutes than not. Perhaps it is the influence of all of the urbanite riders I come across. Whatever the reason, I’ve mostly been without ye ol’ brain bucket lately.
My wife, on the other hand, is a stanch helmetarian. She is often gently (or not so gently) ribbing me about my cycling-cap-only head. I was this ribbing that prompted me to put on the helmet before I left for work the other morning. As I’ve said before, I’m not against helmets, so riding with it is not something that really has to be forced on me. This wasn’t a big deal. Grab it, throw it on my head, strap it around the chin and forget about it.
Warning – Just Another Cyclist is about to jump into the cycling helmet debate. If you’ve had about all you can stand of the endless arguing on this issue (and who can blame you really?) then perhaps you’ll find one of my other articles more to your taste.
I also want to point out that you will likely not walk away with a clear impression that I’m on one side of the issue or the other. I’m decidedly neither pro nor anti helmet. I wear a helmet when I ride if I feel like it. I generally always wear it on group rides more out of peer pressure (everybody’s wearing one!) or habit than anything else. I almost always wear gloves when I ride to protect my hands if (or should I say when) I happen to hit the pavement, and the helmet is kinda in the same category. On the other hand, I do not ride any differently if I don’t have my helmet on than when I do.
The main reason for my indecision is that I’ve not seen anything that would make me think that one side of the argument or the other is correct. I decided to do a little more digging into the issue and see what I could come up with.
Update: The survey has ended. Watch for the results here soon.
I’ve had a survey running that is an attempt to gather general opinions on bicycle helmet usage from my readers and others. I’ll be closing out this survey tonight to allow me to compile the data and present an article on the findings – hopefully this Friday.
For those of you that have taken the time to express your opinions – thanks! If you haven’t yet done so, it only takes just a few short moments. Please go here and take the survey.