The argument is Vik makes is that the helmet is (in most cases) unnecessary and helps spread fear. It also leads to a false sense of security. Read Viks post, read the comments. Some good points are made.
I’m known for my helmet, mirror, reflective vest, and good lights. I think Tom is also.
When I first started riding as an adult in 2008, I didn’t own a helmet. After enough people pestered me about it, I gave in to the fear (and peer pressure) and bought a helmet. It became part of my cycling garb, as I bought cycling garb.
There are definitely reasons to wear a helmet.
- Fast or dangerous riding
- 40+ MPH descents
- Technical mountain biking
- BMX tricks
- Pace lines
- 20+ MPH descents on rough gravel roads
- Warmth with helmet cover
- Place to mount the mirror
There are also reasons to not wear a helmet.
- Makes cycling look dangerous which scares people away from it
- You look less human with a helmet, this can cause different behavior from others
- Gives a false sense of security – Plenty of people suffer brain injuries while wearing a helmet
- We don’t wear helmets for many other more dangerous endeavors
In Kentucky and most other states there is no law requiring helmet use for adults. This is as it should be. I’m not sure the law should exist for children either, as raising children is a job for the parents, not the government.
I only have one issue with others wearing helmets all the time – the fact that it reduces bicycle use. I can’t say too much here, as I generally wear my helmet. So why am I accosted by other cyclists for not wearing a helmet when I’m riding on a grassy trail?
It really boils down to being prepared for the conditions. If you are riding in a manner that has increased risk of fall, wear a helmet. If you’re riding at night, have lights and reflective gear. If it’s foggy, you probably need a strobe.
You would never wear rain gear on a sunny day, just in case it rains, but that’s what we (even I) have been used to doing with safety gear.
My changes have been gradual. I haven’t worried (as much) about lights or reflective gear on bright sunny days. I’ve been skipping the helmet on around town trips in light traffic. Hint to myself: The helmet probably won’t matter if I get hit by a fast moving car. There’s a much better chance of it being helpful if I do something stupid and go over the bars. It can also be useful in a right-hook scenario where I slide over the hood of the car and hit the pavement. With cautious riding those scenarios are unlikely. I’d rather work to avoid the crash than try to protect myself after the fact.
Modern America is obsessed with safety features, whether or not they are effective. They make us feel better. Some examples? TSA, air bags, crumple zones, helmets, cell phones for children with GPS tracking. What’s next? The Thudguard?
Most cycling clubs, like the LBC, require helmet use on organized rides. They don’t have a choice. They are hamstrung by their insurance company. Why? A culture of fear.
Why is it when a cyclist is hit by a car and dies, the first question is always “was he/she wearing a helmet?”. Does it matter? Who caused the accident? Not wearing a helmet will not cause an accident.
Most people my age and older rode bikes as kids, and most of us had never seen a bike helmet. Most of us made it through just fine. I never knew one of my peers to suffer a head injury on a bike. Broken arms and collarbones? Yes. I had friends who fell out of trees they were climbing and nobody was wearing a helmet. I was riding recklessly down the sidewalk when I was about eight years old. I fell and hit my head. I blacked out for a second or two. I had a bad headache, but I didn’t automatically die or suffer permanent damage because I wasn’t wearing a helmet. I could have, but I could have with a helmet also.
The only people I personally know who suffered major head injuries were driving when it happened.
Enough ranting for one day. I’m not anti-helmet. I’ll still be wearing mine on many rides. I’m anti-fear. I’m still learning, and my riding style is still adjusting.