Wasted Ones and Zeros

Helmet or no?  You decide.  If you’d enjoy something in writing to make you feel better about your choice to ride without, here you go!  If you’d enjoy something in writing to make you feel better about your choice to ride with, here you go:

I am happy to be part of a pedaling minority, but I am generally unwilling to be among the group of Americans saying no to helmets (although I may occasionally ride helmetless around the block when and if the mood strikes).  I understand that some consider it to be a chicken and egg issue–that I should skip my helmet so that others would feel better about the idea of pedaling to the point they’d do some themselves–but I am too big of a chicken to ride with an unprotected egg.  Although the protection afforded by bicycle helmets is negligible (when compared to helmets used in motorsport), I feel better with a little something something up top.  Always have (I wore a Bell Biker as a kid at a time when few were bothering).  It is just the way I am wired.

In support of my reticence to skip a lid, I turn the issue around.  Instead of making cycling look safer by pedaling without a helmet (where my bare head would be a bit player in a theater production largely for the benefit of others), I’d rather overlook the implication of danger that arises with helmet use (where my self-deception benefits me directly–my kind of theater).  The same way I accept motoring in vehicles with seat belts and airbags, I happily pedal with a helmet in a country of mostly helmeted riders–perceived danger be damned!  Selfish, but I am ok with that in this context.

I am not certain there is a causal connection between shedding lids and increased riding and increased safety.  Could be a coincidence.   My guess is the real causes for the different experiences among countries are more complicated.  It is possible that some countries have higher pedaling rates and lower injury rates because their citizens are simply better motorists and pedalers than are we.  That might have something to do with better education of motorists and pedalers.  Might have something to do with road design.  Might have something to do with tough laws and judges placing blame on motorists when warranted.  Might have something to do with a greater respect for life.  Who knows, really, but to explain our different experience by pointing to a preference for helmet use is a cop out.  Or at least an over simplification.  Instead of placing the blame for our abysmal cycling rates on a piece of molded plastic, take full responsibility for the welfare of all by driving even more safely and politely and pedaling even more skillfully and politely and, if you prefer, keep a bucket on your coconut.

I was just in Arizona were I am always surprised to see all the helmetless motorbikers.  Do motorbikers in the rest of the country wear helmets only because they are told to do so?  Unlike flimsy bicycle helmets, motorbike helmets can be very protective.  If I still motorbiked and found myself in Arizona, I might ride helmetless three times a year, same as I do on my bicycle.  Just for fun.  But I’d wear a full face helmet 99% of the time.  Even when not in the midst of crashing, the visor would protect my eyes and the enclosure would protect my hearing.  I appreciated these conveniences on every ride.  Similarly, I enjoy my bicycle helmet even when I am not flying through the air–my helmet, without fail, remembers to bring along my lights and mirror (they are zip tied in place).  I’d rather dork out my helmet than my beautiful bicycles.  At least the bicycle gets to look cool when I step away from it.

Again, do what you want (unless you are Lacey).  Lacey:  I can’t let you pick good hair over the contented feeling I get knowing that if a careless or mean motorist hits you just so, and you land just so, your helmet may make a positive difference.  Selfish, but again I will forgive myself in this context.  Does it help to know that I don’t think your helmet messes up your hair?  Probably not.  I’ve been married long enough to know when it is time to put down the shovel.

Stepping away from the shovel!

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2 responses to “Wasted Ones and Zeros

  1. I found the NYT article very interesting. I live in Australia, and helmets are mandatory, and yes, more men ride than women. I saw a statistic a while ago about how ridership of high school girls commuting to school dropped dramatically when the laws were introduced. But, the NYT writers says it is just young men riding in Australia and I disagree – on ride to work day last week, our group of 25 people was about 30% female…not great considering that that where I work is probably more an equal gender split, but still, pretty good. And I see a lot of women out on the roads in the mornings and weekends.

    I’m with you on this issue though – even if there were no requirement (as in where I previously lived in Canada) I would be wearing a helmet. I’ve been hit by 3 cars in my life and had other close calls that saw me hit the pavement and I’m not risking my head for aesthetic reasons. Knees, elbows, palms, those all heal eventually, but brain damage is for life…

    • Thanks for taking the time to write and for your observations. Sorry to hear you’ve been hit three times! Based on your writing and the fact that you are still biking, it seems like you’ve come through without a hitch. Hooray for that! Statistics are interesting to think about it, but as long as there is even a slim chance that I will be landing on my head as I pedal, I am happy to have my helmet. Take care and have fun!

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