Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Helmet Question


Next week, I'm going to be substitute teaching at the elementary school which isn't far from my house. None of the schools are far from my house and I don't have to come in until noon so I have no excuse not to ride my bike. This got me to thinking about commuting to a job everyday. I'd very likely wear a helmet. I've read blogs that say helmets foster a perception that cycling is dangerous when nothing could be further from the truth. Sure, cycling is healthy, green, and economical, but the people in the cars don't seem to notice nor do they seem to notice cyclists in the road the way they should. Perhaps cycling in the United States--largely sans bike lanes with lots of trucks, SUV's, and SUV's on steroids (Expeditions, Hummers, etc.)--permits a bit more caution or a token of security that gives us the gumption we need to get out on the (sometimes) mean streets. I certainly don't look down on anyone who wears a helmet.

In my little town, the streets are bemused or haughtily disinterested. I'm lucky to ride two miles and that's if I repeat my route a couple of times because there's just nowhere to go. There's not much traffic and I'm not at all intimidated on the road so I don't wear a helmet. I believe I did when I first moved back here from Atlanta, but that might have been by force of habit. It might have had a little to do with with the fact that my helmet matched my bike (my mom's idea); I wonder if that made me wear my helmet since it went with the bike. That pretty much sums up my helmet question--should the helmet match your bike or not?


Mark said...

Mine matches my bike, but I'm always debating whether or not to use it. Most of the time I just bike around the neighborhood or on quiet streets, so I leave it at home...probably should use it more though.

anna said...

I got in on the habit of wearing a helmet because my mother forced me to as a child. But it wasn't one of these closed BMX helmets and hence not very safe. Always remember that a helmet won't help much if you are run over by a truck. It could help though if you fall down yourself, e.g. against the curb or so. But in fact I never fell on my head so far. I think gloves are of more use when falling, because generally you try to catch your body with your hands.

But I think if one gets a helmet it should definitely match the bike. Same as the clothes ;-).

Well, my helmet is very old now. They say a helmet needs to be replaced every 5 years or so. That's why I decided to not wear a helmet for so long. If I feel unsafe, I will buy a proper helmet like the ones in your picture. But I know that helmets can't prevent accidents - only I can ;-).

Trisha said...

You are brave to take this one on! I wear a helmet on my commute but not when I'm just riding around the neighborhood. And I do like my helmets to match! I'm currently looking for one that will match the Batavus. Any suggestions?

Charlotte said...

My current helmet matches my bike and I get compliments on that.

I take a very pragmatic approach. It doesn't *hurt* me to to wear it, and if something were to happen to me that could have been prevented by wearing a helmet I would hate myself forever if I'd allowed that to happen through vanity.

Naturally a helmet doesn't help with being run over by a truck, but it does help with regret!

I've been known to ride my bike and my horse without a helmet, but in both cases 99% of the time I wear the thing.

a. brown said...

The first thing my how-husband said to me that sounded like a declaration of love was, "I'm going to get you a helmet". Now, I can't hop on the bike without it, for fear that I'll brain myself and he'll be sad.

I got a great one at nutcasehelmets. Looks like Evel Kneivel. Can't hurt to wear it.

Dottie said...

Definitely. If not the color, at least the style. For example, I never wear my sport helmet with my Dutch bike. That would look silly :)

The Jolly Crank said...

I think wearing a helmet should be personal choice. And people who are telling others not to wear a helmet should just mind their own business. Matching works if that's what one wants to do. I saw a guy that had his round, orange helmet painted like a basketball. Clownish, but funny.

The Jolly Crank said...

And I forgot to add: People who tell me I should wear a helmet need to also mind their own business.

mappchik said...

If I'm on the road bike, or riding along a busy 4-lane road, then I do wear a helmet. It doesn't match my bike, but does go with my silver/gray shoes & gloves. When I'm just riding along at a leisurely pace by the river on my hybrid, not so much.

I think the biggest reason for wearing the helmet while commuting to the elementary school is that it sends a great message to the kids.
(And I think it would be great if it coordinated with Praline - not necessarily a color match, though.)

The Bronze Bombshell said...

I think you all make very good points. Wearing a helmet doesn't cover all the bases safety-wise, but it doesn't hurt you either.

Trisha, I think you should check out the sporty blue helmet from my S/S edition of Indigo Cycle Chic. It kinda looks like a cycling cap. I also like this shiny blue one and this shiny black one.

Mappchik, I only wish the elementary kids rode bikes to school. I didn't even see a bike rack at the school.

mappchik said...

You're right - none of the kids ride their bikes to elementary school. But seeing a teacher riding to school plants that little idea of bikes as transportation in their heads.

Sometimes, when I'm riding to & from the store, there'll be a younger child who points me out to his/her mother and says something about the lady on the bike. My favorite was a little girl, probably four years old, tugging her mother's hand and yelling "Mommy! Look - she can go places on her bike!"

I think most children think that bicycles are for the park or the driveway, just because they don't see them anywhere else.

She Rides a Bike said...

I wear one due to the number of SUV's and heavy trucks on the streets where I live. We have an urban trail and bike lanes but on the street, most drivers still don't really get how they work. If I lived in Europe in a community where bike commuting was the norm I probably wouldn't. It's a personal choice and I just do what feels comfortable for me.

The Bronze Bombshell said...

Mapchik: First, the schools would have to get a bike rack for any adventurous little one who wanted to ride bikes to school. Only the high school has one (one for all those kids) and it appears to go unused. It's as if the adults believe that after years of not encouraging their kids to ride, they will all of sudden take up cycling in high school when they would otherwise be frothing at the mouth to get a driver's license. Wishful thinking.

SRAB: I agree. I think basing your decision on a personal reason makes more sense that basing your decision on a impersonal reason such as, helmet use makes cycling look dangerous. I don't even think that there are statics that bear out a decrease in cycling over time at the introduction of helmet laws/widespread use so I think it's much better to worry about what gets us on our bikes rather than some anonymous, tentative cyclists.

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