November 30, 2012

Helmets don’t protect Cyclists. Know what Helps?

Photo: @waylonlewis on Instagram.

If I get killed before my time, 50/50 it’ll be on 9th Street.

Wear a helmet, my loving family says!

I say: helmets don’t help. There’s studies on it. Helmets result in folks driving closer to cyclists, on average. In Amsterdam, families don’t wear helmets—what helps is bike lanes, bike paths, separated from traffic. What helps is prioritizing healthy, green transport for humans over parking for cars.

By “helmets don’t help” I mean—every time I’ve been hit by a car, I’ve been hit in the tire, in the legs, in the ribs…a helmet might save my skull, but I’d still be run over in any real accident. And it’s a matter of time on streets like 9th where they tell you to take the full lane but if you do so cars will honk and pass in the other lane (understandably, they’re way faster than me)

Yes: if I’m spaced out or hit a pothole or, say, an antelope charges me, a helmet can help. But I don’t fall. I ride every day in all conditions and haven’t fallen for 7 years, once. I have a good grip. What does happen is I get hit by vehicles. I was hit two weeks ago. I was hit a year ago. I was hit two years before that.

“Wear Helmets” are society’s response when the response should be “pedestrians have sidewalks, cars have roads…what about bicycles?”

To the suggestion that I up and sue whomever when I’m hit, fine: but I’ll be a cripple, or dead, most likely. Cyclists lose arguments with drivers.

What protects cyclists is not a helmet (see, again: Europe) but providing the conditions so that more than 2% of Americans can get cycling on a daily basis. In Europe in some bike-friendly cities 15% of folks bicycle to work every day. Which makes bikes a big presence, reduces traffic for drivers (win-win) and is good for children’s health, cuts pollution, cuts down on our ravenous war-hungry need for foreign oil. What protects cyclists is safe, accessible, separate bike lanes everywhere—which leads to many folks cycling, which makes it safer and is a win for drivers.

And if you think all I’m doing here is whining online, you don’t know me and my hometown and our community. I do a ton of whining in real life, too, and we make some real changes. And I call this dialogue, research, conversation, not whining—so leave your comments, ideas, constructive criticism and experiences in comments, below.

Bonus: Bike Commuter Porn (SFW)

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