This is going to be my one and only blog written about helmets. This topic, in my personal opinion is a waste of my time but I feel the need to balance current statements that have been made regarding a recent photo that was taken and published in the Dispatch:
As many of you know, the three of us just recently executed our first and very successful statewide ‘Ohio Women’s Bicycling Summit.’ This was the photo published in the Dispatch and you can imagine the comments and judgments that took place once this photo was released.
Only in America does it seem like there’s this war regarding helmets so let’s stop and figure out why. Why do we wear helmets? We wear helmets for ‘protection,’ right? Who are we protecting ourselves from: drivers and our cities that have been built to solely accommodate the automobile. If you wear a helmet – you’re a safe bike rider. If you don’t – you’re reckless. I’m as safe of a bike rider as they come. I wear a helmet about 98% of the time I’m on my bike so when I make that CHOICE to not wear a helmet, why do you take it upon yourself to judge me and reduce my safe bike riding; because I don’t conform to your standards? Just because I don’t wear a helmet, that doesn’t make me more reckless of a bike rider or less credible of a bicycling advocate.
The staunch opponents out there need not be so quick to judge and think about a few things:
- Helmets help save lives, however, they do NOT prevent crashes from happening.
- We need to stop wasting time on the ‘blame game’ of who is and who isn’t wearing helmets and move forward to trying to change our infrastructure and slow down our streets. The only way to change behavior is to change the infrastructure. When you slow down a street with traffic calming elements, road diets, bicycle infrastructure, and pedestrian infrastructure – it not only increases livability within the street, it increases more walkers and bikers which in result increases safety and decreases crashes.
- Steve Barbour, Michelle Kazlausky, Dr. Deborah Ehrlich and William Crowley are just four folks that come to mind whom all except Dr. Ehrlich were fatally hit AND were wearing helmets. Dr. Ehrlich barely survived. She was right hooked by a semi. Again, infrastructure.
The focus must be moved to redesigning and changing our infrastructure which slows down cars and safely allows all users to move about. Are you going to stigmatize me and anyone else who hops certain lights b/c they don’t detect us? Do you know that if an intersection goes through two cycles w/out detecting a bike rider, we are legally allowed to hop the light or are you going to immediately make the judgment like most ppl do that I am a reckless rider and not take into consideration that our infrastructure has been built solely for the auto? If you’re unwilling to see that ‘we’ a car-centric country has created these dangerous cities in which people die and that it is the way our cities have been built and not whether someone is wearing a helmet or not then I’m happy to be your scapegoat.
I’d like to also insert that in 2008, 4,387 pedestrians were killed in traffic and nobody is suggesting for them to wear helmets. Where is the outrage in pedestrians being killed by motor vehicles? It’s an increasing epidemic and yet there has been no public outrage. Bicycling needs to be seen as both safe and fun and that everyone can do without special clothing or gear or feeling the need to ‘armor’ up (perfect example here – a national bicycling webpage: http://www.peopleforbikes.org/blog/entry/send_a_pro-bike_letter_to_your_local_newspaper). Over the age of 18, we as adults have the ‘choice’ to either wear a helmet or not. I don’t need to feel looked down upon or targeted should I choose on rare occasions to not wear my helmet.
Before you continue to waste both my time and yours judging me on the basis of my not wearing a helmet during a photo shoot, use that energy and write a letter to your local representatives advocating for safer bicycling infrastructure and enforcement of lowering our traffic speeds within our cities.
From 1997-2006, there have been 424, 840 motor traffic fatalities (NHTSA), maybe drivers should start wearing driving helmets:
This is in fact an actual helmet for driving. When a bicyclist is fatally hit or seriously injured, the first question asked shouldn’t be, ‘was she/he wearing a helmet?’ It should be about the environment of where the accident took place. Did you know that the majority of accidents happen in urban main arterials of cities? (NHTSA) This leads me to once again acknowledge infrastructure. Our inner- city streets are nothing short of inner-city freeways; five lanes across, no less than 12ft lane width, infinite sight distance, and let’s not forget the timed traffic lights working as an accomplice to speeding and safety concerns.
Our society has become fat and lazy when it comes to putting cars in their place. Tailgating on freeways going 75mph is the new ‘black.’ Complete stops have become ‘rolling stops.’ ‘Stop bars’ aren’t paid attention to and if a crosswalk is more than six feet deep, that apparently gives a car permission to stop INSIDE the crosswalk and we continue to let this happen.
We need to move beyond whether a person on a bike was armored up with a helmet or not. Once you understand that it’s not about the helmet – that it’s about our unsafe infrastructure then maybe you’ll put forth your efforts to creating a more ‘people-friendly’ city. Hopefully soon, our cities’ infrastructure will be balanced enough to where you may walk out of your house, hop on your bike and in mid-riding say to yourself, ‘I forgot my helmet.’ We need to encourage, not discourage. Our cities need the voices of people who ride bikes to unify and fight as allies, not judgmental enemies. Again, this post is written based upon my personal opinion, on my personal blog and nothing more.
Be safe and keep riding.