Posted on October 30, 2012 by rodney
Tags: bike

Sometimes I like to ride my bike without a helmet. There is no compelling reason to do this, but I feel safe enough, and like to have a cool head with the wind blowing through my hair.

The last two days, an unusually large number of people on the bike path have made comments. This has mostly been in the form of shouting! They were clearly concerned enough for my head to have intervened and must have thought it never occurred to me to wear my helmet.

I put it down to groupthink hysteria. There is groupthink involved because it’s the norm among cyclists (an oppressed group) to wear helmets (the law says so). Helmets are a uniform so it’s obvious who isn’t part of the group. The protective power of helmets is unquestioned. Not wearing a helmet is cause for hysteria because without it suddenly you are vulnerable to gruesome injuries.

Do I shout at people at the beach that they could be eaten by a shark? Or they could get skin cancer and die!? Or that the car they’re driving could crash and catch fire and burn with them in it? No, that would be hysterical.

This isn’t saying I would prefer to hit my head without a helmet rather than with a helmet.

It’s just quite unlikely that this will happen if you’re riding on a path without cars. Yes, the freeway PSP gets very busy and there are often time triallists coming the other direction at 40km/h. It’s possible you will somehow smash your head in addition to breaking your wrist, arm, collarbone, etc.

What makes more sense is a cautious approach to cycling on the PSP where it is busy. It’s called a shared path, but technically pedestrians have supreme right of way. There are fragile old people and unpredictable children also using this 2m wide strip. If anyone is riding dangerously enough to need safety equipment then something is wrong.

I can’t see how wearing a helmet promotes safety in this situation, but not wearing one can send a message. To all groupthinkers who believe they are invulnerable while wearing their helmets, please consider the others who aren’t invulnerable.