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Of the approximately 30 cyclists visible in this photo taken in Copenhagen, Denmark, only 4 are wearing helmets
Of the approximately 30 cyclists visible in this photo taken in Copenhagen, Denmark, only 4 are wearing helmets

Should You Wear A Helmet When You Ride a Bike?

Few issues incite more passionate debate inside and out of the cycling community than whether or not bicyclists should wear helmets. While it may seem axiomatic that helmets are a good thing, there are lots of riders, especially in Europe who don't and for good reason, as this video produced for the Guardian in the UK explains.

Ride a bike? Wear a helmet.

That's what medical professionals, especially in the United States, urge. In fact, you seldom see anyone on a bicycle in America that's not wearing a helmet. I would be one of those exceptions. I used to. I don't anymore.

Why? Because I started researching the question and discovered, there is, in fact, no real consensus on the benefits of wearing a helmet, which for lightness sake is simply a bit of high-density styrofoam overlaid with a thin plastic shell. Admittedly, it offers a modicum of protection and if you're comfortable with one, by all means, wear it.

I chose not to for the same reason most riders in Europe don't: it simply isn't needed if you don't have to ride with automotive traffic. I don't. I am fortunate to live in a community with a wonderful, segregated bike path system. Case in point: I rode three miles today to get my haircut. The only time I had to mingle with motor vehicle traffic was cutting across Shadow Lake's nearly empty parking lot. But I also ride without a helmet to set an example. Quikbyke rents electric-assist bicycles to tourists. We don't, for hygienic reasons, provide helmets. It would be hypocritical of me, in my view, to wear a helmet when I ride, but not provide them to our clients.

Another point, which is made in the video, is that motorists tend to give riders a wider berth when passing a cyclist not wearing a helmet than when they pass a bike rider wearing one. Exactly why this is, isn't clearly understood. Presumably, they assume the helmeted rider is more experienced than the non-helmeted one. Maybe it also has something to do with the clothing cyclists wear: bright, colorful, tight-fitting that say, "I am an athlete, I know how to ride a bike." Me, I wear a T-shirt (usually one with the Quikbyke logo) and a pair of shorts in the summer, while I resort to jeans and a bright orange and blue windbreaker in cooler weather. I pretty much dress like the Copenhageners in the photo above. It's what I like to think of as "normalizing" the bicycle, shifting public perceptions from it being a recreational sport to a viable alternative to the automobile.... 'Cause it is!

Posted By: Bill Moore [08-Jun-2018]

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