I Say No to Bicycle Helmet Laws
The helmet debate can be a hot topic like most discussions about bicyclists. And…surprise…I have an opinion about the subject. Whether you choose to wear a helmet or not is a personal choice. We don’t need another law regulating our personal or moral choices (See how well the War on Drugs, Dry Counties, Prohibition past, and present etc. work to prevent what they are meant to regulate). Does a helmet prevent certain head injuries, yes, does that mean we need a law requiring it, no. I am still hopeful that our society hasn’t slipped so far into “Idiocracy” that we are capable of making simple decisions about our own safety on our own.
Currently, the state of Idaho and thankfully my city of Coeur d’Alene, do not have a “helmet required” law. Our neighbors to the west Spokane, Washington however do and I often wonder if it can be a deterrent for people wanting to take up bicycle commuting? I know there have been several studies showing that requiring helmets can negatively affect bike share usage which makes me assume it would do the same for people riding their own bicycles. It should also be noted that law enforcement rarely enforces the law in Spokane, which then makes it only a tool for insurance companies and courts to use to shift blame and refuse to pay claims for, not something for public safety.
For me, there are times that my helmet actually interferes with my ability to ride safely. I don’t care how many air holes a helmet has in it, the thing makes my head sweat! The sweat runs into my eyes which make it hard to see and dangerous when mopping my brow while also trying to navigate traffic. Plus, getting overheated while I ride makes Jamie an unhappy person which is not good for anybody. I also find that the majority of people treat me differently when I have a helmet on.
We have had the Ironman competition here for years inspiring an influx of spandex riders in our community. Like with most good things you also get the bad. It was good that it inspired more people to be active in our community, but when bicyclists don’t follow the laws it rubs people driving the wrong way. If I am being honest, some of these riders also rub other bicyclists the wrong way.
It is not that they are bad people, some for what ever reason choose not to follow basic bicycle traffic laws, this gets people PO’d to say the least. Because of these few, bicyclists wearing helmets are immediately judged as being “one of those” riders. When I am not wearing a helmet drivers will stop to let me cross streets, they wave and shout encouragements, and people seem to be friendlier. Or, it could all be an illusion. I may be noticing these things because I also find that when I am wearing my helmet I move faster, look around less, and get into a head down get where I am going attitude. So, there is that….
So the question then is, Does Jamie or Doesn’t Jamie wear a helmet when she rides? Well, much like the author of the article below, sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t.
In a nutshell: I wear a helmet in situations in which I feel the risk of being struck by a car or the risk of crashing is great. http://shifter.info/most-of-the-time-i-ride-a-bike-i-wear-a-helmet-but-not-always-heres-why/
Here is when I wear my helmet:
- I plan on reaching speeds over 10 – 14 miles per hour
- I plan on riding down grades of 7% or more
- I am riding somewhere I haven’t ridden before
- I know I am going to be in heavy traffic
- I will be traveling long distance
The rest of the time I am helmet-less. Could I still crash and get a head injury? It is a possibility, but as an adult human being, that is my personal choice to take that risk. I don’t need a law and neither does anyone else. Wear a helmet, don’t wear a helmet, make your children wear a helmet, the only thing I ask is: don’t judge someone who doesn’t and no unsolicited opinions thank you.
Would love to hear your thoughts!