Showing a photo of a bicyclist with their brain splattered all over the street is indeed a scare tactic used to guilt people into wearing a helmet. But instead of convincing people to wear a helmet, it drives people away from riding a bicycle (for obvious reasons).
Why do you think enforcing helmets shouldn’t just be for cyclists?
People who say all bicyclists should wear helmets for their own safety are hypocrites unless they also promote helmets for motorists, joggers and pedestrians. Motorists, pedestrians and joggers are all at relatively the same risk of head injury as someone on a bicycle, so if you tell people that they should wear a helmet on a bicycle, then you had better wear a helmet while you’re driving too.
These people will surely respond that cars are already equipped with protective equipment (seat belts, air bags, etc), so a helmet is unnecessary. But cars go a LOT faster than bicycles, and a good proportion of motorist fatalities are a result of head injuries. So if you believe all bicyclists should wear a helmet, then so should motorists. I will accept that argument only if the person making the argument agrees that motorists too should wear helmets.
Have you ever been in a bike collision?
I haven’t personally fallen off my bike or been hit by a car since I moved to Toronto in 2002. But I suspect that if I fell off my bike I would have good incentive to protect my head by using my hands when I land. I also believe that if I get plowed by an automobile, a helmet wouldn’t do much to save me anyway.
I can hear many readers saying “You can’t change the world! You can only change yourself! So wear a helmet because motorists won’t change!” What would be your response to that?
Motorists can change, and they will change. When more people ride bicycles, motorists will be more aware. When those motorists start riding bicycles occasionally, then they will empathize more than they do now. When people tell me things won’t change, I point them to this video that I posted in April.
My advice for people is to:
- Look out for yourself and avoid collisions
- Don’t ride on roads with really fast moving cars
- Don’t ride in the door zone
- Take the lane when you need to
- Ride on streets that have lots of other bicyclists
- Avoid legal left turns on busy streets and do indirect left turns through pedestrian zones
Avoiding a collision is the best way to protect yourself, and to be honest, I don’t want to be in a collision with or without a helmet.