Why I Do Not Wear a Cycling Helmet

Jul 15, 2019 at 09:00 am by The Resolute Cyclist

Helmetless cyclers in the Netherlands

Why don't I wear a helmet when cycling? Well, it's complicated.

There are countries such as the Netherlands pictured above, where virtually no one wears a cycling helmet. Why are helmets so much a part of U.S. culture? 

Folks say things like "drivers here are crazy" and use that as a reason for wearing helmets. If you get run over by a 3,000 pound car, do you think a piece of styrofoam is going to make any difference?

If you really want to be safer when riding, wear a motorcycle helmet! Those are actually tested to prove they save lives. Bicycle helmets are not. And while you're wearing the motorcycle helmet, use it when you are walking around town too, as statistics prove walking around is actually more dangerous than cycling.

Infrastructure is immensely more important to our safety versus any article of clothing we wear while cycling. Believe it or not, downtown Murfreesboro proper is a really safe place to ride. It's only when you get onto the major thoroughfares that you really are at risk. 

There are countries such as Australia, where helmet use is mandated. That law has had an overall detrimental effect on public health. Fewer people ride bikes there because of the helmet law, increasing the country's rates of obesity and heart disease.

Talk about the law of unintended consequences! 

Now, I have nothing against laws requiring kids to wear helmets, especially if they are younger, with skulls not fully developed. More important than that, is they be taught safe riding techniques (ride with traffic, act as traffic, and you will be respected as traffic. Well, most of the time).

Teaching proper cycling from a young age is probably key to cycling safety in places like the Netherlands. Bikes are so much part of their culture that kids grow up riding virtually everywhere instead of being shuttled place to place in the mom or dad taxi. 

To make our city safer is pretty simple actually. We need about 20 times more people on bikes, cycling in a vehicular manner. We have great power in numbers, and infrastructure changes will only happen if we show they are needed to accommodate a certain volume of cyclists. Then helmet use will be even more optional.

I don't want everyone to follow my example and go helmetless. I just want everyone to ride!






"ride with traffic, act as traffic, and you will be respected as traffic", from my experience, not at all true. What makes you think bicycle helmets aren't tested and built to safety ratings? So much bad advice. My experience: Biking the Greenway in downtown Murfreesboro in Jul 2011. Alone and not going fast. Wrecked. Based on evidence, I flipped upside down and landed on my shoulder and head. Crushed the side of my (certified) bike helmet. Knocked unconscious. Ambulance ride to the ER. Still have no memory of the 8 hours around the accident. Without the helmet, I probably would have been killed. People who ride a lot will tell you its not a matter of "if" you will have a wreck, it's a matter of "when". How you come out of that wreck may well depend on whether or not you are wearing a helmet. Always wear a helmet!
mlenox, I'm not advising people to wear a helmet, or not. I'm saying why I don't. One person's experience whether yours or mine, does not make any statistical difference though it makes a large impression on us personally. I've been riding bikes for 45 years. "Seriously", for 40 years. I've ridden narrow two lane country roads with no shoulder, being passed by semis going 60 plus. I bike commuted in Atlanta for years. I've ridden the two lanes of the north Georgia mountains frequently as well as riding from here to Sparta. I've had several accidents but in none of them would a helmet have helped. My son crashed on the Greemway when he was seven, and his helmet did no good because he used his face to break the fall (he recovered quickly). But I'm not saying my experience is any more statistically valid than yours, my opinion is my own.
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