Sunday, 5 September 2010

The Great Helmet Debate

After a friend was hospitalized when a car hit her while on her bike, i started re-considering my views on helmet wearing. I still have not reached a conclusion but lately you may see me wearing my helmet just so i do not tempt fate, rather than truly believing it can save me from accident damages.

Cycling, as i say to people telling me off when i do not wear a helmet, is not an extreme sport. When i ride my bike to work, or to the shops I should not require an armor of protection:  my speed is not that high, i know the traffic code and i do not do bike tricks so a helmet is a little bit of an extreme measure. I also feel that if i wear a helmet it is like i tell the world "i know i am doing something dangerous and i am responsible for this" - whereas, who puts me in danger is not cycling, but the careless angry drivers. My safety is their responsibility and not mine - and what would truly protect me is a culture that welcomes cyclists on roads where both drivers and cyclists politely share the streets rather than compete and fight with each other. Until now, i have not been wearing a helmet; the way i do not wear a bullet proof vest when i walk in east London; the way i do not wear an armor when i walk on Oxford Street on a shopping day.

However, the reality is that agressive careless drivers exists; especially in the madness of London. And if there aren't any angry drivers, there are always blindspots and genuine accidents. And brain injuries really scare me. And simply on those grounds i have started wearing my helmet  (even though i know that a helmet is not going to save me - i just don't want to tempt fate!); this, unfortunately has reduced my cycling - and this is not because i am too vain or worry about my hair -but because it has lost its free attitude; everytime i wear my helmet it's like saying to myself i am about to do something that will put my body at risk. And i hate this feeling. I hate it because cycling is NOT a dangerous thing but suddenly society has made it look like a dangerous thing. Society has imposed the view that if you dare to ride in London you are crazy and the responsibility is all on the cyclist. Whereas what really should be said is cycling is great and London should accommodate this and make it safe for its riders by cultivating a culture that respects cycling and car drivers look out for cyclists.