Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Barriers and Bare-Heads

     How could a safety measure be a barrier to biking? To someone who grew up wearing a helmet the idea is preposterous, but how many of us grew up wearing a helmet? I didn't. For 18 years I rode bare-headed across the land. Sure, I crashed a LOT, several times a year. Conditions for the intrepid Alaskan cyclist are terrible, infrastructure near non-existent, and don't even get me started on the fellow humans who decided I made an excellent throwing target.
     Back then I asked my parents for a helmet, I would've loved to have a helmet. I never received one, what I got instead was the admonishment to give up cycling. Obviously, I never stopped. Instead I moved to a place that purports to be "bike friendly" so much so, that it has a mandatory helmet law, regardless of age. Now other Shoreline riders will note, its probably best to have a helmet on Shoreline sidewalks. Due to hilarious rules regarding sidewalk maintenance you will find Shoreline sidewalks full of defunct driveway dips, roots breaking pavement, pavement that just goes over the roots in a precipice so that passage is a laughable concept.

     My heartfelt condolences if you've ever had to push a stroller down a Shoreline sidewalk. Also, you deserve some kind of certificate of achievement or a trophy.

    The sidewalks are known to snap axles and toss riders. If you ride on Shoreline sidewalks, I'm sorry, but you need a helmet. Maybe not on the Aurora corridor, but certainly any suburban sidewalk is going to be hazardous. If you ride on the Seattle sidewalks its much the same. There's too many ways to go head over bars.
     But what about in other places? I do not, strictly speaking in non-legal terms, need a helmet to ride anywhere else. If I ride any of the trails; Inter-Urban, Burke-Gilman, Sammish, etc... I don't need a helmet. The likelihood of going head over bars is less than winning the lottery. Oh, I might get by a car on the streets, but I don't need a helmet there either. In fact, there's plenty of evidence to implicate I'm more likely to be hit because I'm wearing my helmet.  So if safety is a concern how can adding safety be a problem? Its a problem when the safety measure isn't a good solution.
     I think an under 18 helmet law isn't any better than an all ages required helmet law. If it discourages one group it will certainly discourage the other by connection. I can say I recommend one for kids, but I would never make it law myself. Because if that had been the law my parents would never have been able to afford to let me cycle.  Remember, a "used" helmet, if its been in a crash, its entirely worthless the next time, so purchasing one from a thrift store is basically just buying a lumpy hat.
    Because of the helmet law, I'm frankly amazed by how many women I see cycling. Its unfair, its not right, but women are judged by the appearance in a way men are not. For one thing there's a lot more boxes to check. So, let's shorten this discussion by just agreeing that, its unfair, but women are judged more harshly if one aspect of their appearance is out of order. Economic times are rough at best, and when that's the case people are more judgmental and circumspect about their appearance.
     For the dense let me connect the dots, most women spend enough time with their hair that the prospect of throwing a helmet in is just too much of a complication. Its the most common reason women give me for not cycling over; safety, distance, expense, comfort, you name it. A woman is more likely not to cycle if she has to wear a helmet, and before you call her shallow keep in mind she's only following what she and everyone she's known has taught her. I might have anecdotal evidence that men actually shed their helmets more than women, but that might not be true. I guess I'd better tell you now that even I'm subject to confirmation bias. Ladies, I'm not going to urge to you to spurn the law and ride, hair flowing in the breeze, locks loose to the sky. Instead, please don't be discouraged.
    I know not all of us have a style that is ready in 30 seconds or less, not all of us want a hairstyle that conforms to that. Helmet hair is never going to catch on. I know its a bit like a bra, uncomfortable and pointless at first. But I will ask this, if that's all that's stopping you, what can you do to pass that problem on the right? Sometimes there is no solution, but if that's the case for you, write your representative and ask for a repeal. There's no shortage of petitions with Pronto stations being installed all over Seattle, to repeal the pointless law. And to you flaunters I wish nothing but the best and smooth pavement.

Want to kick this idea around some more?

Dangers of an improperly fitted helmet & how to make sure yours it right:

No comments:

Post a Comment