Stop being selfish: adult brains need helmets too

I spent part of Sunday afternoon riding bikes with my kids on the Hub Trail in Sault Ste. Marie. It was a good time, and we all enjoyed ourselves. Here we are about halfway through our 5K trip, taking a break on a bench:

We passed a few other cyclists along the way. The Hub Trail parallels Queen Street, a major road, for a portion of our route. Queen Street now has a bicycle lane, for which I’m sure many cycling enthusiasts are thankful. Unfortunately, my non-scientific survey of those pedaling people indicates they either (a) vastly overestimate their skills, or (b) vastly underestimate their mortality.

Hardly anyone was wearing a helmet.

Queen Street has a posted speed limit of 50 km/h, which means most cars are hovering around the sixty-click mark. At that pace a cyclist in the bicycle lane can’t do a whole lot to prevent injury if there is an accident, whether it is caused by a motorist or the cyclist.

Unless, of course, that prevention was enabled prior to the journey. Like, you know, putting a helmet on.

We know helmets work. We even have a law that says kids have to wear them. Why don’t adults have to wear them too? What is it about adult brains that is less valuable than kid brains? As far as I understand it, adult skulls aren’t significantly more durable when negatively accelerating due to asphalt.

Some people claim some sort of obscure “right” to not wear a helmet, in the same way that it’s an obvious right to ride a motorcycle sans cranial protection at 70 mph on an interstate. “It’s my life” and all that nonsensical garbage. Your decision to not wear a helmet is outrageously selfish. When you make a tiny mistake, or when a driver makes a tiny mistake, your decision to not wear a helmet might amplify that error from minor to catastrophic.

“I grew up riding my bike without a helmet, and I turned out fine! We weren’t so reckless because we knew we didn’t have helmets on!”

The fact the you’re alive and uninjured says nothing about all of the people who have been injured or killed in these sorts of accidents. Your random survival is a single data point. I’m happy you’re alive, but I’m so disappointed that you’re being so careless with your life and the future of that anonymous driver you might share an accident with.

While I’m talking about it, start wearing a helmet when you’re skating with your kids. I don’t care if you played hockey. Accidentally hitting your head on the ice is stupid.

(If you do a quick Google search about the efficacy of bicycle helmets to prevent injury you’ll find a lot of ideologically-driven pages saying that they don’t really work. Read a lot further than that if you want the truth. Helmets reduce injury in the event of a collision. The larger, more complex question is whether legislation is effective in preventing overall injuries.)



One thought on “Stop being selfish: adult brains need helmets too

  1. An interesting comparison is that we’ve chosen to mandate that everyone must wear a seatbelt while driving, because the evidence shows that it saves lives, as opposed to only requiring children to wear seatbelts. Why didn’t we do the same with the legislation for bike helmets?

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