Friday, August 3, 2012


Firstly, a thank you to @SAHDandproud for blogging about this and tempting me to join in. I've wanted an excuse to post about cycling for ages, cos I loves it.

About six years ago I entered a race. It was a race down a hill on a bike. This particular hill was, at the time of the race, extremely muddy due to an overnight storm. It had lots of big, pointy rocks sticking out of the ground, it had tangled networks of slippery tree roots. It had twists and turns, jumps and drops.

My first attempt at riding down the hill wasn’t the best. I slid on a root, parted company with the bike, flew through the air and was brought to an abrupt halt when my head hit a tree. My chest, arms and legs also hit the tree. I slumped to the ground and thought “ouch”.

Because I was riding down a muddy, rocky, slippery, rooty hill I was wearing a helmet. I was also wearing knee and shin pads, elbow and forearm pads. Here’s a picture of me on that very day:

Me and my big shiny helmet (sorry)
I look a bit like a Power Ranger, no?

When I lost control of my bike that day I was extremely glad I was wearing a helmet. The rules of the race meant I had to be wearing one, but I would have been anyway. Call me crazy, but if I think there’s a chance I’ll be getting into a fight with a tree, I want to have as much protection on me as I can. Trees are hard as fuck. Headbutting them is not wise if you are a squishy-bonced human.

But here’s the thing. I don’t always wear a helmet.

When I go mountain biking (rocks, roots, trees, peril) I wear one. Always.

When I go out for a long spin on the road bike (hard tarmac, wet drain covers, high speed, lots of crazy drivers, peril) I wear one. Always.

When I hop on my silly little “going to the pub or shops” bike and make a journey of just a few minutes, on the quiet roads of the town I live in (hard tarmac, minimal speed, few drivers, somewhat less peril) I don’t always bother.

Pub bike, it's silly but I love it.

This position, I suspect, is not going to win me many friends, or glean positive comments.

I am pro-helmet wearing in most instances. I’d quite like my brain to remain inside my head, rather than leaking out through a hole. I’m quite partial to all the things which having an intact brain allows me to do. I’m just not wholly convinced that cycle helmets are necessarily all that effective in keeping it there.

Even if they are good at keeping it there, they’re not necessarily good at protecting its ability to function (which, I guess, is what most people actually care about). Brain injuries are complicated, they’re not as simple as just preserving the physical form of the organ.

You probably know this, but cycle helmets aren’t like motorbike helmets. They’re not designed to withstand the sort of forces you may encounter when hit by a car.

Nevertheless, I usually wear one.

But I don’t want it to be made compulsory.

I don’t want to have the choice taken away from me.

Maybe that seems silly to you. I dunno. Maybe it is silly. I think I’m broadly in the camp that would like to make sensible decisions based on perception of risk, rather than have a one size fits all policy.

Part of me thinks this is an indefensible position. Why wouldn’t I wear a helmet all the time? What possible reason is there? Certainly not helmet hair, I don’t have enough hair for that to be a concern. It’s not because I worry about looking cool, because I never do that (also, I quite like the look of my bike helmet, it’s certainly no worse than my hair).

Of course, like an epic hypocrite, I’ll definitely want Cam to wear a helmet. Can we make it compulsory for kids? I think I’ll always wear one once he’s old enough to notice.

So, in summary, I don’t always wear one, I don’t want someone to make it law that I have to, but I’m not really sure why. How wonderfully inconclusive.

Regardless of how I feel about bike helmets, there are other things I’d rather see happening to make cycling safer. Driver education to improve roadcraft and decision making, as well as promoting empathy with cyclists would be good. Cyclist education for all the same reasons.

Cycle safety is a far more than just convincing people to wear helmets.

What do you reckon? Am I an epic twat for not always wearing one? Do you think we should also wear helmets to cross roads?


  1. I think the problem is, that not all people have ability to make a decision based on perception of risk, because they are stupid! I like my children to wear helmets, but I didn't wear one when I was a child.
    Decision should be the individuals, but common sense needs to be taught in schools first!

    1. Absolutely think education is the key. That and understanding of other people's vulnerabilities. It's easy to forget once you're in a car that the people who aren't in them are a lot squishier than your metal box.

      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment :-)

  2. I will always wear a helmet, I was knocked off my bike when a lorry coming out of a side street didn't see me. I wouldn't be here without it.

    A child at my school wasn't so lucky. He was overtaken by a skip lorry and one of the chains used to lift the skip hit him in the back of the head. He didn't survive.

    I will always wear a helmet

    1. That is an incredibly sad story :-(

      I guess what I forgot to mention explicitly is that I really just want everyone to do what they're happiest with. Your past experience means you'll always wear a helmet, that's great. I don't always, I hope that people won't take that option from me.