Friday, March 12, 2010

NYC and helmets

Helmets are such a touchy subject among bicyclists. I suppose it's like recycling. I do it. It can't hurt. It might help. But in the long run and in the big picture, it really doesn't mater what you or I do. Seriously. And unlike recycling, where ever little bit matters (a very little bit), there is no benefit to wearing a helmet if you don't crash. Seriously. Every time I arrive home safely, I think, "gee, I guess I didn't need that!" But of course you never know. Some people think it's good wear a helmet even if you don't crash. That's weird. And weird bike shit does turn people off who otherwise might be normal bike riders.

And then I see people with helmets on their head and the straps aren't attached. Or people with helmets so loose you know it would fly off in a crash. And if you aren't wearing a helmet for the small chance you will crash and hit your head, why are you wearing a helmet?

Or people who ride at night with a helmet and no light. If the choice really is between a helmet and a light, go for the light! The goal, people is to not crash.

But I do have a helmet. And if I'm riding a fast bike and/or leaving Queens, I wear it. If I'm riding my slow bike to the Trade Fair, I don't. I wish we lived in a city were there lots of bicyclists and none of us ever wore helmets. But I also know that if I were to fall or crash (which I do think is more likely when I do wear my helmet), I would damn well hope I was wearing a helmet. So I do. Much of the time.

Anyway, this all comes to mind because I got the "NYCycles" newsletter from NYC, and I have to say, I was really impressed at their semi-official position on helmets. It's well said and worth a read. I couldn't have said it better myself. Kudos to the author:
A debate has long raged in the cycling community - do helmets make cyclists safer or does the extra burden of wearing one discourage cycling? Here in New York, helmets are required for cyclists 13 years old or younger... and strongly encouraged for all adults. Helmets can't prevent a crash but studies show they can mean the difference between life and death if you have one.

DOT makes an effort to make bike helmets accessible to all New Yorkers, and has distributed over 23,000 free NYC Helmets over the past four years.
...
Always wear a helmet whenever you ride, and always buckle the chin strap. ... Make sure the straps are snug
...
Replace your helmet after any crash and whenever you see signs of damage.
To get the NYC DOT bike newsletter, click here.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010