Cyclists wearing bicycle helmets, wait at the traffic lights at the junction of Grosvenor Road, and Vauxhall Bridge Road on a section of the Cycle Superhighway 8 (CS8) in London, U.K. Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg
Let me qualify that headline: I do wear a helmet when mountain biking. But I don’t wear one when the sidewalk is icy – yet I could slip when walking and split my skull.
I do not don my bike helmet when I jump in the shower, despite the fact falling and hitting my head while covered in suds is far riskier than you might think.
Scooping leaves out of high gutters requires a ladder climb, and is decidedly dicy, but before I ascend to the residential roof I do not strap on a lid.
Why do I do all of these dangerous things without even giving a passing thought to protecting my brainbox with a helmet, yet I am said by some to be naked if I ride my bike without one? It’s illogical.
Carlton Reid wearing a cycle helmet while mountain biking in Idaho.CrankTank
Why is bicycling perceived to be an activity that’s so perilous that it requires head protection? If it were, indeed, this dangerous there would be an epidemic of head injuries in the Netherlands, where bicyclists rule (literally: the Dutch Royal family dot around on bikes – lidless, of course).
Ah, some might say, there are gazillions of cycleways in the Netherlands so cycle helmets are not required. Thing is, cycle helmets are designed for precisely this sort of scenario – slow speed crashes on to curbs from head height. They are not intended to offer protection against being hit by a car or truck (they’re polystyrene blocks, not force fields).
You know what’s really dangerous? Driving. Getting behind the wheel of a car is perhaps the riskiest thing we do every day yet few of us give head safety while driving a second’s thought. Individual motor journeys are not particularly risky, but they are so routine and frequent that the overall risk, over time, becomes more significant than normally understood.
Driving to a skydiving airstrip is far riskier than jumping out of the airplane yet parachutists are not nagged to wear motoring helmets.
And such products do exist. Well, did. Davies Craig motoring helmets are sometimes available on eBay (that’s where I bought mine, pictured).
“Motoring is a dangerous activity,” said Richard Davies, managing director of Davies Craig, an Australian manufacturer of automotive parts. “If a motorist is not killed in a crash one of the most common injuries is a head injury and they can produce permanent and long-term damage.”