The helmet. Such a simple piece of equipment really. It’s basically just a foam liner – which is the part that actually protects your head, a shell – which covers the liner and makes it more esthetically appealing, and the parts that make it comfortable (the pads) and keep it on your head (the straps). Here is a good article on how the helmet works. But this simple object has actually been the subject of great debate for cyclists throughout the world.
I personally elect to wear my helmet every time I ride my bike, but it’s actually one of those subjects about which I am quite torn. I have crashed my bike before and hit my head going upwards of 30 mph. My helmet cracked, but my head did not. Therefore, I am quite fond of my helmet, because I do silly things like ride 30 mph in large packs with other cyclists. But I don’t just wear my helmet when I ride as a sport cyclist, I also wear it when I ride as a utility cyclist. I personally just feel better with it on my head, and my hair is kind enough to bounce back from helmet-head-hair to cute-semi-stylish-hair as soon as the sweat dries (thanks, hair). Nonetheless, not for one second do I think that a helmet alone is going to save my life in the circumstance of a really bad crash. It won’t. There are other vital parts of the body which are not protected by a helmet – the spine, the lungs, the legs, and even important parts of the head itself. But then again, a bike crash that would not have been too severe otherwise, can be made more severe with an unnecessary head injury, which might have been prevented by a helmet. And for me, a helmet simply makes me feel more comfortable, and being comfortable on a bike is an important aspect of getting people to ride.
But then again, I do see both sides of the argument. Although there is no real consensus about the correlation between helmet use and cycling activity in the scientific community, it is generally agreed upon in the “real world” that helmet laws have the effect of decreasing the number of cyclists on the road.
Which brings me to the subject of Sue Abbott. Sue lives in Australia, where a mandatory helmet law was implemented in 1992. Sue has ardently been riding her bike for many years throughout the world without a helmet, and she continues to do so today in Australia. She was recently ticketed for this offense, and instead of simply paying the ticket, she is going to court to fight it. This short documentary of Sue is really well-done and quite fascinating, as her argument is really quite valid. Interestingly, she feels quite the opposite that I do: a helmet makes her uncomfortable. But the important thing is that she is still riding her bike as she sees fit, and that is really what matters.
Check out the video of Sue by Mike Rubbo, an Australian documentarist. Mike learned of Sue from the one and only Copenhagenize.com. And be sure to watch through to the end of the video. Mike’s comments on why countries like Australia decided to implement a helmet law in the first place are very well spoken.