Use Your BikeSense – and Wear Your Helmet!

Bike safely - wear your helmet!Use Your BikeSense – and Wear Your Helmet!

Bike helmets save lives.

Personally, I am incredibly grateful this week for BC’s helmet law, and the changes in public awareness of the need to wear helmets. My husband was hit by a car while cycling home last Wednesday while he was doing all the right things, riding in a bike lane, wearing his helmet. His helmet couldn’t prevent all the injuries – the broken leg and road rash, but it did save his head. His helmet is cracked right through, and all I can think is – it could have been his head. Thanks to legislation and education it wasn’t. Had he been riding twenty years ago, he wouldn’t have been wearing that helmet.

But the question, I guess is, how do we get people to wear those helmets? I have been mentally shouting at the cyclists I see this week not wearing their helmets. I am taking it a little bit personally. Helmets are for everybody, not just kids; they are for hipsters, parents and professionals – you might fit in all three of those categories, but you do not look cool riding down the street with your toque rather than a helmet. To me you look like a brain injury waiting to happen.

And I think, that’s why two different studies on bike helmet laws that are in the blogosphere and media this week are getting attention. The Canadian study determined that legislation was not the answer to injury prevention, that education was working and that the trend toward wearing helmets was gaining traction even before legislation was implemented. There is a lively and ongoing debate over whether helmet laws are necessary and contribute to public health, or whether helmet laws create a barrier to cycling and its benefits of increased physical activity.

An American study determined legislation impacted helmet use and therefore injury prevention increased.

I agree that part of the answer is education, creating safe spaces for cyclists and increasing the number of cyclists on the road. These are all excellent and necessary things – the more the merrier, I love to cycle with other cyclists on a marked path rather than the lone bike in a sea of cars. But while we’re waiting for long-term projects and more funding for infrastructure, let’s do what we can with tools that are a little faster. Legislation may not be the silver bullet, but it is part of the arsenal.

If education and knowing that helmets save lives and heads is enough, and they don’t call them ‘brain buckets’ for no reason – why do I still see people riding with helmets on their handlebars rather than on their heads? If all the data doesn’t change minds, maybe the cost of a ticket will.

Helmets save lives. Wear your helmet, be safe, and get out there and cycle!

Samantha Hartley-Folz
Manager, Programs and Policy
May 2013

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