For many years, I have been a member of the Helmet Nazi Party.
Which is to say, I have suggested to people in fairly uncertain terms that they ought to be wearing a helmet when they ride. I have muttered “organ donor” to my kids when I’m driving and see unhelmeted cyclists. I used to leaf through Nashbar and Performance catalogs looking for the coolest (in all senses) helmets.
I used to argue that people without helmets were a drain on my tax and insurance dollars–someone was going to have to take care of these idiots when they get hurt.
I am further convinced that helmets have saved my bacon (or at least a few slices) a couple of times.
And then, some time in the past few weeks, I realized something.
Don’t. Be. A. Dick.
It’s almost certainly true that helmets stop some injuries. It’s also possible that (as some folks argue) they can make others worse. And while it seems unlikely to me that helmet requirements cause some people not to ride, it’s certainly possible.
But here’s the thing–it’s not important enough to argue about.
Here’s why. Every year, there are a number of cyclists killed or injured in accidents on the roads. And as awful as it is in individual cases, it’s a small number. I don’t know how small, I just know that it’s small enough that I’m still willing to ride on the roads almost every day (granted, I do not live in Chicago, New York, LA, or Miami). Let’s just make a number and say that the probability of being in an accident is 1/1000 (like I said, a made-up number). And let’s say the probability of having a head injury (that is preventable by a helmet) if you are in an accident is quite high, say 1/10.
Two possibilities emerge from that–one is that you should always wear a helmet, since it gives you significant protection in an accident. The other, and it’s one that I’ve become more impressed with of late, is that you should look at things you can do to lower the possibility of an accident in the first place. That is, that the marginal utility of wearing a helmet, even if it’s an order of magnitude, isn’t really that great, because most cyclists don’t have accidents to begin with.
I had a paragraph there with suggestions as to when/how/who should wear a helmet. But you know what? It’s not that important. Don’t wear a helmet if you don’t want to, wear one if you do want to, and don’t make up a lot of sh_t about people who aren’t like you.
Don’t. Be. A. Dick.
So I’m hanging up my HN uniform. I am removing my HN jackboots.
I’m not hanging up my helmet. But that’s my choice for me.