The Chainlink

I am sure many of the other threads here touch on this topic to some degree but I would like to see this thread focus on the topic specifically.  Why do you feel that aside from what the rest of the world  sees as the norm, riding sans helmets, that all of the US feels inclined to always don a brain bucket and condone others when not doing the same?





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Big, wide bike lanes in these photos where you have a lot less car-worry might be the reason.

My understanding is that helmet use in London is much more common than the rest of Europe. 

When I commute to work, ride to the grocery store or to go meet a friend for dinner and drinks I don't wear a helmet. I really don't think it is necessary. I'm a good rider, confident in my abilities. It's not that dangerous. 

If I'm going on a group ride, i.e. pacelines and pushing hard, I'll wear a helmet as the risk factor has gone up. If I'm mountain biking / CX riding? Yes. If you're riding a mountain bike / CX bike in the dirt and you don't crash at least once you're not trying hard enough. Casual, social group rides? Nope. (Unless it's Marauders... Sometimes a helmet is a good idea then.)

But I often think that the obsession with helmets is misplaced and reinforces the notion that bicycling is inherently dangerous. I too often see people interested in cycling and will ask questions on a forum about what is needed and the cries of "GET A HELMET!!" just serves to reinforce the stigma of danger. 

I think that a better response would be to tell someone new to city riding (or riding in general) that finding a friend or even a paid pro to teach them how to ride would be better advice. 

I only care about my brains. The rest is up to others to care for themselves. It is a good idea, especially in the challenging cycling conditions that we have here in this country.

If you have experienced a fall in the past, and you can appreciate the fact that you can see and count the ten fingers in front of your face, you can thank your helmet !

People who wear helmets and vocal and more often than not suggesting that helmets are good.

Those who chose not to wear helmets aren't so outspoken and controlling.  They don't bike around criticizing those who do wear helmets. 

Condone others?  Or did you mean condemn others for not wearing a helmet?


I personally think it is unwise to ride in this City without a helmet and that is how I ride.  I'm a careful rider but, in four years of commuting, I have nevertheless wrecked twice on ice and was taken down by a runner on the LFP last week.  As a result, I'm happy I roll with a helmet.  However, I do not make it my business to tell a cyclist to wear a helmet much the same way I wouldn't tell the overweight guy with high cholesterol and high blood pressure that the triple cheeseburger with bacon isn't such a great idea.  We all make risk/reward tradeoffs.  I'm not willing to make this one.  

I love the personal stories and reasons why you choose to wear or not wear but I am looking at the trigger that has our society as a whole more invested in cranial protection than other societies.

Why is personal dome safety while on a bike an American trait and maybe, per Rich's astute observation, a British one as well?

The same penchant doesn't apply to motorcycle riders.  Is this due to their rebellious nature and the perceived nerdiness of cyclists?

I suspect cyclists in London wear helmets for the same reason many do in the states.  The cycling infrastructure in London isn't as well developed as it is in Amsterdam, Copenhagen and some of the other cycling cities in Europe.  The roads are narrow.  The bike lanes aren't often protected.  The traffic is brutal.  I honestly doubt cultural tendencies (other than the degree to which cycling is pervasive in the culture and infrastructure) play more of a role than the simple need to feel safe given the environment you are cycling in.  Risk/reward tradeoffs.

I agree.  If I were riding at 4 miles an hour completely enveloped and surrounded by other cyclists, maybe I'd go without a helmet.  But I'm not.  Where I ride, I'm often the only cyclist in sight and surrounded by cars.  And while I don't ride fast by any stretch, I do probably move along more quickly than people transporting their dogs in wicker baskets.  If you put the people in those photos on the streets of Chicago, I'd bet quite a few of them would be wearing helmets pretty soon.

I think  Wuffie and Jim are on target. I am an avid brain bucket wearer here. I have been doing so ever since I long ago was called upon to start paying my student loans. I wanted to protect my investment. I am looking forward to riding in a city like Amsterdam and will  have no problem cruising at 9 mph donning a stylish cap and having nary a care about my safety as I cycle with hundreds of like minded folks.  Meanwhile, here in the US or A where there is a reason why we have a Ride of Silence I am much more comfortable with a helmet  To ride without one would be like leaving home with my zipper open.



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