After my recent blog post comparing compulsory bike helmets to compulsory armbands on Jews, I have been hounded by facebook-friends (“ffs”) who believe conscientious objectors to bike helmet laws are going to inspire reprisals from motorists. If you think the risk of head injuries can be exaggerated sometimes, you’re not spending enough time with these nervous ninnies who believe every undisciplined act by fellow cyclists is setting them up to be slain. They have temperaments like this poor little Chihuahua who thinks anything moving that is bigger than he is, has nothing else better to do than to kill him.
They also live in the suburbs. In fact anyone who thinks they can join forces with other voters to gang up on those of us wanting to decide for ourselves when to wear bicycle helmets, is likely to live in the suburbs. The whole reason we’re having this helmet debate now, and were silent in the early 1990s when it was first introduced, is now there actually are some Australians living in high density settings where trips are much shorter and going slow on a bike is worth doing often. Four or five times a day.
In Australia our gracious forefathers built cities with small private quarters but great public realms: parks, pubs on every corner, and beaches to turn an otherwise upstanding Dane into a seagull (head spinning around) for the time he was here. Georgian and Victorian Australia has become a site for seeing and showing off abs, boobs and tans all within two minutes of leaving home on your bike. By about the third time you left home for the day, any of you reading would be ready to say, “screw that!” to wearing a helmet.
The suburban cyclist won’t even get on his bike without replacing his gear and brake cables. His helmet is just one of five hundred items on a checklist that he has to tick: $50 for T-shirt and bottle to raise funds for Amy Gillett; tires inflated to 120psi on the rear and 110psi on the front; enough spaceman food for a return journey to Mars in his special little carrying doodad that he’ll only use once; something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue; Strava; then three sleeps before getting out of bed at two in the morning for his supersonic V8 drive to wherever 500 people have agreed to all start some epic ride at 6 in the morning.
Only having to wear a helmet is an insult to this guy! He wants everything I’ve just listed to be written in law. That’s not to make cycling safer. It’s to normalise his addiction to toys and heroics. If it were up to him, you could not check the surf on your bike without fireworks shooting out of your arsehole to ensure you have drivers’ attention. How people might live sustainably and healthily in closer quarters is none of his business at all.
What I’ve learned then from my two weeks giving two hoots about mandatory bike helmets laws, is these stupid darn laws only concern a small percentage of the population who are living sustainably, in high density settings, that were hardly as common back when helmet laws were introduced to no protest. The law doesn’t impact the cycling community more broadly, given it is a community that is largely made up of resource gluttons without the requisite moral authority to open their mouths. And that, my dear friends, is just how it is.