One thing I noticed when I started bicycling was the differing opinions regarding helmet use. Some people are staunch advocates for at-all-times helmet use and call for helmet laws, while others argue that so-called helmet laws are unnecessary and adults should be capable enough to weigh the risks and decide whether to wear a helmet or not.
At this point, I refuse to bike without a helmet but that is my own, individual preference on the matter. If the goal is to get more people on bikes, I don’t think mandating helmet use is the right way to go. I like to give adults the benefit of the doubt that they’re able to weigh the risks and choose on their own whether or not they need to protect their noggin. And if those adults have children, I’m sure they’ll weight the risks in that situation and teach their children the importance of bike safety—including donning a helmet to prevent brain splattage and injury.
That being said, bike safety and awareness education is probably important and researchers at Georgia Health Science University found that a 30-minute brain injury education program may increase children’s use of bike helmets.
The researchers provided bicycle helmet safety and brain injury prevention information to 120 patients age 5 to 18 at Georgia Health Sciences Children’s Medical Center and found that helmet usage increased by 72.5 percent within the first month following the program – from only 11 children reporting wearing a bicycle helmet on every ride to 98 always wearing helmets.
A 75 percent increase in bicycle helmet use among children is pretty amazing, but of course, as the article points out that children are more likely to wear helmets if their parents wear them. Sadly, the researchers found most of the parents to be poor role models in follow up sessions.
There’s also the psychological aspect of helmet wearing—especially among teenagers—where your aesthetic appeal goes down the drain when you wear those clunky helmets. I know I feel a moment of awkwardness when I put my helmet on but perhaps these moments of self consciousness aren’t as bad now considering how far helmet designs have come.
Either way, know the risks and be careful.