Diatribe - 19

Cycling is, I believe, one of the greatest pleasures in life and I feel that more people should be on two wheels. But I digress already. I fear that the aforementioned pastime/hobby/transport is becoming a rarity in our great country, in part due to the mandatory bicycle helmet law. If you’ve seen a helmetless Asian guy zipping on his mountain bike around campus or on the road (gasps), then you’ve likely seen me.

The mandatory helmet law was passed in 1994, mostly in response to one tenacious Rebecca Oaten whose son Aaron was tragically struck by a car while cycling, without wearing a helmet, to school. His head hit the gutter and he subsequently lived as a tetraplegic until he passed away last year. I’m in no way taking anything away from Ms Oaten whatsoever. It was a terrible, terrible event but that was essentially the catalyst for the helmet law. Fair enough for the young ones learning how to ride safely, but to make a criminal act out of it for adults; I think not.
We can apply the same concept to anything else we do in life. Maybe we should all wear full -face helmets, back protectors, gloves, and elbow and knee pads all the time because we might fall over while walking or we might crash while we’re driving. Maybe we shouldn’t get out of bed at all. Eliminate the risk altogether. Oh that’s right, there are also earthquakes.
Also subjective anecdotal evidence, while compelling and perhaps exaggerated, shouldn’t supplant objective scientific evidence. I invite anyone to show me sound research and statistics that demonstrate helmets have significantly reduced cycling deaths. I understand New Zealand and Australia are the only countries with mandatory helmet laws and they only discourage cycling by making them seem inherently dangerous. Think of how many more lives will be improved and saved by being more active and fit! In the Netherlands, which has the highest proportion of all trips made on bikes in the world, helmets are hardly ever worn. Go figure.
Compulsory helmet wearing has also put off people cycling in other ways, namely aesthetic reasons. Helmet hair is one most people wouldn’t like to admit to but quite valid for those going to work and on a hot day. Either that or it’s just damn nice to feel the wind in your hair.
Of course, it’s always a good idea to wear a helmet but all I’m saying is that I want choice, freedom from a nanny state and see more people on bikes. To the police who tooted at me and yelled, “Helmet!” I acknowledge you, but what about the numerous cars which failed to give way to me? It could have ended badly had I not been paying attention and all I get is “Sorry mate, didn’t see ya!” Easy to say that when you’re surrounded by a metal monstrosity. So there’s my two cents. I could go on, but I’ll end with a quote from George Bernard Shaw; “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”

Posted 11:48pm Monday 8th August 2011 by Albert Delorino.