The research on whether helmets actually save lives for bicyclists is nebulous at best; in some places medical practitioners are actually opposed to cycle helmet laws and won't endorse them at all.
And yet, over and over again, complete strangers feel compelled to lecture me about my choice to cycle without a helmet, which is my legal right in this province. My choice to ride helmet-free is an informed one; their lecture, on the other hand is not.
Case in point: while riding along Dundas on route home from school today, a woman waiting at a bus stop reached out and literally grabbed my arm while I was stopped at a traffic light. She proceeded to attempt to cajole me into wearing a bike helmet. As the light was red, I humored her, and engaged in what I hoped would be an informative dialogue; I encouraged her to visit cycle helmets.org and familiarize herself with the actual research on bike helmets.
She got right up in my face then -- her hand still gripping my arm, she gazed into my eyes, and spoke in a very serious tone: "I feel something bigger than the two of us here", she said, "I can feel it in my heart. And it's just telling me to tell you to wear a bike helmet!"
I'll say "bigger"; It's called.............. "MARKETING," lady!!!!! (You were expecting "God", maybe?)
The subliminal power of helmet promotion, even in places where wearing a helmet is not the law, is profound: think about every ad or public notice you see with someone riding a bike in it… They're always wearing helmets! That's no accident… governments like helmet laws, it makes them look like the good guy, as though they care about your head and your health. And helmet laws are far easier "solutions" in their mind than actually committing to public education classes and city cycling programs, dedicated bike paths and other viable solutions for cyclists and those who don't want to make the car their primary source of transportation. Throw the old helmet law on the table, and the government comes off looking like they're actually doing something about safety.
Not to mention, bike shops, Canadian Tire and Walmart love an opportunity to sell you yet another accessory… Who wouldn't be convinced by "safety"?
After tonight's bus stop harassment incident, I revisited one of my "go to" sites for cycle helmet research.
I am more convinced than ever that adults should have the right to choose whether or not to wear a helmet when cycling.
And for goodness sake's, people, if you're going to attack strangers about their personal choices, do us all a favor and read the research before you grab us in the street to tell us about your "higher source"!