The city council up in Vancouver, Washington, while wearing their ass-hats, just passed an all-ages helmet law.
I don't want to delve too deep into this, because I find it highly depressing. It's depressing when the forces of flaming ignorance go on a victory parade like they have in Vancouver. It's depressing when the same bankrupt arguments get trotted out again and again whenever helmets are mentioned. It often seems useless to try to have any rational discussion about it. Depressing.
And it's depressing because I love Freedom. I really appreciate it. It's important. It's not just for breakfast any more. It's not just an advertising slogan.
So here's my take on it:
If someone wants to get on their bike and pedal six blocks to the Falafel King then they should feel free to do it. If I want to wear a helmet for that, okay, that might seem a little silly to some of you but you can't stop me. I may even wear a full-face motocross helmet! Whaddya think about that, Pancho? If that's my deal then that's my deal. If I don't choose to wear one, that should be fine too. See how easy that is? Maybe I'll even wear my helmet sometimes but not others on a seemingly random basis. Don't tell me what to do about my head-covering when I ride and I won't tell you what to do about yours. Nice beanie, by the way.
The depressingly common notion that every bicyclist needs to strap on a helmet for every single ride no matter what is not the product of rational thought. It's just a bizarre cultural mistake, something that happened to us when we weren't paying much attention. It crept up on us. I'm old enough to remember the beginnings of the helmet mindset slinking up to the backdoor of American cycling culture after almost 100 years of helmetlessness. Now, it's got us all confused. Most of us don't even realize it. New cyclists are indoctrinated seemlessly and unthinkingly into a cultural expectation that would have seemed utterly ridiculous just a few decades ago. The people over at Bell/Giro are giddy about this ongoing phenomenon I'm sure. The non-English-speaking cyclists to whom this cultural weirdness has yet to spread observe our obsession with dismayed curiosity.
Sadly, and shamefully in my opinion, there are many bicyclists who fail to connect the dots on this one (like those in the Vancouver Cycling Club who supported this law). Those riders who feel that the use of a helmet is such a simple and obvious solution that it should be mandated for all have badly misunderstood the protective value of their beloved headgear -- in which protection is sacrificed for style, weight and ventilation -- as well as the nature of the hazards facing adult cyclists, and I worry about them. That kind of ignorance is what gets people hurt and killed, not lack of a helmet. These people use their bike helmets like magic talismans to wave around and ward off evil spirits that they can't see and don't understand.
But, importantly, the Vancouver, WA council is not made up of cyclists. It is made up of drivers who feel they know what is best for cyclists. Bicycle helmets make them feel better behind the wheel, and it gives them an additional lever to play with on their Machine of Control, putting a whole group of undesirables Down by Law with one stroke. The council clearly was not interested in factual data about helmets and admitted as much. "Statistics be damned," said Mayor Pollard. He really said that. Facts just get in the way of people like this in their quest to bring acutely bad government to the masses. I'm guessing that statistics would not have been damned had they supported the Mayor's position.
With all due respect to the Vancouver, Washington city council, what a bunch of morons. I hope the people of Vancouver have sense enough to vote these idiots out of office next election.
To read more, and listen to the council's frighteningly ignorant comments and anecdotes, including one member's recounting how she hit a bicyclist with her car and was glad he was wearing a helmet, click HERE. Thanks to BikePortland's Mr. Maus for keeping up with this one as always.
Visit the I.C. RESEARCH PAGE and scroll down to 'Helmet Wars' to read lots of questionable research on this subject.