Helmets And Safety
To wear a helmet when cycling has suddenly become a big debate again following the tragic news of a young man that was knocked down on his bike by a press bus in East London and killed earlier in the week.
This has always been a hot topic and let me give you my opinion first by saying that I think when riding on a road or where there is a chance of serious injury it is worth wearing a helmet.
I heard a discussion on Radio 2 yesterday about it and everyone does have an opinion. Some people were saying that its car drivers that need to be educated to be more aware of cyclists, while others were saying that it was the bike riders at fault for not being aware of car drivers and were too busy jumping red lights whilst listening to music. It amazed me just how worked up people can get.
I think it’s very easy to get steamed up and self-righteous about it but I think that we shouldn’t blame one group of people over the other. I’m not just sitting on the fence either because there is right and wrong in both arguments. For a start there is freedom of choice. If an adult takes a bike out on to the road or even off road where there is the potential of injury, surely they must be aware of the dangers. People have to make decisions about risks every day of their lives and this is just one more decision.
Then there is the parent and child scenario. I can understand why a parent wants to protect their child’s head and so makes them wear helmet, but how often do you see a child with a helmet riding next to a parent who is not wearing one. These are children, they are not thick and so they must look at Mum or Dad and think why should I wear one when they don’t and they would be correct in thinking this. I don’t think you can ask a child to wear a helmet if you’re not prepared to wear one yourself.
Next are the broad sweeping statements that people make without knowing all the facts that seem to make the argument stray away from just helmet wearing to being uncontrollable on the road. I’m not saying I know everything either, I would be the first one to say I don’t.
As a cyclist I think I can say that we are not all jumping traffic lights and riding down one way streets the wrong way. It is true that some do however but I wouldn’t recommend it because it increases the risk again. Some people do like to listen to music, I for one am one of those people, but you can’t assume we don’t hear what’s going on. On the side of the gadget in question there is a volume control button. I have mine set at a level where I can hear traffic in all directions. If I’m out on an open road it may be set a little higher, but in town it will be reduced so I can detect what is happening around me. When it comes to traffic lights I do obey them.
I think it would be impossible to make a person wear a helmet by law, how on earth would you begin to police it. Would a youngster out in the park with his mates get a ticket for riding round on the grass? What about a toddler on a tricycle? The police would be under mountains of paper work and then the public would start telling them to go and catch some real criminals.
So what’s the answer to this problem? I think it comes down to educating everyone who uses a bike, to make sure that they know the risks involved. I would say that in schools there should be a compulsory programme to show what the risks are when riding a bike, what can happen to a cyclist if they are not riding properly and the consequences of their actions when things go wrong. After that it’s then their choice.
As there are increasing numbers of cyclists on our roads, I think that when a young car driver is learning to drive they should be sent out as part of their learning process on a one day cycling course so they can see the dangers the cyclists face from their perspective. This might make them a little more tolerant of cyclists and how vulnerable they can be without the protection of a big metal box around them.
If everyone was better educated at a young age the chances are there would be fewer accidents over time. You cannot eliminate accidents completely, but you can make people more aware of the risks and hopefully they will decide that wearing a helmet is well worth doing.