“I see helmet usage as an indicator of subjective safety. As a city planner, I would feel that if I saw the number of cyclists staying consistent or increasing, and helmet usage declining, it would be an indication that I was doing something really right in terms of making cycling safe in my city.
So I would say, wear a helmet or not, but either way, don’t settle for that. Push your city, state and federal governments to take real concern for your safety and make an effort to make the place you live safe for all the people who live there.”
Looking at helmets as indicators of subjective safety puts an interesting spin on how most helmet debates go. Most discussions seem to focus on the helmet itself with arguments circling around statistics of damage control; how many times has a helmet reduced the potential injury from an accident and how often has a helmet failed in this task.
But looking at the helmet as a symbol of a larger issue – the general safety and feasibility of cycling in a given place – is perhaps a more fruitful approach when dealing with cycling promotion and advocacy. And if we look at the helmet for that purpose, then we can also take other symbols of cycling and put them under the same scrutiny. How many bike racks are there in your town around your favorite coffee shops? How many bike paths take you safely from A to B?
I wanted to continue this conversation because these things have been on my mind lately. My favorite haunts around town often lack a single bike rack to which to lock my bike. I’m left searching for a parking meter or a sign pole to use. I’m forced to park in the way of the parking meter and to block the coin insert and to worry about upsetting drivers who may already harbor prejudices about the role of bikes on the road.
(My town also allows cyclists to ride on sidewalks, which in turn, suggests to most drivers that bikes should be on sidewalks and have no place on the road. But that’s a topic for another time.)
For now, I’m interested in these symbols of a cycling culture – the helmet, the bike rack, the signs of a cycling community. If I want to take an active role in promoting these in my city, how do I even begin to go about that? Who do you contact to demand more bike racks in your town? And have any of you appealed for actual changes and seen results? I would love to hear your (hopefully successful) stories on this matter. S.