To Helmet or not to Helmet?

One of the powerful impressions I brought home from Amsterdam was that no one wears a bicycle helmet.

The message that sends is that cycling is a safe activity.

Does our culture’s insistence on helmets send the opposite message? Should I stop wearing my helmet to symbolize my conviction that cycling is a safe mode of transportation for everyday use? I know one Metro Councilor who has taken this approach (and another who wears his helmet assiduously).

On the other hand, we don’t have the infrastructure or culture that the Netherlands has.

Not one who leaps to judgement, I decided to experiment. On my bike/bus commute to work, I left the helmet home for a couple of trips.

My first reaction is that this let me wear a hat instead, which was much more helpful with current weather.

And most of the time I felt pretty comfortable.

But on the stretch of my commute that takes me down Barbur Blvd, I felt a little exposed, particularly on one rainy, dark late afternoon when I knew I wasn’t as visible to the drivers (yes, I have lights).

So here’s my tenative conclusion: when I’m just riding around the central city or on neighborhood streets, I’m going to give myself permission to leave the helmet at home.

If my trip is going to involve mingling with arterial traffic however, I’m going to wear my helmet.

What do you think, should I have my head examined?

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