Why I Wear A Helmet (Or One Year On…)

This week last year, a driver ran a red light and knocked me off my bike, through his windscreen and then onto the ground. I ended up with a mild concussion, a sprained knee, some cuts, loads of bruises, a shattered helmet and a smashed up bike.

Let’s face it, cyclists are not safe on Irish roads. Our national infrastructure of glass-littered cycle lanes which are not linked up properly or place you directly in harm’s way at junctions means that to get anywhere quickly, you have to be on the road. And while you’re away from the glass and pedestrians, it also means that you are closer to other dangers.

Because of these dangers, I cycle pretty carefully, knowing that drivers rarely give enough room for passing, pedestrians will often step out in front of me, and that I am lucky if a driver even acknowledges my presence before doing one of several stupid things such as turning left in front of me, passing me out and then hitting the brakes for a red light and not giving me enough space on the road. However, it still came as a shock that someone would be idiotic enough to run through a red light, knock down a visible cyclist in a brightly lit urban area and then blame it on having his windows fogged up.

I was lucky in that crash for several reasons; the most important reason being my helmet. Looking about the cracks in it where it shattered from the impact of my head on the windscreen and then bumping my head on the ground, I often wonder about how bad my head injuries would have been if I didn’t wear it that evening.

None of the arguments against helmets, i.e. they encourage bad driving and cycling habits because road users assume cyclists are safer wearing a helmet and they cause cycling to be seem as a unsafe activity, can even dissuade me from wearing a helmet. I wear my helmet and know I’ll be a bit safer in a crash than hoping not wearing a helmet encourages drivers to be more careful around me. As for non-cyclists perceiving cycling as unsafe, well, let’s be honest, cycling isn’t exactly the safest sport out there and as an individual cyclist, I’m not going to place the encouragement of the general population towards two-wheeled transport over my own personal safety. As for the comfort, fit and aesthetic issues, there are several brands producing different style helmet for the variety of bike users out there.

I wear a helmet, and would encourage every cyclist to add up the pros and cons of helmet-wearing. Maybe I would have been lucky not to get a severe head injury without a helmet but for me, the risk isn’t worth it.

If my post isn’t persuasive enough, maybe this video might encourage you to reconsider helmets…

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9 thoughts on “Why I Wear A Helmet (Or One Year On…)

  1. Oh my goodness, I’m glad you were (mostly) okay after that! How scary for you!

    I’ve just recently taken up cycling and I refuse to do it without wearing a helmet. Two big things that changed my mind were actually getting hit by a car while riding (nothing major, just bruised up my leg and bent a pedal) and taking up a job in news that has me writing way too many stories about cyclists who are hit and killed while riding.

    I read stories like yours, where you were able to walk away from a crash, and I’m like, yep, that helmet is staying on my head at all times. Don’t care if it makes me look dorky – I’m wearing it.

  2. I wear a helmet too. I live in Germany and in my city cycling is very popular and the cycle lanes and rules are much better than in England but being new to the sport, I decided to get a helmet because motorists are dangerous and I don’t know all the laws yet. What I find perverse is that the general public considers cyclists who were helmets must be professionals and therefore must know what they are doing on the roads when I wear a helmet for the opposite reason. Scary!

  3. I’ve just had two wrecks on two consecutive Mondays. Lots of road rash but nothing broken, thanks to the helmet (actually two helmets, and I need a new one before I ride again) that took the hit.

    In the States we have a word for people who ride without helmets: we call them “donors.”

  4. Don’t you think it’s a little bizarre to praise the effect of the helmet when you ended up with a head injury (concussion) despite wearing it? Cycle helmets often seem to attract the most praise from the people they have failed the most.

    • I’m pretty sure it was hitting the windscreen with my head that gave me my slight concussion, and also seeing that helmets absorb force, I’m pretty sure that had I not been wearing one, it would have been my skull absorbing that impact.

  5. I only bought a helmet due to peer pressure when doing a charity ride and never wore it again. It sat in a cupboard for years as I rode about, commuting daily.
    Then my girlfriend found it and suggested I wear it. My usual excuses of it only protecting for impacts under 20mph etc rolled out and it sat there again for a few more months. The weather got cold and I started to wear a beanie hat and for some reason one morning I decided to wear the helmet. That was on a Tuesday in Oct 2010.
    Wednesday, the next morning I rode to work and had an accident that knocked me out cold (details are scant due to my concussion but nobody else was involved, just me riding too fast with too many things to bump into, I think my bike slipped throwing me into a lamp post). I snapped my little finger, held together only by some flesh and nerves and fractured my wrist. I must have been out for a bit as when I came to a passerby was already on the phone to 999 and I had no recollection as to if I was cycling to work or home.
    Needless to say I now always wear a helmet and think I’d probably be having a lot more difficulty in being able to construct simple sentences like this had I not been wearing it that day.

  6. Pingback: 100 Posts | Aurora La Petite

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