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…