I ride helmetless. I do so because I do not believe cycling is dangerous. But lately I’ve been concerned about other road users. Having engaged in endless helmet debates, two things occur to me:

1. Helmet use is contextural.

2. Moral suasion on the topic of helmet use is about as welcome as prosthelyzation or intrusive questions about lifestyle.

I don’t ask if you wear a condom everytime you have sex with your long term partner – something with low inherent risk. Point 1 is vital and the article in treehugger.com linked at the bottom spells that out. If you ride in the US (or Canada) there is a bull in the chinashop. And while advocates like Mikael Colville-Andersen talk about traffic planners “ignoring the bull” there is a real sense that he’s ignoring places where adequate infrastructure isn’t even possible at this moment. Toronto’s notoriously anti-cycling mayor is a case in point. But also anywhere that cars have 90 percent of the streetscape, the thought that helmets might provide a modicum of protection is an understandable one. I have no doubt that if I get crushed by a car, a helmet won’t help. But if nudged by a car? Well that happens far more frequently than statistics show – who reports an aggressive taxi? You don’t. You ring your bell, you yell, you flip the bird. But occasionally you’re knocked off the bike. That is the moment when a helmet may be appropriate. I don’t advocate for helmets, but I do see why they can make people feel safe when the places they live provide no other succor.

Others have said that cycle-tracks create the illusion of safety as well but lead to more dangerous intersections where road and track meet (see comments here.) This might have been true in the early days, but the Dutch model seems to have resolved much of these. But the other part of the equation is driver and cyclist education. Drivers in my part of the world see pedestrians and cyclists as road-lice. Vermin. Until that perception is ground out of them — and it must be forcibly imposed sadly — then every time I get on the road I have to accept that someone may satiate their psycopathic urge to crush me with no warning. But they might do this if I walk as well. Helmets won’t work there either. In the end I have to keep riding if only in the hope of changing the prevailing culture. Little by little it is changing. It is still infinitely easier to hop on my bike than it is to get on transit or drive. But it is not all roses that is the way of citizen cycling in my part of North America.

Why the Dutch don’t wear helmets : TreeHugger

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