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Mandatory Helmets: The Deeper Issue

Posted Jun 28 2010 7:49am

I am troubled when educated and influential medical people call for the mandatory wearing of bike helmets.

Dr. Ian Gillespie (Right.) President, British Columbia Medical Association is making such a call as reported in the Vancouver Sun.

A man like Dr. Gillespie, because of his position, carries a lot of weight and before you know it, politicians are passing legislation to bring in mandatory helmet laws.

Don’t get me wrong, I wear a helmet and I think they are a good idea. However, my helmet is my last line of defense and my best chance of survival is to avoid an accident in the first place.

I do this by following the rules of the road. I stay alert at all times to potential hazards, and try to avoid mishaps before they occur.

Helmets should be encouraged, but not made mandatory. The moment you force people to wear a helmet, you stop a great many people from riding a bike.

At this time, in this economy, oil dependency, and with rampant obesity, we need more people riding bikes.

Mandatory helmet laws, give the impression that cycling is dangerous. There are far more pedestrians killed than cyclists, and moreover, most pedestrian deaths are from head injury.

The pedestrian is hit below the waist, his head either hits the windshield or some other part of the car; or he is flipped upside-down, thrown high in the air, and lands on the hard pavement, on his head.

There is no push from the medical profession to make helmets mandatory for pedestrians.

Would you want to be forced to wear a helmet while walking around town? Many people feel exactly the same way when forced to do so while riding a bike.

If a cyclist is involved in a serious accident, a head injury is only one of the ways he might be killed or seriously injured. For example, in Jarvis, Ontario, Canada, a 21 year old man was riding home from work on the sidewalk.

An SUV made a left turn into a parking lot and the cyclist ran head first into the passenger side window. The glass shattered, and the unfortunate young man cut a main artery in his neck, and bled to death within minutes.

The fact that he was not wearing a helmet was neither here nor there in this case; it was not a head injury that killed him.

None-the-less, this accident should not have happened. It was daylight; had the cyclist been on the road instead of the sidewalk, the driver of the SUV would have had a better chance of seeing him before turning.

The cyclist, lulled into a false sense of security that riding on the sidewalk gives, was probably oblivious to his surroundings and failed to notice the vehicle turning across his path.

The main problem I have with mandatory bike helmet use is that it detracts from the real issue; it is people driving motor vehicles that kill cyclists and pedestrians.

Over the last hundred years or more, safety legislation has been all about protecting the person in the automobile, giving the occupant such a sense of security that he/she drive their cars as if they are sitting on their living room sofa.

There needs to be a sense of responsibility brought back to driving a car, a looking out for your fellow man and woman; especially those more vulnerable, namely pedestrians and cyclists.

This is what Dr. Ian Gillespie should be pressing for, not mandatory helmets for cyclists.

Because when all is said and done, a little piece of foam polystyrene on a cyclists head will never solve the real issue of cycling death and injury. The one of auto drivers being allowed to drive as they please.

It’s a little bit like allowing everyone to go around firing guns, and then making bulit-proof vests mandatory



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