Once again the great cycle helmet debate has hit the airwaves in NI. With the usual cries that a few cm of polystyrene foam will act as some super Batfink-esque shield of steel to prevent all injuries to cyclists. Never mind if you go under the 2nd axle of an 8-wheeler, if you've a helmet on, you will be fine.
This clearly, is bollocks, I could insert a link to a story regarding a cyclist taken to hospital with the famous "Not wearing a helmet" line when they have suffered no head injury at all, but I would probably fry my brain trying to choose one, similarly, I could go equally nuts trying to choose a story where the poor sod was wearing a helmet but still got squished by a FM7.
Now people perceive cycling as some kind of extreme sport, personally I feel I shouldn't have to wear a plastic hat and dress like a binman or a refugee from Tribal Gathering 1996 to nip into town for a bit of retail therapy. It's not extreme, at all, but lets see how other everyday situations would work out if the same attitude was applied to them.
Take driving. Over half of fatal head injuries are caused by cars, so going with the better safe than sorry attitude so piously directed at cyclists, I'll look at your average car. Say a Mondeo, just like mine, an ordinary family hatchback. Firstly, we'll fit a full roll cage, only we can't as that would mean taking the rear seats out, we'll take the glass out too and fit perspex windows, your lovely heated reclining seats will have to go too in favour of bucket seats and 6 point harnesses, assuming we keep the back seats for your kids, there's no way we can keep your little ones seated above above a plastic tank with 60 litres of unleaded in it, so we'll put a baffled tank in the boot, then we'll plumb in some fire extinguishers and external cut off switches for the electrics. As for driving to the shops, you'll need a full Nomex outfit. Boots, gloves, suit, balaclava, the whole works, your head will be in a helmet with a Nomex lining and the helmet will be connected to a HANS device to stop basilar skull fractures.
This sounds ridiculous, and it is, and that's before your car is sprayed in Hi-viz paint.........
Walking is equally dangerous, you could trip and hurt yourself, so lets suit all pedestrians up in padded suits reminiscent of the Michelin Man, maybe make the suits hi viz too, and the ubiquitous walking helmet and gloves will be worn. Also, lets introduce an alcohol limit for pedestrians, no more walking back form the pub after a few pints, in fact, walking to the bar to get them in, it's deadly! All that glass! Lets limit people to one drink served in a plastic sippy cup.
If this sounds mad, how do you think I feel when I hear about mandatory cycle helmets? In certain parts of Australia, non wearing of helmets is punishable by a hefty fine, a country with probably the greatest selection of deadly animals on the planet will fine you for not wearing a plastic hat in hot conditions. Gives me another reason to avoid the place if nothing else.
But if you see me on my commute, I'll be wearing Hi-viz and a helmet? Hypocritical? Yes, but it's nothing to do with safety, it's to do with money. If the worst happens, I would receive less compensation is I was seen to be contributing to my own demise by not wearing a plastic hat. That's how deeply the helmet myth has penetrated into the psyche of the powers that be in this country.
So far, there have been over 100000 hires of Belfast Bikes, in a year I have seem ONE person riding one with a helmet. Nobody has died. If that's not an example of how ridiculous helmet compulsion sounds, I don't know what is.