New Helmet Day

Written by: Kimberlee Model, posted: 2022-11-10. Tags: transportation, bicycle, Identity and Politics.

This week saw Election Day in the US, however for me, the more impactful event was New Helmet Day on Monday. For those of you who aren't in the know, this isn't quite the joyous occasion which I make it out to be. Helmets are disposable and must be replaced after a crash. They will crush and crack and deform to prevent these occurrences from happening to your head.

Red Helmet placed on the handlebars of a blue bike. On the ground next to the bike's front wheel is a waste basket containing another red helmet.

Hand holding a red bicycle helmet upside down such that some of the interior is visible. Along the back of the helmet a large crack is visible (outlined in red).

This was my helmet, showing a large crack (outlined in red) along its back, and not pictured, a crack along the front too. This helmet saved me from what would likely have been a nasty concussion.

So what happened? I was riding my eScooter when a car came up behind me and the driver was behaving a little bit impatiently. It was a little narrow for my taste, but never the less, I swerved to make space so the car could pass with a safe margin. (While most experienced riders can locate vehicles by sound with good accuracy, determining if impatience will turn to road rage is far more difficult). Unfortunately I came upon a pot hole which was hidden by leaves and, as I was already unstable from a hastily planned swerve maneuver, it threw me off my scooter.

I have a hard time blaming the driver: many more drivers have been far more impatient around riders. I can't really blame myself or my eScooter either. Anyone else riding might have made the same maneuver, and the eScooter is currently a functional necessity for me, as I currently can't ride my bike as far or as fast as I need.

This crash was a failure in roadway design. The street in question is more than plenty wide to have parking protected bike lanes, and yet it doesn't. Many more roads are plenty wide enough to have bike lanes, and yet they don't. The suburban township where I'm currently living, has exactly zero bike lanes (I've counted), and plenty more streets that don't even have sidewalks. Just across the city boundary, the exact same road has bike lanes. And yet, this street is one of the few streets in the township which feels marginally safe to ride on a bike or an eScooter (I ride both at different times).

So what needs to happen? First and foremost, car drivers, whether they're careful and attentive or they speed and text (at the same time), need to be aware that their decisions impact other people more than themselves. Cars have airbags, cyclists and pedestrians do not. Riders need to know that helmets are one-time-use, (other social media users have informed me that many people are unaware of this life saving fact). But most importantly, both the township and the nation at large need to prioritize rider and pedestrian safety, and especially build more bike lanes.