I decided that it was time for a new bike helmet today. I bought the old one when I was 19 years old, in a delayed response to a bike accident that killed one of my teenage heroes. Head injury. At that time, helmets were an unusual sight on bicyclists, and it seems something drastic had to happen to convince people like me that they were a good idea.
I have a little game I play to pass the time while I cycle to work every day – I count the number of people that don’t wear helmets. My coworkers think I might be a little autistic because I keep statistics. At the moment, about 2 in 3 cyclists I meet between 8 and 10 in the morning wear a helmet, which I think is a pretty good number. But if I take the same tour in the middle of the day, hardly anyone wears one. My guess is that people I meet in the morning are more like me – they are serious about replacing the car with a bike, and are more conscious about traffic because they ride during rush hours. During the day, the casual bikers are on the road, and a lot of women and old people. Among the people that don’t wear helmets, women and old people are by far the biggest group. I have no concrete numbers for this, and think that I should incorporate that into my statistics.
NRK Faktor had a show some days ago about the danger of bicycling in Norway. In a country where only 4% of the traffic is by bike (as opposed to 12% in Sweden, or 28% in Holland), cyclists are simply not noticed. Accidents are common – Oslo legevakten (emergency room) treats 7 cyclists every day – and wearing a helmet should be common sense.
What I don’t understand: Parents riding the bike with their kids, making the kids wear helmets but refusing to wear one themselves. Why is this such a common sight?