More Bikes not Enough Helmets

Cyclists are infamous for not obeying traffic laws and having little regard for their own safety or the safety of others. Whether or not that perspective is fair, it’s pervasive. Bikes and bikers are often thought of as dangerous.*

It’s terrible that that point of view is so common and, as someone who bikes to work, I often find myself arguing with people who think bikers are insane. One of the reasons that perspective is so common is because so few people regularly bike.  My thinking was, the more people bike the safer biking becomes.  Because with more bikers on the road, motorists would get in the habit of being more aware of bikers. The other, more important, reason biking might become safer is because if more people bike from a broader cross-section of the population more law-abiding risk-averse people would bike. Right now the people who bike are disproportionately male and young, and this is a population notoriously bad at avoiding risk.  That’s my segment of the population, I know it well.

Basically I want more people to ride bikes, because I think it would make the roads safer for bikers and drivers.**

So, when I heard about a bike sharing program coming to Chicago I was excited. The program, Divvy Bikes, is definitely going to put more people on bikes. So I thought that couldn’t be a bad thing for bikers, and bike/car relations. Until I found out they won’t provide helmets.  Let me rephrase that, they don’t even offer helmets.

Mayor on Bike

Rahm Emanuel with no helmet, also he’s going to get grease on those pants.

If bikers are going to be safer and less stigmatized they’re going to need to take some responsibility for their own safety.

I’m happy we have a bike sharing program in Chicago and if you ride a Divvy Bike you should definitely bring a helmet. But when are you in a situation where you have a helmet but no bike?


*I think the health benefits of riding a bike out weigh the possible dangers.  This crazy man agrees with me and he’s done some back of the envelope math about it.

**I’d also like it if more people biked so that they would feel less alienated from this group of commuters.


About Casey Brazeal


2 Responses to “More Bikes not Enough Helmets”
  1. Nes says:

    This. One thousand times this.

    The main issue with the idea that more bikers= safer biking, is that bikers rarely take accountability for their own personal safety: no helmet, using cell phones, wearing high heels or flip flops, wearing headphones, not having a light or even reflectors at night. Mutliple times, I have been in the middle of a crosswalk and almost hit by a biker disregarding street signs. I have been driving and had bikers grab on to my rear view mirror to get a ride or a boost. i bike and I usually feel like drivers give me a safe and comfortable bubble. Other bikers, though, always make me nervous.

    The divvy bikes are putting more bikers on the street but considerably unsafe bikers who lack a helmet and light. So how do we tap in to that population of law-abiding responsible bikers? And why isn’t there somebody who has sees the $$$ in a hygienic helmet share to saddle up along all the divvy stations… What a money making opportunity ;)

  2. Thanks for the comment, a lot of interesting ideas to unpack here.

    I think you’re right that bikers often don’t care enough about their own safety, but this is hardly unique to bikers. People in general are bad at evaluating dangers. Things that we deal with everyday we often become careless about.

    As for the helmet stand idea, I’m right behind you. Call Elon Musk and lets do this. Also, you’re right to bring up helmet hygiene, because I would guess this is the issue keeping helmets from being offered by the folks at Divvy.

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