Wear a @%$# helmet

Laura Wright

I’m not going to deny it: Bike helmets are lame. They look lame, they feel lame, if you don’t bombard them with Febreeze on a regular basis their smell surpasses lame and goes straight to repellant. The website of the hip bike manufacturer Public underscores the undesirability of the humble helmet: Public’s front-page boldly displays a slideshow of hip, diverse bike riders, each and every one of them — you guessed it — riding without a helmet. So I won’t try and deny it. I know just as well as the next person that bike helmets are deafeningly loud in their lameness, like orthopedic shoes or un-ironic overalls. But I don’t care. Cyclists, wear your damn helmets.

Last year, French researchers released a study of over 13,000 road trauma records that found that wearing a bicycle helmet resulted in an overall “protective effect” against head and facial injuries. A Swedish study conducted in 2007 looked at the incident rate of head injuries in Sweden over time and found that a decrease in head injures in school children coincided with observational data about an increase in helmet use. Though more study of the efficacy of bicycle helmets is needed, chances are you don’t advocate that the UT football team take to the field bareheaded. And why is their crashing into a linebacker any different than your crashing into a car while on your bicycle?

You probably believe that you are less likely to be in a potentially injury-inducing collision than a football player. And while that’s true (I haven’t known anyone to be tackled while strolling by the Tower), the UT campus and Austin, as a whole, have seen their share of cycling accidents. In 2010, according to the National Center for Statistics and Analysis, there were 42 pedalcycling fatalities in the state of Texas, or 6.7% of the national total. Between 2006 and 2010 there were nine cyclists killed in motorist accidents in Travis County according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. On the UT campus, there have been nine traffic collisions with injuries in 2012 alone (though the statistics do not specify how many of these collisions were with cyclists).

Now some of you are no doubt about to scold me for promoting bicycle helmets in lieu of other cycling safety measures — namely, knowledge of how to ride safely in traffic. And here comes the truth of this opinion piece: there are a lot of ways to protect yourself while cycling, and many of them have nothing to do with helmets. But there is strong evidence that helmets offer some protection against head injury. And, as a devoted helmet wearer, who struggles with the demonstrated effectiveness of helmets and their undeniable un-coolness, fellow bike-riders, I’m begging you: let’s make bike helmets the harem pants of the upcoming school year—unflattering, unusual and so widely accepted as a trend that no one looks twice. So cyclists, please, wear your damn helmets. Cover them with stickers, spray-paint them gold, bedazzle them if you must. Wear them so often that the trend of noggin-protection (bulky and unflattering though it can be) becomes the only smart, stylish thing for a UT cyclist to do.

Wright is a Plan II and biology major from San Antonio.