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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Down To Earth

Do you wear a bicycle helmet? If not, why?

This is a German ad from the Consumerist and it reads “Be careful when transporting fragile goods.” Pretty nasty stuff. But the question remains do you wear a helmet? On my bike commute downtown, I see too many NOT wearing a helmet even though it's illegal (and stupid.)

The Spokesman reported this morning County commissioners are considering a bicycle helmet ordinance.
In addition, users of skateboards, roller skates and scooters might be required to wear helmets in unincorporated portions of Spokane County. According to John Craig, Commissioners plan to draft an ordinance and schedule a public hearing after receiving more information from the Spokane Regional Health District and the city of Spokane, which adopted a helmet law in 2004. And they want to know how well city officials believe their ordinance has worked and whether they would recommend any changes.

The comment thread exploded, anonymous commenters arguing not wearing a helmet is an impediment to their personal freedom, safety be damned. I would argue otherwise. I think a helmet is not only a good idea but a necessity. I've taken spills on pavement and I wish we didn't even have to debate whether or not to wear a helmet.


I hope this quote from a comment by Rick at Treehugger would drown out the noise:

Let me first say that I didn't start wearing a helmet regularly until AFTER I WOKE UP FROM THE COMA. Before I fractured my skull and bled an epidural hematoma the size of a navel orange, I used some of the inane arguments I have read above.

I used to joke that helmets messed up my hair. That was before the brain surgeons shaved my head and then closed up the suture with stainless steel staples.

I used to say that I'd rather just die than end up a paraplegic or whatever scenario I concocted. The problem is that dying might be easier than what follows a head injury. Volunteer at a neurological rehab hospital some day.

Helmets can't save you from every accident. Nothing can. But they can save you from a lot of accidents, maybe even most of them. If I had been wearing one on Dec. 2, 1988, I might not be taking anti-seizure pills every day, twice a day, for the rest of my life. If I had been hit by a truck, I might be dead. But I wasn't hit by a truck. I fell off my bike. Many, many life-changing, even life-ending head injuries occur at low speed. At the top, I might have been riding 20 mph and I didn't run dead-on into an object so the speed doesn't even matter. I fell off my bike. That's all it takes.

To argue that because they won't prevent all conceivable injuries they are somehow useless makes no sense. It's tragic, really.

I got back on my bike four weeks after my accident, three and a half weeks after coming out of a coma, with my hair still growing back from emergency brain surgery. That was 23 years ago. I have hit the pavement since, hard, with a helmet on. I got up and I rode home.

Wear the helmet. It's all the inconvenience of an elaborate hat. It might save your life. It might not. But the chance that it will is all the reason you need to wear it.

By the way, your personal style sense is not worth the rest of us paying the $X million it costs to care for you for the rest of your life if you hit your head.


Down To Earth

The DTE blog is committed to reporting and sharing environmental news and sustainability information from across the Inland Northwest.