The great helmet debate seems to be a hot topic among many cyclists. Some say promoting helmet use is also promoting fear mongering and a culture based on irrational safety concerns. Along those lines is the statement that helmets deter potential commuters or folks from simply getting on a bike to ride. There’s also the line about how helmets actually lead to more risky behavior as it gives a false sense of overall safety.
The other side of the coin says that promoting helmets is smart because it sets a good example. Helmets can protect against serious injury or even death. Kids should almost always ride with a helmet as they are more accident prone. It’s also stated that helmets remind folks to be more cautious while out riding.
There are some snippets from both sides that could be seen as correct. In my humble opinion, I hardly think just wearing a helmet is truly holding someone back from riding their bike as transport. I also very much agree with the statement that helmets can save lives as I’ve seen it happen in real life.
Most folks reading this blog from around the Madison area may recall a story about a young man who was hit by a semi on Verona Road last August. That young man was a co-worker of mine named Derek Preston. Derek was 23 at the time and was riding his bike on his way back from lunch. This was a day like any other. Derek drives to work most days because it’s faster for him to get there and he opts to run errands or get lunch by bike while at the office. It gives him a nice break from spending his day in the IT hole at Saris.
The incident occurred as such (there was a surveillance camera that captured the whole thing on tape, none of this is hearsay)… the traffic light located at Verona Road and Williamsburg Way had turned green for the vehicles that were heading straight or turning left onto Verona Road/Verona Frontage Road. Derek got a head start on the cars, as most anyone could as the traffic during the day isn’t too heavy at that location, and ended up getting hit by a semi that didn’t slow down enough to stop at the red light for the southbound vehicles.
Derek suffered multiple broken bones (pretty much every bone in his body), a punctured lung, and several contusions. His bike was trashed, his iPad in his messenger bag was shattered, and the one thing that kept him from either a severe brain injury or even death was his helmet. For all we know, Derek could be mentally impaired or six feet under had it not been for his $30 piece of high density Styrofoam and plastic!
I’m glad to say that after several months of physical therapy, hospital stays, surgeries, and rehabilitation…Derek is back to work and mostly healed. He walks with a slight limp because of an issue he has with one of his ankles, but he’s standing on his own two feet. The guy even got a new bike and cycles to lunch using that same intersection! That’s pretty incredible after all he’s been through.
I really felt like Derek’s story needed to be told and I hope others decide to pass it along for anytime that great helmet debate arises. Some may consider it a freak accident, maybe so, but for many of us in the US… car culture is still what our cities are designed around. As long as we live in cities where cyclists are the “underdogs” I’m going to encourage everyone to ride with a helmet. If we lived in say, the Netherlands or another country where cyclists had their own super highways…sure, a helmet may seem a little over cautious. I still say better safe than sorry.
Spoke Haven would like to honor Derek for his bravery and willingness to share his story. The guy got a lot of news coverage last summer! We’re also super proud of him for getting back on the bike and not letting his experience take away an activity that he loves.
To go along with Derek’s story, we wanted to share some awesome pro-helmet posters done by our friend Daniella Echeverria. She’s a super talented graphic designer based here in Madison. These zombie-themed helmet posters were a project she did while attending school. We think they are pretty bad-ass! If you like the posters, please visit Daniella’s website. She’s also an amazing web designer and we secretly (or not so secretly) hope to use her talents in some way, shape, or form in the future.