Cycling In The Cities: Confessions Of A Helmetless Rider

Ok. I’ll admit it. I broke the “rules” the last two days. I didn’t wear my helmet on my bike commutes to and from work. On Monday it was a true oversight that I realized when I was about five minutes from my house and I didn’t want to turn around. Today it was a choice. I know, I know. I can hear the brain injury team at Hennepin County Medical Center giving me the tisk, tisk right now. According to the Minnesota Safety Council, bike helmets have been proven to reduce the risk of brain injury by as much as 85% during crashes.

State Representative Phyllis Khan introduced a bill this year that would’ve required helmets for riders 16 and younger but it didn’t go far. So for now, Minnesota is one of 29 states (map here) with no laws requiring bike helmets. The only rule I broke by not wearing a helmet was what I call an “It’s the right thing to do” law… as in don’t smoke, eat your veggies and drink in moderation. Yeah. We’re all so good at following those rules.

Do you even remember what it felt like to fly down the street on your bike with the wind blowing through your hair? It’s about as close to feeling like a kid as I’ve come in my 30s. For a few days I enjoyed feeling a little wreckless and I lived to tell about it. And as I was writing my confession in this blog a friend named Raul walked into my office to chat about how enjoyable it was to ride in today’s cool weather. I said, “Yeah and I got to feel the breeze without a helmet!” He quickly scolded me and reminded me that he got a little lax about his helmet use a few years ago until he got smoked by a car on a downtown street. His brain is as in tact as it ever was, thank goodness. But boy is Raul a buzz kill.

There is actually a small movement out there of people who believe the societal pressure to wear a bike helmet has sucked the fun out of it and is, in part, ruining the effort to get more people back on their bikes. I’m not about to join the movement. I just wanted to feel like a kid again, if only for a few days. Tomorrow I swear I’ll ride by the “rules.”

Angela Keegan Benson is the Assistant News Director at WCCO-TV and a mother of two. On August 1, 2011 she began her quest to live one full year as a bike commuter. Follow along as she figures out how to mesh the cycling culture with the demands of parenthood and an affinity for 4-inch heels. And yes, she’s committed to sticking it out through February storms. For more Cycling In The Cities, follow @Angela_Keegan on Twitter.


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