In the world of biking, perhaps nothing is more capable of inspiring an argument than 20 ounces of foam, plastic, and chinstraps. We’re talking, of course, about the humble helmet. But when it comes to road safety, that single object can become a cypher for a whole host of anxieties about how we build and move through our dangerous streets.
Transport cyclist Carlton Reid recently made his feelings crystal clear in his bluntly-named Forbes article, “I Do Not Wear a Bicycle Helmet.” Reid argues that, while a bike helmet will keep us safe if we hit a rock on a mountain bike trail and go flying, they’re virtually useless in the kind of crashes that many cyclists fear most: ones involving a motor vehicle traveling at a high or even moderate speed. And while it certainly doesn’t hurt to strap on a Bern before they kick off on their cruiser, Reid believes that shaming riders who choose not to armor their skulls every time they go for a ride can function as a serious barrier to cycling—and as he points out, “it’s far healthier to cycle without a helmet than it is to never cycle at all.”
When Strong Towns shared Reid’s article on social media, we weren’t surprised to see that it generated some heat. So on this episode of Upzoned, we’re going a little deeper, and revealing what Strong Towns staffers Chuck and Kea do themselves when they head out on their bikes—and what we wish we could talk about if we could just set the helmet fight aside, let people make their own choices, and start talking about the infinite other ways we can make riders safer.
Then in the downzone, Chuck talks about a book he’s reading that’s making him question whether slavery ever really ended in the United States, and he and Kea both weigh in on their favorite seasonally-appropriate spooky TV shows.