Safety is a large concern for many bikers but there’s a point at which it can actually make biking more dangerous. Helmets only address a small area of concern with biker safety, creating bike only lanes provides a safer and less congested path for road traffic. This solution is already seen in many European countries and is meet with large success. Countries such an Denmark, the Netherlands, and even New Zealand have high numbers of cyclists and a much lower number of head injury’s. When it comes to bike safety it’s not the riders fault for the lack of safety, it’s the cities.
When bikers wear helmets, cities especially, drivers feel less need to exercise caution towards them. On average, drivers avoid bikers more if they see them without a helmet. This mentality towards bikers is unhealthy as drivers should always express this kind of safety weather the biker has a helmet or not. Cities like Copenhagen have extensive bike paths that cross the entire city and allow for a safe environment where getting hit by a car is less of an issue. Helmets are not required by law in Denmark but they are still available to the public if they choose to wear one. Countries don’t need more laws to protect drivers, they need safer roads for them to ride on.
For bikers to truly be safe on the streets cities need to add more bike only paths to separate bikes from car traffic. Only a handful of cities in the US have bike lanes, and even then they mostly act as a shoulder. The US is poorly equipped to handle large amounts of bikers and tries to make up for it by having helmet laws. This is only a temporary solution to the larger, and more costly issue. Unfortunately the only way to get more people biking in the US would be spending large amounts of money to repave the roads, adding a bike lane. Budgeting this isn’t the only problem, car companies are a large part of Americas economy and if less people drive then they lose a lot of business.
A surprising fact that most people don’t know is that some of the largest supporters for bike helmets and helmet laws are car companies. They endorse helmets because social stigmas tell us that helmet hair is bad and should be avoided, thus increasing the number of drivers on the road. So if America embraces helmet laws then we also need to accept the helmet hair that follows. Another thing about helmets is the amount of safety they actually provide. Unless you’re wearing a motorcycle helmet, a bike helmet wont protect you from a car going faster then 20 mph. Most people don’t realize this and believe that they can get away with riskier riding, when in reality, the only thing protecting you is a couple inches of hard foam. The mentality people put on helmet protection is often greater then the actual protection they offer.
Safety is the largest concern with cycling laws, but too much effort is put into helmets and helmet laws, when improving roads and paths is all that is needed. The problem isn’t solved by making bikers fit into society, it’s solved by adapting society around biking. Countries like Denmark have shown that having easily accessible bike paths and not pressuring people to wear helmets greatly increases the number of cyclists. For America to integrate successful bike safety we would have to model a country that successfully sustains a large cycling population. Biker safety is more dependent on the lanes and paths set up for them, rather then the actual protective gear.