Wednesday, April 11, 2012
Notice something strange about this picture?
She's not wearing a helmet! (gasp!)
It was probably taken in Europe - likely The Netherlands. Almost everyone cycles in The Netherlands - hardly anyone wears a helmet. And guess what? They are generally living to tell the tale.
When I grew up no one wore helmets. We all did just fine.
But then, when I grew up, we roller skated without shin guards and we had playgrounds where we played without the supervision of parents. My parents were pretty busy with adult stuff - kids did kid stuff - it all worked out and I'm still alive and healthy.
Today we live in a fear-based society - everyone is afraid of something and a lot of corporations are cashing in on that fear by selling products (like bicycle helmets) that are supposed to make you safer. What they are really doing is making you even more afraid. As in, "Oh my gosh, I have to wear a helmet when I ride my bike - this must be a pretty dangerous thing to do."
My friend, David, who has been working in China for a number of years now, has been on a campaign to get the Chinese to wear bike helmets. Until very recently I thought this an admirable goal. I mean, bike helmets are great right? It's like seat belts and air bags - we take this stuff for granted.
Maybe we shouldn't take everything quite as much for granted. I have been researching the subject for the last couple of days, doing my best to find the most unbiased studies showing the pros and cons of wearing bike helmets. "Unbiased" is a tricky concept in an argument that has ardent supporters on both sides.
The more I read the more I drifted to that anti-helmet side - to my immense surprise.
This TED talk has pushed me over the top:
I am reminded of something my ex-husband said to me many years ago. I was about to go off on a solo hike in Strathcona and he very seriously stopped me and told me about all the dangers of bear encounters. That day, for the first time, I was afraid while I hiked. Let me tell you how much that ruined my favourite activity. I was and still am furious with him. It is easy to acquire a fear and terribly difficult to eradicate it once it has made a home for itself in your psyche. I still do it - I still hike on my own - but for quite a while fear was my companion.
I don't think any of us should live like that. Ever.
Let's get back to critical thinking. Who benefits when we are afraid? Certainly not you or I. Life is a risky business. There is no such thing as protection from every eventuality.
Down with helmets!