COLUMN: Protecting your head a no-brainer

NANAIMO – People have been debating the merits of a law requiring bicyclists to wear a helmet recently.

People have been debating the merits of a law requiring bicyclists to wear a helmet recently.

In Ontario, a new report from that province’s chief coroner suggests making helmet use mandatory for all ages, as right now, only those under 18 are required to wear the protective headgear or face $60 fines.

On the other side, some people in B.C. want to relax the mandatory helmet law for adults, the impetus for this apparently being the bike share program Vancouver hopes to get going next summer.

In B.C., both children and adults are required to wear helmets when cycling on public roadways or face fines of up to $100.

Some argue the helmet laws discourage people from making a short trip to the grocery store by bicycle and that it should be up to the individual to decide whether to wear one or not.

Another concern I’ve heard expressed is the bike sharing program Vancouver hopes to get going – where people can grab a bike for short-time use from automated docking stations placed throughout the city for a fee – will flop if the helmet laws remain.

I think the law should stay.

It’s not a huge inconvenience to put on a helmet. If you get one that fits properly, it is not uncomfortable and it clicks into place as fast and as easily as a seatbelt in a car.

You can get some fashionable helmets these days, too – the beanie-style helmets with everything from polka dots and flowers to peace signs and happy faces on them blend fashion and function.

I guess the argument might be that it messes up your hair and yes, helmets do to some extent, depending on how elaborate your hairstyle is. I don’t use any hairstyling product, so usually a quick brush or even running my fingers through my hair restores my look once I arrive at my destination.

As for the proposed bike share system in Vancouver, people may not want to carry around a helmet if the bike trip is only a small part of their day, but the city’s website states that helmets will be available for rent at the automated stations and that when the helmet is returned, it will be sanitized and inspected for safety and wear prior to rental by another user.

You don’t have to worry about putting on headgear covered in another person’s dandruff and when you return the bike to another station, you also return the helmet.

As for all other areas, including Nanaimo, I ride my bike everywhere and don’t bother carrying the helmet around with me, I just lock it to the bike.

The bike helmet law also reminds people that biking can be dangerous.

Accidents do happen and you don’t have to be going fast to hurt yourself badly – I can personally attest to that. Falling off a bike and hitting pavement hurts a lot and besides the bloody scrapes, that fun and carefree trip to the grocery store can turn tragic if you happen to fall and hit your head or get hit by a car.

I have more than one friend whose noggin has been saved by a helmet – one friend kept his cracked helmet to show others what would have happened to his skull had he not been wearing one.

A brain injury is definitely life changing, and not in a good way. And it costs society thousands of dollars to rehabilitate a brain-injured person.

So, should the rest of us have to pay when someone decides a helmet is too dorky? I don’t think so.

I’ve noticed a lot of cyclists in Nanaimo already don’t bother with helmets despite the law, but having it in place gets more people wearing helmets than before – faced with the prospect of a fine, more people will choose to put a helmet on.

Putting on your helmet before your ride should be a no-brainer, so to speak – like putting on your seatbelt before you drive somewhere.