Why wearing assless chaps is safer than a bicycle helmet

Denial is a wonderful thing. Denial allows me to seriously say that sleeping on a camping mat is comfortable (it is!) or that my minimalist lifestyle (including camping mat) does not have an adverse effect on my dating life. Denial even allows me to refer to my dating life “my dating life,” thereby implying that it is a vibrant and dynamic part of my schedule and not as pathetic and slow-moving as a teenage boy on his way to pick up his soon-to-be ex-prom date on his mother’s tandem bicycle.

I love denial.  If I could, I would wrap myself in denial like the cozy blankets I used to have until I became a minimalist (it’s ok, sleeping in a sweatshirt and a sheet is just as warm).  Denial allows us to feel good about blogging, believe that climate change and global warming planet is god’s benign gift to retirees, or that, like the people in this recent Grist article, wearing a bicycle helmet  is some weird effort by “the man” (presumably a different “man” than the liberal one who made up climate change) to make us all wear silly hats, and are actually more dangerous than not wearing a helmet.

In fact, one scientific denier in the article went a step further, arguing that the problem with helmets was that they were not silly enough.  No, one should go ahead and actually wear silly wigs.  According to this study, which featured the man as both the scientist and the subject, he was safer without a helmet because cars gave him a few more inches, and even safer still when he wore a long wig.  By this logic, bicycle advocates should scrap everything they’ve been doing, and advocate only for laws that require cyclists to rid in assless chaps and leather vests that have “I have explosive diarrhea” written out in rhinestones.

The other lead expert in this anti-helmet field is a blogger named Mikael Colville-Anderson.  Although he is a blogger, the fact that he is both Scandinavian and has made a career out of self-publishing photos of sexy people on bicycles (presumably in flowing wigs and leather vests) making him instantly more qualified and trustworthy than the assless chap wearing scientist.

Now, clearly because he is a “sexy people bike” blogger, his interests in helmet laws is purely about the safety of all, and not about the mainly aesthetic downsides of helmets: that they look silly (which I have solved by attaching a rearview mirror) and mess up your hair (which I have solved by never, ever taking it off in public).

His main argument is not an incorrect one: the “strength by numbers” idea (supported by non-wig-centric scientific studies) that bicycling safety correlates to a higher number of people bicycling, and that mandatory helmet laws promote a culture of fear regarding bicycling.

There is validity here: the more people bicycling, the more cities will have to supply bicycle related infrastructure, the more people will know how to bicycle safely, the less people will be driving cars (that tend to win in bicycle vs. car fights).

Problematically, bicycle accidents are not just about cars (look who’s all culture of fear-y now, Mr. Sexy bicycle man!).  Indeed, it is also about the people who bicycle for fashion reasons (and see ignoring red lights or not having brakes as the ultimate in daring fashion).  Also, we have yet to see any study done on the number of accidents caused by flowing wigs blinding the very people they are supposed to faithfully and fashionably protect.

I am no denialist (denier-er?).  I recognize the need for pragmatic solutions to these sorts of conflicts.  I advocate that in all mandatory helmet laws, there should be a “twit loophole” that exempts anyone who is a climate change denier from having to wear a helmet.  You might say that this is a good application of Darwinian principles, but it’s really just me being as vindictive as an adult who never got over the embarrassment of trying to take his date to prom on a tandem bicycle and who sleeps on a camping mat.

Besides, Darwinism is just a monkey-loving conspiracy-I reject all science that implies that we are related to monkeys, that we have to change our lifestyles to fight “climate change”, or that there are better ways to be safe than prancing around in a wig and assless chaps.

The anti-helmet revolution will not be decently clothed


About Big Adam

A NYC doorman, a community organizer, wannabe ape, sometimes blogger, sometimes writer, always crossword puzzle incompleter, I will ride bicycles with your papa, dance Bhangra with your mama, take you on dates that cost nada.
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3 Responses to Why wearing assless chaps is safer than a bicycle helmet

  1. Widsith says:

    Since you save you love denial, here’s something else you can try to deny: Millions of us started riding 50 or more years ago, when none of us wore helmets (or even knew bicycle helmets existed), yet most of us haver never suffered a head injury on a bike or knew anyone else who did. I don’t care anything about what “fashion” says about wearing helmets; but if I were to start wearing a helmet now, it would be an implicit denial that I, my family, my friends, my schoolmates, everyone else that I knew, and nearly everyone else I ever heard about, rode bicycles all those years safely without helmets. To agree that I need a helmet now is to agree that I needed one 50 years ago, and that is arrant nonsense which I do most heartily deny.

    • big Adam says:

      I’d point out that 50 years ago seat belts in automobiles were also not required, and millions of people did not suffer injuries there. Of course, there were also quite a number of people who could have avoided serious injury had they been required to wear a seatbelt.

  2. Really enjoyed this post. Thank you.

    The great helmet debate should generate a few comments. Instead of the usual fare, I will disclosure an embarrassing secret. I used to feel cool when I carried a motorcycle helmet. I’d hope people would notice and then associate me with the fancy motorcycle outside. Lame, but true. Ego!

    No motorcycles now (but I kept the helmet–maybe I should carry it around just for fun?). I sometimes feel sort of cool, maybe smug is more accurate, carrying a bicycle helmet around. The effect on my ego is better when the weather is bad. Not nearly the ego boost I used to get with the motorbike helmet, though.

    Why the difference? All the while I motorbiked, I pedaled as well. All the while I thought bicycles were cooler than motorcycles. Shouldn’t my ego have been stoked more when being witnessed with the bicycle helmet? I think the ego-high was greater with the motorbike prop because I believed more of the world thought motorbiking was cooler than pedaling. My ego was fed more by my perception of the preferences of others than my own beliefs. (I suppose this should be obvious–ego is built on our beliefs of what others think of us.)

    I miss my motorbikes, but the last thing I need is an ego boost and the last thing the world needs is another human moving about on a private gas-powered transportation tool (motorbikes might get better gas-mileage than some cars, but the gas-mileage is often surprisingly low).

    Clearly egos are better starved than stoked, but feasting is more fun than deprivation when considering matters selfishly and short-term (which I too easily and often do) With that frame of mind, I wish I could be convinced that the whole world was as into pedaling as I am. Maybe then I’d be even more happy to carry a bicycle helmet around. It is hard to believe the world wants me to pedal, though, when I so regularly get mean shouts despite my efforts to be a super courteous and safe road sharer. Folks–I am trying to build an ego here!

    And now for a few more pedestrian helmet debate comments. I believe in the validity of the studies you cite–that you are less likely to get hit without a helmet (because motorists give you more room when passing and you are less likely to do stupid things). I also believe assless chaps will do more to keep you safe, but I don’t believe you’ve studied it seriously (where is the data, and by data I mean pictures?). Even so, when the collision comes, I am happier to have a helmet on.

    Post-script: Consider combining assless chaps and vests with bedazzled incontinence warnings WITH a helmet. The best of both worlds, no?

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