The other day I was relaxing at a cafe when I found myself eavesdropping.


Why did he feel the need to speak to the bicyclist and why did he assume the cyclist was somehow ignorant? Would this guy similarly attack other people doing things that he viewed as poor judgement? Or is it just bicyclists?


I’m sick of the helmet hype. It’s time to hype up infrastructure until “cycle track” is in everyone’s vocabulary. I dream of the day this guy will ask the city what’s up with the street design that makes cyclists feel like they need to wear helmets.

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93 Comments on "Headcase"

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Number one question when I tell people I bike to work: Do you wear a helmet?

I NEVER ask anyone who drives if they wear a seatbelt or have airbags or refrain from texting while driving…


“You drive to work???? Are you sure you’re getting enough exercise?”


You DROVE here? Do you know you could kill somebody that way? Were you texting? Did you look down at the radio? I hope you stop before the crosswalk every time and don’t speed.


No seatbelt – only you are at risk. Texting while driving – that puts lots of other sat risk! Big difference, no? Have a little responsibility.


Actually, no seat belt – only you are at risk is not correct. If the driver does not wear a seat belt he is not able to remain in control of the the car in the event of a crash. Passengers not wearing a seat belt only put themselves at risk. I saw a video about it.

Z. Fechten

Actually, quite a few front seat occupants are killed when unbelted back seat passengers crash into them.

But I think the point is that while cyclists and walkers accept risk, drivers impose it.

Jonathan Krall
Thanks for this. These days I think wearing a helmet is sort of like wearing a sign that says “Bicycles are Dangerous!” For this reason, I shy away from organized rides where helmets are required (why sign up for something that is advertised as dangerous?). My standard response to “helmet” is “manners” (“Wear a helmet!” “Mind your manners!”), but I get the helmet comment from some friends who just like to yank my chain. For them, my response is more polite and less political: “My helmet is with my racing bike, where it belongs.” If I ever get a racing… Read more »

I could not agree more with your views about the inappropriate nature of others questioning ones helmet choice.

I do wonder how others here feel about whether it is just as inappropriate to call out cyclists that do not use lights at night. I tend to feel that is a different story as their lack of visibility could potentially have an affect on others.



Not having a helmet on is a safety issue for the rider and the rider alone. Not having lights at night is a safety issue for everyone within a reasonable radius of the rider. I say it’s perfectly acceptable to (politely) call out ninja riders and even have a spare cheap light on hand to offer.

Hi, glad you asked for thoughts! I almost always ride without lights now. After years of using lights, I started going without when the commuting route I took didn’t seem to require it. The route was in a well lit suburban area so I had confidence that I could see in front of me. When a car did appear in front or behind, I just tucked in onto the sidewalk and then back onto the street after it passed. I always hold the mindset that when riding, I am invisible to cars. Its kept me safe for nearly 30 years.… Read more »
There’s better research showing that lights prevent crashes/injuries (compared to helmets), but in terms of compared-to-what, it does not reach the standard where I’d be comfortable being that rude. I don’t go up to random strangers who smoke and tell them about the health risks, for example. Note that there’s nice strong research showing that not riding your bike to work (in a general population with the usual shortfall of actions versus intentions for getting enough exercise) is bad for you, and unnecessary driving also potentially has an effect on others — those cars don’t crash themselves. The number of… Read more »
lagatta à montréal

Lights are a very different story. They are mandatory in most jurisdictions, even in the most cycling-friendly countries. Helmet mania is a way of avoiding the measures that must be taken in order to make cycling safe – and victim blaming.

Fortunately that crap is extremely rare in Montréal. People wear what they feel most comfortable while cycling.

I feel fortunate that I haven’t been the target of a helmet-pusher. I don’t often wear a helmet when riding. In warm weather, I wear a wide-brimmed hat to keep the sun out of my eyes and to stay cool; in cooler weather, I usually go with behind-the-head earmuffs or a warm hat, or both. Full disclosure, though: I use behind-the-head earmuffs because they’re helmet-compatible : ) On occasion, such as when going on a long ride off the cycle path, I’ll wear a helmet, but mostly I use it for additional lighting. I don’t view it primarily as a… Read more »
sigh. I will celebrate the day when I read a story re: cycle commuting/touring/travel and The Helmet is not brought up in the comment section. I will also send a personal thank you note to the first newspaper writer I see who writes a story re: a cycling crash (with or without motorized vehicle involved) who doesn’t mention whether the cyclist was wearing a helmet in the first 4 paragraphs. it’s never people’s lack of helmet that gets me all uppity: it’s wearing helmets incorrectly that gets my Pretentious Cyclist up. It’s a choice to wear one or not, I… Read more »