Friday, 24 September 2010

The helmet debate turns to Boris bikes

It was mentioned when the scheme began, but it appears that the debate on whether Boris bikes should come with helmets has been reignited now that two people have been taken to hospital after accidents on the blue steeds.

Anyone who knows me or is familiar with my blog will know that I wear a helmet. I don't leave to go so much as to the shops without one and, when I'm Boris biking, I carry a helmet in my bag to use while pedalling.

It may come as a surprise, therefore, when I say that I think forcing the scheme to provide helmets is a very bad idea. Let me explain......

First off, I'm 5ft 10" and a reasonably big girl. I take the smallest women's size helmet I could find and it's only just small enough. My head is just a weird and tiny shape. My younger sister on the other hand, while taller and slimmer, takes a much larger helmet size. Even between the two of us, there is no way in hell you can find a helmet that fits us both. How on earth would you supply them in a size that fits all?

And size IS important. A badly fitting helmet is pointless.

It's a ridiculous notion.

Secondly, it is not a legal requirement for adults to wear a helmet while cycling. It just aint. The people who don't wear them now will just do what I've seen many do before: they'll hang them off their handlebars and use them as an ornament.

The scheme will have been forced to spend our money on helmets that aren't used or don't fit. Dunno about you, but I'd rather it went on something useful.

And finally, where does it all end?

On top of carrying a helmet with me, I also carry my bright yellow reflective Sam Browne. After an altercation with a car last year I promised Mr Weenie I would wear it when I cycle, and I do so for that reason AND because I think visibility is key to safety. Again though, I think, as adults, it's really a personal choice whether you want to wear reflective gear, it's not legally required after all. Will this be the next thing campaigners leap on and demand to be supplied with the Boris bikes? Perhaps it'll be jackets that inflate as you hit the ground, or a neon sign to be attached to supplied helmet with the words 'Please don't hit me' in flashing lights.

In all seriousness, part of the reason I was so pleased when the Boris bikes were announced is that they were sensible and expected the service users to be the same.

I will continue to wear my helmet and reflective gear, but I will fight to the death for others' right not to have to if they don't want to.

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