Boston Biker

The shaming of helmet-less bikers continues, but this ad seems more likely to discourage people from biking than anything else.

The shaming of helmet-less bikers continues in Boston this month, with this new PSA from the Boston Public Health Commission. It seems oddly out of sync with the BPHC's other helmet campaigns, which are pretty silly.

Boston Biker, which drew our attention to the ad, compares the disturbing imagery and fear-mongering to New York's anti-smoking campaign. Frankly, even if lack of a helmet were the biggest safety threat to bikers (I might nominate out-swung car doors or drivers who don't use turn signals) I'm not sure this is the best way to promote helmets. Will a helmet protect your mouth from hitting a car door?

The ad seems more likely to discourage people from biking. (If we're going to show photos of mangled cyclists, as BB points out, why not target them at the drivers who are responsible?)

More widely, I think the emphasis on helmet wearing in American cycling culture at large -- witness the ridicule for actor Matthew Modine in New York a few years back -- is misplaced. Elisabeth Rosenthal wrote a great piece in the New York Times a couple weeks ago elucidating the arguments for bicycle cities where people don't wear helmets. (World travelers may already have had Rosenthal's revelation that in Europe, where people do not wear helmets, there are way more people on bikes. More people on bikes makes biking safer.)

Or, if you're looking for a longer, broader, and more passionate argument, see the video below. As Mikael Colville-Andersen, who runs the Copenhagen blog Cycle Chic, says: "Welcome to the culture of fear." (Skip ahead to minute 3:58.)


Courtesy Ted X Copenhagen

HT Boston Biker

Image courtesy of Boston Biker

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. A photo of a closed street in St. Louis
    Equity

    The Curious Tale of the St. Louis Street Barriers

    Thanks to an '80s mania for traffic calming, the St. Louis grid is broken by hundreds of bollards and cul-de-sacs. Critics say it’s time to get rid of them.

  2. A young girl winces from the sting as she receives the polio vaccine in 1954.
    Life

    How Mandatory Vaccination Fueled the Anti-Vaxxer Movement

    To better understand the controversy over New York’s measles outbreak, you have to go back to the late 19th century.

  3. Equity

    The Hidden Horror of Hudson Yards Is How It Was Financed

    Manhattan’s new luxury mega-project was partially bankrolled by an investor visa program called EB-5, which was meant to help poverty-stricken areas.

  4. Design

    A New Plan to Correct a Historic Mistake in Pittsburgh

    A Bjarke Ingels Group-led plan from 2015 has given way to a more “practical” design for the Lower Hill District. Concerns over true affordable housing remain.

  5. A photo of the Notre-Dame Cathedral fire in Paris.
    Design

    Amid Notre-Dame’s Destruction, There’s Hope for Restoration

    Flames consumed the roof and spire of the 13th-century cathedral in Paris. The good news: Gothic architecture is built to handle this kind of disaster.