We need to reinvent these things, not make them prettier.

A recent New York Times Style story points to an alleged new fashion trend: prettier bike helmets. Simone S. Oliver writes:

Unlike motorcycle helmets, bicycle helmets have historically had zero cool factor on city streets.

But that may be changing, with designers evolving out from traditional vented racing-style helmets to styles more associated with skateboarders.

Oliver acknowledges that the trend might have its critics, but brushes them aside, noting that "though some might scoff at the idea of making helmets de rigueur, one must remember that more options leave fewer reasons for cyclists to go unprotected."

Count me among the scoffers. This piece misses the larger problem with helmets. Decoration doesn't make them less bulky or hard to store, and they still create a sticky mess of flattened hair. (Motorcycle helmets, by the way, are also not cool. The motorcycle is what's cool. Someone would look really stupid riding a bike with a motorcycle helmet on.)

People who don't wear helmets now aren't going to start because they come in more colors. What we need are more safe, transportable ways to protect your head while biking. The Times article does identify one such product: the Hövding Invisible Helmet, a sort of airbag collar that inflates upon impact. But the helmet ("a luxury item," Oliver notes) costs €399, making it highly unlikely to achieve critical mass.

We can't ignore the fact that the helmet issue is a huge deterrent to bike commuting for a lot of people. Biking to work from my apartment in Washington, D.C., would take about 20 minutes, while public transit takes nearly 40. But biking also means competing for roadway space on major avenues during rush hour. Until there is a way to protect my head from a body-over-handlebars crash that is both easy to ditch and also doesn't make me look like a human turtle, I'll still be much more inclined to walk or take the bus.

Top image (clockwise from left): FEED for Target Bike Helmet - Blue PaisleyBelle Helmets Hand-Painted Red Apple; Sawako Furuno Brown Croc Bike Helmet

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Life

    The ‘Marie Kondo Effect’ Comes at a Weird Time for Thrift Stores

    Netflix’s hit show has everyone tidying up, but that's not the only reason second-hand stores are being flooded with donations.

  2. A photo of a DART light rail train in Dallas, Texas.
    Transportation

    What Cities Are Getting Wrong About Public Transportation

    Cities could get more people walking, biking, and riding transit, according to a new report, if they just know where to look for improvement.

  3. A man carrying a young boy on his shoulders amid the fall foliage of New York's Central Park.
    Life

    Which U.S. Cities Have the Most Families With Kids?

    Spoiler alert: It’s simply not the case that families with kids have disappeared from urban America.

  4. A photo of President Donald Trump showing off U.S.-Mexico border wall prototypes in March 2018.
    Perspective

    This Isn't a Border Wall: It's a Monument to White Supremacy

    Like Confederate monuments, President Trump’s vision of a massive wall along the Mexican border is about propaganda and racial oppression, not national security.

  5. A woman, forced into the street by blocked sidewalks, pushes a stroller down a street in Boston.
    Perspective

    Why Cities, Not Individuals, Should Clear Snow From Sidewalks

    Most U.S. cities leave the responsibility of sidewalk snow removal to homeowners, landlords, and businesses. The result: endangered pedestrians.