Helmet Gestapo 

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There are a growing number of us cyclists electing not to use protective headgear. In spite of the fact that it is not illegal to ride a bicycle helmetless, we are becoming objects of contempt by other cyclists. Some are intolerant of nonconformity regarding this voluntary and perfectly legal practice.

When I ride in a group, I always wear a helmet—always. However, for several years now, I have stopped wearing a helmet on solo rides. Thus, from other cyclists, I’ve been bullied, screamed at, lectured and even given the middle finger. My crime? Riding without a helmet.

If some of us choose to not wear protective headgear while pedaling a bike, that is our business, not yours. If I go without, it’s my head, not yours. So, to all those who insist on acting as self-appointed helmet Gestapo, please allow others to exercise their right of freedom and personal choice in this particular matter.

I’m not against safety. I’m not against bicycle helmets. I’m against the abusive attitudes demonstrated by bicycle riders toward other cyclists who may decide to go without a helmet occasionally.

This commentary isn’t about debating helmet research, bicycle safety statistics, or all the pros and cons. Such discussions could go on ad infinitum, ad nauseam.

A valuable lesson could be learned from motorcyclists. On a recent ride, I encountered a large motorcycle club. About 80 bikes roared by me. Half of the riders wore helmets, half did not. Yet they were part of the same local organization and all having a great time in harmony with each other in their common recreational pursuit. Bikers seem to have respect for each other’s rights of personal preference and freedom regarding head protection. They don’t badger their fellow bikers who go bareheaded.

Cyclists do.


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