By Laura Ashmore
The number of cyclists on Irish roads rocketed by a whopping 43% between 2011 and 2016.
According to the Central Statistics Office (CSO), various accidents on our roads tragically claimed the lives of 10 cyclists last year. This brings the importance of helmets and safety when cycling to our attention.
There were a total of 186 fatalities on Irish roads in 2016, which highlights the potential danger for road users and the utmost importance of safety measures.
Cyclists are among the most vulnerable road users, and one of the most effective steps they can take to prevent possible brain damage and even death, is the simple act of wearing a helmet. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), bicycle helmets are almost 90% effective in preventing brain injuries.
Frequent rider Basil Ashmore is a strong advocate for helmets, after he was the victim of a serious accident in New York in 2004. After a car cut directly in front of him, he bounced off the vehicle and was thrown onto the ground landing directly on his head, back and coccyx. Emergency services were immediately called and a CT scan was performed in a nearby hospital.
The GPS Basil had been carrying at the time later showed a sudden halt in speed from a shocking 38.3kmph to zero.
These figures combined with the post-accident headaches he still suffers six years on, give some idea of the intense impact he suffered during the accident.
Although he can’t say for certain whether the helmet saved his life, he believes he would have “had significantly worse concussion and resultant brain damage”. Speaking as a seasoned and experienced cyclist, Basil said: “I will always wear a helmet as crashes are not uncommon and happen occasionally.
“The consequences of a hard crash and a head injury without a helmet are potentially catastrophic and even fatal.
“Frankly, it’s too serious a risk to take.’
Taking this into consideration, why do we see so many cyclists today around the city without a helmet on their head?
Cian O’Byrne, Head of DIT Cycle Club, reckons this could be due to the partial inconvenience helmets impose.
He told the Edition: “I think when people are coming to or from college and work, it’s just an extra thing to carry around, which is definitely the wrong attitude considering you don’t realise how important they are until it’s too late – a helmet is like a seatbelt, it’s just common sense.”
There also seems to be a worryingly common conception (especially among younger generations) that helmets are considered ‘uncool’.
DIT student Katie Considine has asserted that it’s not uncommon for someone to be made fun of for wearing a helmet.
She said: “They’re viewed as embarrassing, when really they’re just saving lives.” Consequently, the age of social media and vanity wins once again as a lot of us make the baffling decision to care more about our image than the possibility of ending up a human vegetable.
The question that now remains is how can we encourage cyclists to strap a helmet on their heads? One potential effective solution could be to introduce a legislation that actually forces all cyclists to wear helmets.
Maybe if we take away the option of not wearing helmet, safety will finally be given the opportunity to conquer both our desire for convenience and our all-consuming need to constantly look fashionable.