Make Helmets Cool Again
By: Grace Zhou
Posted on: July 31, 2022
Cover Image by: Edna Baptiste
I was ten years old when I was against helmets. Specifically, bike helmets. It wasn’t that the straps pinched my skin every time I snapped them together, or that my long hair tangled and knotted every time I pulled it off. Rather, I was hyperconscious of the fact that bike helmets were deemed “uncool” by my peers. More than five years later, I still clearly remember fussing and wailing as I protested against wearing a bike helmet, much to my parents’ disapproval.
Sobbing and screaming, I fussed in front of my parents as they lectured me on the importance of wearing a bike helmet.
“But all my friends don’t wear bike helmets!” I wailed. “No one! Absolutely no one wears a helmet, Mom!”
I grabbed fistfuls of my hair in frustration as my parents continued to address the dangers of not wearing a helmet while biking. Scenario after scenario, they described horrific, graphic events that occurred to cyclists who did not bother to strap on a helmet before pedaling. Severe concussions here, permanent head injuries there - none of it registered in my mind. All I was focused on was how silly I would look if I appeared to my friends in a cumbersome, cherry red helmet. What would they think of me? Would I lose all my friends? Would everyone whisper about my helmet behind my back? No matter how hard I protested, my parents were firm on ensuring that I wore a bike helmet while biking.
With a blotchy, red face, I half-heartedly strapped on an equally red helmet, and unwillingly pedaled to school. When I arrived at the bike racks to lock my bike, I nervously glanced around to see if anyone was criticizing the awkward, watermelon-shaped dome on my head. To my surprise, no one took a second glance. All my friends were busy chatting about the upcoming science presentations - which I had completely forgotten about in my frustration - and I immediately felt a sense of relief as I pulled off my helmet. Although I felt a sense of ease knowing that no one would point and laugh deafeningly at my giant, cherry red bike helmet, I did not fully understand the importance of wearing a bike helmet until a few weeks later.
After dinner one evening, my parents received the news that one of our neighbors had been seriously injured in a collision while riding a bike to work. She had been on her usual morning commute to work, when a car going 45 mph hit her from behind. The impact threw her head-first into the car’s windshield, and she suffered a head injury and multiple spinal fractures, among other injuries. Although she did suffer a head injury, it was certain that she would not have survived without a helmet on. After hearing the news, it opened my eyes to realize the importance of wearing a bike helmet. Suddenly, the thoughts of children taunting and ridiculing my helmet disappeared. My mother set down her coffee mug and looked directly at me.
“A bike helmet can save your life, Grace. Your father and I have reminded you of this many, many times. You must be willing to change without the influence of tragic events.”
Of course, I cannot say that there hasn’t been one day since then when I begrudgingly strapped on my bulky bike helmet. But now, I always remind myself, “Better safe than sorry.” Why?
Simply put, helmets are cool. Brain damage isn’t.