Would you ride a bicycle more often if you didnít have to wear a helmet?
Because some experts think thatís what itíll take to get more people to use bikes regularly Ė instead of driving. In Europe, people ride bikes a lot more than we do. They have a lot of successful bike-sharing programs, where bikes are made available to anyone who wants to use one - as an alternative to taking cars or busses. Itís a proven way to cut traffic congestion, noise, and pollution, which is why many North American cities are planning to launch or expand their own bike-sharing programs next year Ė including New York, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C.
The catch? It turns out these programs are most successful in cities that donít require helmets. As an example: A bike-sharing program in Dublin, where people can ride helmet-free, gets more than 5,000 riders a day. But a similar program in Australia, where helmet use is mandatory, only gets about 200 riders a day.
Experts say being able to ride without a helmet sends the message that biking is something that anyone can do, and that itís safe - because serious bicycle injuries are rare. In fact, one study found that cyclists have about the same risk of serious injury as people walking!
But in the U-S, itís recommended that all cyclists wear helmets, at all times. And in many cities, you can be fined for not wearing one! Experts say that just sends the message that biking is dangerous. But get this: New research shows that the health benefits of riding a bicycle outweigh the risks by 20-to-1.
So, what do you think? Do helmet laws discourage you from riding bicycles? Would you ride more often if you didnít feel pressured to wear one?