Sunday, May 20, 2007

To wear or not to wear?

I must admit conflicted feelings about helmets. I wear one occasionally. I carry one sometimes, even though I'm not wearing it. I have friends who won't ride without one and other friends who absolutely refuse to wear one. The evidence both for and against the use of helmets seems compelling, so what is one to do?

When it's cold I like wear my helmet for extra warmth. I love the face shield in rainy weather and I like the helmet in strong winds. When you head south from Butte to Dubois, ID with a 20 mph crosswind, the helmet helps make the ride bearable. Anyone who's ridden in parts of Wyoming will tell you the same thing.

Once, thirty years ago, I witnessed a young man on a motorcycle enter an intersection and get hit by a pickup. The rider hit the pavement so hard it shattered and caved in the side of his helmet. The bike was totaled, but he walked away with a bad headache and some bruises. The helmet clearly saved him from serious injury or even death. I wore a helmet for quite a while after that. And yet....

Riding a motorcycle without a helmet is a different experience than with one. The sounds are different, the feeling more, I don't know...,unfettered? Free? The rush of the wind past my face, the sounds of birds, the bugs. I like the feeling. Norman Gregory Fernandez over at Biker Law Blog provided a link to a great essay on The Freedom of Motorcycling by Arkansas rider Barry Tudor. Its a great piece and I tend to agree with most of what Tudor has to say.

I am, as I said, conflicted about wearing the helmet. I am not conflicted about motorcycle helmet laws. I may decide to wear my helmet all of the time, but it should be my decision, not forced upon me by the government. There are people out there who think that their judgment about what is good for me is better than my own. They're the same folks who brought us seat belt laws, the 55 mph speed limit, and who, given the opportunity, would do away with motorcycles altogether. The Big Babysitters, who never miss a chance to get involved in and control our lives, because we're too stupid to know what's good for us. The older I get the more I hate them. Unfortunately, they are gaining strength.

What can I do? I can write my legislators. I can support groups fighting for motorcyclist's rights like BOLT,
Riders For Justice, the Helmet Law Defense League. I can join my local ABATE chapter. I can do all of these things. Most importantly, I can exercise my free speech and talk to people. I can write a letter to the editor. I can post this message on my blog. You can do any or all of those things too. Not because I said to do it, but because you care about personal freedom and the Ride.

Ride Free, Ride Hard

Bikers Rights online