Carrying helmets: why?

San Francisco representatives of the “helmet carrying” movement: their backpacks are safer than houses

You can wear a helmet while riding a bike, or you can not wear a helmet. There are arguments both ways; personally, I choose to wear one, but I understand that reasonable people choose not to, for reasons that are just as valid.

But lately I have seen something that makes zero sense to me: people who do not wear helmets, but still carry them around. And I have seen a lot of this lately. This choice seems to combine all of the disadvantages of wearing helmets (inconvenience, lack of style) with all of the disadvantages of not wearing helmets (reduced safety, judgment of passers by). Why?


Filed under advocacy, commuting, San Francisco, traffic

8 responses to “Carrying helmets: why?

  1. Yep, I’ve see that way too often. Especially on kids with their helmets strapped to their handlebars or unclipped, like they’re too cool for head injuries. But then seeing adults do the same just baffles me. Truthfully, I’m a helmet nut. I don’t see the reason not to wear one. It’s like a seatbelt–yes, it’s not always necessary and sometimes it won’t even help to save your life but we are now mandated to wear them and I’m pretty sure that people haven’t given up driving because they were forced to buckle up. I was just on the Nutcase website reading their Thank You stories ( and it gives me chills thinking about everyday rides turning into horrible situations in the blink of an eye. There’s no way to plan for a collision or an accident. The best you can be is prepared and aware. For me, a helmet is being prepared for the worst–it won’t prevent anything from happening but it could prevent me from needless and excess injury. Thanks for this post!

    • I haven’t seen kids riding with their helmets off here–I don’t know about Sacramento, but kids’ helmets are the law in San Francisco. Given what flaky riders kids are, that would really freak me out.

      • It’s the law for kids here, too. Scary! Parents are not teaching their kids to ride safely. I think the biggest argument for wearing adults to wear helmets is so they can be good examples for their children. I want my kids to know that it’s not a pick and choose option and if I’m not wearing one, they’ll think that is the “adult” thing to do. I forgot my helmet one day and my 3 year old called me out on it. I had to admit it was a mistake. I don’t want him to use the excuse “I just didn’t feel like it today.”

  2. Here in Seattle, too! At first I thought maybe they carried them while on the bike path, but then put them on their heads when they hit the downtown streets, but I see them carrying them there in traffic, too. So confusing.

    Perhaps the letter of the helmet law doesn’t specify one’s helmet must be worn on one’s head? I’m basing this assumption on having read that in Venice dogs are required to wear muzzles, but since the law does not specify the muzzle be on the muzzle, Italian dogs sport bejeweled muzzles dangling from their necks.

    • Here in California the bicycle helmet law applies only to kids, and the vehicle code (CVC 21212) says “wearing a properly fitted and fastened helmet.” So it still makes no sense–if you were under 18, it would have to be actually attached to your head, while if you’re over 18, California leaves you free to make your own choices, for better or worse.

      But you led me to check the King County code (which I now know is Title 9.10.010) and it says “wear a protective helmet… with a neck or chinstrap that shall be fastened securely” etc. Which doesn’t seem to leave much room for creative interpretation a la the Venetians (although I love the idea of a muzzle-necklace). I don’t know, maybe these people plan to quickly slam their helmets on their heads when they see The Man approaching? The whole thing mystifies me in both locales.

  3. Monika

    I figure they carry a helmet so they can offer it to their friend when they give him or her ride on their handlebars.

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