Safe Cycling (and Please, Wear a Helmet)
The last days of May brought us some ‘bad’ news for the cyclists in Valencia. Finally, the local government has banned the circulation of bicycles in the pavements of our city… without offering to cyclists a good and safe alternative. They just said we have to cycle in the road, and risk our lives between the cars.
We’re not living in Holland, and it’s going to be really difficult to cycle in these conditions… no more connected bike paths, just a few ‘bici-calles’ , a weird name for certain streets supposed to be restricted to 30 kms/h for the car traffic (I never felt that this was happening when I was happening when I was cycling in one of these streets).
Other points in these new rules are the mandatory use of lights and fluorescent clothes in the night, but, as usual, no one says anything about the helmet. I heard a lot of controversy about the use of helmet in town. Outside the city area, where the local government has no authority about the traffic, it is mandatory to use a helmet, and now the Guardia Civil is going to be really strict about it, as it appears in the new traffic law approved few days ago.
Then… why is it not mandatory to use it in town? I heard reasons like… ‘‘A car driver is going to be more careful with you if you don’t wear a helmet’’. But there are a lot of articles and studies around the world proving how important the use of the helmet is to save your life in a bike crash.
It’s a fact that in the majority of collisions your head is the first part of your body to receive the impact. Orange Bikes is a bike shop but also a bike rental business. The first thing we did after choosing quality bicycles was to look for good helmets to offer our clients. (All cyclists are provided with a safe helmet when they rent from us.) It as an aspect of the business in which we would never look to save money, because it is just too important for that.
A helmet consists of three main parts. The outer layer is made of a special plastic that usually survives direct impact. The inner layer is made from materials that differ with each manufacturer, with extra sponge padding attached for comfort. This inner layer is extremely important as it absorbs the impact felt by our heads. Then there are the straps that should keep the helmet in place, in the moment of impact. The manufacture of helmets has advanced and now almost all helmets have straps that go from the nape of the neck (with a part inbuilt to protect the body there) and from the front of the helmet, joining under the chin.
When buying a helmet the first thing to take into consideration is the manufacturing method, which should always have been done using In-mold2 technology. This technology is designed to make the outer and inner layers at the same time. This greatly increases the strength of the union between the parts. After this, check that the straps are made as described above, arriving from front and back of the helmet to under the chin.
It is also important to consider the way ventilation shafts are constructed. Ventilation is a necessary thing, but some designs compromise the overall safety of the helmet. Use your judgement. A removable sun visor is also a welcome extra in this sunny city of ours. Fasten your helmet safely to your head, keeping in mind possibility of impact, and not the crazy fashion of leaving them dangling loose at the sides of your head. Wearing a loose helmet can be as bad, or worse than wearing no helmet at all, because if it slips from position in an accident, it can damage your neck or face.
Finally, and talking about active safety, there are helmets with lights attached to the rear side, and fluorescent strips that helps you to be even more visible.
Safe cycling (and good luck…)!
Editor Manuel Aguilar,1