Don’t swear at mothers cycling their kids to school

I was cycling my daughter to school this morning – she is only 6 years old – and a man in a van shouted at us, “You should have a fucking helmet on”.

I was wearing a helmet. I was wearing a Hövding which is the safest most effective helmet you can buy.

I understand that the man did not realise I was wearing a helmet but even if I wasn’t wearing a helmet, his accusation is unfounded and unkind, especially given it was within ear-shot of my 6-year-old daughter. Do people who think it’s acceptable to shout accusations about helmets at cyclists do the same to smokers? Or to people who don’t get any exercise? Or to heavy drinkers?

Life is about managing risks. A sedentary lifestyle carries a far greater health risk than not wearing a bicycle helmet. If people care about cyclists, and I’ll assume the man in the van was concerned about my well-being, then what would help us most is if they lobbied the council and government to build somewhere safe for us to cycle, so we don’t have to ride alongside vans, trucks, and buses. Off-road, dedicated, cycling infrastructure will have the biggest impact on our safety.

The safest place to be a cyclist is the Netherlands. Have a look at the following video of kids cycling to school in Assen. How many helmets can you see?


15 responses to “Don’t swear at mothers cycling their kids to school”

  1. That makes me so angry it really upsets me – it must have been much more upsetting for you 😦 I’m so sorry you had to start your day like that.

  2. While I agree that in this instance the motorist’s comments were unjustified and inappropriate in front of your daughter, I live in an area where driving a car is dangerous due to a local culture of kamikaze bike riders riding the wrong way up streets in the dark without lights, possibly with a passenger on the handlebars. These bike riders range from kids through to the elderly. We live in a coastal beach community in Australia where there’s a laissez-faire approach to many things but I do worry about hitting a cyclist.
    On another note, I was born with hydrocephalus or fluid on the brain which wasn’t picked up until my mid 20s. I have had brain surgery twice, physio and occupational therapy and have seen the effects of acquired brain injury first hand and I’ve wanted to campaign locally for people to wear helmets.
    It is a legal requirement in Australia for all bike riders to wear helmets. It is also a legal requirement for all motorists to leave a meter gap around all bike riders.
    This is a good topic to raise because things are more complicated than they seem.
    xx Rowena

    • I’m Australian too and grew up with the compulsory helmet legislation there and have come to the conclusion that it’s a bad idea. This doesn’t mean I think helmets are a bad idea – they’re not and I wear one. But compulsory helmet legislation is a bad idea because it reduces the number of cyclists and this is exactly what happened in Australia when the legislation was introduced. While wearing a helmet confers a benefit to the individual, compulsory helmet legislation reduces the health of the community as a whole by discouraging cycling.

      There’s a great article by Ben Goldacre on bicycle helmets and the law:

      Ben Goldacre is the British academic who wrote Bad Pharma.

      • Thanks so much Rachel for sharing that and I read through the article. I definitely think that having a cycling culture improves cycling safety because motorists are used to seeing cyclists and keep an eye open, there could well be cyclepaths and there ‘s a mix of cyclists. A helmet doesn’t provide enough protection for some of our local cyclists. They need protecting from themselves as well and a helmet won’t help there.

      • You’re welcome! Ben Goldacre is brilliant. I have sometimes seen cyclists playing Pokemon Go when cycling which is not great. But equally I’ve see pedestrians do it when they’re crossing the road which is worse (the cyclists I saw were off the road and no-where near any cars) and even worse again is when motorists do it since they put everyone else at risk. A pedestrian or cyclist is only putting themselves at risk.

      • I must be so straight. I don’t even walk with my phone let alive drive or ride a bike. I don’t use my phone much at all actually. I was out the other day and everyone else had there’s out on the table but I spent a lot of time on my laptop. Most of the time I’m writing but it’s still a screen and there’s also a health risk in no movement. That said, I do exercise but could be doing more.

      • I spend too much time in front of screens. That’s why I choose to cycle my kids to school – it’s an easy way to get exercise into my day without having to find the time or money to do it.

      • Great idea. I’m supposed to be walking my dogs along the beach most days and have fallen off the wagon again. I have a small engine and it’s now getting a bit harder to juggle with the heat.

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