A recent article in Treehugger takes an interesting path in explaining that there’s little point to arguing whether cyclists should wear bike helmets (for their own protection, they should—argument over); the real issue is whether we should all be wearing helmets, cycling or not.
In case you hadn’t heard, the human body gained a lot by going vertical: Longer distance vision has been a godsend for the survival of our species. But in the process, it lost something significant: The human skull and the brain within are not strong enough to withstand a fall from the height of a standing human; if a human body falls over, the impact of that fall to the skull can kill you. Did you catch that? You can get a concussion or crack your skull open falling from your standing height to the ground. And people die or become permanently and seriously injured to the head by slipping, tripping, getting knocked down or otherwise losing consciousness and falling over. Every day. Eesh.
In fact, the number of people who suffer head injuries on bicycles are laughingly small compared to those who suffer head injuries by other means… cars (of course) being the most common of all. (One more reason to support the development of self-driving cars, I think.) So maybe this concern about bike helmets really is looking at the issue the wrong way.
Shouldn’t we all be looking for ways to protect our heads all the time? Sure, people aren’t going to start wearing helmets everywhere they go—let’s face it, a fashion accessory like that is a ready-made “retarded” gag. But there are alternatives to helmets… for instance, something like the Hövding, the airbag-in-a-collar. The Hövding was originally designed for bicyclists, to protect the head and neck if the rider was struck or knocked to the ground… but maybe, just maybe, something like this is what everyone should wear, all the time.
Okay, yes, a Hövding looks stranger than a helmet when deployed… what safety device doesn’t? But before deployment, it just looks like a thick (and slightly kludgy) collar. But I can imagine developing various more stylish versions of Hövding, built into jacket collars, incorporated into wraps and scarves, and eventually becoming as ubiquitous as hats for many people.
It probably seems a bit strange; but if you think about it (and most people don’t), you risk so much of your life and health from a simple standing fall that it’s almost amazing that there aren’t some health and safety organizations screaming for protection like this on every American neck, right now, to save us all. (On the other hand, I guess the lawyers don’t mind all those falls at all…)
But until Mankind develops thicker skulls and stronger necks, perhaps a technological method to protect ourselves from such potentially grievous injury wouldn’t be such a bad idea.