I don't really understand the roots of bicycle helmet enmity. While I suspect it is mostly about the battle between individual freedoms and state control, there appears to a sincere segment of the anti-mandatory helmet crowd who believe that bicycle helmets discourage cycling.
Is this like saying that wearing garden gloves discourages gardening?
Helmets just seem like a gimme, like wearing a life jacket on open water. And based on the reluctance of so many people to wear flotation devices, maybe that's a good comparison. Why do so many private boat operators have to be monitored by water police so that they will wear/carry life jackets? Why do so few people who take ferries or other public watercraft treat life jackets so casually?
Is it because it's uncomfortable? Surely, that is one of the big complaints about bicycle helmets. Too hot? Ditto for bike helmets. I look geeky? Well, if you are in a personal watercraft, like a speedboat or jet-ski, the odds are that you are nearly naked or are wearing a wetsuit, and you've already stepped out of the parameters of "normal," so what difference does a flotation vest make? And if you're a Lycra-clad road warrior, ditto.
Is it because wearing a safety device makes us feel that we are unsafe? This should be counter-intuitive. If I am wearing a safety device, I should feel safer. Jumping out of a place without a parachute: unsafe. With a parachute: safe. Not wearing a helmet in conditions where I could strike my head and do damage: unsafe. Wearing a helmet in conditions where I could strike my head and do damage: safe.
Is it hard to recruit construction workers because they have to wear helmets and steel-toed boots? (Although truly, we have all walked past job sites where workers have ditched their helmets for one reason or another.)
One company that strives mightily to put a positive spin on helmets is Nutcase. Thanks to their selection of bright, goofy and ironic street helmets, at least they are trying to make helmets fun. Their latest press offering is about their flower-power bike helmets, suggesting that while giving flowers to Mom for Mother's Day is nice, giving a floral-themed bicycle helmet is better. At least they are having fun.
At the Ontario Bike Summit in 2010, Phillip Darnton of Cycling England made in passing the point that the image of cyclists can be somewhat rumpled or rather nerdy. Cyclists don't have to wear helmets that look like salad bowls or alien space gear. Maybe making helmets fun would make them more palatable.