Alex Burin had an interesting take on New York bicycle law today, tackling the question of “bells vs. helmets” on the Albany Times Union’s Bike Blog. The short of it is this: Under New York law, all bicyclists are required to have bells installed on their bikes and in working order.
The goal of such a law, assumedly, would be to warn pedestrians, skaters and perhaps even other bicyclists of your approach.
However, as Burin points out, most people do not immediately associate the sound of a bike’s bell with impending danger. Car drivers, especially, will like as not even hear the bell, and it is doubtful that ringing it will provide any measurable degree of added safety.
The point of his piece centered on another facet of New York bicycle law or, rather, a missing facet of New York bicycle law. In New York, and any state, really, it is not required that cyclists wear safety helmets.
Both helmet and bell are meant to protect you from an accident, but only one will actually protect you should an accident occur on the road. As Burin points out, a choice between the two seems obvious. Never mind the risk of traumatic brain injury, scarring and time spent recovering from a particularly nasty fall.
What makes you feel safer – a little bell on the front of your bike or an inch of protective foam between your head and the road?
There are many things cyclists can do to ensure that their ride is safer, but wearing a helmet stands out as the clear number one.