Keown says ugly helmets deterring cyclists
More Christchurch people would cycle if they did not have to strap ugly helmets to their heads, a style-conscious city councillor says.
Cr Aaron Keown wants New Zealand's compulsory cycle helmet law reviewed because he believes it is stopping people from getting on their bikes and is jeopardising Christchurch's hopes of becoming the Amsterdam of the South Pacific.
Keown fled police twice when he was in his 20s because he was cycling without a helmet. On a third occasion he was nabbed and fined.
He has hardly been on a bike since because he refuses to wear a helmet. He believes it is impossible to look cool wearing one and reckons that as long as the helmet law is in force, many people will not take up cycling.
"Putting a lid on your head messes up your hair, and for a lot of people that is an issue," Keown said.
Helmets also left the cyclist's head sweaty and were cumbersome to carry around.
"The law needs serious review if we want to get more people cycling," he said. "I think its time the Government had a look at the law and double-checked its benefits."
An Australian statistician writing in the British Medical Journal in 2006 claimed that compulsory helmet laws caused bike use to decrease 20 to 40 per cent in several Australian cities.
So is it impossible to cycle and be safe and stylish at the same time?
Not according to Jason Deuss, a sales assistance at the Chain Reaction cycle shop in Riccarton.
Deuss admits it is hard to look good in a $70 helmet but says if you are prepared to pay top dollar you can cycle in style and still protect your noggin.
For about $400 you could buy a thin, Kevlar-lined, superlight helmet that offered good ventilation and looked "awesome".
Good mountainbike helmets were now on the market that looked more like baseball caps than traditional cycle helmets.
"I understand that some people can be reluctant to wear a helmet because it messes up their hair, but as someone who was hit by a car and who would have been eating my dinner through a straw if I hadn't been wearing a helmet, then I'm all for them," Deuss said.
He said men were fussier when it came to helmets.
"Women are far more likely to factor in safety rather than aesthetics," he said.
Fashion consultant Angela Stone believes that having a professional-looking helmet is the key to looking "uber-cool" when you are cycling.
"A cool, professional-looking cycling helmet with lots of ventilation shows to other cyclists that you're serious about cycling," she said.
"It doesn't have to be top of the range. However, a helmet from the 1980s screams ‘amateur'."
City councillor Sue Wells would never consider biking without a helmet and reckons that as long as you have got a good hairdresser and a comb you can avoid helmet hair.
"My helmet becomes a handbag. I pop my little gloves, bike lights and high-vis into it," she said. "I would not be without a helmet."