This is counter-intuititive; wearing a helmet makes biking more dangerous -- at least in Bath and Salisbury. Dr Ian Walker, a pychologist at the University of Bath, discovered that cars, trucks and buses gave him much less room when he wore a helmet that when he didn’t. Walker reckons that this may be because drivers perceive any cyclist who wears a helmet as a “Lycra-clad street warrior” who is “more serious, experienced and predictable than those without”. There’s much more to the research, in a press-release and a New York Times article.

Walker is careful to point out that helmets are protective in slow-speed accidents, and may be useful for children. But he also notes that during the experiment he was actually hit twice (the things we do for science), both times when wearing a helmet.

While the research has not been replicated in Rome, where I suspect most drivers don’t even see cyclists, helmeted or otherwise, I think I’m going to abandon mine. And there’s an additional potential benefit. When Walker wore a long wig, drivers gave him more room than when he sported his own, short hair. Why would that be, I wonder? Could it be that drivers reckon that people with long hair also have two X chromosomes and are therefore even less “serious, experienced and predictable” than people who have short hair?

Whatever the reason, henceforth I shall let my locks blow free in the breeze.

2022-08-14: Yeah, that was a stupid idea. I cut my hair, and I wear a helmet.

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