Responses to our Bikes Make Life Better Video
When we released our Bikes Make Life Better video last week, we hoped it would inspire people to celebrate bicycling and join our movement, and we’re happy to say that it has! More than 30,000 people have watched the video in just one week. What we didn’t expect was that it would also create such an outpouring of comments debating the safety depicted in the video. We received an unprecedented number of emails and posts on our Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and blog—some positive, some negative. While the intention of the video was far from an instructional safety video, so many of you wrote in about this aspect that we wanted to share what we’ve received so far.
A lack of helmets was the main item that bothered some people. One commenter wrote, “I'm sorry—but none of the people in your video are wearing helmets! I'm for bikes, but I'm also for bike safety. No one should bike without a helmet.” Another person said, “Cool video, but I counted TWO helmets in the whole thing? really? helmets, helmets, helmets! (and thank you for what you do.)” Helmet use is a contentious issue among bicycling promoters worldwide, and we’re not going to get into the specifics of the debate here. From this video and our past one, If I Ride, you can see that we encourage all types of bicycling—helmet or no helmet.
Other people were upset that some riders in the video weren’t wearing lights or reflective clothing and were riding on the sidewalk. “Love the concept, but the sidewalk riding (yes I know it’s just a movie and I shouldn't take it literally), reflexively bothered me,” wrote one commenter. For the record, unlike adult helmet use, light use and riding on a sidewalk, is a matter of law in most places, not personal choice. If you’re out riding, you should know your local laws and follow them.
For all of the commenters who were dismayed that the video didn’t accurately depict what they considered safe bicycling, opposing voices chimed in saying they were okay that this wasn’t an instructional safety video. They understood that it wasn’t the point—that it was meant as an artistic representation of the many ways that people ride bikes, the joy that it brings to our lives, and the lasting change bicycling can bring to our communities. Here are some of those opinions:
“This is a video that would have lost its artistic edge if all of the riders had been wearing helmets. Anyone who ‘took to cycling’ as a result of this video would quickly find out that it's customary and common sense to wear a helmet while riding. Helmets DID appear in the video, and the video reflected a snapshot of what one would truly see in an urban environment.”
“I thought this video was simply a reminder of the joy to be found on a bike. The scene with the guy going "no handsies"...how often did we all do that as kids for that thrill? I wear a helmet every time I get on a bike as do my family... but that isn't what this was about. Art not safety, you know like a movie???”
“It's just a movie. Don't everybody take everything too seriously. It took me back to being the wild-child on my balloon-tire-bomber, filling up my senses with the wonder of the nights, the sights, the sounds & smells wafting through my head, gravity & gyro-energy weaving the whole experience together. It's what its all about. Wonder.”
We believe that more people on bikes is a good thing, no matter how they do it, and that some people are scared away from riding by helmets. Some of you feel that way too: “Spandex and helmets are not required to ride bikes,” wrote one of you. “Let's not demonize folks who don't put on a helmet to ride a beach cruiser at 8mph to the corner store. Blame the cars and the infrastructure - they are the reason we should be wearing the helmets,” said another. Hear hear.
The bottom line is we encourage safe riding: wear a helmet if you choose to, but don’t get mad at other people if they aren’t wearing one. The simple fact that they are out riding means that bicycling is safer for you—there’s safety in numbers. Use lights at night (unless you have a magic projector that follows you down the street) and follow the rules of the road. Most importantly, don’t let concerns over safety get in the way of the joy that bicycling brings. Even in countries like the U.S., where we are just beginning to get the safe places to ride that we need, bicycling is still safe (1.8 fatalities per 10 million trips for bikes compared to 1.06 fatalities per 10 million trips for vehicles, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.) Certainly the health benefits of riding outweigh the risks, potentially by a factor of 20 to 1.
Finally, to the hundreds of people who spoke up and told us how this video made them feel—thank you. All of the feedback we received made it clear that our movement is strong and growing, and that many of you are just as invested in it as we are. We are well on our way to making bicycling safer the best way we know how—through building safe places to ride, and simply encouraging more people to get out on a bike.
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