I've been following the story of Rebecca Allen's death in Fort Collins last Tuesday, and I went to her funeral Friday, (cyclists city wide showed up to show support).
I've been reading the local press about it, and this is as good an example as any:
In every article I've seen, this, or some variation of this concept has been uttered:
Allen was taken to the hospital where she died from her injuries. Garvey suffered serious injuries, but was released from the hospital the same day. Both were wearing bike helmets.
A helmet? She was hit by a CAR! In the equation of bike v. car, a helmet is little more than a luck bonus. Yeah, there are lots of tales of people getting their heads run over and the helmet miraculously takes the hit and squirts their noggins out onto the street. But seriously, day to day, what do you think that inch of foam is going to do for you?
So, why do they bring it up? Because people assume a cyclist without a foam hat is an irresponsible idiot who somehow deserves to die. Because people don't want to talk about how CARS KILL PEOPLE. Being on the bike didn't kill Rebecca. A car killed Rebecca. (yes, the dumbass kid behind the wheel killed Rebecca, but tell me, would that have happened if he were out riding a bike drunk instead?)
4,749 pedestrians were reported to have been killed in motor vehicle crashes in the United States in 2003. These deaths accounted for 11 percent of the 42,643 motor vehicle deaths nationwide that year. An estimated 70,000 pedestrians were injured or killed in motor vehicle collisions, which represents 2 percent of the 2.9 million total persons injured in traffic crashes
(http://www.walkinginfo.org/pedsafe/crashstats.cfm: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Traffic Safety Facts 2003, Washington, DC, 2004)
We're worried about deaths in Iraq? We lost more people in one year just walking down the street than the entire war so far!
We've built our entire society around the automobile; around the idea that accelerating 2 tons of steel to human killing speeds through the places we live and work is acceptable. It's quite literally killing us.
For a better article about Allen (yup, mentions helmets..) read this one:
Get out on your bike this week. Take the lane. Let a car or two know you're there.