The city recently marked the first anniversary of its Divvy bike-share program with characteristic self-congratulation: “I encourage everyone to celebrate this milestone by getting on a Divvy bike and going for a ride,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel, trotting out the statistics — 1.6 million trips taken, 250,000 day passes sold, 23,000 annual members signed up, including yours truly. I’ve taken over 100 jaunts on the Divvy this past year. It’s a fun, convenient, healthful way to get around town.
In one regard the city has failed in its rollout of the Divvy program, by downplaying the importance of wearing a helmet. Perhaps because bothering with helmets cuts down on usage. Perhaps because they spoil the carefree, hip mellow Divvy is driving for. Perhaps — my theory — that Divvy doesn’t make money from renting helmets, yet.
Go on Divvy’s website and find barely a whisper about the need for helmets, a bit tucked at the end of “Riding Tips.” Divvy is acting too much like a private business and too little like a responsible part of civic life.
Not that I’m the Welcome Wagon for bike helmets. I didn’t own a helmet for the first 35 years of my life, having grown up in the era when we drank from garden hoses, rode in the beds of pickup trucks and played with lawn darts.
But after having kids, I realized that if I wanted them to be wearing their helmets when some careless motorist came blasting out of a side street, I’d better wear one too.
It’s a big honking Bell helmet, the kind with the vaguely insectoid shape that makes it bigger and harder to haul around. But I do wear it, mostly. I wore the helmet when I met the mayor for a Divvy ride and was surprised that Rahm, usually attuned to optics, had no helmet. Maybe helmets poll poorly.
My policy: Try to wear one. Usually. Shoot for 90 percent. OK, 75 percent. But sometimes I’ll go for a ride helmetless.
I’m beginning to wonder if even those occasional breezy-haired trips are unwise.