“The difference in Europe is we want to get more people onto bikes. You really sense that in America the general focus is getting people into helmets. We want to reap the benefits of the public health when people ride bikes.”
Helmets are a controversial issue—when we run a photo of a rider without a helmet someone is sure to tell me about it, while at the same time perfectly reasonable adults go around daily choosing to go without for one reason or another. Some, like Mikael Colville-Andersen of Copenhagen Cycle Chic, are against helmet use in daily bicycle riding believing that they discourage further bicycle adoption and limit the safety that comes in numbers.
The above quote pulled from an interview with Mikael on page 28 more or less sums up my views of helmet use. Wear one, or not. You might want to consider it, all things equal a helmet is inexpensive if not infallible insurance against head injury. Not wearing one feels incredible until your head meets the ground. Giving it ultimate weight in discussions about safety is a dead end however.
One of the first things typically noted in bicycle traffic death news reports is helmet use. Bicycle advocates and the public alike have given such weight to the notion that a helmet will protect you that not wearing one is seen as akin to a death wish, even a blame-the-victim mentality. Infrastructure that allows cars to reach highway speeds in dense cities and the lax enforcement that has enabled a might is right mentality on our roads is the problem. Time is better spent preventing the accident than preaching helmets as a crutch for a deadly car culture. The numbers will continue to follow as the streets are made safe to travel.
If asked, I’d still recommend you wear a helmet. It probably won’t hurt, it might really help. Ride safe.