March 27, 2014
Here’s Your Helmet – What’s Your Hurry?
As we near the end of Brain Injury Awareness month, we’ve talked a lot about brains and helmets, and why the two go so well together. The best reason for wearing a helmet is simple risk reduction. If you happen to love your brain and you love your helmet, it’s a pretty peachy combination.
Yet helmet-wearing doesn’t stop some people from seeking out risk, in the form of adventure, thrills, or speed. That seems to have something to do with our brains’ dopamine production and levels. Dopamine in the brain functions as a neurotransmitter, and plays a major role in rewards-oriented behavior, delivering feel-good benefits for tasks achieved. And the riskier a task is, it seems, the bigger the hit of dopamine the brain receives. (This is different than adrenaline, which is a hormone designed to help us physiologically escape from danger, though some people also become addicted to the feeling of the ‘adrenaline rush’).
Risk-taking and the appeal of speed is an ongoing part of our human nature. While it might be just fine on a snowy slope or at the skateboard park, it’s not a great fit with our daily encounters in traffic. Research clearly shows that the best way to survive and thrive – as either pedestrian, cyclist, auto passenger – is to not be in traffic collisions at speeds above 20 mph. That’s prompted many cities – with New York City being the latest – to try to lower inner-city speed limits to 20 miles per hour.
Adapting “Twenty is Plenty” is the way cities will help us all slow down and be safer in city traffic. Luckily, it is an easy slogan to remember, and in most cases, easy enough for cyclists to observe. Average city cycling speeds are about 10 miles per hour. So when you next strap on that helmet, just say that little “Twenty is Plenty” mantra to yourself…