If you've read any of my previous articles regarding my personal take on helmet laws, you probably know I'm a big proponent of having the right to choose. Although it's obviously much safer to wear a helmet than not, I normally chose to not wear a helmet when riding in helmet-free states.
With that being said, I thought you might find it interesting to see what motorcyclists in other parts of the world are doing in an attempt to 'comply' with their own helmet laws. In Kano, Nigeria, motorcyclists; including motorcycle taxi riders are apparently strapping calabashes — dried shells of pumpkin-sized fruit usually used as a bowl, pots, pans, and pieces of rubber tire to their heads with strings to dodge the rules. The law, which came into effect on January 1, 2009, pits two groups against each other; motorcycle taxi riders who are notorious for road-rage, and the corrupt bribe-hungry traffic police.
I've never thought of replacing my brain bucket with a piece of watermelon, pumpkin (during Biketoberfest), or maybe a nice non-stick pan from the kitchen, but hey…I’m willing to try anything once. I guess this would give a whole new meaning to the terms 'Potheads' and 'Panheads.'
The regulations have apparently caused major chaos in Africa's most populated areas; not that they don't have enough chaos already; where motorcyclists are complaining that helmets are too expensive, and many of their taxi passengers are refusing to wear them because they are afraid the helmets could be laced with magic spells so as to knock the wearer unconscious and make them easier to rob, while others feared they would pick up skin disease or infections. 'The story is that people who have scabies, craw-craw, ringworm, dandruff and all other such diseases would easily infect others with them through the helmets,' Steve Nwosu wrote in the Daily Sun. 'They ironically forget that the same diseases are also deposited on, and generously transferred from, car seats and their headrests.'
I’m not sure what the average pay for motorcycle taxi riders are; however, I'm seeing a huge opportunity for shipping a few of my old skid lids and football helmets overseas with helmet stickers attached that say 'Disease Free' and 'Non-Black Magic Spell Approved.'
Apparently, construction workers have also set up their own lucrative trade renting out their safety helmets for around 500 naira ($3.60) a day. 'They use pots, plates, calabashes, rubber and plastic as makeshift helmets,' said Yusuf Garba, commander of the Federal Road Safety Commission in the northern town of Kano. 'We will not tolerate this. We gave them enough time to purchase helmets. Six months ago the price of helmets was below 800 naira, so complaints about non-availability and high prices are no excuse,' he said. Garba claims that only 28 arrests had been made in Kano, and newspapers have reported more arrests in other cities. Those detained are fined and their bikes impounded until they buy helmets. And we thought the helmet laws here in the states suck!
Although 800 naira seems like a reasonable price to me, helmet prices are apparently on the upswing as opportunistic sellers are cashing in on the demand. There are tens of thousands of motorcycle taxis buzzing around Lagos, a chaotic city of 14 million people, many of them given to unemployed and illiterate youths as part of poverty reduction programs. And to make matters worse, most have never been taught traffic rules.
I've got an idea. I say we make all states here in the good old U.S. helmet free and ship all of our helmets over to those who can't afford them. Deal?
By Mike Schweder