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GCN’s Orla Chennaoui explains why she doesn’t wear a helmet, outrage ensues

Irish commentator says she feels safer without a lid when on city bike in Holland

Photo by: Orla Chennaoui @SportsOrla

Popular GCN commentator Orla Chennaoui has defended her choice not to wear a helmet when riding in the city, responding to social media criticism in her column for Rouleur.

Chennaoui, based in Amsterdam, acknowledged receiving “disbelieving, disappointed, disparaging'” comments whenever she shares helmet-free cycling photos. Responding to the criticism, she clarified in her column that she would opt for a helmet in countries where cycling isn’t as prevalent. However, in the bike-centric culture of Amsterdam, where approximately 63 per cent of residents use bicycles for daily commuting, she feels it’s not necessary in her city.

Tour de France winner Geraint Thomas thinks cyclists should be forced to wear helmets

“I am often asked why I post pictures riding my upright back [sic] around Amsterdam without a helmet,” she posted on Instagram.”I have full respect for anyone who wears a helmet, I always wear one on my road bike, and I perfectly understand the arguments for.”

Recent research has uncovered a troubling phenomenon where a significant portion of the population fails to perceive cyclists as fully human. Conducted by Mark Limb from Queensland University of Technology and Sarah Collyer from Flinders University, the study sheds light on dehumanizing perceptions, especially toward cyclists donning helmets or safety vests.

Published in Volume 95 of Transportation Research, “Part F: Traffic Psychology and Behaviour,” the research aims to address cynical views hindering efforts to promote cycling. The survey collected the opinions of 563 people regarding cyclists and sought to provide evidence explaining the underlying causes of these dehumanizing perceptions.

According to the study, 30 per cent of the 563 participants viewed cyclists as “less than fully human.” The researchers specifically examined the impact of wearing helmets and other safety attire on the perception of cyclists.

The comments to her post, were as you can imagine, spicy. “No helmets, no rides. Helmets save lives,” womenlovebikes posted. Some didn’t quite get the point she was making, that she only felt safe lid-free in Amsterdam. Other cities, not so much. “My son is a paramedic, speak to him and you may just change your mind, before you lose it,” Jonboygsy replied. Pro cyclist Puck Moonen (who is Dutch and always seen wears her helmet training and racing), agreed with Chennaoui’s take on riding in the capital of The Netherlands.

Don’t tell me the cyclist wasn’t wearing a helmet

To the commenters who didn’t seem to fully grasp her argument, Chennaoui replied several times, imploring her followers to read the full article. “My head is more important than my vanity. I’ve had head trauma from a bike crash, then you rethink your life choices,” Grant Peter Woods. The GCN host then fired back she wrote 900 words, and none of them had anything to do with her vanity.

Chennaoui also urged individuals not to engage in negative responses to posts on her social media accounts. Instead, she encouraged people to reach out to their local politicians to advocate for improved cycling safety initiatives.