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The Most Creative People Of 2013: A Q&A With Sandra Richter

MIT Media Lab visiting scientist Sandra Richter is racing to increase urban cycling participation. Join her live as she answers your questions at 2pm (E.T.) on May 31st.

Credit: Photo Illustration Joel Arbaje | Bikes: GO BANANAS DESIGN STUDIO via Shutterstock 
by Anjali Mullanyon May 29, 2013 at 10:14 AM

Visiting MIT Media Lab scientist Sandra Richter researches the ways in which persuasion profiling can encourage city citizens to ride their bikes.

"I'm totally against bike helmets," she says. It's a show-stopper of a statement. But last year, as part of an MIT research project, she interviewed New Yorkers to figure out why commuters didn't ride bikes. Fear of injury turned out to be the single biggest factor. She concluded that a greater emphasis on cycling in pairs would make people feel safer, thus reducing car traffic and pollution. Mandates on bike helmets, on the other hand, would not. It sounds reckless, but a laissez-faire approach to helmets has worked in places such as Dublin and Mexico City. Meanwhile, the unpopularity of Melbourne, Australia's bike-sharing system has been frequently blamed on the city's helmet laws. "If you're wearing a helmet, you're in more danger," she says, citing research that has shown that drivers are less likely to hit bareheaded cyclists, apparently because they give them a wider berth than those who wear helmets. "The question is, how do you make sustainable sexy," Richter says. "If you wear a stupid helmet, you're not going to feel sexy."

We're guessing quite a few of our readers would like to ask Richter about this provocative
theory. Join her right here on Friday, May 31st at 2pm (E.T.) as she answers your questions live. You can submit your questions ahead of time using the "Make A Comment" box below--or tweet your questions in using the #creativeconversations hashtag on Twitter.
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[Photo: Reinhard Hunger for Fast Company]