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Seeking clarity on helmet debate, BTA launches survey

Posted by on October 21st, 2011 at 11:06 am

People on Bikes - Waterfront-4-3
BTA wants to have a clear
answer when it comes to the
inevitable helmet debate.
(Photos © J. Maus)

The Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA) has launched a survey of their members to get feedback on one of bicycling’s biggest debates: helmet use.

Here’s a blurb from an email sent to members about the survey:

“The board of directors of the Bicycle Transportation Alliance will be discussing the role of helmets and the organization’s policy in the broader context of our work to make bicycling safe and accessible. To help inform the board’s discussion, we are asking our members to respond..”

Curious about why the BTA is wading in these waters, I contacted executive director Rob Sadowsky to learn more.

“We’ve got members to opposed to anything having to do with helmet laws and then some who are the complete opposite…”
— Rob Sadowsky, BTA

Sadowsky said the survey is an effort to clarify the BTA’s official position on helmet use. When he came to the BTA Sadowsky looked up policy statements on a variety of issues and says he didn’t find one on helmet use. Instead of guessing what the BTA’s position was, Sadowsky wanted to speak from a solid policy position, so he asked the board to clarify the organization’s stance.

Sadowsky says he’s fully aware that this is a sensitive issue and that they have members at each end of the debate’s spectrum.

“We’ve got members to opposed to anything having to do with helmet laws and then some who are the complete opposite and feel we should be actively pursuing helmet laws and that people should have helmet on in every picture we publish.”

Sunday Parkways Southeast-30
Sadowsky (and his helmet) at Sunday Parkways.

Personally, Sadowsky says he’s on the side that wants bicycling to be seen as fun and safe and that the more we talk about mandatory laws, the more it seems like an unsafe activity. “But” he adds, “I also want to represent our members.”

The 3-questions survey asks people to share when/if they wear helmets. The key question asks: “How do you think the BTA should be involved in encouraging helmet use and/or supporting a mandatory helmet law?”

Sadowsky says he doesn’t expect they’ll get a consensus in the responses and that the survey will likely only give his board a general sense of how their members feel. He also shared that the BTA board itself is “all over the place” on the helmet debate.

Once the survey responses come in, Sadowsky says he foresees three possible outcomes:

  • there will be no clear decision and the BTA will maintain their current position, which is to not support mandatory helmet laws but to encourage their use,
  • the BTA will start to actively oppose mandatory helmet laws (which is different than simply not supporting them) or begin to encourage legislators to start supporting them,
  • or they’ll decide that the entire debate and decision is better left to health care professionals. “We’d encourage helmet use, but stay out of the political battles.”

In the end, Sadowsky says he hopes his organization doesn’t spend a lot of time on this issue. He also acknowledges the risk in even discussing it. “If we do come out on one of the more solid lines, there’s a group of members that won’t be happy.”

The survey closes on Monday night.

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Comments
  • Evan October 21, 2011 at 11:20 am

    Sheesh, I’m never the first to comment, but here I go.
    I wear a helmet ALMOST every time I ride. I think it is a smart thing to do, but I am opposed to a law requiring helmet use. I agree with Sadowsky’s assessment:
    “…he’s on the side that wants bicycling to be seen as fun and safe and that the more we talk about mandatory laws, the more it seems like an unsafe activity.”

    The more we see people riding on the street NOT wearing helmets, the more we see that bicycling is in fact a viable option that is reasonably safe. If we pound a message into people that bicycling is so unsafe that you MUST wear a helmet at all times, what parent is going to encourage their children to ride a bike? What adult person who may be uncomfortable riding in traffic (or at all) is going to perceive cycling as safe and take it up?

    I personally believe that if we had an environment where our streets were considered so safe for bicycling (and walking!) that a helmet is used only by the minority of cyclists, we would truly have a safe, equitable and efficient transportation system.

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    • Arem October 21, 2011 at 3:17 pm

      You know, as a motorcyclist (required by LAW to wear a helmet when operating said 2-wheel variety vehicle) and a bicyclist…and having survived a wreck on the motorcycle without much damage to my own head, much love for the helmet that took the brunt of the asphalt for my face and noggin. I’d rather not have a concussion again or worse, but that helmet will aid in preventing gashes, gouges, trauma and further damage or potential death. I wear a helmet on either mode of transportation as I care for my personal safety.
      Motorcyclists have a saying when mixed in with other traffic. It’s not if you are in a crash, but when.

      I’m sure there will be further inflammatory retorts here for demands on my proof of aid that a bicycle helmet would provide in the event of head meeting road.

      Helmet saved me when a Suzuki turned in front of me without a signal while on the motorbike, I’d like to contine to think I can rely on the Giro bicycle helmet to also aid in mitigating potential damage from a flip over handlebars or other potential disaster from pot holes and other junk out there. That’s all.

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    • Mike October 23, 2011 at 10:51 pm

      While I don’t think that decisions like wearing a helmet need to be legislated, I personally wear one everytime I ride and my kids also always ride with a helmet…everytime. I think that cycling is a perfectly safe activity but a moments inattention can lead to catastrophic consequences and it doesn’t matter whose inattention it was. I guess it boils down to I don’t think it should be mandatory but wearing helmets should be stongly encourged and of course the various organizations, clubs etc should be free to make their own rules regarding the use of helmets.

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  • andy October 21, 2011 at 11:30 am

    Without a helmet on in the last two wrecks I had with the pavement I would have been brain dead. Regardless of how safe the roads will hopefully be one day accidents will happen. And as a spouse married to a physician you have a better chance of returning to a “normal” life wearing one.

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    • Schrauf October 21, 2011 at 11:55 am

      You would be dead, in your humble opinion, based on no facts whatsoever, unless you happened to be wired and monitored like a crash dummy at the time of the incidents. Don’t tell me about the marks on the helmet. Means almost nothing.

      Back to the purpose of the thread, which is not helmet use, but the BTA’s position on such.

      I understand their desire to get a feel for general opinion, but if they just think about it, they will figure out general opinion, without the need to do a survey. The survey simply creates a more obvious debate where before, in the context of the BTA at least, it simmered below the surface. There are more important things for the BTA to focus on.

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      • Ron October 21, 2011 at 7:43 pm

        I was sideswiped while on my bike, and my helmet cracked all the way through in 3 separate places. Are you telling me that says NOTHING about what probably would have happened to my head without the helmet? Really? Nothing? Come on.

        In any case, a helmet law for minors is in my opinion a good thing, but for adults — if you wanna run the risk of getting your head smashed in, by all means have it your way.

        P.S. I lost a brother to a drunk driver who hit him while he was riding his bike in Phoenix, AZ. Estimated speed of the driver, 60mph, hit my brother from behind. My brother was wearing a helmet, but with that kind of impact nothing is going to save you. Those kinds of crashes are relatively rare compared to slow speed, head meets ground kind. I’ll keep my helmet on thanks.

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        • Chalo October 22, 2011 at 3:19 am

          That’s right– the fact that your helmet busted up tells you nothing about what it did or didn’t do for you. I can break a typical bicycle helmet to smithereens by sitting on it. If I sat on your head, you might object but you wouldn’t die.

          A more telling fact is that during the time I have been riding a bike for transportation, helmet use among cyclists has increased from approximately zero percent to approximately fifty percent, yet there has been no detectable reduction in the rate of fatality among cyclists. That alone suggests that all those broken helmets that “certainly saved my life”, in fact did not.

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    • Randall S. October 21, 2011 at 12:04 pm

      This probably isn’t true, as you would know if you’d done any research on how effective helmets actually are. As the spouse of a physician, I would expect your family would know better than to parrot fear-culture talking points that have little basis in reality. Let’s start with the most salient points:

      - If your helmet breaks when you have a crash, that does not mean it protected you. All it means is your helmet broke. Unless the styrofoam liner is actually compressed, your helmet has provided zero protection from impact.

      - Bicycle helmets don’t protect from the types of injuries that most commonly cause brain trauma (torsional)

      - Bicycle helmets don’t protect from motor vehicle impacts

      - Bicycle helmets have been demonstrated to increase risk-taking behavior (Phillips, 2011)

      - Helmet laws have been repeatedly shown to drive down number of cyclists

      - Higher number of cyclists have been repeatedly demonstrated to correlate with higher safety

      - Studies have repeatedly shown no positive relation between helmet laws and a reduction in overall injury rates

      - Studies have repeatedly shown an overall negative societal effect from helmet laws due to the reduction in numbers of cyclists

      - The US, with some of the highest helmet wearing rates in the world, has some of the highest injury rates in the world

      - The Netherlands, with a close to zero percent helmet wearing rate, has some of the lowest rates of injury in the world

      If you want to wear a helmet, that’s fine. You should wear one while walking as well, since there are about 8.1 million falling injuries per year, and a helmet will be just as effective in preventing head injuries from falling as it will while bicycling. You should wear it in your car for the same reason.

      However, if you actually want to make the city safer for cyclists, helmets and helmet laws are absolutely the worst possible way to do it.

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      • NF October 21, 2011 at 1:18 pm

        We should probably flip a couple of these around:

        - The US, with some of the highest injury rates in the world, has some of the highest helmet wearing rates in the world

        - The Netherlands, with some of the lowest rates of injury in the world, has a close to zero percent helmet wearing rate

        Plop a dutchman into the US (anywhere but Portland), and they may opt to wear a helmet as well.

        But you are right – mandatory helmet laws are counter productive.

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      • jeremy October 21, 2011 at 4:04 pm

        Randall–I don’t care if you wear a helmet. My question is, why do you care so much if I do? Your spurious use of “research” without actually citing any research is perhaps more dangerous than wearing or not wearing a helmet. The research on helmets primarily concludes that there is no substantial benefit that could be detected (from the particular research protocol, the data samples, the sample sizes, etc). That does NOT mean that helmets 1)harm us NOR does it mean that 2)helmets do not help us. It only means that the studies can’t tell. The vast majority of information we have about head injury comes from ER statistics–there is no way to know how many people DIDN’T GO to the ER because a helmet prevented a head injury. One of the obvious points easily missed here is, as you note, a cracked or broken helmet doesn’t mean the helmet saved you from impact, but it is equally absurd to say that the broken helmet “provided zero protection from impact” whatever force was required to break the helmet itself was force that was then not transferred to your head. Poorly applied understanding of research is more dangerous than ignorance itself.

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    • Joshua October 21, 2011 at 12:10 pm

      How do you know this? How do you know that your helmet even protected you from more than a couple cuts?

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      • davemess October 21, 2011 at 12:25 pm

        How about if I ended up with a concussion, where I went in and out of consciousness for about an hour? Would that be sufficient to say that the helmet might have helped?

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        • Randall S. October 21, 2011 at 1:18 pm

          No, because you’re still guessing based on some fairly weak assumptions.

          If the styrofoam liner is compressed in the area of the impact, then the helmet MIGHT have helped. You may also have had an impact that overcame the protective effect of the liner, and had the concussion anyway. You may also have had the concussion CAUSED by the helmet, when the added weight of the helmet affected your balance.

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  • Jeffrey Bernards October 21, 2011 at 11:46 am

    My only 2 helmet required accidents were on the 205 bike path and a parking lot, both had no cars in sight. Thanks to my helmet I’m able to type this. I sold lots of low cost helmets and everyone was super grateful to afford some protection. If I read about an accident where there were head injuries I’m more discouraged from riding a bike than if I read about someone survived a bike accident using safety equipment, (a helmet) designed for that particular activity.
    I’m not conceding to society by wearing a helmet, I’m saving you from potentially caring for me for the rest of my life or burdening my family by not being able to work and provide too.
    Ride Safely

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  • patrickz October 21, 2011 at 11:58 am

    I was “converted” to helmet use by an acquaintance who told me how he toppled over a small crack in the pavement while riding slowly out of a driveway. He simply dropped sideways, hit his head and woke up 24 hours later in some emergency room. He didn’t even bleed much; it was a light knock in the right place. This was in the late 70′s, when I commuted from SE to downtown at all hours, (I did have a light) exposed to a lot more than toppling. (…when I think of those days in Santiago, Chile, riding in the thick of traffic as a schoolboy, coattail whipped by passing cars, I feel sooo lucky…) Ride safe, everyone, whatever you choose to wear.

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  • Paul Johnson October 21, 2011 at 12:02 pm

    I support British Columbia in their decision to have a mandatory helmet law. Until we’re Holland, not wearing a helmet is like not wearing a seatbelt.

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    • Randall S. October 21, 2011 at 12:06 pm

      Do you support them because of the fact that helmet laws have been repeatedly shown to have negative societal health effects, or because you believe that the government needs to have more control over a person’s private life?

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      • Paul Johnson October 21, 2011 at 1:23 pm

        Have you stopped beating your wife yet?

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    • Joshua October 21, 2011 at 12:14 pm

      Do you support mandatory helmet wearing in motor vehicles (cars included) as well? If you don’t wear one while you drive, it’s like not wearing a helmet while you bike!

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    • Nom de Plume October 21, 2011 at 12:15 pm

      And if there is a mandatory helmet law, we’ll never be Holland.

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      • jeff October 21, 2011 at 12:22 pm

        thank god for that. the riders in Holland are obnoxious in my experience.

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        • Randall S. October 21, 2011 at 1:27 pm

          They’re also the one of the safest countries to in which to ride a bicycle. Either you’re for safer cycling, or you’re for helmet laws. There are no other choices.

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          • Paul Johnson October 22, 2011 at 1:33 pm

            They’re not mutually exclusive concepts in this universe. Not sure about the parallel universe you seem to exist in, though, but I invite you to join us over here; it’s a lot less fire-and-brimstone than the one you’re in.

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      • Paul Johnson October 21, 2011 at 1:24 pm

        Correlation without causation here. The car culture needs to be fixed to be more bicycle friendly before helmets are a nonissue.

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    • Evan October 21, 2011 at 2:10 pm

      They also have comprehensive health insurance. It’s in their best interest to reduce claims by requiring helmet use. They also have a government and populace that is more accepting of government regulation over such things than we do.

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    • Hugh Johnson October 21, 2011 at 4:32 pm

      Thankfully we’re not Holland.

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      • are October 22, 2011 at 3:23 pm

        yes, i would rather have the forces that manipulate my life be more hidden

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        • Hugh Johnson October 23, 2011 at 9:51 pm

          We are “Portland”. Not Holland, not Hamburg…PORTLAND. Why are some so hell bent on this city not having it’s own unique spirit and identity?

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          • Paul Johnson October 23, 2011 at 11:00 pm

            Probably because we’re not getting a unique Portland back until we reincarnate Tom McCall for governor, and until that happens, the the most likely outcome is North LA.

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  • Fred October 21, 2011 at 12:15 pm

    I am of the mind set that you can do what you want. Don’t wear a helmet, but don’t give me a bunch of BS arguments about public perception of cycling not being a safe activity if someone wears a helmet. I see someone wearing a helmet and I think they are smart for looking after their health and safety. If you want more people to bike, show them how much fun you are having.

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    • Paul Johnson October 21, 2011 at 1:30 pm

      I have no problem demonstrating fun and joie de vivre on a bicycle even though I wear a helmet.

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  • mabsf October 21, 2011 at 12:22 pm

    I don’t have anything against helmets – I have something against the people who tell me to wear a helmet.
    In each discussion I hear has the anecdotal bike crash that has nothing to do with a car…but most bike crashes Do involve cars and if everybody knows somebody who had a bike crash, I bet you know somebody who had bad car crash – I know I do.

    The helmet discussion reminds me a lot of the rape discussion years ago – girl in a short dress asks for it!
    I feel bullied by people who tell me that I have to protect myself because they would like to go faster than their reaction times allows them to go.
    As in the rape discussion we need a shift in understanding that I have a cyclist have a right to be save on the streets that I paid for.

    I don’t think that you can equate helmets with seat belts: a helmet is not full-body armor. If you get hit by a car going more than 25 miles, you will still be hurt even if you wear a helmet.

    If a car driver feels comfortable around a helmet-less cyclist, there is one easy way to remedy it: GO SLOWER!

    Martina Fahrner

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    • mabsf October 21, 2011 at 12:48 pm

      Sorry, I meant UNcomfortable in my last paragraph

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    • jeremy October 21, 2011 at 3:51 pm

      Mabsf–I get that you don’t want to wear a helmet, but to attack the logic of a helmet (safety device) being compared to a seatbelt (saftey device) AND then using an absurd relationship between wearing a helmet and rape is a bit much. What does rape have to do with a helmet?

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      • Adams Carroll October 21, 2011 at 7:45 pm

        In both cases victims are blamed for their injuries because of behavior that did not actually cause them. How many times have we heard of a woman being blamed for her rape because of outfit or appearance?

        How many times have we read the obituary of a cyclist who was hit by a car that starts with the phrase “A cyclist, who was not wearing a helmet…”

        I don’t know if you can compare the emotional torment of being raped with that of being hit by a car. I wouldn’t know, luckily neither of those things have happened to me. But still, I can see what Mabsf mean when she points out that our society is quick to blame the victims in both of these situations when we really should be condemning the behavior of rapists and people who drive motor vehicles in an unsafe manner.

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  • jeff October 21, 2011 at 12:26 pm

    My neighbor used to ride daily to work. Never had a helmet on when I saw him.
    About 3 months ago, a car pulled in front of him at slow speed when he was riding on a sidewalk. Wife tells me witnesses said he was maybe doing 6-8 mph…got knocked over…slow speed accident…hit his head on the sidewalk…is still in the ICU at Providence with brain damage as I write this.
    wear what you want…enjoy the consequences.

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    • Randall S. October 21, 2011 at 1:22 pm

      Great anecdote, but irrelevant. Do you make (or plan to make) your children wear helmets when they go on the swingset? Brain injuries account for 75% of children’s deaths from falling off of playground equipment. How about when you go to the gym? There’s a couple thousand head injuries per year from people falling off exercise balls.

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    • Evan October 21, 2011 at 2:12 pm

      I hate to sound uncaring, but why was he riding on the sidewalk, where no driver should expect to see someone on a bike? Doesn’t mean I don’t wish him recovery.

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      • wsbob October 21, 2011 at 2:39 pm

        “I hate to sound uncaring, but why was he riding on the sidewalk, where no driver should expect to see someone on a bike? …” Evan

        Not true. People that drive should certainly expect that sidewalks are one of the places they’re likely to see people riding bikes. The law in many instances allows it.

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        • John Lascurettes October 21, 2011 at 8:05 pm

          Not riding at 6-8mph on a sidewalk they should not. When on a sidewalk and crossing a driveway or crosswalk, the law requires a “walking” speed. That equates to something much lower than 6mph. This is the exact reason the law exists. Want to ride faster than say 4mph? Ride in the street.

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          • John Lascurettes October 21, 2011 at 8:18 pm

            And before someone get’s pedantic about what walking speed is, the average is around 3.1 mph.

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          • wsbob October 23, 2011 at 11:21 pm

            “…When on a sidewalk and crossing a driveway or crosswalk, the law requires a “walking” speed. …” John Lascurettes

            Good point…which I should have included in my response to your comment that people driving motor vehicles should not expect people to be riding bikes on sidewalks.

            Side note: also, though it likely varies from town to town, I don’t think people riding on the sidewalk are necessarily limited to a walking speed when the sidewalk is free of people, intersections and driveways.

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        • Paul Johnson October 22, 2011 at 1:42 pm

          Yeah, if you can really call 3-5 MPH “riding a bicycle” as opposed to “why am I not walking instead?”

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  • Alex October 21, 2011 at 12:27 pm

    I’m more concerned about the guy running the red lights making us look like a bunch of morons…and he has a helmet on so he has some hope: http://videos.oregonlive.com/oregonian/2011/10/portland_bicyclist_runs_red_li.html

    Who is this guy? And why are you running all the red lights in town, especially in front of your bike-ridin’ breathren.

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    • Paul Johnson October 21, 2011 at 1:37 pm

      Ugh, the lights are metered to 15 MPH, a reasonably comfortable pace for any commuter…

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    • are October 22, 2011 at 3:37 pm

      there is a separate thread for that discussion

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  • q`Tzal October 21, 2011 at 12:27 pm

    Practical, cold-hearted, freedom of choice related suggestion:
    Allow people on bicycles AND motorcycles to ride without helmets IF:
    (1) they notify their health and insurance policy holders of said decision and,
    (2) they legally waive any claims to government monetary coverage for any damages that would have been prevented by a helmet.

    People would still have the right to ride without a helmet but they would also be required to bear the FULL monetary burden of their decision.

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    • Randall S. October 21, 2011 at 1:25 pm

      As long as we require pedestrian and motorists who don’t wear helmets to do the same thing, I’m 100% behind this idea. Actually, we need to require pedestrians who don’t wear full body armor to do this as well. There’s over 8 million injuries from falling every year.

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    • Paul Johnson October 21, 2011 at 1:44 pm

      I think that’s already how it works for motorcyclists in Oklahoma (which doesn’t have a mandatory helmet law for motorcycles, or if they do, it’s entirely unenforced).

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    • mabsf October 21, 2011 at 2:38 pm

      Where do you stand on cars with that opinion? Somebody who causes a car accident through speeding etc should also NOT be covered by insurance under this thinking…

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      • q`Tzal October 21, 2011 at 6:17 pm

        On cars:
        Cars are fine from a safety standpoint, its the drivers.
        On drivers:
        I love to be more optimistic about the capabilities of the human race intellectually and hand-eye coordination wise but I’m beginning to suspect that driving in any situation other than the empty stretches of open road depicted in commercials. Looking forward to commonplace automated car driving or drastic Peak Oil.

        The helmet issue is indicative of a MUCH larger sociological issue of self-reliance vs dependence.
        This country was founded and grew during a time when the most people expected from their government was protection from outside armies and internal bands of thugs.
        Self-reliance was a big thing and it was quite common to go out and live or die by your own hand. If you did unsafe things the bear would eat you.
        The frontier is gone and we are all living in ever increasing densities. Everyone’s actions has at least a small imperceptible affect on the whole of society and thus every single person.

        Freedom to make our own choices comes with the responsibility to suffer the consequences of your own failures.
        As long as our tax money goes in to hospitals to pay for morons who get injuries that were preventable when their own insurance can’t pay, won’t pay and the responsible auto driver is uninsured and can’t pay then I would have to be in favor of mandatory helmet laws.
        I’m more than happy for it to be voluntary AS LONG AS we don’t all get stuck paying for it later.

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  • Oliver October 21, 2011 at 12:28 pm

    I think these points are interesting.

    - Helmet laws have been repeatedly shown to drive down number of cyclists.

    - Higher number of cyclists have been repeatedly demonstrated to correlate with higher safety

    Wearing a helmet is my default state when on the bike. But I have gone places and forgotten my helmet and thus have ridden without one. To work or training rides, I always have it on.

    I rarely wear one when popping across the park to the market though. Or during repair/maintenance. (though, on my street a helmet is advisable, unless of course it’s true that it won’t save you in collisions with speeding cars )

    I’m against mandatory helmet laws. I think the BTA should be pro-helmet, but anti-law enforcement.

    I suppose everyone expects that their pov is correct though.

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  • John Mulvey October 21, 2011 at 12:50 pm

    My question for helmet fans: Why do you ever take it off? If it’s incrementally better at saving your noggin from unforeseen fluke accidents while biking, then it’s also incrementally safer while walking, going to the supermarket, or sitting in your cubicle at work. You’d have to be a fool to *ever* take the thing off your head, right?

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    • Paul Johnson October 21, 2011 at 1:45 pm

      It’s a matter of risk. Sitting in an office and sitting in traffic on a bike are two different things. Kind of like how playing tennis on a sunny day and golfing in a thunderstorm are two different things.

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      • John Mulvey October 21, 2011 at 2:06 pm

        Ahh, but that’s not the argument that pro-helmet people make, is it? I keep hearing that ANYthing that helps make you more likely to survive that freak accident that’s waiting around the next corner ought to be done. You’re a fool to do otherwise, I hear.

        So I hope everyone who thinks that’s true will consider the benefits of helmets while in bed at night. You never know when the roof might fall in!

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        • wsbob October 21, 2011 at 3:19 pm

          “…I keep hearing that ANYthing that helps make you more likely to survive that freak accident that’s waiting around the next corner ought to be done. …” John Mulvey

          Anything related to what? This isn’t what’s commonly being said with regard to bike helmets and the advisability of wearing one.

          What’s being said, is that it’s not easy to predict the eventuality of a fall off a bike and resulting impact to the head; and that wearing a bike helmet offers modest but worthwhile protection injury from such an impact.

          People aren’t being encouraged to do anything and everything to protect them from freak accidents waiting around the corner…no full body foam suits…not even full face helmets. All they’re being encouraged to do is to consider wearing a simple $20 foam bike helmet.

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    • wsbob October 21, 2011 at 3:06 pm

      “…If it’s incrementally better at saving your noggin from unforeseen fluke accidents while biking, then it’s also incrementally safer while walking, going to the supermarket, or sitting in your cubicle at work. …” John Mulvey

      So you’re reasoning it’s logical to presume that wearing a bike helmet while walking and sitting in your cubicle at work, would make those activities incrementally safer than not wearing a bike helmet while involved in those activities. Seems to be sound reasoning.

      Except that walking and sitting in your cubicle at work do not seem to present near the risk as does riding a bike 15-25mph and faster while dodging pavement fissures, storm grates and motor vehicles out on the street.

      I don’t think you’ll be persuading many people to wear a bike helmet for walking and cube habitation.

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      • John Mulvey October 21, 2011 at 3:42 pm

        wsbob
        “…If it’s incrementally better at saving your noggin from unforeseen fluke accidents while biking, then it’s also incrementally safer while walking, going to the supermarket, or sitting in your cubicle at work. …” John Mulvey
        So you’re reasoning it’s logical to presume that wearing a bike helmet while walking and sitting in your cubicle at work, would make those activities incrementally safer than not wearing a bike helmet while involved in those activities. Seems to be sound reasoning.
        Except that walking and sitting in your cubicle at work do not seem to present near the risk as does riding a bike 15-25mph and faster while dodging pavement fissures, storm grates and motor vehicles out on the street.
        I don’t think you’ll be persuading many people to wear a bike helmet for walking and cube habitation.

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        So, to conclude: Some things are riskier than others. Before mandating rules for low-risk behavior, try taking a look at the myraid high-risk behaviors that aren’t regulated. Thank you for getting the point.

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        • wsbob October 22, 2011 at 1:04 am

          “…Before mandating rules for low-risk behavior, try taking a look at the myraid high-risk behaviors that aren’t regulated. …” John Mulvey

          It seems you’re attempting to use your response to evade recognition of the reasons many people find benefits associated with wearing bike helmets, and why those reasons are considered so substantial that in some instances, governments implement mandatory helmet use.

          You’re inferring that people favoring the use of bike helmets, do so because they consider the activity (that’s what riding a bike is, rather than a “behavior”.) of riding a bike to be “…high risk…”.

          The ‘high risk’ consideration enters into what happens after a person riding a bike falls off the bike, or gets thrown from the bike, possibly hitting their head on a hard surface. I think many people do consider that a person’s head colliding with a hard surface from a 6′ drop at 15mph, possibly faces a high risk of some kind of head injury, and that their chances of reducing such injury is considerably improved if they’re wearing a lightweight foam bike helmet.

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      • Chalo October 22, 2011 at 3:35 am

        Government-sponsored studies have demonstrated that walking is about three times riskier in terms of fatality rate than riding a bicycle is.

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        • wsbob October 24, 2011 at 3:16 pm

          Chalo
          Government-sponsored studies have demonstrated that walking is about three times riskier in terms of fatality rate than riding a bicycle is.
          Recommended 1

          What do the government studies you’re drawing from attribute the greater risk to arise from?

          According to the study, what number of fatalities associated with walking, derive from head injuries?

          Do the government studies you’re drawing from make any suggestion whatsoever that wearing a bike helmet while walking would reduce the fatality rate for walking?

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  • todd October 21, 2011 at 12:59 pm

    None of the multiple-choice survey responses reflect my position that if the BTA promotes helmet use for urban transportation (as opposed to sport/recreation or the longer distance, higher traffic-speed burbs), i will withdraw my support for BTA. I wear a helmet whenever i’m not toodling around relatively peaceful portland bike boulevards, which is about 1% of the time.

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  • Goretex Guy October 21, 2011 at 1:08 pm

    I work at Harborview Hospital in Seattle the “go to” Emergency Room for the Seattle Metropolitan area. Many of the doctors from the ER use our bike locker and it seems they all use helmets. I’ve discussed it with them. They call cyclists without helmets “organ donors”.

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    • Randall S. October 21, 2011 at 1:18 pm

      What do they call motor vehicle drivers who don’t use helmets? How about pedestrians that don’t use helmets?

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      • Ron October 21, 2011 at 7:59 pm

        You keep bringing up drivers and helmets. It’s ridiculous Randall. Most cars have at least one, and many have something like 8 to 12 airbags, as well as seat belts. And are generally made of a significant amount of metal, specifically designed to absorb the impact from collisions, etc, etc, etc.

        I suppose you’re going to say the risk to my body for injury is the same whether I am on a bike or in a car, when hit by another car going say, 25mph?

        You’re missing the whole risk analysis part of the equation.

        And honestly, I couldn’t care less if you personally wear a helmet, and I am fine if adults are in no way legislated to do so.

        But your campaign to call into question even the slightest amount of risk mitigation in my decision to wear a helmet is utterly ridiculous.

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        • Chalo October 22, 2011 at 3:41 am

          Despite all your observations about cars and their safety features, forty to fifty times as many people per year die in cars than on bikes. So if helmets are of practical benefit for cyclists (which is not supported by population-wide data), then they would be of much more benefit to car users, at least in terms of lives potentially saved.

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          • Paul Johnson October 22, 2011 at 2:27 pm

            Never mind that 100-250 times as many people travel by car than by bicycle in this country.

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    • Donna October 24, 2011 at 2:56 pm

      King County has a mandatory helmet law for adults.

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  • dan October 21, 2011 at 1:17 pm

    I’ve had maybe 5 or 6 bike wrecks worthy of the name in my life. Of those, I’m positive that a helmet helped in one case.

    A panel van passed me and then immediately turned through the bike lane into a driveway, cutting me off (they just barely missed hitting me). They then stopped short in the driveway, resulting in me hitting the van at about 15 or 18 mph, doing a Superman over my handlebars and hitting the side of the van head first, with no time to get my hands out or protect myself.

    This type of crash may be low-incidence. I don’t care, I’m happy to wear my helmet.

    To the helmet nay-sayers, each to his own, but because so many of them are also in the “wear all black and ride at night without lights” camp, it’s a little hard to believe they’ve really thought things through.

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  • Nick V October 21, 2011 at 1:18 pm

    People like me who want to wear helmets should wear helmets. People who don’t, good luck and don’t be mad when Darwin taps you on the shoulder.

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    • Chalo October 22, 2011 at 3:45 am

      If you expect more than trifling protection from your bicycle helmet, you’re probably already risk-compensating away more than its actual benefit. So don’t get bent out of shape if it’s you who gets culled out of the herd.

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  • Chris S. cerevisiae October 21, 2011 at 1:21 pm

    I assume that most of you are solely bike commuters and joy (e.g. slow) riders. Since most of you probably don’t reach scary-fast speeds, a helmet might prevent a contusion in the place of impact, but not necessarily a concussion. Having fallen at more than 35 mph on a steep downhill, I know that my helmet saved me, at the least, from shredding away my skin and bone when I kept sliding for over 100 ft. Although, it did not prevent me from grinding away at my face and breaking my teeth.

    Do you know what that plastic layer is for on your helmet? It’s to delay the shredding of the styrofoam when sliding along on your head. So you’re not worried about missing some skin on your head? How about getting an infection that close to your brain? Battle scars aren’t ‘that’ cool.

    To Randall:
    the styrofoam is there to crack into pieces in replacement of a skull fracture. It’s unlikely that it will just compress in a fall severe enough to cause significant injury.

    With this in mind, I don’t believe that a helmet should be mandatory except for bike racing. However, you ought to wear one if you like long rides (you don’t want to be bleeding out of your head in the middle of nowhere) or fast rides. Or, if you want to look like a dork…that’s my reason.

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  • Paul Johnson October 21, 2011 at 1:22 pm

    Randall S.
    - Bicycle helmets don’t protect from motor vehicle impacts

    But they do reduce the severity of head injuries received in such an impact.

    - Bicycle helmets have been demonstrated to increase risk-taking behavior (Phillips, 2011)

    One study doesn’t a reality make.

    - Helmet laws have been repeatedly shown to drive down number of cyclists
    - Higher number of cyclists have been repeatedly demonstrated to correlate with higher safety

    Sure doesn’t slow down people from riding in Vancouver or Victoria, which have helmet laws and are enforced.

    - Studies have repeatedly shown no positive relation between helmet laws and a reduction in overall injury rates

    True, because it’s not armor, it’s a helmet. A ballistics helmet won’t protect from bullet strike to the chest in a combat situation, and it’s kind of a strawman to expect it to.

    - Studies have repeatedly shown an overall negative societal effect from helmet laws due to the reduction in numbers of cyclists

    Which studies?

    - The US, with some of the highest helmet wearing rates in the world, has some of the highest injury rates in the world
    - The Netherlands, with a close to zero percent helmet wearing rate, has some of the lowest rates of injury in the world

    That has much less to do with helmet usage and far more to do with car usage. Traffic in Holland has a higher concentration of bicycles and lower speeds overall than the US does.

    If you want to wear a helmet, that’s fine. You should wear one while walking as well, since there are about 8.1 million falling injuries per year, and a helmet will be just as effective in preventing head injuries from falling as it will while bicycling. You should wear it in your car for the same reason.

    We’re talking everyday traffic situations, not NASCAR. Modern cars have equipment like airbags and seatbelts that more or less make helmets pointless in a car. You’re comparing apples to screwdrivers here.

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  • mh October 21, 2011 at 2:05 pm

    I kinda like not having a helmet law – it gives me one more basis upon which to pass judgment on people. Carrying a helmet on your handlebars? Someone wants to protect you, but you’re rebellious.

    Personally, I’ve already suffered my traumatic brain injury (in a car, by an aggressive SUV driver), and can’t afford to lose any more function. I wear my helmet.

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    • mabsf October 21, 2011 at 2:47 pm

      You mentioned that you were in a traumatic car accident. Are you actively promoting to make street safer and working against aggressive drivers? Because that is what caused what caused your injury, not people on bikes not wearing helmets.

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  • Mike October 21, 2011 at 2:07 pm

    Is it possible to wear skinny jeans and a helmet at the same time? It seems I have to choose one or the other. But seriously, why wouldn’t someone want to implement a device that is proven to improve your outcome in an accident. If you try and dispute that you are dead wrong. We are talking about bicycles and helmets so stop bringing in stats related to exercise balls, playgrounds etc. If you would rather be hip than safe than see how cool it is to drive around your wheelchair with your teeth.

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  • craig October 21, 2011 at 2:08 pm

    I really want to see the focus of the BTA’s public discussion shift toward advocating for separated (from autos) bike facilities as the primary approach for increasing the safety, enjoyment, and attractiveness of biking as transport.

    I’m less interested in establishing a stance on helmets for the status quo.

    A network of transport bikeways (not 15mph+ bike speedways) that buzzes with relaxed, un-helmeted folks just getting from a to b is an environment where helmets become obsolete. Until then, I’m wearing a helmet– except during Sunday Parkways :)

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    • jered October 21, 2011 at 2:47 pm

      sunday parkways is a HUGE REASON TO WEAR A HELMET. that s*&t is pure chaos. You never know when somebody is going to veer out of nowhere and hit you – seriously. Sunday Parkways and Bridge Pedal are far scarier than any highway or busy street I’ve ever ridden on!

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      • q`Tzal October 22, 2011 at 1:57 am

        This is that “sarcasm” I hear so much about, yes?

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        • Paul Johnson October 22, 2011 at 2:26 pm

          I don’t think so. People fail to keep right on Sunday Parkways and have a tendency to play chicken. Bridge Pedal lacks the head-on potential but keeps the fact most people don’t check their blind spot, or even have a mirror, and just dart out without looking or signaling. Haven’t done bridge pedal since I had a 40 MPH header coming off the fremont bridge, a 12-year-old going about the same speed two lanes over started swerving back and forth for fun and took out two other riders.

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        • are October 22, 2011 at 3:50 pm

          probably not. i have volunteered for both bridge pedal and the parkways, but i would never ride in either because there are too many amateurs out there in a huge cluster.

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          • q`Tzal October 22, 2011 at 8:37 pm

            I’d call that opinion elitist if I didn’t have the same opinion. Is it still elitist? Don’t wanna be elitist but it wouldn’t be the first time.

            I think even in the absence of all automotive threats that safely riding a bicycle is too easy to do poorly.

            4 wheeled vehicles require simply pointing the vehicle in the correct direction; 2 wheeled vehicles have the added burden of balance and increased vulnerability to cluttered surface conditions.

            From the standpoint of sheer mental laziness a bicycle is more work.

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    • Dave Thomson October 21, 2011 at 4:55 pm

      And I have already told them I absolutely oppose that.

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      • are October 22, 2011 at 3:54 pm

        thanks, dave, you beat me to it. whether it is BTA or some other organization, i want someone out there advocating for my space on the public roadways. you can build a separated infrastructure all day long, but until we get rid of the mandatory sidepath law and re-educate the driving public, i do not want BTA to be involved in pushing for it. i am already sorry to see some of the stuff they have been getting behind, like for instance the green box at couch and grand.

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    • Paul Johnson October 22, 2011 at 1:36 pm

      Given our existing seperated-from-autos facilities suffer problems with not being seperated from pedestrians, seems like adding sidewalks to routes like I 205 Corridor, Hawthorne Bridge, Springwater Corridor, Katz Esplanade, Steel Bridge and Willamette Greenway should be BTA priorities as well.

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    • El Biciclero October 24, 2011 at 2:16 pm

      “A network of transport bikeways (not 15mph+ bike speedways)…”

      I would argue that anything limited to 15mph is a pretty low-grade transport bikeway. I’m usually going 15 before I reach the far side of an intersection from a dead stop, and cruise between 15 and 20, with bursts of up to 48 (down the right hill)–and that’s on my commute to work. And yes, I wear my helmet and take the lane for that downhill…

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  • jered October 21, 2011 at 2:46 pm

    I will twice a year get on my bike without a helmet (just to tempt fate). I never get on my Mt. Bike without a helmet, but I won’t wear a helmet on my skateboard when riding large transitions and such. It makes no sense, I’ve hit my head enough on my skateboard to know better yet I still make dumb choices. I’d fall on the anti-helmet law as well.

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  • HUTCHiMON October 21, 2011 at 4:27 pm

    Yes, you should wear a helmet.

    No, we don’t need a mandatory law.

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  • Mindful Cyclist October 21, 2011 at 7:11 pm

    Comparing the US to Holland is a specious argument at best. Whether we are on a bike or in a car, the bulk of us want to get there fast. We ride road bikes with high gearing so we can go fast. We want a car that can do 0-60 mph in 5 seconds. We don’t ride bikes (for the most part) that are cruisers like in Amsterdam. The US also does not have near as many separated bikeways.

    Look, where a helmet or don’t. It’s up to you! But quit throwing out “studies” and passing it as legitimate.

    Full disclosure: I wear a helmet 90% of the time. 100% of he time I don’t have negative thoughts of someone not wearing one.

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    • craig October 24, 2011 at 9:39 am

      I’d love to see stats on the categories of bikes ridden within the central city. Or maybe a likely corollary would be the categorization of bikes sold by shops in the city.

      I work at NE 9th and Multnomah next to Lloyd Center, and my anecdotal observation is that probably 1/3 or more of bikes (and there are alot) that ride through here are either ’70′s cruisers, modern mimics of ’70′s cruisers, or commutified mountian bikes from the ’80′s and ’90′s. Another 1/3 are single speeds. That’s 2/3 of bikes of the not-built-for-speed varieties. The remaining 1/3 would be of the road bike variety with 10 or more speeds, whether vintage or modern.

      Did anybody video-record the site where they were gathering bike count statistics? That would be revealing.

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  • Hart Noecker October 21, 2011 at 7:12 pm

    Don’t be afraid. Ride safely, but leave your styrofoam hat at home.

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    • Mindful Cyclist October 21, 2011 at 9:47 pm

      As Meatloaf once sang, “two outta three ain’t bad”. How about we just let people decide what’s best for them until we find some some tangible proof that helmets either: a) deter the average “interested but concerned” person from riding or b) they are a rock solid safey device.

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      • Hart Noecker October 22, 2011 at 11:20 am

        If you click my name it will link to a page that proves how helmets hurt the cause by preventing more people from riding. It’s a tool of fear, plain and simple.

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        • Mindful Cyclist October 22, 2011 at 8:28 pm

          I have seen this site before and nowhere does it prove that helmet use keeps people from riding a bicycle. I suppose it may speculate or hypothesize, but that is a far cry from proving it.

          Regardless, it was not my point. I think people should wear one if they want. I think people should go helmet free if they want. I don’t like being told what to do and I doubt you do either.

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          • Mindful Cyclist October 22, 2011 at 8:31 pm

            Apologies for not turning off the HTML . I thought I did it right.

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  • gracie October 21, 2011 at 9:02 pm

    I wonder how many of the anti-helmet folks have the foresight to own a long-term disability insurance plan. Chances are that you expect Social Security and Medicaid (i.e. the rest of us) to pick up the tab for your misguided fear of helmet head.

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    • Hart Noecker October 22, 2011 at 4:40 pm

      Well, since the odds of traumatic head injury on a bike with or without a helmet are a fraction of the risk of walking or driving, you tell me why drivers and pedestrians think they can mooch of the taxpayers for not wearing helmets.

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      • gracie October 23, 2011 at 9:10 am

        SIlly argument, but hey–if you want to get your head smashed in, then have at it. Maybe, instead of forcing hipsters to ruin their fashion statements (truly cruel and unreasonable punishment), there should just be a law that states that NOT wearing a helmet while cycling is an implicit agreement that the non-helmet wearer is responsible for paying for his/her medical and nonmedical care in the event of a debilitating head injury. That way we all win–you get to protect your hair-do, and the rest of us don’t have to pay for your vanity.

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        • John Mulvey October 23, 2011 at 10:30 am

          How much have I cost you so far, Gracie?

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        • Donna October 24, 2011 at 3:03 pm

          No, it’s not a silly argument. Statistically, you are more likely to suffer a traumatic brain injury from walking than biking. Why would you encourage bicyclists that don’t wear helmets to purchase additional disability insurance but not pedestrians, when they are at greater risk of needing that additional disability insurance?

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          • Hart Noecker October 24, 2011 at 7:28 pm

            Because they’re afraid, and the cagers like it that way. I refuse to be afraid, and I refuse to believe a plastic hat makes any dang difference.

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          • wsbob October 25, 2011 at 12:35 pm

            “…Statistically, you are more likely to suffer a traumatic brain injury from walking than biking. …” Donna

            The insurance issue aside, I just want to interject that the reason people that walk aren’t advised to wear bike helmets or any kind of helmet, is that the dynamics of the act of walking and where in the public way walking mostly occurs itself don’t particularly call for wearing a helmet while walking.

            In many types of bike riding, wearing a bike helmet does make sense, because the person riding can while balancing on the bike, be traveling at speeds of 12mph and faster, entirely on the street surrounded by motor vehicles.

            Even a slight, unexpected nudge can sometimes cause a person on a bike to be pitched off the bike, falling to the ground with a resulting impact to the head, from which the bike helmet would be able to offer some help in reducing injury.

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          • El Biciclero October 25, 2011 at 1:49 pm

            “…the dynamics of the act of walking and where in the public way walking mostly occurs itself don’t particularly call for wearing a helmet while walking.”

            Heh. See here for a different view on that statement.

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          • wsbob October 25, 2011 at 7:50 pm

            “…the dynamics of the act of walking and where in the public way walking mostly occurs itself don’t particularly call for wearing a helmet while walking. …” wsbob

            “Heh. See here for a different view on that statement. ” El Biciclero

            El…what different view? You’ve merely posted a link to the bikeportland story about ODOT’s campaign to encourage people on foot to make themselves more visible while amidst vehicle traffic, crossing streets and so forth.

            Nothing in that story is suggesting people on foot amidst vehicle traffic should start wearing protective helmets. ODOT doesn’t appear to be making such a suggestion. I can think of no good reason they should.

            The only people that mention the…well I think it’s fair to refer to it as ‘the ridiculous idea of wearing helmets for protection while walking’, seem to be people that object so strenuously to wearing a bike helmet, in some instances being obliged to wear a bike helmet while riding a bike (and even the fact that other people would find good sense in wearing a bike helmet while riding a bike), that they can’t resist venturing such a ridiculous idea for a mode of travel that is vastly different from riding a bike in traffic.

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          • El Biciclero October 26, 2011 at 2:12 pm

            bob–

            Just pointing out that ODOT’s campaign is a response to an uptick in pedestrian deaths–many of which could have been prevented (as much as any cyclist deaths) if those peds had been wearing helmets. Seems that the dynamics and location of pedestrian activity DO lend themselves to getting run over–at least enough so that ODOT takes notice…

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  • jim October 21, 2011 at 10:28 pm

    It’s none of BTA’s business if you wear a helmet or not. That’s not the purpose of BTA, making up nanny laws. Personally I believe it is very wise to wear a helmet, however it should be the riders choice if they want to do so or not. Only minors that are not able to make responsible choices should be required to wear them.

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    • Judy Jensen October 23, 2011 at 12:19 pm

      …unless the rest of us have to pay for your medical care after you’ve been injured.

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      • jim October 24, 2011 at 8:21 pm

        If I was an insurance company (I’m not) I would deny any claims with no helmets

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        • El Biciclero October 25, 2011 at 10:56 am

          Including those from folks who fell down stairs, slipped in the shower/tub, got hit by cars while walking, walked into lamp posts, fell off of ladders, were injured while in a car, found themselves on the wrong end of a baseball bat, etc.? OK–that sounds fair.

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          • jim October 25, 2011 at 10:55 pm

            If they fell down stairs while wearing roller skates, deny it.
            If they were playing evil kneivel and broke a leg jumping a school bus I would deny the claim.
            If they got bit by a lion while pogo sticking through his cage I would deny it.
            If they wern’t wearing protective helmet while biking and landed on the hard pavement and has to be fed through a strw just because they didnt like a helmet- i would deny it.

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  • q`Tzal October 22, 2011 at 1:59 am

    Sometimes nature attacks and helps to have been wearing one.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=S2oymHHyV1M

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  • Tha C-Dawg October 22, 2011 at 8:57 am

    One really unfair reason to wear a helmet: the RNs and others taking care of you.

    Much like seat belt use in the late 80′s, helmet use in bicycle accident patients gets CONSTANT scrutiny in every hospital today. If your arm is broken in a bicycle accident and your head is totally fine, I promise you that every RN, MD, OR tech, X-ray tech, ICU intensivist, & housekeeper will ask you if you were wearing a helmet. And they won’t bother to hide their eye rolling, sarcasm, and disdain when you say no (or if you are unconscious, your chart indicates “no helmet”, and they will ALL look at your chart, or they will just ask your RN. Yes, really.).

    I know, this is unprofessional & unfair. But it is true in civilian & military hospitals, for-profit & non-profit, etc. Just a judgmental part of human nature in a LOT of people, I suppose.

    I’ve always seen these judgmental types give good care over the last 25 years, but it’s just a hassle I don’t want to put up with, so I wear a helmet (and gloves, eye protection, use good lighting) to shut them up if I’m ever a patient.

    I’m solidly in the “helmets aren’t that big of a deal” camp, but just realize what you could be in for if you are ever injured, and it doesn’t have to be a head injury. And I imagine if you are trying to recoup losses in court, a jury may be more sympathetic if you were wearing a helmet (ugh, I know, conforming to what society wants you to do, being a “good citizen” and all).

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  • are October 22, 2011 at 3:34 pm

    thanks for posting this, jonathan. i am a member of BTA, but did not receive this questionnaire and apparently would not have known about it otherwise.

    i just now responded to the questionnaire, and i found several of the choices under item 2 to be problematical, because you are being asked to “agree” or “disagree” with a compound question.

    for example, i “disagree” that everyone should be encouraged to wear a helmet,” but i “agree” that BTA should oppose a mandatory helmet law.”

    similarly, i “agree” that “the best way to change behavior” is through education rather than through legislation, but i “disagree” that it is desirable to “change behavior on helmet use,” or that BTA “should focus on education” if changing that behavior is the objective.

    i “disagree” that “BTA does not need to be involved with legislation” on the subject, but in the sense that i think BTA needs to be engaged in pushing back against any mandatory helmet law.

    so, not only is this survey apparently not going out to all members, but the questions are poorly framed.

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    • are October 22, 2011 at 3:44 pm

      also, the questionnaire begins by asking whether i myself wear a helmet, and it occurs to me that a wrong inference could be drawn from the “yes” answer that i give to that question. i do wear a helmet, because it is a convenient mount for this huge mirror
      http://www.safezonemirror.com/EVT/Welcome.html
      but wearing the helmet does close in some other avenues of perception, including hearing.

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  • Steve October 22, 2011 at 7:52 pm

    Helmets are worthless as long as you don’t crash :P

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    • Paul Johnson October 24, 2011 at 1:07 pm

      It’s not if you crash, but when.

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      • Steve October 24, 2011 at 2:12 pm

        I hope the tongue face in my post conveyed my intended level of sarcasm. But in any case, I’m willing to bet that there are some folks who have ridden bikes their entire lives and have next crash. I’ve been in a few MTB crashes and can testify that the reason I’m typing this is because of helmets, but I would say you’re more likely to eat it on a MTB than if you were just a commuter.

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  • Atbman October 23, 2011 at 3:19 pm

    IN the UK, a Dr. Mayer Hilman researched cyclist head injury fatalities. He found that about 92% had other injuries which would have killed them, had the brain dmage not done so.

    IN the UK, a higher proportion of fatalities amongst pedestrians and motor vehicle users are due to head injuries, compared with cyclists. As another poster has said, it makes more sense, therefore, to call for compulsory helmet wearing for those two categories of road users.

    But, wouldn’t a “Wear a Helmet or YOU MAY DIE!” campaign to encourage people to take up the safe and healthy activity of cycling be a tad counter-productive?

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  • Jean October 24, 2011 at 4:18 am

    I won’t be participating because I’m from Canada.
    I agree with this statement earlier in this thread: “There are more important things for the BTA to focus on.” Truly, now this is going suck unnecessary energy out of BTA.

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  • MelissatheRagamuffin October 24, 2011 at 7:01 am

    I won’t participate because I’m in Virginia, but even if they passed laws requiring everyone to wear helmets – people would continue doing as they please. Would law enforcement actually do anything about it? Here in Harrisonburg, if you’re riding anywhere near the university there is a BIG problem with cyclists riding on the wrong side of the road, running stop signs/stop lights, not having lights on after dark (which is a law here), but local law enforcement doesn’t do anything about it.

    I’m a fan of wearing a helmet. I was hit by a car that ran a stop sign last summer. I wasn’t hit from behind. I wasn’t sideswiped or right hooked. She ran a stop sign and hit me broad side. I hit my head into her windsheild hard enough to break her windshield and I had a concussion from it. How much worse would I have been hurt if I hadn’t been wearing my helmet?

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    • wsbob October 24, 2011 at 12:44 pm

      “…Would law enforcement actually do anything about it? …” MelissatheRagamuffin

      Of course, police have priorities in terms of calls they have to respond to, but other than this, they might very well stop people they could see should be wearing a bike helmet, but weren’t.

      That they would is one of the reasons some people object to laws requiring the use of bike helmets. Police can use laws like this to shake down people they feel they’ve got reasons to be suspicious about. Certain critics say some police use laws like this to harass people.

      I think too, that where mandatory helmet laws apply to specific younger age levels, for genuine reasons of safety, the police might be inclined to keep their eyes out for young kids riding around without helmets, maybe stopping to talk the kids or their parents about this. When I say ‘young kids’, I’m thinking more of kids up to the age of 10-12, rather than older kids.

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  • El Biciclero October 24, 2011 at 2:30 pm

    Besides the personal freedom aspects, and the questionable “studies” that all contradict each other on the benefits (or lack thereof) of wearing helmets, here is the other big problem I have with mandating helmet use:

    You cannot mandate proper helmet use.

    I see kids (and adults) all the time wearing helmets too far back on the head, helmets with chinstraps swinging in the breeze (buckled, but way too loose, or just not buckled), kids with helmets 2 sizes too big (is that just Mom’s old helmet?), helmets without a “slick” plastic shell; I even see kids’ helmets sold in stores that have giant animal character noses or ears sticking out from them! Many (most) times, wearing a helmet improperly (or an improper helmet) is worse than not wearing one at all.

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    • wsbob October 24, 2011 at 2:39 pm

      People not making sure their kids are wearing properly fitted helmets is a problem, but that’s probably not a good enough reason not to require some age groups to be wearing them.

      Better information, education and reminders about how helmets need to be fitted and straps adjusted for safe use, is the way to deal with that problem.

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    • Paul Johnson October 24, 2011 at 7:28 pm

      I believe Oregon’s bicycle helmet law considers wearing it wrong to be the same as not wearing a helmet. In other words, there’s no “B” for effort…you either do it right or you’re not doing it.

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      • El Biciclero October 27, 2011 at 9:51 am

        I think it just specifies the type of “headgear” that counts as a helmet, and standards it must meet while sitting on the shelf, not how it is to be worn.

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  • beth h October 26, 2011 at 3:25 pm

    I wear a helmet when I ride.
    I do this mostly to keep my loving spouse off my back about bike safety.
    I don’t do it while operating under the illusion that this thing will dependeably save my life in almost any sort of crash. Sometimes helmets aren’t enough.

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    • q`Tzal October 26, 2011 at 3:39 pm

      I really like having a very bright light that I can aim at side crossing autos.
      If you have really good vision you can see the reflection off the back of their eyeballs indicating that they at least looked at you.

      I’ve only had ONE failure in this technique to remind a driver to yield when required in over 15 years. It was about 4:30am in winter and the driver was crossing NW 23rd ave at NW Overton. I’ve come to expect comatose drivers near hospitals and given that this one was crossing to Starbucks I throttled my braking to stop 2″~6″ from her car. She was very apologetic
      and I politely warned her that bike traffic would likely pickup soon.

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