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BTA releases helmet policy, survey results

Posted by on October 28th, 2011 at 1:15 pm

Helmets
Helmets on the Hawthorne Bridge
(Photo by Will Vanlue)

Using feedback gleaned from a recent survey, the Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA) board of directors has formally adopted a policy on helmets. Here is the position statement as published on their blog this morning:

The Bicycle Transportation Alliance supports state law that requires those under 16 to wear helmets while on a bicycle. Helmets are safety devices that make bicycling safer by mitigating injury in the event of a fall or crash. Our role as an advocacy organization is to push for safer cycling environments and making our roads more bike-friendly. Therefore, The Bicycle Transportation Alliance encourages the use of helmets by all cyclists.

Rob Sadowsky, the BTA’s executive director, calls this a “slight modification” of their previous policy. “The essence of the policy is that we believe that helmets can and do save lives.”

Further explaining their new stance, Sadowsky says that, “If confronted with a proposed mandatory helmet law, the BTA will not stand in opposition to the law. Neither will we devote resources to passing such a law.”

In their own survey, 65.9% of respondents said the BTA should oppose mandatory helmet laws.

This neutral stance speaks to the BTA’s attempt to walk the fine line on this very sensitive and hotly debated issue. The organization has members – and board members – on all sides of the debate.

It also marks a shift toward a more pro-helmet stance than they’ve had in the past.

When the city of Vancouver was about to pass a mandatory, all-ages helmet law back in 2008, the BTA sent a letter to the Vancouver mayor and city council stating clear opposition. Among the reasons for their stance was that they were “not confident that passing a mandatory helmet law makes bicyclists, as a group, any safer.” (The law was ultimately passed and is still in existence.)

In his statement today, Sadowsky also made it clear that they will be “diligent about people wearing helmets” in all future communications and photos.

In the end, it seems the BTA wants to take a hands-off approach to this issue, and instead focus on improving bike safety.

“Bike safety in our state should not be reduced to a conversation about bike helmets.”

Below are results from the BTA member survey they used to inform this policy:

1. How often do you wear a helmet while bicycling?
Almost 80% of respondents say they wear a helmet every time they ride.
16% of respondents say they wear a helmet for most trips.
3% say they sometimes wear a helmet.
Just over 1% say they never wear a helmet.

2. How do you think the BTA should be involved in encouraging helmet use and/or supporting a mandatory helmet law? (Respondents chose “agree” or “disagree” for each statement separately.)
“I believe that everyone should be encouraged to wear a helmet, but the choice is ultimately that of the individual. The BTA should oppose a mandatory helmet law.”
Agree: 65.9% (464)
Disagree: 34.1% (240)
“I believe adults should be required by law to wear a helmet. The BTA should support a mandatory helmet law.”
Agree: 37.1% (276)
Disagree: 62.9% (467)
“I believe the best way to change behavior on helmet use is through education and encouragement, not through legislation. The BTA should focus on education and encouragement.”
Agree: 83.5% (644)
Disagree: 16.5% (127)
“I believe that health officials are the best group to decide this issue. The BTA does not need to be involved with legislation of helmet use.”
Agree: 19.7% (130)
Disagree: 80.3% (530)
“I am not concerned with helmet use.”
Agree: 14.7% (96)
Disagree: 85.3% (557)

3. Are you a BTA member?
Yes: 88.5%
No: 8.5%
Not sure: 2.9%

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Comments
  • Alex Reed October 28, 2011 at 1:32 pm

    Wait, so a survey that shows that 62 to 66% of respondents (mostly members) oppose a mandatory helmet law means that the BTA *won’t* oppose a mandatory helmet law? How does that make sense?

    Maybe the BTA leadership previously thought that fewer than 34 to 37% of members support a mandatory helmet law, and is taking a neutral stance in respect for those members’ beliefs?

    Personally, I hope there’s never a serious effort towards a universal mandatory helmet law.

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    • matt picio November 9, 2011 at 3:50 am

      I’m curious about that myself, and I’m disappointed that the BTA is taking this stance. Most cyclists ride 10 mph or slower most of the time. Those speeds are typical for joggers, yet there’s no push for joggers to wear helmets. I’m not saying that helmets can’t be beneficial, they certainly can – but they’re not an end-all, be-all for bicycle safety.

      Though what disturbs me most is that the BTA is adopting a policy at odds with what the membership wants, as detailed in the BTA’s own survey.

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      • Jessica November 9, 2011 at 11:03 am

        That’s BTA doesn’t care about what its members want. It’s a wonder anyone still thinks the BTA matters.

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  • sorebore October 28, 2011 at 1:34 pm

    I am the 1% ! I may not be a billionaire, but I can ride my bicycle sans helmet if I wish. Maybe one of my favorite freedoms left . I know this will not bode well with you 80%er’s and the other miscellaneous 19, but I still love it!

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  • BURR October 28, 2011 at 1:35 pm

    Neither Roger Geller, PBOT bike coordinator, nor Rex Burkholder, BTA founder, wear helmets.

    Just sayin’…

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    • Joe Rowe October 29, 2011 at 10:11 pm

      I think Rex had a spill that caused brain damage. He is now one of the lone politicians who will speak in favor of the $5 billion CRC freeway project. He’s emotionally attached to it.

      I wonder if Jefferson Smith wears a helmet? In his bid for mayor he’s got the sanity to say we need to kill the CRC and look at better alternatives.

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    • Elliot October 30, 2011 at 6:23 am

      Well apparently, at least in this survey… they are the 1 %. Ha.

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      • Marid November 1, 2011 at 11:32 am

        I wear a helmet every time I ride and I want the CRC built now. So what’s this have to do with the BTA long overdue turn towards helmet safety?

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  • Jeff TB October 28, 2011 at 1:36 pm

    I have a hard time understanding how this helps people who ride bikes.

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  • wsbob October 28, 2011 at 1:37 pm

    Sadowsky would do well to take greater care in his choice of language:

    “The essence of the policy is that we believe that helmets can and do save lives.” Sadowsky

    It might be advisable for him to specifically say ‘…helmets can help to prevent head injury andsave lives.’, because it’s almost certain people will be jumping on his case for claiming simply that bike helmets save lives.

    I can’t quite figure Sadowsky’s thinking making the following statement:

    “If confronted with a proposed mandatory helmet law, the BTA will not stand in opposition to the law. Neither will we devote resources to passing such a law.”

    How can the BTA take a stand against a law proposal that hasn’t even yet been conceived, let alone specified?

    I hope Sadowsky and the BTA can in future be more clear about their position on mandatory bike helmet laws, and the question of individual adult choice in wearing bike helmets while riding bikes, given the very wide range of types of bike riding that exist.

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  • 9watts October 28, 2011 at 2:18 pm

    As a bike helmet wearer for twenty-five years I’m finding language found here: http://www.vtpi.org/irresistible.pdf very interesting. The paper is titled: Making Cycling Irresistible: Lessons from The Netherlands, Denmark and Germany.

    “The Netherlands has the lowest non-fatal injury rate [for cyclists] as well as the lowest fatality rate, while the USA has the highest non-fatal injury rate as well as the highest fatality rate.
    … The cyclist injury rate for the USA seems extremely high relative to the other countries.

    Thus, it is important to emphasize that the much safer cycling in northern Europe is definitely not due to widespread use of safety helmets. On the contrary, in the Netherlands, with the safest cycling of any country, less than 1% of adult cyclists wear helmets, and even among children, only 3–5% wear helmets (Dutch Bicycling Council, 2006; Netherlands Ministry of Transport, 2006).”

    I wonder if safety is to be found somewhere else?

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    • sorebore October 28, 2011 at 2:54 pm

      9… Thanks for the info you bring. This is an awesome point that generally gets pushed aside during discussions on this topic.

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    • john October 28, 2011 at 7:07 pm

      Check me if I’m wrong, but if I am recalling correctly, a big part of that is due to the fact that traffic laws place much more onus on automobile drivers than traffic laws do in the US.

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    • ME 2 October 28, 2011 at 7:20 pm

      My take on that study is that establishing a safe infrastructure such as the separated bikeways prevalent in the Netherlands play a major role in reducing cycling injuries. As such, it kind of makes sense that the BTA not waste precious resources fighting mandatory helmet laws when those resources are best deployed promoting the development of bike infrastructure like that in the Netherlands.

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      • Ted October 29, 2011 at 3:06 pm

        Let’s become little amsterdam where people ride, cause it’s fun, safe, and quiet! Adopt infrastructure from the netherlands period!!!

        We could do it!

        Netherlands adopted the bike infrastructure they use in the ’70s, we can do it! There’s still plenty of time!

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        • El Biciclero October 31, 2011 at 11:12 am

          Infrastructure alone won’t cut it. Any street-level infrastructure must necessarily involve crossings of roads and conflicting turns, etc. Drivers must still pay attention, regardless of any infrastructure improvements–and therein lies the rub. U.S. Drivers want to be able to barrel along, drinking their lattes and checking (and responding to) their text messages while driving. This means they want to be able to pay as little attention to the road as possible. The “I don’t need to pay attention because everybody will get out of my way” attitude is what we need to correct FIRST. The only way to do that, it seems, is to pass very unpopular laws that would make drivers actually responsible for their actions on the roadway. IMO, one of the first steps toward that end would be automatic seizure of cell phones (or at least an automatic warrant for phone records) to determine whether one was in use at the time of any collision. This could serve a dual purpose: a) to collect data to show that hands-free phone conversations are just as likely to cause crashes as hands-full phone conversations; b) to provide proof of violation of existing laws against hand-held phone operation while driving. Again, this would only be the babiest of baby-steps toward making drivers responsible for not paying attention; there would need to be many other legal sanctions imposed before drivers would take their responsibilities seriously.

          Then, if folks are still afraid to ride because it “feels” too dangerous, we can build some infrastructure that makes biking irresistibly safe, but aggravatingly slow.

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          • Marid November 1, 2011 at 11:40 am

            Are we to confiscate a person’s bike after an accident to prove that it had all of the proper safety equipment? How many cyclists ride with improper lighting or poorly functioning brakes? Furthermore, should we install cameras everywhere like the UK does so we can see who was at fault? Most accidents are most certainly caused by human failings such as inattentiveness, impatience, and a nonchalant attitude towards traffic laws.

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          • 9watts November 1, 2011 at 11:42 am

            “Most accidents are most certainly caused by human failings such as inattentiveness, impatience, and a nonchalant attitude towards traffic laws.”

            Marid,
            you know this, how?

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    • jonesey October 28, 2011 at 10:17 pm

      Yes!

      I was disappointed that the survey did not contain any options that said something like “I think the helmet issue is a distraction from the real dangers to bicyclists. People in Amsterdam don’t wear helmets, and they bike in huge numbers and very safely. I want the BTA to advocate whatever makes that happen.”

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      • Duncan Idaho-Stop October 31, 2011 at 10:52 am

        Exactly. The survey basically pre-supposed this result.

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      • Marid November 1, 2011 at 11:42 am

        This is not the Netherlands. For starters, we have hills.

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    • Randall S. October 30, 2011 at 8:08 am

      Hey! I was the one that linked that paper for you originally, jerk! :)

      This was essentially my point as well: while a helmet might protect you if you are in an accident, helmets (and helmet laws) do absolutely nothing whatsoever to prevent accidents.

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      • 9watts October 30, 2011 at 8:34 am

        “Hey! I was the one that linked that paper for you originally, jerk! :)”

        And I gave you credit in another discussion here, several times over. Not claiming anything for myself. But what’s with the angry tone?

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        • Randall S. October 31, 2011 at 1:10 pm

          There was a smiley! A smileeeeyyyyy!

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    • de Lijster October 31, 2011 at 10:22 am

      As a Dutch person living in Portland – and wearing a helmet most times here – (but not in my home country of course:), I wanted to suggest this: one of the reasons I wear a helmet here is that I speed down hills – which we obviously do not have in the Netherlands…. Besides that, even in the Netherlands there is a discussion going on about encouraging people to wear helmets, especially childeren, which you see happening more and more.

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  • Spiffy October 28, 2011 at 2:53 pm

    the poor choice of working makes him a liar…

    Our role as an advocacy organization is to push for safer cycling environments and making our roads more bike-friendly. Therefore, The Bicycle Transportation Alliance encourages the use of helmets by all cyclists.

    the use of a helmet does NOT make the cycling environment safer or more bike-friendly …

    what it (sometimes) does is make crashes safer, for the cyclist…

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    • dmc October 28, 2011 at 4:29 pm

      well said

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    • was carless October 30, 2011 at 10:34 pm

      Thats why I wear a helmet – when I ride faster, I have a higher risk of having a crash, by my own fault – ie, skidding out of control on a slippery street, traveling faster than I can stop in case an obstacle (car, pedestrian, pigeon, road debris) is in my path.

      When I bike more leisurely, like 10 blocks to the store, I never wear a helmet. And if a car hits me at speed, someone is probably going to be scooping me off the street into a plastic bag, where a helmet won’t do a whole lot (I’m still dead).

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  • sorebore October 28, 2011 at 3:01 pm

    9watt… Thanks for the link. This information sheds much light on the topic. awesome!

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  • Jason October 28, 2011 at 3:02 pm

    Why are there no conversations about pedestrians and motorists wearing helmets? Thousands of each group die every year of head injuries that could be prevented by helmet use.

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    • Chris I October 28, 2011 at 3:14 pm

      Deaths per “passenger mile traveled” is the only fair way to evaluate this.

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      • NF October 29, 2011 at 6:35 am

        I prefer comparing the data ‘per trip’ rather than per mile. Per mile countIng automatically gives autos the upper hand due to their longer distances travelled.

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        • Randall S. October 30, 2011 at 8:10 am

          Exceptionally so, as well, especially due to auto freight. 24% of miles traveled by autos are on the freeway, but only 8% of fatalities occur there.

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        • El Biciclero October 31, 2011 at 11:28 am

          Agree: injuries per trip is really the “fair” way to gauge relative safety of travel modes.

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      • Frank Krygowski October 29, 2011 at 11:20 am

        Pucher’s paper at
        http://www.ta.org.br/site/Banco/7manuais/VTPIpuchertq.pdf
        shows cycling in the U.S. is over three times safer per km than walking. See page 6. Pedestrian fatalities and injuries also tremendously outnumber those of cyclists on an annual basis. And of course, on an annual basis, the greatest cost to society comes from injuries and deaths of those inside cars – roughly 35,000 motorist fatalities vs. only 700 cyclists.

        Bicycling is NOT very dangerous. And widespread use of helmets hasn’t made any improvement anyway. Cyclist fatalities have dropped slightly over the years, but not as much as unhelmeted pedestrian fatalities.

        Helmet laws are an unthinking and unnecessary “blame the victim” move, and Sadowsky should be ashamed.

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        • Marid November 1, 2011 at 11:47 am

          Pedestrians are not cyclists. Bicycle helmets help you when you hit the ground after a collision or fall not when you get body-slammed by a car.

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          • Frank Krygowski November 1, 2011 at 2:53 pm

            Helmets wouldn’t help pedestrians??

            Harruff et. al., “Analysis of Circumstances and Injuries in 217 Pedestrian Traffic Fatalities”, Accident Analysis & Prevention V. 30, no.1 pp. 11-20, 1998 found 73% of the dead pedestrians suffered fatal head injuries.

            Why do you think helmets wouldn’t help them, but would help cyclists? If anything, the impact speeds would be lower for pedestrians, i.e. easier for a helmet to handle.

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      • Randall S. October 30, 2011 at 8:11 am

        If you want to do this, walking is one of the most dangerous ways you can travel.

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  • Schrauf October 28, 2011 at 3:05 pm

    Weird. Their position is less clear to me now than when they essentially had no position.

    And the survey is useless, statistically speaking. If they had randomly called and polled members, it would have been more accurate, rather than depending on word of mouth to visit their website and complete the survey. A phone survey is still weak, but better than this deal.

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    • Schrauf October 28, 2011 at 4:08 pm

      Joseph Rose on OregonJive is reporting the survey was emailed to all members. I never received an email, and I check my spam folder for such items regularly.

      Regardless, it appears the survey was just for show, since they ended up taking a “position” two-thirds of their members oppose, according to the survey. WTF?

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      • sorebore October 28, 2011 at 8:56 pm

        OregonJive! I love it! heehee.

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      • Joe Rowe October 29, 2011 at 10:15 pm

        I am a paid member and I never got the survey. I called the BTA and they said oooops.

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  • Chris I October 28, 2011 at 3:13 pm

    Are we going to start seeing some “I am the 1%” signs from our staunch anti-helmet activists?

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    • Randall S. October 30, 2011 at 8:12 am

      Few people are actually “anti-helmet.” Did you mean “anti-helmet law?”

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      • Mike B. October 31, 2011 at 10:14 am

        What’s the difference? I’m assuming you have to be anti-helmet in order to have a position on helmet laws. Are you pro vegetarian yet consumes massive amounts of meat? They somewhat go hand in hand.

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        • Alexis October 31, 2011 at 12:19 pm

          Incorrect. Being against a law requiring people to do something and being against doing that same something are distinct positions.

          I wear a helmet (almost always) and I oppose helmet laws because they don’t make the cycling environment safer. I expect the BTA to oppose them (even if they don’t want to spend a lot of effort on it) for the same reason.

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        • El Biciclero October 31, 2011 at 1:15 pm

          “I’m assuming you have to be anti-helmet in order to have a position on helmet laws.”

          That’s a faulty assumption. There are people who are pro-appropriate-use-of-helmets, but not pro-force-everyone-to-wear-a-helmet-every-time-they-get-on-a-bike. As several people have noted, the number of pedestrian injuries every year far outweighs the number of cyclist injuries–am I anti-helmet if I don’t propose forcing all pedestrians to wear helmets? In fact, it seems a little irrational to espouse mandating helmet use for cycling, yet not for the statistically more dangerous activity of walking. And if we filter out cyclists who are involved in crashes while violating known safety principles, cycling becomes even safer. Again, paraphrasing other commenters, if my intention is to go for a training ride where I know I will have 40+mph descents and such, or to go mountain biking on rocky trails, I would be more likely to wear a helmet than if I were going to toodle down to the movie theater at 5mph on sidewalks (where it is legal, of course–and I don’t condone wanton sidewalk-riding). See the difference? Many people don’t see the difference between bicycles and other vehicles–if I am on a motorized vehicle, I don’t have the option to toodle along the sidewalk or other off-street paths, therefore seatbelt and motorcycle helmet laws make at least a little more sense. Again, if we want to compel helmet use for bicycling, it makes as much sense to compel general helmet use for all, regardless of activity.

          Also, it is possible to be a vegetarian, but not support laws that force everyone to be.

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  • Charlie Burr October 28, 2011 at 3:19 pm

    This actually looks pretty clear to me. They aren’t going to direct time or energy working for or against mandatory helmet policies. I also like that they polled their members and what we care about. I’d much rather see them focus on making things safer for cyclists than getting bogged down in this issue one way or the other.

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    • wsbob October 28, 2011 at 7:34 pm

      As pointed out in its statement, BTA already supports a mandatory bike helmet law, which is Oregon’s existing mandatory 16 years and younger bike helmet law. I suppose though, supporting something isn’t necessarily the same as working for or against something.

      The distinction to be noted here, is that BTA apparently chooses not to weigh in on or work for or against an all ages mandatory bike helmet law for Oregon or some of its cities, should one ever be proposed.

      Maybe it’s a good idea the BTA has decided not to spend energy getting on one or the other side of an all ages mandatory helmet law proposal, but if there ever were a chance that such a law had a chance of being passed in the legislature, it might be disadvantageous for the BTA not to take a formal stand against it, if members were opposed to such a proposal.

      The legislature doesn’t meet again for another year. I’m wondering if BTA’s action on this question is in response to efforts in the woodwork to put together an all ages helmet law for the next legislative session.

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  • tonyt October 28, 2011 at 3:21 pm

    From the Oregonian: “The Bicycle Transportation Alliance announced Friday that it will no longer actively oppose mandatory bike helmet laws after a poll of members showed nearly 80 percent wear protective headgear every time they ride.”

    This makes no sense. We have high helmet usage already therefore they would no longer oppose a law? Is the intrusion of government into our lives, not to mention an excuse for cops to further harass cyclists, really worth getting that last 20% to wear a helmet?

    I wear a helmet most of the time, but get out of my business.

    One more reason to NOT join the BTA.

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    • tonyt October 28, 2011 at 3:22 pm

      I should have written, “From Oregonlive”

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  • Jerko October 28, 2011 at 3:26 pm

    Wear em if you want. Don’t wear em if don’t want.

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  • Jared C October 28, 2011 at 3:48 pm

    It seems like the lead sentence is erroneous. “Using feedback gleaned from a recent survey…”

    More accurate: “Despite feedback gleaned from a recent survey…”

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  • Bjorn October 28, 2011 at 4:30 pm

    Is the BTA trying to kill bike share in Portland before it even begins???

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    • NF October 29, 2011 at 6:37 am

      Good point! Melbourne Australia has had what might be called the least successful modern bike share system, and many blame the mandatory helmet laws.

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  • John Landolfe October 28, 2011 at 4:59 pm

    I love me a good strong opinion but I must confess I really take no issue at all with the BTA’s stance. If I have any concern at all, it’s that the political stance is derived from members’ general perceptions and not the scientific consensus. Fortunately, the BTA members’ general perception lines up perfectly with the science. Helmets work. For young people, they save lives. For adults, they’re a smart choice that (like eating your vegetables) is proven to save lives but should stop short of legal mandate.

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    • 9watts October 28, 2011 at 5:18 pm

      funny thing, though, the lives in need of saving by helmets don’t seem to register as such in, say, the Netherlands.

      I admit to being perplexed about this myself, but I can no longer make statements about the life-saving benefits of helmets without qualifying the peculiars of the US context in which bicyclists find themselves.

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      • sorebore October 28, 2011 at 8:59 pm

        Hearhear, my good man!!

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      • Kevin October 29, 2011 at 2:42 am

        your argument is akin to: I don’t get shot at here so I shouldn’t need a flack vest in Iraq.

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        • Randall S. October 30, 2011 at 8:14 am

          Your argument is akin to saying “Let’s not bother to make Iraq safer, and instead focus on requiring everyone to wear flak vests.”

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          • Marid November 1, 2011 at 11:53 am

            Ok, well, we can level Portland like we did to Iraq, or we can wear helmets. This is not Iraq and it is not the Netherlands.

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  • Arnold October 28, 2011 at 5:41 pm

    In the end only YOU can be responsible for your own safety. If you are not interested in looking out for your own best interests, there is no law on earth that will protect you from yourself. More law is not the answer. More personal responsibility may be a small part of the answer. Not the “be all end all,” but a starting place. Just my 2 cents.

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    • Marid November 1, 2011 at 11:57 am

      No, ever person you encounter in your travels is also responsible for your safety. ODOT is responsible for maintaining the roads for your safety. Auto and bicycle companies are responsible for building safe vehicles. The bars are responsible for making sure their patrons don’t drink too much. And so on. That is why we all (should) carry insurance.

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  • Hugh Johnson October 28, 2011 at 6:37 pm

    it would probably be more beneficial to nail cell phone users.

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    • Kevin October 29, 2011 at 2:46 am

      I was just reading on katu’s site about how there’s no anti texting law for non-motor vehicles in Oregon. so when you see the cyclist weaving around while texting, rest assured its legal.

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      • Hugh Johnson October 30, 2011 at 10:28 am

        Having to repeatedly yell “ON YOUR LEFT” to someone on a cellphone while riding their bike is pretty annoying. Seems to be happening more and more lately.

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        • Joshua November 2, 2011 at 4:50 pm

          Nothing better than getting looked down upon for not wearing a helmet by people who ride hands free while texting or talking on their phones. I can assure you that being aware and alert while on a bicycle will do you far more good than wearing a helmet as far as accident prevention goes.

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  • Otto October 28, 2011 at 6:57 pm

    BTA: “We’ve basically kept our policy the same… well not really, but sort of.”

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  • Chris October 28, 2011 at 7:04 pm

    I feel naked without a helmet.

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  • joeb October 28, 2011 at 7:54 pm

    I feel naked pushing a shopping cart without a helmet. It’s weird.

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  • joeb October 28, 2011 at 7:57 pm

    Those numbers show a self regulated group that should communicate to legislators. Experience and personal choice may increase helmet use. Mandatory laws aren’t going to change those numbers.

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  • Kristi Finney October 28, 2011 at 8:28 pm

    I support the right of each person to choose whether to wear a helmet or not. On August 12th, two cyclists were struck in the bike lane on Division. Dustin Finney was killed and the other cyclist, Kevin, suffered minor physical injuries. There was inference by some media and online commentators that perhaps Dustin would have survived had he been wearing a helmet as Kevin was. Although both were struck by the same vehicle, their individual circumstances are not comparable: Dustin was struck directly from behind by an SUV exceeding the 35 mile speed limit and was launched about 185 feet, while the helmeted cyclist was “clipped and just knocked down” (his words) after the SUV driver had slammed on the brakes.

    I am so glad that Kevin was wearing his helmet, because I believe his injuries could have been much worse had he not been. If Dustin had been wearing a helmet, would he have survived? No. But if he had, would he have wanted to? I for one am grateful that in this specific situation, my beautiful young son was not wearing a helmet and so, from all reports, was killed instantly and did not suffer (much).

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    • Donna October 28, 2011 at 8:49 pm

      Kristi, thank you very much for sharing your perspective with us, and please accept my condolences for your loss.

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    • wsbob October 29, 2011 at 11:36 am

      Kristi…hope I don’t seem disrespectful in asking, but I’ve been wondering what the nature of your son’s injuries were as a result of this collision, and how much of them might have been head trauma. Was it the opinion of medical examiners studying his body that concluded he died instantly?

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      • Kristi Finney-Dunn March 9, 2012 at 1:13 am

        I have thought of your questions ever since you asked them and put off replying because I had not spoken with the ME after the autopsy, just had the opinion of the ME I spoke to the morning of the crash. In the meantime, I had read the autopsy report and had done research to understand the injuries so had concluded a helmet would not have made a difference.

        But today I talked to the ME who performed the autopsy. Before giving me her opinion, she said she discussed it “in depth” with a colleague who was “an avid bicyclist” himself. They determined that Dustin would not have survived his injuries even if he had worn a helmet “because of the type of injury.” He died of blunt force head trauma, yes, but his skull was not crushed. He had a “hinge fracture” and a “ring fracture.” Essentially, his head separated from his spinal column. I read this in a study on ‘Helmet Protection Against Basilar Skull Fracture:’ “A complete ring fracture is usually immediately fatal due to associated injuries to the brain stem.”

        So today was a day of great relief for me (sad, too!): wearing a helmet wouldn’t have helped AND my son died instantaneously. The ME was very adamant that this was not the typical injury they see and that bike helmets do minimize injuries in the majority of cases.

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  • Donna October 28, 2011 at 8:53 pm

    “Further explaining their new stance, Sadowsky says that, ‘If confronted with a proposed mandatory helmet law, the BTA will not stand in opposition to the law. Neither will we devote resources to passing such a law.’ ”
    I sure hope Mr. Sadowsky doesn’t wonder why they will lose donating supporters should they follow through with doing nothing in the face of a proposed mandatory adult helmet law.

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  • dmc October 28, 2011 at 9:15 pm

    I live In Vancouver. I wear my helmet when I feel like it. I believe that anything more is an intrusion on freedom. That being said, individuals that choose not to wear a helmet should understand and accept all medical bills and liability resulting from head trauma.

    Like Spiffy said, the real issue isn’t preparing for and softening the blow of an accident, but preventing it all together. In the mean time, with the way our (america’s) transportation setup currently is, it might be wise to pad up. Regardless, it should be the choice of the competent adult.

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    • 9watts October 28, 2011 at 9:22 pm

      “individuals that choose not to wear a helmet should understand and accept all medical bills and liability resulting from head trauma.”
      you will perhaps forgive me if I point out that that makes very little sense.
      (a) US cyclists suffer head trauma even with a helmet on their noggins–this is not the Netherlands here, remember;
      (b) head trauma suffered by US cyclists is not, I don’t think, principally the fault of those cyclists, helmet or no helmet.

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      • dmc October 28, 2011 at 10:06 pm

        A.) Read the first part of the sentence ” individuals that choose not to wear”.
        B.) Are you saying that every cyclist with head trauma with or without a helmet is not at fault?

        Reread please.

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        • Joshua November 2, 2011 at 4:52 pm

          Are you saying that every cyclist with head trauma IS at fault?

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      • Hugh Johnson October 28, 2011 at 11:41 pm

        Thankfully it is *not* the Netherlands.

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    • Frank Krygowski October 29, 2011 at 11:26 am

      “individuals that choose not to wear a helmet should understand and accept all medical bills and liability resulting from head trauma.”

      I’ll consider buying into that ONLY when it applies to ALL victims of head trauma. Keep in mind that cyclists are roughly 2% of head injury victims, and less than 1% of head injury fatalities. Again, pedestrians are at far higher risk than cyclists.

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  • are October 28, 2011 at 9:21 pm

    i did not get the survey in my e-mail inbox. i think it might be interesting for someone to look into exactly how the survey was in fact distributed. but be that as it may, the results came back heavily negative, except for a meaningless data point about how many people actually wear helmets.

    but here is my real question. why now? what is the purpose of BTA pulling this p.r. stunt at this moment. no one has proposed such a bill. the legislature is not even in session.

    seems to me putting this out there could easily serve as a prompt for someone to introduce a mandatory helmet law, which BTA has pledged in advance not to oppose. so then who opposes it? the rest of us ragtag, uncivil, angry cyclists, who have sometimes been known to say unkind things to legislators. and how does that play out in the press? some kind of good cop bad cop thing? the BTA is the sensible big brother to these unruly kids?

    i really do not appreciate it.

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  • bsped October 28, 2011 at 9:39 pm

    I am confused on what is the general opinion on this site is about helmets in general. It seems that the general consensus is that Oregon should not have a law that requires one. But I’m not sure how people feel about the law for 16 and under. Currently there is a law for this age group to wear a helmet, but since some people on this site feel that helmets should not be required, do they think this age group should also not be required to wear a helmet? If it is fine for people over the age of 16 to not wear a helmet, then shouldn’t it be safe for the 16 and under age group.

    I know this post might come off as if I were trying to be a troll on this site but I’m honestly not. I’m really just curious about how people feel about helemt requirement for all ages.

    Personally, I wear a helmet but that is my decision. I’ve see more arguments on why I should wear a helmet (including a guest post by Karl Moritz on this site back in May 31st of this year) to convince me to always wear one. I understand this issue is not two sided and people are not arguing for the reasons for why you shouldn’t wear a helmet but they are arguing that they shouldn’t be required to wear a helmet. And those two arguments are very different from each other.

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    • Frank Krygowski October 31, 2011 at 9:50 am

      OK, let’s look at how well helmets have worked. Here’s a link showing head injury counts during the decade helmet use increased most rapidly. There’s no decrease in ER-treated head injuries.
      http://www.cyclehelmets.org/1041.html

      Here are two links comparing trends in head injury fatalities during the time when helmet use increased. Pedestrians still wear no helmets (despite higher per-km risk) yet the supposedly protected cyclists saw no greater drop in fatalities.
      http://www.vehicularcyclist.com/kunich.html
      http://www.vehicularcyclist.com/fatals.html

      Here are links showing how helmets affected hospitalizations in New Zealand. Helmet use surged, http://tinyurl.com/scuffham-hlm-rate
      but of the hospitalized cyclists, there was no decrease in the percentage hospitalized by head injuries. http://tinyurl.com/scuffham-hosp-rate

      They are not working. And they are not needed. Serious head injuries from biking are less than 2% of the U.S. total head injuries. Biking head injury fatalities are less than 1% of the U.S. total. Per km, biking is far safer than walking. How safe does it need to be?

      Bike helmets are an ineffective solution to an imaginary problem. Let’s stop scaring people away from riding bikes.

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  • Joseph E October 28, 2011 at 9:53 pm

    Well, so much for the survey.
    I had actually just donated to the BTA for the first time. But I’m going to hold off on making a monthly commitment until they clarify this policy.

    I had hope that the BTA would support the ability of anyone to ride a bike. Some people are not going to wear helmets, and they shouldn’t be discouraged from riding, especially when bike share is coming. Is the BTA just another “cycling” organization, aimed at the needs of cycling enthusiasts, rather than the good of the whole population of the state?

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    • Hugh Johnson October 28, 2011 at 10:11 pm

      I’ve been cycling in this city for well over 25 years and still trying to figure out why I need to give any money at to the BTA? I still can’t find a reason why.

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  • doug October 28, 2011 at 10:48 pm

    What a waste of time and energy. It seems to me that BTA should be using their resources to help provide/ or lobby for streets that do not require the use of a helmet to feel safe.

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  • Kristi Finney October 28, 2011 at 11:16 pm

    So if I understand dmc correctly, Dustin should accept responsibility for being killed by a drunk hit-and-run driver while riding legally in a bike lane simply because he chose not to wear a helmet that would not have saved his life anyway.

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    • wsbob October 29, 2011 at 11:24 am

      dmc
      I live In Vancouver. I wear my helmet when I feel like it. I believe that anything more is an intrusion on freedom. That being said, individuals that choose not to wear a helmet should understand and accept all medical bills and liability resulting from head trauma.
      Like Spiffy said, the real issue isn’t preparing for and softening the blow of an accident, but preventing it all together. In the mean time, with the way our (america’s) transportation setup currently is, it might be wise to pad up. Regardless, it should be the choice of the competent adult.
      Recommended 1

      There’s a lot of effort made towards encouraging people to choose to wear bike helmets for riding, but apparently not nearly as much directed towards having people understand the practical limits of protection bike helmets can offer in a collision situation.

      As a result, it doesn’t seem uncommon for people to be under the impression that bike helmets will protect people’s heads from sustaining every type of head trauma. It’s not true that wearing a bike helmet will prevent people’s heads from sustaining every type of head trauma.

      If there ever were to be a situation where the amount of coverage people’s insurance provided for head trauma, factored in whether or not the injured person was or wasn’t wearing a bike helmet, it most likely wouldn’t be realistic or fair for people to have to forgo coverage for every type of head trauma, some of which bike helmets would no way be able to adequately protect against.

      Bike helmets can do people a lot of good in a variety of kinds of collisions, but it’s not going to help efforts to encourage people to intelligently decide when to wear them if a lot of unrealistic conclusions about the level of protection bike helmets can offer, is assumed or unthinkingly accepted.

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  • dwainedibbly October 29, 2011 at 5:07 am

    I would like to see BTA call for more helmet testing, looking at things like the effects of helmets on rotational injuries, etc. Then we can all make better-informed choices.

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  • PorterStout October 29, 2011 at 9:31 am

    It seems to me the arguments boil down to two issues: 1) do helmets help prevent injury and save lives as a result?; and 2) even if the answer is yes, should the government be involved in mandating their use? I think #2 is the real issue for most of us but the arguments are all over the map. People arguing against #2 sometimes throw arguments in against #1 and vice-versa. Or, “In the Netherlands, they have better bicycle infrastructure and therefore helmets aren’t needed as much because accidents are fewer overall.” That isn’t really addressing either 1 or 2, that’s a third issue, like saying safety systems in our cars wouldn’t be as important if we invested more in better roadway maintenance. Undoubtedly a true statement but insufficient reason to not put seatbelts in cars. And despite the tragedies that occur even though someone is wearing a helmet, that doesn’t mean the answer to #1 isn’t still overwhelmingly yes. Plenty of soldiers and police still get killed when wearing body armor; does that mean they shouldn’t bother with wearing it?

    Personally, I come down on the side of making helmet use optional. I don’t think there are any demonstrated reasons not to wear one, even if they just provide a safety margin rather than a 100% guarantee. I know multiple examples of friends who have fallen into that margin, whose being here today may even be directly related to their helmet use. But if others choose to not wear one, it should be their decision AS LONG AS they don’t expect the government to step in and cover their medical expenses or other related consequences should the tragedy occur. You don’t get it both ways in my book. Note that the last two wrecks I know of (one my own), didn’t involve cars or anyone else, they were both due to road conditions. In one case oil on the street and the other a divot in the road surface. Both happened in a split second and their consequences might have been much worse without use of a helmet. I carry both insurance and a helmet, and I believe so should everyone else. But I don’t believe in insisting on either, as long as everyone agrees to bear full responsibility for their decision not to. And the critical time isn’t now, when we’re having a friendly theoretical discussion about it, but when someone’s laying in a hospital bed with a head concussion from a “no fault” accident. Seems kind of heartless at that point but that’s the way it worked in Daniel Boone’s day (or whatever other “freedom” time period we all like to hold up as some ideal).

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    • El Biciclero October 31, 2011 at 2:22 pm

      “Note that the last two wrecks I know of (one my own), didn’t involve cars or anyone else, they were both due to road conditions. In one case oil on the street and the other a divot in the road surface.”

      Oil and divots…probably both due to cars or other motorized machinery.

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  • KiloVoltaire October 29, 2011 at 10:05 am

    The helmet issue neatly divides people into two camps: Those who respect each other as responsible adult citizens, and those who want to manage each other’s lives like domesticated livestock.

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    • sorebore October 30, 2011 at 1:48 pm

      Amen.

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    • Chris I October 31, 2011 at 7:54 am

      Just like seatbelt laws, automotive safety standards, drug safety standards, food safety standards, etc.

      Painting regulators as people that want to boss other people around is not helpful. The argument should be “the science isn’t clear enough to justify a mandate”. Regulations exist for a reason.

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      • Frank Krygowski October 31, 2011 at 9:00 am

        Some regulations exist for good reasons, but many don’t. Mandatory helmet laws are among the ones that exist for bad reasons. They exist because people mistakenly believe all bicycling is extremely dangerous, and because people mistakenly believe that wearing helmets tremendously reduces that danger.

        Both beliefs are false, and there’s plenty of data proving their falsehood. But even bike advocates don’t question those beliefs.

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        • wsbob October 31, 2011 at 10:42 am

          “…They exist because people mistakenly believe all bicycling is extremely dangerous, and because people mistakenly believe that wearing helmets tremendously reduces that danger.

          Both beliefs are false, and there’s plenty of data proving their falsehood. …” Frank Krygowski

          You’re contradicting yourself, which is probably just as well.

          I don’t believe the public generally considers riding a bike to be an extremely dangerous activity. I also don’t believe the public is under some impression that wearing a bike helmet will tremendously reduce a danger it doesn’t consider to exist in the first place.

          Many opponents of bike helmet use seem to commonly generate contrived notions having no basis in truth to support their antipathy towards bike helmet use.

          I think it’s in that state of mind that opponents of bike helmet use falsely claim valid data exists supporting their suggestion that most members of the public are not capable of and don’t bother to evaluate and consider the relative safety of riding bikes, and the realistic benefits and limitations of wearing bike helmets to offer themselves protection from impacts to their head in the event of a fall from their bikes.

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      • El Biciclero October 31, 2011 at 2:37 pm

        With the exception of seatbelt laws, the other examples you cite are all regulations/laws designed to stop one entity (usually a corporation) from lying to and thus harming another (usually an individual). I don’t see how a helmet law does that. I’ll give an example: Let’s say drinking water standards are set by some agency so that the water that comes out of your tap at home won’t make you sick or kill you. We could make a law instead that mandates everyone must drink only bottled water, ‘cuz you never know about that tap water. Which makes more sense?

        As it is, people are still free to drink their bottled water because they believe every sip of tap water brings them that much closer to an untimely demise, whereas others are free to continue to drink out of fountains and taps because they know that bottled water is a sham anyway. Besides, a bottled water-drinker could be eaten by a bear at any time–then all the bottled water in the world won’t save them.

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  • David Smith October 29, 2011 at 2:43 pm

    Maybe it depends on how you’re wearing the helmet.

    If you helmet-up and think: I’m safe now! Or, “Got my helmet, don’t need to learn bike handling or traffic skills” then maybe risk compensation and misdirected safety efforts could leave you even worse off.

    Why have we never conducted a behavior study to see which bicyclists have the least crashes and highest mobility?

    With that information we could encourage bicyclists to move away from unhealthy thoughts and lack of skills and move toward the healthy thoughts and skills of more successful bicyclists.

    That might trump the effect of helmet wearing!

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  • Ted October 29, 2011 at 3:02 pm

    Infrastructure over useless studies!

    Separated bike paths over white lines on pavement!

    Adopt Amsterdam infrastructure entirely and more people will ride for sure!

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    • David Smith October 29, 2011 at 5:45 pm

      Ted, you may be right but even they don’t credit facilities with the increase, it’s the cost of gas, congestion mitigation in crowded old cities, and facilities (even though riding in the street is safer).

      But it’s the separated (yes, segregated) bicycling that makes me sad. I lived in the segregated drinking fountain era, worked in the apartheid labor system of Alaska salmon canneries and just hated it, especially after friends challenging that system were murdered.

      Well, segregation comes in varieties, some necessary for survival but some caused hundreds of years of brutal bigotry, unnecessary and harmful. But…the way of thinking is the same, viewing others as bad and dangerous requiring a justification (excuse) for special treatments.

      But I wonder if some future history will credit the bicycle segregationists in part with aiding societies overcoming the MLK/Nelson Mandella effect and returning human society to the more natural thinking of the pre civil rights era?

      Given the bicyclists who are willing to learn how to get along with other people sharing the same space, and their excellent record of mobility and safety, and what is at risk for society, wouldn’t it be worth just a peek to see how bicyclists’ ways of thinking and their behaviors affect outcomes?

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      • 9watts October 29, 2011 at 9:19 pm

        cars will go the way of Pieter Willem Botha and “Bull” Connor before we’re half way to segregated traffic flows in this country.

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  • jim October 29, 2011 at 4:06 pm

    Why would BTA send a letter to out of state? Isn’t BTA oregon?

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    • Jay October 30, 2011 at 2:13 pm

      BTA claims to represent Oregon and SW Washington and has for years accepted dues and donations from Vancouver residents.

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  • Joe Rowe October 29, 2011 at 10:34 pm

    The BTA survey was poorly done. An issue not mentioned in the survey: a mandatory helmet law will hurt cyclists. I wear a helmet all the time, so let me chime in

    1) Cops will use a helmet law to profile and cite people on bikes they don’t like. 28% of Portland is non white. (Census) Compare that with the mostly white BTA (Alice Awards)

    2) Insurance companies will screw cyclists who get run down by cars if there is no helmet found. They tried to do this to Mr. Davidson, the guy who was run down by a drunk driver near the Sandy Safeway.

    3) As Ted said, this is a distraction from the real problems.

    4) The list goes on….

    The survey was worded in a way that felt like cheap propaganda. A real survey should have just asked me a few questions.

    1) Should the BTA oppose a proposed law to make helmets for adults mandadory?

    2) Why or why not?

    Dear Rob, Please respond. 65% of your members who found the survey stated that they want you to oppose any helmet law. That’s one percent away from being able to override a filibuster and override a pres veto.. That’s also the number of states needed to propose we Amend the US Constitution. That kind of agreement rarely happens in Democracy. To ignore it feels like contempt. A thread in the BTA.

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  • Jay October 30, 2011 at 2:12 pm

    I think the BTA survey was just an excuse for them to take this “hands off” approach so the 2/3 of their members that oppose mandatory helmet laws were just sold out—something the BTA is very good at doing.

    The short turnout from posting the survey results to making a formal policy change reeks to high heaven of a just-for-show comment period.

    Portland deserves a better bike advocacy organization than the BTA. I for one will NOT be renewing my membership.

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  • Todd Edelman October 30, 2011 at 4:38 pm

    All the bike helmet manufacturers which sell product in Oregon had a big party all weekend, and you were not invited…

    ***

    From the article: “In his statement today, Sadowsky also made it clear that they will be ‘diligent about people wearing helmets’ in all future communications and photos.”

    Wow, not showing the reality in photographs which is that some people – even a minority – do not wear helmets? That is totally inexcusable, Orwellian, simply dishonest… and the BTA decision-makers need to be tarred & feathered at Velo-city in Vancouver.

    ***

    Sitting on the fence is certainly more dangerous than cycling.

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  • Deeeebo October 30, 2011 at 6:28 pm

    KiloVoltaire gets a cookie in heaven! I second his statements and follow it up with a request to repeal seat belt laws. Are we adults who make decisions affecting our own lives or should we just give all responsibility over to reactionary politicians? Personally I don’t trust those guys as far as I can throw a bike helmet. Every day we get dumber and lazier if we have accepted that its someone else’s job to make decisions for us.

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  • beth h October 31, 2011 at 7:47 am

    I’m over the helmet wars, personally.

    The things that need to be said by large organizations — specifically, that discussions of helmet use distract from the larger discussion about how harmful the auto-centric landscape is to those who do not use automobiles — aren’t being said. I don’t believe they will be said by those large organizations for a variety of reasesons, primarily because those organizations all have some sort of symbiotic relationship with each other and must take care not to rock the boat too hard in any direction.

    Perhaps it’s not that deliberate, but the end result is the same. Bike riders will continue to be blamed for their mishaps and injuries by the majority of road-users, and those with the loudest voice will do little to change that perception.

    Helmet laws will only heap more blame on bike riders for daring to ride their bikes. If a mandatory helmet law is ever passed for adults in Oregon I will break it.

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  • KiloVoltaire October 31, 2011 at 10:08 am

    Minding someone else’s business is fast becoming our new national passtime. How about a nice hot cup of MYOB for the safety nazis?

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  • Ken Southerland October 31, 2011 at 10:28 am

    I just don’t understand why you would ask your members for their opinion and then completely ignore what the majority says. Why ask the question at all then? What the hell was the purpose for that survey?

    I’m seriously thinking of dropping my 10 years of support. I’m just baffled.

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  • KiloVoltaire October 31, 2011 at 12:08 pm

    Safety isn’t the real issue. We all have the ability to wear one, and nobody can stop us from doing so.

    The real issue is control, where you no longer have the option (or for some, responsibility) to think for yourself.

    The answer won’t come from debating the issue ad nauseum. BTA may express its opinion, but ultimately it does not make the law. That responsibility falls on our elected officials.

    The only way to resist force is to respond with a stronger force. And that means to force out of office those who would curb our right to decide.

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  • Todd Boulanger October 31, 2011 at 12:11 pm

    My post on the BTA Blog:

    On the face of this statement… it seems that the BTA board of directors (BoD) by making this policy shift/ change has made bike helmets an issue, especially when they took this stand opposite of the feedback from their membership who participated in the survey.

    They need to better communicate why they are doing this: Did they throw the survey out on technical merits, or what city or state policy are they are obliquely referring to (and I hope the quid pro quo was worth it)?! I hope that the BTA BoD will announce a membership open house to better communicate the reasons for this policy shift very quickly.

    I have to ask…Does the BoD not have enough to do than create an issue that could split its membership and depress its membership dues collections? Many of us long term members were starting to feel comfortable that the BTA was settling down after a lot of self inflicted wounds and thus getting back on track. But now perhaps not.

    As a long term professional in both public health and transportation fields, there are a lot better tools and methods to reach the safety outcomes that this policy shift attempts to reach. And we ‘urban bicyclists’ need to be united to collect the political support to continue to reform the design and operations of our urban public roadway network. This change in policy I fear is a lose lose effort[, similar to the outcomes in Vancouver].

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  • David M October 31, 2011 at 12:44 pm

    Please take action http://helmetfreedom.org/

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  • Joe October 31, 2011 at 12:57 pm

    whoa this is getting deep, if I don’t wear a helmet please understand its my freedom to choose. :)

    but you will always have someone yelling at you or shaking the head as you roll by. :(

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  • Andrew October 31, 2011 at 4:37 pm

    It’s Monday afternoon, and there’s still a helmet-free rider in one of the photos on their homepage. Just saying.

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  • Dude October 31, 2011 at 11:50 pm

    I just thought that with bta’s biggest sponsor being ODOT that it was an Oregon thing. I was a little surprised to see them sending letters to Washington.

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  • Todd Boulanger November 1, 2011 at 9:00 am

    While discussing this issue over lunch on Monday at home, I was told about a long time downtown bike commuter (friend of family) who after being ticketed for non helmet compliance stopped biking to work and then sold their bike. I am told they just did not want to feel like an outlaw fighting government when they had a very safe <1 mile downtown Vancouver commute. :(

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    • wsbob November 1, 2011 at 11:19 am

      Todd Boulanger
      While discussing this issue over lunch on Monday at home, I was told about a long time downtown bike commuter (friend of family) who after being ticketed for non helmet compliance stopped biking to work and then sold their bike. I am told they just did not want to feel like an outlaw fighting government when they had a very safe <1 mile downtown Vancouver commute. :(
      Recommended 0

      Before accepting the suggestion that Vancouver’s bike helmet law was the primary reason the family friend gave up a one mile bike commute to work, I’d want to hear some other details about this person that might have had something to do with their decision.

      For many people, wearing a bike helmet is no big deal, especially for the duration of time it takes to ride one mile. Aside from the rhetorical ‘…did not want to feel like an outlaw fighting government…’ explanation, maybe this person had some other, really good reasons for not wearing a bike helmet that everyone reading here would benefit from hearing about.

      I can’t help being skeptical when reading that the person completely stopped riding to work and actually going so far as to sell the bike. Also, considering at least one person in comments to bikeportland, has reported that Vancouver police aren’t enforcing the helmet requirement…which I recognize doesn’t necessarily make that true…that this person was ticketed for non-compliance, raises the question of the particular reason they were stopped.

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  • RonC November 1, 2011 at 10:12 am

    Todd Boulanger
    While discussing this issue over lunch on Monday at home, I was told about a long time downtown bike commuter (friend of family) who after being ticketed for non helmet compliance stopped biking to work and then sold their bike. I am told they just did not want to feel like an outlaw fighting government when they had a very safe <1 mile downtown Vancouver commute. :(

    I’ve only read a few comments here, but if wearing a helmet to further the ride was too much of an inconvenience, it does seem that maybe they weren’t totally committed to cycling anyway.

    I would assume if it’s less than 1 mile they are probably walking now? Years ago I used to ride a Xooter kick scooter to work for a similar commute, being easier than airing up tires, strapping on a helmet, and finding a place to secure the bike, etc…

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    • Todd Edelman November 1, 2011 at 10:45 am

      “Totally committed” to cycling? I think this person was probably totally committed to their own reasonable level of personal freedom, which is way more important than cycling.

      A huge number of people quit cycling in Australia when they were forced by the state to wear helmets. I would also like to see some brave govt. authority fund a study to determine how many teenagers are put off cycling, at least on the day they can exchange their bike helmet for car keys!

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      • wsbob November 1, 2011 at 11:57 am

        “…A huge number of people quit cycling in Australia when they were forced by the state to wear helmets. …” Todd Edelman

        That’s the claim helmet use opponents bring forth time and again, without any particular substance.

        Whatever studies exist supporting that claim mean virtually nothing if the citizens of Australia subject to and having an opportunity to affect the country’s laws haven’t moved in overwhelming opposition to rescind the law. Which raises the question: In Australia, what is the current status of mandatory bike helmet use laws?

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      • RonC November 1, 2011 at 12:09 pm

        It just seemed like a huge over-reaction to me. Like someone giving up driving because they were ticketed for not wearing a seat belt. If the balance of ride vs. not ride is that tenuous, and so-called personal freedoms outweigh the terrible onus of having to wear a styrofoam hat, there is no real love of or commitment to cycling to begin with.

        It’s the law in Vancouver, even though you may disagree with the premise. If you want to ride without incurring fines you throw on a helmet. Just like buckling a seat belt. No big deal.

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  • Marid November 1, 2011 at 12:14 pm

    These statistics do not prove that helmets don’t work. All they say is that head injuries remain constant. SInce, as you say, that only a few percent of head injuries are due to cycling injuries this is not surprising. It would be nearly impossible to draw conclusions from a small subset of a population. What we need is a study of cycling-only injuries. Such as:

    “Incidence, risk factors and prevention of mild traumatic brain injury: results of the who collaborating centre task force on mild traumatic brain injury”
    http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/mjl/sreh/2004/00000036/A043s043/art00007

    “Helmets for preventing head and facial injuries in bicyclists.”
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10796827

    “A Case-Control Study of the Effectiveness of Bicycle Safety Helmets”
    http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/nejm198905253202101

    All of these peer-reviewed articles conclude that helmets reduce the risk of head trauma.

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    • El Biciclero November 1, 2011 at 2:06 pm

      Well, then, there you go–helmets for all! If the conclusion is that “helmets reduce the risk of head trauma”, then we need to ask the question, “what are the main contexts in which head trauma occurs?” I doubt the answer is “only while cycling”. If our goal is to “reduce the risk of head trauma”, then why not mandate helmets for everyone, all the time? I’m actually more interested in the non-cycling-specific statistics surrounding ALL head injuries. What percentage of patients who were admitted to hospitals for non-cycling head injuries were not wearing helmets? 96%? If so, what would that tell us about the need for pedestrians, skaters, runners, The Elderly, etc. to wear helmets? Why would the notion of pedestrians wearing helmets seem silly, even though far more of them die each year than cyclists (4092 vs. 630 in 2009)?

      What in the world is it about bicycling, in particular, that makes people so paternalistic? Do we imagine that mandating helmet use for all activities would make people stop doing those activities? If so, why would it be any different for cycling? If it is no different for cycling, then why do we want to drive people away from taking up cycling, in particular, as opposed to, say, walking around town? If we mandated helmet use for occupants of cars, would people quit driving? Plenty of people in cars are killed by head injuries every year; why don’t we mandate helmets for car occupants?

      I looked up a few general head injury articles, and found that when it comes to preventing vehicle occupant and pedestrian head injuries, the suggested solutions range from better road design and street lighting, to fancy bumper sensors that pop the hood of a vehicle up a few inches to give pedestrian heads a bit of their own crumple zone when a motorist runs them down. Yet when it comes to preventing cyclist head injuries, the only answer discussed is “wear a helmet”. What that boils down to is this: When drivers or pedestrians suffer injuries on the road, it’s just a blameless accident of probability; wrong place, wrong time, etc. Yet when a cyclist is injured or killed, we want so badly to blame them for their own injuries, that we have to come up with a convenient metric to assess that blame; the easiest measuring stick to use is whether or not they were wearing a helmet. Driver was drunk and speeding; swerving all over the road and ran a red light, hitting a cyclist? Yeah, but was the cyclist wearing a helmet? No? What an idiot!

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      • wsbob November 1, 2011 at 7:06 pm

        “…If our goal is to “reduce the risk of head trauma”, then why not mandate helmets for everyone, all the time?…El Biciclero

        Why not? Simply because, most people probably aren’t so stupid as to approve such a pointless, all encompassing mandate.

        What do you mean by “…for everyone, all the time?…” The subject is protective gear for people that ride bikes…bike helmets, with traffic conditions involving the presence of great numbers of motor vehicles being one of the stronger reasons advising the use of bike helmets.

        Opponents of bike helmet use…not suggesting you El Biciclero, are such a person…as a means of dismissing the value of wearing a bike helmet while riding a bike in traffic, commonly attempt to defeat good sense reasons for wearing bike helmets by citing studies for no other purpose than to convince people to disregard their personal sense of good judgment.

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        • El Biciclero November 1, 2011 at 10:10 pm

          I’m not suggesting that wearing a bike helmet has no value. What I am pointing out is that cycling is not the only activity during which people sustain head injuries that could be prevented by helmet use–yet it is the only activity that repeatedly comes up as one for which we need to legally mandate helmet use. I just want to know why we think we have to tell cyclists how to protect themselves (and legally force them to do it), yet when it comes to, for example, drivers or pedestrians–who arguably incur more head injuries than cyclists–we look at all kinds of other “solutions” before it occurs to anyone that helmets might be effective for pedestrians and drivers. Why is that? Essentially, why do we feel the need to treat adult cyclists like children?

          And before anyone points to seatbelt or helmet laws for motorized vehicle users, I will point out again that it is possible to ride a bike completely out of reach of auto traffic, at speeds about the same as jogging. To mandate helmet use in those kinds of situations is every bit as silly as mandating shower helmets–yet we look at it as perfectly reasonable. Nonsense.

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          • wsbob November 2, 2011 at 1:32 am

            “…I just want to know why we think we have to tell cyclists how to protect themselves …” El Biciclero

            With regards to the use of bike helmets, there’ is no ‘we’ legally requiring people of all ages to wear bike helmets while riding bikes, except supposedly, Australia. Then there was Mexico for a couple years, but not any longer, and of course…Vancouver, Washington just across the river from Oregon.

            Oregon legally requires people 16 years and under to wear bike helmets when riding bikes. That requirement seems to be based on some standard good sense with regard to the general physical and mental maturity of people in that age group.

            I think it certainly is advisable for communities to offer suggestions unique to riding bikes, encouraging people that ride bikes to protect themselves by using those suggestions, just as communities advise people using other modes of transportation to protect themselves with suggestions unique to those modes of transportation.

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          • El Biciclero November 2, 2011 at 9:48 am

            OK, I know there is not yet an all-ages helmet law in Oregon (but there is one scarily close by in Vancouver). But regardless of what the legal requirements may or may not be, I still ask the question, “why does society in general seem to think they need to scold cyclists for not wearing helmets, when there are plenty of other activities that people do every day that result in head injuries, yet people engaged in those activities would be considered silly if they had worn a helmet to protect themselves?”

            I’m not against helmets, per se (my sweaty helmet is drying out right behind me as I type), but I AM against irrational laws based on FUD. Also, maybe I’m being overly sensitive, but it sure does seem as though cyclists are treated as “fair game” in many respects (or disrespects), whether on the road, or just in the parental, busybody minds of The Public. I’ll restate my (unscientific) findings from my brief internet search for head injury info: when it comes to preventing injuries (head or otherwise) to car occupants and pedestrians, solutions range from better street lighting and design, to high-tech improvements to vehicles that make them less likely to kill a pedestrian–nowhere are helmets for pedestrians or car occupants seriously suggested. Yet when it comes to those who ride bikes, no improvements needed–just wear your damn helmet, fool!

            Comments on blogs with a less thoughtful readership than this one regularly suggest things such as immunity for any driver who hits and kills a helmet-less bike rider, yet no such suggestions are made for the case where the helmet-less victim of a car collision is another car occupant or pedestrian. Helmets are used as a tool for “supporting” biased arguments for blaming cyclists for the irresponsibility of others. Why does it seem that folks rush to blame cyclists for their own injuries, but not so much other victims of roadway violence? One answer: Helmets and the perception that cyclists are the only ones that should wear them.

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          • 9watts November 2, 2011 at 9:53 am

            El Biciclero for ODOT chair! El Biciclero for bikeportland guest editorial writer (on paternalism in the transport sector)! El Biciclero for Transport Commissioner!

            Thanks, El Biciclero. You’ve said it well.

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          • wsbob November 2, 2011 at 11:17 am

            El Biciclero at http://bikeportland.org/2011/10/28/bta-releases-helmet-policy-survey-results-61225#comment-2128019

            Vancouver, Washington’s population is 165,145. Portland, Oregon’s population is 569,553

            Portland’s citizens, or all of Oregon’s for that matter, have shown virtually no inclination to approve or even consider an all ages mandatory bike helmet use law. And then, there’s Vancouver, Washington’s citizens, that for some rather inexplicable reasons, have allowed its city council and apparently a couple special interest groups to impose an all ages helmet use law on all of Vancouver’s citizens.

            I’d like to say that Portland’s citizens are more rational minded than Vancouver’s citizens, but that would be at the risk of offending rational minded Vancouver’s citizens that opposed the city’s bike all ages helmet law.

            “…I still ask the question, “why does society in general seem to think they need to scold cyclists for not wearing helmets, when there are plenty of other activities that people do every day that result in head injuries, yet people engaged in those activities would be considered silly if they had worn a helmet to protect themselves?” …” El Biciclero

            As I said earlier, biking is a rather unique mode of transportation. People that ride bikes are often completely exposed to traffic consisting of heavy motor vehicles in close activity to them.

            In these respects, the activity of biking is not comparable to the other activities you allude to which probably include the gamut of absurd hypothetical examples that people opposed to helmet use argumentatively propose: such activities as day to day non-competitive driving and riding in closed motor vehicles….walking…taking a shower.

            The public, or society, is absolutely right to consider wearing a bike helmet while walking or riding around in a motor vehicle to be silly…while at the same time considering that for people to wear a bike helmet while riding a bike, completely exposed to traffic situations involving motor vehicles that can easily bump and knock them over onto the roadway…is a wise choice.

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          • 9watts November 2, 2011 at 11:31 am

            wsbob, I think you’re missing El Biciclero’s point.

            you said: “The public, or society, is absolutely right to consider wearing a bike helmet while walking or riding around in a motor vehicle to be silly…while at the same time considering that for people to wear a bike helmet while riding a bike, completely exposed to traffic situations involving motor vehicles that can easily bump and knock them over onto the roadway…is a wise choice.”

            This does not represent a response to El Biciclero’s chief point which was that (helmet or not) statistically the incidence of head trauma experienced by those groups not on bikes is lower than for pedestrians or others. You mentioned pedestrians in your reply, but failed to acknowledge that their head trauma incidence would in fact suggest helmets no less than ‘we’ think helmets are good for reducing the incidence or severity of head trauma for bicyclists.

            Your response does not clarify why it is still generally considered socially acceptable to invoke helmet wearing when bicyclists suffer, might suffer, of did not suffer head trauma, but that it is (as you say ‘silly’) to invoke this for other groups.
            Saying it is silly does not explain *why* we have normalized this asymmetry.

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          • 9watts November 2, 2011 at 11:45 am

            “the incidence of head trauma experienced by those groups not on bikes is lower than for pedestrians or others.”
            sorry. mistyped.
            I meant to have said “the incidence of head trauma experienced by those groups not on bikes is also high–perhaps higher than for those who bike.”

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        • wsbob November 2, 2011 at 12:01 pm

          9watts at http://bikeportland.org/2011/10/28/bta-releases-helmet-policy-survey-results-61225#comment-2128154

          It’s more likely that you and El Biciclero are missing or choosing to gloss over the point that bike helmet use is is a travel mode issue specifically related to the unique circumstances associated with riding a bike in traffic amongst motor vehicles.

          People really don’t care about jogging statistical averages one way or another by creating laws requiring people to do this or that. They care about such things as their kid taking a dump off their bike onto the roadway because of a pothole, or some motor vehicle sidling up to them unexpectedly, causing them to fall.

          Society or the genera public, so to speak, at least here in the U.S. does seem to favor the use of bike helmets for riding bikes. It’s really on a much more personal level though, that people riding bikes are commonly encouraged…”…scolded…” as El Biciclero would like to say….to wear a bike helmet while riding their bikes.

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          • El Biciclero November 2, 2011 at 2:36 pm

            “They care about such things as their kid taking a dump off their bike onto the roadway because of a pothole, or some motor vehicle sidling up to them unexpectedly, causing them to fall. ”

            OK, then are you saying that people don’t care about such things as their kid running out into the street or failing to understand how traffic signals work and crossing at the wrong time, or tripping over heaved sidewalk sections, or having some motor vehicle come backing out of a driveway, knocking them down? Sounds like it, since telling people to wear helmets is the way to say, “we care”. The only reason “bike helmets” are a mode-specific issue is because we put the word “bike” in front of “helmet”. Just like football helmets are a sport-specific issue.

            Again, I’m not saying helmets are of no value, I am merely asking why society blames cyclists for getting run over if they are not wearing helmets, but we don’t blame non-cyclists for ending up in the same situation. Why does “society” think they have a right to get all up in cyclists’ business about helmets, but we don’t apparently “care” about anybody else who hits their head? Why is there this “asymmetry”, as someone else put it? Why is cycling perceived–even by cyclists!–to be so dangerous, when mowing the lawn or running down stairs is about equally as dangerous? Why did I never wear a helmet as a kid, but now–as an adult–am made to feel guilty and woefully irresponsible if I don’t? The only thing my helmet has done for me in the last 20 years is cause me to hit my head while reaching into my car, and impair my vision by concentrating sweat and pouring it onto my glasses.

            I can think of two possible reasons:
            1. Drivers fear and don’t want to feel guilty about running over cyclists, and they feel either a) like they won’t hurt a cyclist as badly if the cyclist is wearing a helmet or b) less guilty about running over a cyclist if they can blame the cyclist because they weren’t wearing a helmet.

            2. We are unable to distinguish between motor vehicles and their power capabilities, and human-powered vehicles that bear some minor similarities to motor vehicles. I.e., if we mandate helmets for motorcycles, and bikes look like motorcycles, shouldn’t we mandate helmets for bikes, too?

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          • wsbob November 2, 2011 at 7:12 pm

            “…They care about such things as their kid taking a dump off their bike onto the roadway because of a pothole, or some motor vehicle sidling up to them unexpectedly, causing them to fall. …” wsbob

            “…OK, then are you saying that people don’t care about such things as their kid running out into the street or failing to understand how traffic signals work and crossing at the wrong time, or tripping over heaved sidewalk sections, or having some motor vehicle come backing out of a driveway, knocking them down? …” El Biciclero

            El…I said ‘bike’. It’s right there in the excerpt of my comment that you copied and pasted into your response. Bikes as a mode of travel, bike helmets and issues associated with those two things, are the subject here.

            I don’t get your reasoning about bike helmets relative to the question of their being or not being a mode specific issue…travel mode issue is I suppose what you mean…simply because of words used to describe them. There are many different types of protective helmets made for and equal range of activities people partake of. None of them are particularly suited for biking. Bike helmets are researched, designed and manufactured specifically for biking, and so, both the name is apropos.

            All that business about guilt and whatnot that you mention in your comment, is so far afield of the issue of bikes as a mode of travel, and bike helmets as advisable safety gear for that activity, that I don’t think it really bears further discussion here.

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          • Robert T. November 2, 2011 at 7:17 pm

            I’d say society or the general public in the U.S. does not seem to favor helmets for riding bikes – at least, the ones actually riding bikes don’t. If they did, the majority would wear them voluntarily, in the absence of laws. But they don’t. It takes laws and constant brow beating to get people to wear bike helmets.

            Maybe motorists want bike riders to wear them. Maybe. But that’s just so they can drive recklessly with less guilt.

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          • wsbob November 2, 2011 at 10:58 pm

            Robert T.
            I’d say society or the general public in the U.S. does not seem to favor helmets for riding bikes – at least, the ones actually riding bikes don’t. If they did, the majority would wear them voluntarily, in the absence of laws. But they don’t. It takes laws and constant brow beating to get people to wear bike helmets.
            Maybe motorists want bike riders to wear them. Maybe. But that’s just so they can drive recklessly with less guilt.
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            From where does your impression of the number of people in the U.S. that ride bikes and wear bike helmets, come from?

            Maybe similar to mine, your idea is based on informal observation of people on bikes in your area, and through listening and reading. I’m out here in Beaverton.

            For people reading that aren’t familiar with the Portland Metro areas various burbs, Beaverton is one of the bigger ones population 90,267. Beaverton isn’t yet thick with people traveling by bike, but based on simple observation, I’d say most of the people I see on bikes are wearing bike helmets. That suggests to me that they favor wearing bike helmets.

            In casual conversation, my impression is that when the topic of bike helmets comes up, people I hear weigh in on the subject, generally support the idea that wearing a bike helmet while riding a bike, is a good idea. Not everyone likes riding a bike helmet, but even so, people that don’t generally recognize that a layer of styrofoam between a person’s head and the concrete or asphalt, is bound to be more help in reducing injury than hair and a thin cotton wool, or other lightweight hat would be.

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          • wsbob November 3, 2011 at 12:32 am

            Correction:

            “…Not everyone likes…wearing…a bike helmet, …”

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          • El Biciclero November 3, 2011 at 9:51 am

            OK, bob–

            I guess what I should say relative to mode-specificity is that head injuries are NOT a mode-specific issue, yet only for cyclists are helmets so incredibly strongly “encouraged”, to the point of people blaming cyclists for injuries due to others’ negligence. Helmets are like earthquake insurance, but how many homeowners here in the PNW–the “ring of fire”, for crying out loud–are berated for not carrying such insurance? The topic here is “bike” helmets, sure–and whether we should support, oppose, or not care about legally forcing all cyclists (but only cyclists) to wear one. I’ll give you a couple of other mode-specific issues: “if cyclists want respect on the roads, they have to earn it by…wearing helmets”. “Any cyclist who doesn’t wear a helmet deserves what they get!”. “I see cyclists all the time blowing stop signs, not wearing helmets…”. “Was the cyclist wearing a helmet?”

            I ask you WHY are these mode-specific issues?

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          • wsbob November 3, 2011 at 12:11 pm

            El…people and their bikes are subject to recognition that homeowners and their houses aren’t, because people ride their bikes on commonly used travel infrastructure. Motor homes excepted, people don’t generally drive their homes on the road.

            You offered some examples…to be exact, four…of various people’s reaction to the presence of people riding bikes on the road:

            “…”if cyclists want respect on the roads, they have to earn it by…wearing helmets”. “Any cyclist who doesn’t wear a helmet deserves what they get!”. “I see cyclists all the time blowing stop signs, not wearing helmets…”. “Was the cyclist wearing a helmet?” …” El Biciclero

            When hearing remarks like those, only one of them do I hold much regard for: “Was the cyclist wearing a helmet?”. It’s a reasonable question to think about and ask whether a person on a bike is wearing a bike helmet, for given circumstances.

            The other three examples you cited just sound like people blowing off steam. I haven’t sensed it worthwhile to devote much concern to that type of remark.

            Bikes and bike helmets aren’t going to solve all of the worlds transportation problems. Bikes and bike helmets are by no means, the evil in the form of problems afflicting roads and streets either. It’s a gradual process for people accustomed to doing things a particular, getting used to doing things differently. Gradually, all the irritated people making the type of remarks you offered as examples, will come to see the logic in traveling about in the presence of people on bike.

            On the same order, people will gradually come to understand better, the well grounded rationale for wearing bike helmets. Information provided by high profile advocates of bike helmet use, could be doing a lot better job of giving realistic reasons for why, how, and when bike helmets will be effective.

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          • El Biciclero November 3, 2011 at 1:17 pm

            Never mind.

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    • Frank Krygowski November 1, 2011 at 3:11 pm

      In case you’re responding to the data I linked (since it’s really not clear) – I suspect you haven’t read the pages I linked, nor even the articles you cited.

      Thompson & Rivara’s helmet promotion work is based entirely on case-control studies of self-selected subjects, a technique that should be rejected outright. They were the ones to claim, based on such a study, that helmets prevent 85% of head injuries. A detailed explanation of their mistakes (or misleading claims) can be found here:
      http://www.cyclehelmets.org/1131.html

      But if you’re math-phobic, it’s not even necessary to wade through that mathematical explanation. The data I listed earlier, at these sites, shows the real-world results, the actual count of cyclist head injuries and deaths:
      http://www.cyclehelmets.org/1041.html
      http://www.vehicularcyclist.com/kunich.html
      http://www.vehicularcyclist.com/fatals.html
      http://tinyurl.com/scuffham-hlm-rate
      http://tinyurl.com/scuffham-hosp-rate

      And to be clear, the data are for cyclists, NOT the entire population. Clearly, available data shows that widespread increases in helmet use have NOT reduced cyclist head injuries or fatalities.

      Why are people promoting a strategy that’s clearly failed? Why are people even accepting that promotion, let alone defending it? Again, Sadowsky should be ashamed.

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  • Todd Edelman November 2, 2011 at 5:05 am

    “..just as communities advise people using other modes of transportation to protect themselves with suggestions unique to those modes of transportation.”?

    OK.

    * Pedestrians get a helicopter beanie with built-in fortune teller function. If there is dog poop ahead, or, indeed, a hole to the abyss in the sidewalk, the beanie gets activated and carries its user over it…

    * People swimming for transportation (?) have a Speedo with the same fortune teller iPhone app. If exhaustion and drowning is sensed, a signal is sent to the Death Star, which sends a low-power blast out to evaporate the river….

    etc.

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  • RonC November 2, 2011 at 10:55 am

    Todd Edelman
    People swimming for transportation (?) have a Speedo with the same fortune teller iPhone app. If exhaustion and drowning is sensed, a signal is sent to the Death Star, which sends a low-power blast out to evaporate the river….

    Yikes! As and avid swimmer, I think I would rather take my chances than be boiled to death. ;)

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  • RonC November 2, 2011 at 12:12 pm

    9watts
    “the incidence of head trauma experienced by those groups not on bikes is lower than for pedestrians or others.”

    To do a proper analysis, one would need to compare people of similar fitness levels and ages in these different activities. I would postulate that a large percentage of people on foot or in the shower that fall might be elderly people that already have balance or eyesight issues contributing to tripping or falling. Many of these people would likely never even be on a two-wheeled bicycle. Comparing pure rates of injury without taking this into account is meaningless.

    And please let’s take the shower argument out of the mix. It is clearly absurd, considering that most people wash their hair in the shower. Some people do use non-slip bath mats though (myself included). I bet Joel Przybilla wished he’d done so.

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    • RonC November 2, 2011 at 12:39 pm

      9watts – Sorry. I meant to quote your correction. should have said “the incidence of head trauma experienced by those groups not on bikes is also high–perhaps higher than for those who bike.

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  • Todd Edelman November 3, 2011 at 2:26 pm

    “Why bicycle helmets are not effective in the reduction of injuries of cyclists”
    for the “Nationaal verkeerskundecongres” Netherlands, 2 November 2011

    Theo Zeegers, Fietsersbond (Dutch Cyclists’ Union)

    Translated from Dutch

    Summary
    New studies show that the effectiveness of bicycle helmets has been hugely overestimated in the past. At this moment, it is not even certain that there is a positive effect at all: an upper limit of its effectiveness is currently 6%. Promotion of the bicycle helmet is counterproductive from a health point of view.

    Introduction
    For years a debate has been going on about the usefulness and necessity of requiring or promoting bicycle helmets. This debate finds its roots in conflicting results between on the one hand research of practice on the street and on the other hand model studies and casualty research. This led to two different schools of thought with two different views on the issue of promoting or requiring helmets for cyclists: do not or do respectively. This contribution will bridge the differences in the supporting figures between the two schools largely or completely….

    PDF: http://bit.ly/uonO5N
    .Doc: http://bit.ly/uOuPbr

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    • wsbob November 3, 2011 at 3:44 pm

      “…”Why bicycle helmets are not effective in the reduction of injuries of cyclists”
      for the “Nationaal verkeerskundecongres” Netherlands, 2 November 2011

      Theo Zeegers, Fietsersbond (Dutch Cyclists’ Union)

      Translated from Dutch

      Summary
      New studies show that the effectiveness of bicycle helmets has been hugely overestimated in the past. At this moment, it is not even certain that there is a positive effect at all: an upper limit of its effectiveness is currently 6%. Promotion of the bicycle helmet is counterproductive from a health point of view. …” Todd Edelman

      The study’s title, presumably chosen by people associated with the above cited study, suggests they haven’t the slightest idea of the protection a bike helmet can provide a person on a bike that falls and sustains an impact to their head.

      Not having even a fundamental understanding of the level of protection the use of a bike helmet can offer wearers of them, they nevertheless attempt to build an argument that efforts to advise people to wear bike helmets will actually work against the health of people being advised to wear bike helmets.

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  • Frank Krygowski November 3, 2011 at 4:00 pm

    wsbob said: “On the same order, people will gradually come to understand better, the well grounded rationale for wearing bike helmets.”

    And to review, that rationale is… what? It must be ignoring the data showing:

    1) Bicycling has never been a big source of serious head injury, causing less than 2% of the country’s serious HI and less than 1% of the country’s HI fatalities. Riding in cars is 50% of the problem!

    2) Bicycling has less risk, per km, than even walking for transportation. See the Pucher paper cited above. Walking is about three times worse.

    3) Mandatory helmet laws have certainly dissuaded people from cycling. So does the fear mongering always associated with helmet promotion. Look at Melbourne, Australia’s bike share scheme vs. Dublin, Ireland’s. Melbourne’s is dead on arrival. Dublin’s is thriving, with zero injuries.

    4) Tremendous increases in helmet use have not caused detectable drops in cycling fatalities, cycling head injuries or cycling hospitalizations due to head in juries. This has been demonstrated multiple times, with citations above.

    The real rationale for wearing bike helmets is the false belief that ordinary bicycling is highly dangerous, plus the false belief that helmets have made it much less dangerous. This “Danger! Danger!” nonsense is absolutely terrible for cycling, and for cyclists. It just puts money in the pockets of the styrofoam salesmen.

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    • wsbob November 3, 2011 at 4:22 pm

      The well grounded rationale is fairly simple: When a person falls off or is knocked off a bike and bangs their head on concrete or some other hard surface, their chances of reducing resulting injury are going to be better, wearing a bike helmet than if they were bare headed or wearing some cloth or knit cap.

      My guess is that most people don’t particularly care about the 1 through 4 items you listed in your comment. All people of the general public are probably really interested in, is things like whether a bike helmet is going to help their kid survive a fall near traffic while riding a bike, or whether for themselves, they can expect enough of a safety improvement from wearing a bike helmet to accommodate using one by wearing a shorter haircut or some such thing.

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      • Frank Krygowski November 4, 2011 at 8:29 am

        wsbob wrote: “When a person falls off or is knocked off a bike and bangs their head on concrete or some other hard surface, their chances of reducing resulting injury are going to be better, wearing a bike helmet than if they were bare headed or wearing some cloth or knit cap.”

        If you still say that, it indicates you didn’t read or didn’t understand the data I linked. Your belief is disproven by good data.

        Furthermore, even if there were “better chances” of reducing head injury, you’ve never cogently explained why that rationale should not also apply to pedestrians or motorists.

        You’re right about one thing, though. The general public doesn’t care about my items 1 through 4. That’s because those facts have been carefully hidden by helmet promoters. People have never heard those facts, and have heard only the falsehoods that are their opposites. Even from supposedly pro-cycling organizations like the BTA.

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  • RonC November 3, 2011 at 5:20 pm

    Frank Krygowski
    2) Bicycling has less risk, per km, than even walking for transportation. See the Pucher paper cited above. Walking is about three times worse.

    Pucher actually indicated just the opposite. In the US the pedestrian injury rate per 500,000 km traveled was 2.1, while the cycling injury rate per 500,000 km traveled was 25 (almost 12 times as many injuries cycling as walking).

    People need to think about what type of riding they do to determine if a helmet is appropriate or not. I don’t think a law is necessary, just more common sense. No matter how we get around we’re all playing the odds to some extent. If someone is driving a car at cycling speeds, you could argue there is very little reason for them to wear a seat belt, but it is still the law. Almost zero chance of a head injury for them. If your ride mixes it up with traffic, is at night or in poor visibility situations, you like to ride fast or in hilly areas, or the road surface is bad (wet leaves for instance), or your riding a bike that’s got some mechanical issues (like rims near the end of their useful life) then a well-fitted helmet might be a good idea.

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    • wsbob November 4, 2011 at 12:55 am

      “… I don’t think a law is necessary, just more common sense. …” RonC

      I think that’s right.

      Better, more accessible information about level of protection bike helmets can realistically offer people that wear them would be helpful too. It’s this kind of information that can help people decide whether a bike helmet will be beneficial for the type of riding they intend to do.

      Just last night, searching the web for info about citation amounts associated with not wearing a bike helmet, I ran across an OHSU page offering info about bike helmets and their use.

      OHSU is quite a high profile institution associated with people’s general health. The info on its page is substantial, and has links to a helmet research website with extensive info, but misses communicating directly to basic questions members of the general public would likely have, or should have as part of their deciding how much benefit they could expect to receive from wearing a bike helmet.

      http://www.ohsu.edu/xd/outreach/programs/thinkfirst/helmets/index.cfm

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    • Frank Krygowski November 4, 2011 at 8:18 am

      RonC November 3, 2011 at 5:20 pm

      Frank Krygowski
      2) Bicycling has less risk, per km, than even walking for transportation. See the Pucher paper cited above. Walking is about three times worse.

      Pucher actually indicated just the opposite. In the US the pedestrian injury rate per 500,000 km traveled was 2.1, while the cycling injury rate per 500,000 km traveled was 25 (almost 12 times as many injuries cycling as walking).
      ———————————————————-

      I’m looking at
      http://www.ta.org.br/site/Banco/7manuai/VTPIpuchertq.pdf
      which gives fatality risk on page 13. Pedestrians have 364 fatalities per billion km; cyclists have only 110 per billion km. We could speculate about injury rates vs. fatality rates, but fatality data is far more robust, since “injury” can mean anything from a scratch to a dismemberment. In fact, on page 17 Pucher says “fragmentary, unreliable, and contradictory statistics on injuries in the United States make analysis of injury data impossible.”

      In any case, cyclists’ rates of serious injury are already very low, and cycling’s benefits greatly outweigh its tiny risks. There is no need for helmets to make cycling even safer. If more safety is the objective, public education and enforcement of existing laws would be far more effective, and far more cost effective.

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      • RonC November 4, 2011 at 9:56 am

        Frank, the study you are looking at was published in 2000. In September 2003 there was a follow-up peer reviewed study published in the American Journal of Public Health. That is where I am getting my data from. It shows that the data for US injury rates was from CDC, using their Web-Based Statistics Query and Reporting System. The database was accessed December 15, 2002. So it appears Pucher et al attempted to address the injury rate question after the initial study was published in 2000.

        It’s quite possible there is even more up-to-date data and analysis that I’m not aware of. I don’t claim to be an expert. And again I’m not advocating for helmet laws, just asking people not to be blinded by statistics and use a little common sense. Cycling is a tremendously fun way of getting about, and I agree on the whole it’s a reasonably safe activity. Taking a few minor precautions can make it even safer.

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      • wsbob November 4, 2011 at 11:26 am

        “…There is no need for helmets to make cycling even safer. …” Frank Krygowski

        Tell that to the people who’ve experienced having their head crash, after a fall from a moving bike, into a car windshield, or onto the pavement.

        What you seem to be concerned with, is the lowering or not, as the case may be, of some kind of area wide statistic purportedly indicating incidence of head injuries associated with riding a bike.

        That type of thing may mean a lot to certain politicians, insurance people, and so on, but to the average person of a neighborhood, town or city, I just don’t think it counts for much.

        Very few towns, cities, or countries have even implemented mandatory helmet laws for adults. If there are any that currently are writing law proposals for helmet laws, I’d be interested in hearing of them. In all of this discussion, not one person has mentioned a city or country that’s posed to create such a law. That suggests that no such laws are being proposed.

        The ruckus frequently raised by opponents of mandatory helmet laws, laws whose subject group is mostly people of an age not legally considered to be adults, comes off simply as efforts to get people to disregard personal common sense reasoning for deciding when and for what type of biking they’re going to benefit from wearing a bike helmet.

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        • Frank Krygowski November 4, 2011 at 2:33 pm

          In response to my statement “…There is no need for helmets to make cycling even safer. …” wsbob said “Tell that to the people who’ve experienced having their head crash, after a fall from a moving bike, into a car windshield, or onto the pavement.”

          I’d rather tell that to the people who experienced having their head crash onto the pavement or into a car window while they were walking or riding in a car. For one thing, they’re so much easier to find, since they outnumber injured cyclists tremendously. Once again, bike helmet proponents demand helmets for cyclists, as if cyclists suffered most of society’s serious head injury. They ignore that 98% of serious or fatal head injuries occur to non-cyclists.

          And despite your denial, there _are_ frequent efforts to implement mandatory helmet laws. Those efforts, as well as the use of bike helmets in general, are driven by the mistaken notion that simply riding a bike puts a person at great risk. As another poster said, the risk is freakishly low; yet people continue raising fear of riding.

          And I’m sorry, but I just don’t think it’s “common sense” to advocate a measure that clearly has not worked, to defend against an occurrence that’s freakishly rare. Here’s some data, once again:
          http://www.cyclehelmets.org/1041.html

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          • RonC November 4, 2011 at 2:51 pm

            Just to clarify I was categorizing the risk of DEATH by cycling to be freakishly low. Not the risk of INJURY. But both appear to be higher than rates for pedestrians on a per hour basis.

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  • RonC November 4, 2011 at 12:33 pm

    “Pedestrians have 364 fatalities per billion km; cyclists have only 110 per billion km. We could speculate about injury rates vs. fatality rates, but fatality data is far more robust, since “injury” can mean anything from a scratch to a dismemberment.” Frank Krygowski

    I think it’s important also to interpret these numbers properly. It’s easy to jump to the conclusion that cycling is safer than walking based on the numbers presented. But let’s look at that a little more carefully. Let’s say I’m deciding between going on a one-hour walk or a one-hour ride, and the only criteria I’m going to use is which one I’m less likely to die at. Since I cover about 5 times the distance cycling that I do walking in the same amount of time, I would need to multiply the cycling fatality rate per km by a factor of 5 to properly compare it to walking. 110 X 5 = 550, vs 364 for walking, so more fatalities per hour cycling.

    Both rates a freakishly low. If I buy two lottery tickets I double my chances of winning the jackpot, but I’m not going to start planning my future based on that increased probability. But if I factor the cycling injury rate x 5 and compare it to walking, there’s quite a bit of difference. (125 vs. 2.1) Won’t stop me from riding, but might make me want to take reasonable safety measures when I do. Capisci?

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    • RonC November 4, 2011 at 12:39 pm

      Correction: “Both rates ARE freakishly low.”

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  • Frank Krygowski November 4, 2011 at 7:18 pm

    RonC said:
    “Just to clarify I was categorizing the risk of DEATH by cycling to be freakishly low. Not the risk of INJURY. But both appear to be higher than rates for pedestrians on a per hour basis.”

    Did you see the (alarmist, as usual) paper by Hoffman, et. al., “Bicycle Commuter Injury Prevention…” Journal of Trauma… V 69, No 5? They found 25,600 miles ridden between injuries getting _any_ medical attention. (If a person got a scratch and showed it to a nurse, it was considered “serious!” so as to make things sound dangerous.

    25,600 miles between injuries is freakishly low.

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  • RonC November 5, 2011 at 8:17 am

    I guess it depends how much you ride, whether or not you consider that freakishly low. That’s once every couple of years for some, while it may be once in a lifetime for others. I scanned the study you referenced again, and did note they found injury rates for cyclists not wearing helmets was over 2.5 times higher than for those who wore helmets. I remember when they were recruiting for participants in the study (2007) that I was bummed I couldn’t participate because I was recovering from a cycling related serious injury at the time.

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    • David Smith November 5, 2011 at 10:26 am

      RonC It depends on HOW you ride not how much you ride. I’ve traveled over 100,000 miles without any injury, after riding my first 25,000 miles with three injuries all crashes with at-fault motorists.

      Today I pick the most challenging traffic I can for my trips, so I can learn more and enjoy the techniques I’ve learned that get excellent cooperation. I laugh my way down the road now, comparing my results and the bicyclists I learned from, to typical bike riders.

      Should I feel deprived that I can’t enjoy the benefits of my helmet? And all those crashes that plague typical bicyclists to cash-in on building pressure to get more bike facilities?

      I’m thinking the root of the problem is that bicyclists who have solved the problem of riding with traffic and keeping their bikes upright, haven’t figured out how to profit politically or economically from their success. Compare that to the facilities and helmet advocates.

      Apple clawed their way back from a near death experience and they did it by making a high profit rate and using that to aggressively market their products. Where would Apple be if they gave their products away for free or at cost? That’s just not sustainable.

      Yet that’s exactly what what competent traffic cyclists are stuck with: giving their skills away at cost or for free without any marketing while the facilities advocates have captured the politics and the money raking in around $100,000 to every $1 for educators.

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      • Todd Edelman November 5, 2011 at 11:43 am

        David, on your website you say “…children learn to ride a bike, but then… they’re not taught the skills they need for riding in traffic. But now that you’re grown up, you’re more interested in transportation than play…”

        * So “play” only ends when people grow up?

        In the Netherlands, children start riding along to school on average well before they are age 10. They have skills but prefer your hated “facilities”. By age 12 or so most take a test on street to prove their skills and still most prefer facilities.

        I would bet that most adults there have nearly all the skills you teach, but still they prefer facilities!!

        I learned the “driving a bike” style, too, but these days (fill in the blank).

        And a huge amount of money goes for education, as well, though perhaps indirectly… via the parents and older siblings and so on.

        Within the current automobile-dominated paradigm facilities are what it takes to get cities up to high bike modal shares. That’s it.

        Keep doing what you, but stop putting down everyone else.

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        • Todd Edelman November 5, 2011 at 12:33 pm

          + I should have said “so until they grown up cyclists are playing?”

          At least we agree that helmets should not be mandatory but otherwise it seems we are from different planets, though I only moved from the USA at age 34.

          Showing yourself and adults who have self-selected to take your classes as evidence about the merits of “bike driving” are simply not proof that it will work on a wide scale.

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  • RonC November 5, 2011 at 11:17 am

    David: There is no question that practicing effective and safe riding skills can decrease the frequency of injury. You raise a good point abut the need for funding better cycling education. However, the nature of the beast is that there is still some risk. In my 50 years of riding I’ve never had a run-in with a car. But I’ve been wiped out by dogs, slippery road conditions, a pine cone coming out of a corner (ironically my worst accident to date), tire and mechanical failure. I have no doubt there are many people like you out there that have years of injury-free riding behind them. What lies ahead unfortunately cannot be guaranteed. Most of us who have been riding for a while at least have friends or acquaintances that have experienced some form of serious injury riding. Without even trying I can think of five friends that have had a broken bone of some sort resulting from a cycling accident. All highly skilled riders too. Hubris alone will not protect us from injury. But helmets can help in some instances.

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    • Frank Krygowski November 6, 2011 at 6:30 am

      Ron, the nature of this life is that there is always some risk, no matter what you are doing. Cycling is no worse than many other activities, despite the fear mongering that (amazingly) cyclists themselves engage in. See
      http://www.bicyclinglife.com/SafetySkills/SafetyQuiz.htm
      or http://www.cyclehelmets.org/1026.html for some data.

      Why is it that cyclists go on and on about danger? Every estimate I’ve seen shows swimming to be several times more dangerous than cycling. Yet I’ve never heard the same fear mongering from my friends who are enthusiastic swimmers.

      Yes, I’ve had a couple friends seriously injured cycling. But I’ve had at least five friends killed riding in motor vehicles, and even more seriously injured, including head injuries, just like national data predicts. I’m sure helmets would have helped some of them.

      In summary, don’t pretend bicycling is overly dangerous. And before you use a statement to promote helmets for cyclists, check whether it applies to walkers, joggers and motorists. If it does, apply it to all, not just cyclists.

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      • wsbob November 6, 2011 at 9:59 am

        You’re broadly generalizing and attempting to draw comparable analogies from activities that aren’t at all comparable. Do people frequently swim directly next to hundreds of high speed power boats traveling at much higher speeds than the swimmers? Not that I’ve ever heard of.

        People recommending the use of bike helmets aren’t saying bicycling is dangerous.

        It’s you that’s attempting to make it appear that’s what they’re saying. Apparently, you’re trying to do this as an attempt to invalidate common sense supporting the use of bike helmets in situations where there’s a consideable likelihood that people biking could fall or be involved in collisions with a resulting impact to their head.

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        • Frank Krygowski November 6, 2011 at 2:23 pm

          ” People recommending the use of bike helmets aren’t saying bicycling is dangerous. … there’s a consideable likelihood that people biking could fall or be involved in collisions with a resulting impact to their head.”

          wsbob, do you not realize your argument is internally inconsistent? IOW, you’ve contradicted yourself just above. People do not recommend helmets for an activity unless they think the activity is dangerous.

          As to whether cycling is more dangerous than walking, and whether comparative swimming data is pertinent: I’ve used those (and other) activities as comparisons based on data I’ve found. Others are claiming the data isn’t valid for various reasons, but not generally because they have other data. Instead, it’s because they don’t like the conclusions.

          Swimming causes far more fatalities than cycling, in total or per hour, _despite_ things like lifeguards. Yet it has no “Danger!” cult associated with it, and it has never generated a call for all-ages water wings. Nobody ever mentions that pedestrians have a higher per-km fatality rate than cyclists. Nobody ever mentions that the greatest cause of fatal head injuries is riding in cars, despite air bags and seat belts. And few people mention that cycling is safer than _not_ cycling, according to every study I’ve seen comparing benefits vs. risks.

          As far as I can tell, cycling is unique in having so many devotees anxious to scare people away, by overstating its dangers. That’s just weird.

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          • RonC November 6, 2011 at 3:13 pm

            “As far as I can tell, cycling is unique in having so many devotees anxious to scare people away, by overstating its dangers. That’s just weird.” Frank Krygowski

            Frank, if that were the case I would consider it weird too. No one is trying to scare people away from cycling. Just encouraging people to take reasonable safety measures when they do ride, so that it is even safer than it already is.

            But understating the risks compared to walking, by comparing the rate of death and/or injury on a per-km rate rather than a per-hour rate, is what I object to. I can understand some of the other reasons for not wearing a helmet , but that argument just makes it look like you don’t care about the facts, only those that speciously support a position. Do we really need to stand back and say how wonderful the emperor’s clothes are in order to encourage more people to ride bikes?

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          • wsbob November 6, 2011 at 5:26 pm

            “…wsbob, do you not realize your argument is internally inconsistent?…” Frank Krygowski

            Why didn’t you explain your conclusions? I don’t believe my statement is internally inconsistent, nor do I find that I’ve contradicted myself. Here’s a complete excerpt of what I wrote:

            “…People recommending the use of bike helmets aren’t saying bicycling is dangerous.

            It’s you that’s attempting to make it appear that’s what they’re saying. Apparently, you’re trying to do this as an attempt to invalidate common sense supporting the use of bike helmets in situations where there’s a considerable likelihood that people biking could fall or be involved in collisions with a resulting impact to their head.” wsbob

            Traffic conditions involving motor vehicles introduces the potential for danger into biking. This doesn’t make biking inherently dangerous, which is what you appear to be attempting to infer is implied by advice given to wear bike helmets.

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  • RonC November 6, 2011 at 11:03 am

    I’m not sure what your point is with swimming. I think society as a whole acknowledges that (at least for novices) it is a relatively dangerous activity. Put a weak swimmer in deep water with a current and add a few beers to the mix, there’s a big increased risk of serious injury or death. In public pools we even hire full-time trained observers (lifeguards) to insure our safety. I am not running out and crying “nanny state” about it though. The interesting thing about swimming is that the better you get at it, the less risk there is. Most people would be very surprised to hear of a serious injury at a high level swimming competition, but we’ve almost come to expect it at professional cycling races.

    More to the point however, I feel it is somewhat disingenuous to continue to represent cycling as safer than walking when the data clearly shows otherwise. If we can increase our level of safety by wearing a helmet when circumstances warrant it, it doesn’t seem like the monstrous burden that some would make it out to be. With air bags and seat belts, car drivers have spent thousands of dollars each on safety devices to make their ride safer. I don’t think we should lower our standard of safety just because automobiles are still more dangerous to operate. Consider how you ride and what the conditions dictate, and act accordingly. Just don’t delude yourself by misinterpreting statistics.

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  • are November 6, 2011 at 12:15 pm

    RonC
    Most people would be very surprised to hear of a serious injury at a high level swimming competition, but we’ve almost come to expect it at professional cycling races.

    i would not consider racing to be a normal expression of cycling, from which we should derive any meaningful injury data

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  • RonC November 6, 2011 at 1:49 pm

    are
    i would not consider racing to be a normal expression of cycling, from which we should derive any meaningful injury data

    It’s certainly meaningful to racers. And aren’t even “normal” people are sometimes in a hurry?

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