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ephany
06-26-2007, 10:24 AM
Obviously, if you're a regular wearer of your brain bucket, then I'm not talking to you. But I see soooooo many people every day riding without a care in the world when their brains could be splattered across the pavement at any time! Granted, there are no guarantees in life, but it seems like such a simple precaution that could save so much grief. Just ask Dawn Slawta (http://bikeportland.org/2007/03/01/a-tragic-realization/). (Anyone know how she's doing btw?)

On a recent trip up the Eastbank/Springwater, we saw just about every manner of stupidity there is including but not limited to:

*The unstrapped helmet

*The helmet swinging from the handbars
(These first two really baffle me, as it's obviously not a financial issue keeping them from owning a helmet in the first place and they thought about it enough to bring it along...)

*The kids with helmets, parents without (I call this one 'future orphans of America'-- nice modeling mom and dad!)

*The trifecta (no helmet, no lights, dark clothes at night--and after last night I'll have to think of a new term for the trifecta who's also wearing headphones. Any suggestiong?)

I never feel like I can ask/comment out on the road, so I'm resorting to the forum.

If any of you non-helmet wearing riders are reading this, what is your deal?

tfahrner
06-26-2007, 12:34 PM
do you wear a helmet when walking, jogging, driving, or bathing? why or why not?

can you present statistical evidence (instead of anecdotal accounts) that riding a bicycle poses a higher risk of head injury per hour or mile of exposure than these other activities?

when bicycles and cars come into violent contact leading to injury or death, do you ascribe danger more to bicycles or to cars? do you believe in making dangerous activities safer, or in compensating to make safe activities even safer so the dangerous activities can continue unchallenged?

can you present evidence that a higher helmet-wearing rate is correlated with a lower head-injury rate among cyclists? i can present evidence of a strong inverse correlation, incidentally.

do you believe that shooting victims, or those living in areas with high rates of gun crime, would be well advised to wear bullet-proof vests? do you believe that women in afghanistan who don't wear burkhas and who are raped or killed are at least partly to blame for their fate? or do you believe instead that those societies or communities need reform?

do you feel threatened by cars? do you drive one? how many tens of thousands of miles have you ridden in the last decade? do you have a tendency to project fear and guilt onto others? do you regard people who fail to mow their lawns, shave their armpits, or otherwise fail to conform to local norms in the disposition of their property, time, and bodies as in need of public pressure tactics to get with the program?

nishiki
06-26-2007, 12:42 PM
I decided to wear my helmet everywhere I go now mostly because I don t want to look like a newbie anymore.

wsbob
06-26-2007, 01:11 PM
ephany, maybe you could do a little research and provide current specifiactions for the level of protection that bicycle helmets are designed to offer wearers (I'm kind of too lazy to do that). People might benefit from this information as they go through various lines of thought about whether they should or shouldn't have to wear a helmet.

Years back, I understood that Bell bicycle helmets were designed to protect their wearer from the equivalent of a 6' drop, bearing a mass comparable to a specified body weight. That may not seem like much, but if for example, if a person is traveling 15 or so mph, and finds theirself propelled or dumped from a bike, by the time their body makes impact with something, relative speed and the resulting force, possibly being reduced by other less delicate parts of the body breaking the fall first, may, luck willing, fall somewhere within the helmet manufacturing specs.

At any rate, a cyclists chances of coming out of a fall or crash in better condition while wearing a helmet seem likely to be far better than without one. Also, modern helmets, as opposed to those of 20 or so years ago, fit far better, and the ventilation they offer is quite good, even on fairly low priced models.

Attornatus_Oregonensis
06-26-2007, 01:30 PM
Folks, it's a really simple question: Why don't you wear a helmet?

It doesn't require detailed inquiries of risk levels of other activities, statistical estimates of traumatic brain injury rates from cycling, or elaborate discussion of one's worldview. It requires only saying why you don't wear a helmet. If you don't want to say, you don't have to. And I don't mean to dissuade you from starting discussion on whatever you want, of course. I only want to point out that it's a really, really simple question.

FYI, I always wear a helmet when I'm on a bike. I evaluate everything I do according to the classic risk-benefit formula (which is also used frequently in setting legal policy): B < P*L

B = Burden of taking a precaution that decreases the risk of loss
P = Probability of a loss from the risk undertaken
L = Size of the loss from the risk undertaken

When, B < P*L, a precaution is justified economically and, in my view, logically.

When B > P*L, a precaution is not warranted. It's economically unprofitable and, given that there are a myriad of risks we expose ourselves to everyday, would produce too great an impediment on the activities of daily living.

IMHO, wearing a helmet while riding a bike: B <<<<<< P*L. Of course, I'm not concerned about my hair and I suspect that explains a lot. An example where B > P*L would be wearing a helmet around the house.

So, why don't you wear a helmet?

Coop
06-26-2007, 01:37 PM
I was very happy to be wearing my helmet when I was hit by a car while approaching SE Division on SE 23rd by a car speeding around the corner from Division. I didn't want to make a statement about our reckless car culture by impacting by skull (however thick) on the asphalt. Statistics aside, I was very glad that my helmet was strapped to my noggin. The stakes are too high when the old brain is involved.

As far as wearing a helmet in the bath, I would consider it if there was a possibility that someone would come into my house and slam my head against the wall. Or else I would just pad the walls...

That said... to each their own.

tfahrner
06-26-2007, 02:55 PM
So, why don't you wear a helmet?
I don't wear a helmet often because I don't believe that non-sport-oriented bicycling on quiet routes about town is sufficiently dangerous to warrant such precautionary measures. I am particularly averse to instilling or reinforcing in the minds of others the ideas that (a) bicycling thus conceived is dangerous enough to require body armor and (b) any dangers that exist in public space are the responsibility of the potential victims to compensate for. I tend to wear a helmet more in the cold/wet months and in the hottest for the hat value. I do think they look rather dorky, and I resent how helmets slow down facial recognition among my neighbors and friends. I think a way forward for our society is to come to resemble those of Northern Europe where bicycling is most common, bicycling casualties are lowest, and helmets are virtually unknown.

tao
06-26-2007, 03:14 PM
...I think a way forward for our society is to come to resemble those of Northern Europe where bicycling is most common, bicycling casualties are lowest, and helmets are virtually unknown.

Well said, I hope I can see this happen in my life time in Portland. I am going to wear my helmet for now.

Stay safe everyone.

Attornatus_Oregonensis
06-26-2007, 07:29 PM
....I think a way forward for our society is to come to resemble those of Northern Europe where bicycling is most common, bicycling casualties are lowest, and helmets are virtually unknown.

That sounds like less of a way forward and more of a goal state. The real issue, of course, is how we get from here to there.

Tbird
06-26-2007, 09:01 PM
... The real issue, of course, is how we get from here to there.

Easy, start building safe separated bike lanes, and enact "cyclist first" Right of Way Laws designed to protect cyclists against motorists. Let's face it, if it weren't for having to mix in with auto traffic on the open street most folks would feel safe enough to ride anywhere without a helmet.

The real issue is SAFETY. At least perceived safety. Most folks in inner PDX could easily ride a bike to almost anyplace within the city. The fact that only 3.5% actually do ride says that even here in velo-mecca, a vast majority of these folks don't feel safe. Remove cars from the equation, or at least separate them from the equation= BOOM: a greater perception of safety, more folks on bikes and most likely fewer helmets.

norse rider
06-26-2007, 09:42 PM
Great question to pose ephany. I have often wondered this myself. Is there any evidence that indicates that helmets DONOT make a difference in a crash? I happen to wear a helmet and in fact, sometimes think I should be wearing two. Like today when that cell-phone blabbing human almost T-Boned me on 231st.

tfahrner
06-27-2007, 07:48 AM
it seems to me that those advocating a particular course of action (i.e., not the path of least resistance) are obliged to demonstrate the benefits thereof, instead of to demand proof that the proposed course of action can be of no benefit. i can't demonstrate that standing on my head does NOT repel tigers. it does not follow that you will be eaten by a tiger if you don't stand on your head.

helmet testing shows that dropping weights a certain height squarely onto helmeted head models results in diminished trauma to those models. there is however no field data establishing a causal link between helmet wearing and reduced rate of head injury. more importantly, analysis of hospital admission records shows that the risk of head injury while bicycling is about the same as while walking. i don't wear a walking helmet either, though undoubtedly my safety would be enhanced in a number of highly contrived scenarios if i did, usually involving motor vehicles. it's a risk i take. you probably do too.

see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bicycle_helmet for a review of the studies, the debate, etc.

wsbob
06-27-2007, 09:09 AM
The wikipedia article reached by the link tfahrner provided is a good one. It objectively analysizes various ideas surrounding the question of what level of protection a helmet is capable of providing its wearer.

Helmets are good protection for injuries that might occur from low velocity impacts such as abrasions, scrapes, and concussions, many of which, the article states, aren't reported, so this messes with any definitive study conclusions about helmet efficacy.

For most people, it's easier to fall from a bicycle than it is just simply walking. That's why it's smart to wear a helmet while cycling and isn't as important for most people to do so as they just walk down the sidewalk. Some people appreciate that, and others don't.

Oldguyonabike
06-27-2007, 12:08 PM
I know that in 2 city crashes I have had (1 with a pedestrian and 1 w/ a car) that I would not be typing these letters now had I not had a helmet on. I distinctly remember both moments when my head made contact with the cement. Helmets are a fashion statement for the intelligent who want to stay that way.

Duncan
06-27-2007, 12:16 PM
To safety, if yours has a helmet, then good for you. I dont normally wear a helmet, and I could share some of my rationals (uncomfortable, reduces auditory input, etc) but the reality is that I dont like wearing headgear- whether its a hat, helmet or whatever. That being said- now that I am regularly exceeding 16MPH for extended periods, I have been reconsidering the whole helmet thing.

There are many people wearing helmets doing unsafe things, and I think that there is a postive correlaition in my mind. I see this at work too (I am a safety officer) and people will get a false sense of security from safety equipment and forget that the number one safety tool is there brain. On my bikerides I see people on cell phones biking on the left side of the street wearing helmets.

There are other safety considerations as well. I wont use clip ins- I think that the last place to be in the event of an accident is strapped to your bike. I dont judge others as less safe for using them, but rather I make my own safety choices and abide by them. To each there own.

nuovorecord
06-27-2007, 02:48 PM
Why do I wear a helmet? Two words: inattentive drivers.

(BTW, Ephany...you've probably scored very few points by referring to those who choose not to wear a helmet as "stupid." I know some extremely intelligent people who don't, and while I may not agree with their choice, I wouldn't dream of calling them stupid.)

Duncan
06-27-2007, 03:13 PM
ephany calling me stupid- i have been called worse things by better people :D

mizake
06-27-2007, 03:36 PM
I usually don't wear a helmet on the esplanade/springwater trail for my commute to work.

And I usually don't wear a helmet unless:

- it is raining.
- while competing
- i feel like it
- i drank heavily the night before and feel paranoid

cecilanne
06-27-2007, 04:53 PM
*The trifecta (no helmet, no lights, dark clothes at night--and after last night I'll have to think of a new term for the trifecta who's also wearing headphones. Any suggestiong?)



Organ donor?

ephany
06-27-2007, 10:46 PM
1. Out of 18 posts (so far), two people actually answered the question.

2. tfarhrner asked *15* questions in response to the question (hint: a question is not an answer), some of which involve guns, Afghanistan and rape. (Huh? What do shooting victims have to do with cycling exactly?--for the record, that's rhetorical).

3. tfarhrner answers the question after it is re-asked by a man.

4. wsbob suggests I do research before asking the question. (Hint: the question IS my research---I really want to know. I was *this* close to asking a guy who passed me on Williams today but it's replies like tfahrner's that make me hesitant to ask in person. I might get shot and I didn't have my bullet proof vest with me).

5. nuovorecord is concerned for my status in the community. (Thanks, but the only person I'm trying to score points with is my girlfriend. I made dinner and did the dishes tonight so I think I'm OK. She wears her helmet too. OTOH, tfarhrner just opened a new bike shop. I'm surprised he's not more concerned with, if not 'getting points' then at least not being rude in a public bike forum. I'm really bummed, cause I *was* very excited about the shop and had been telling lots of friends about it.)

6. Duncan feels insulted. Yes, I think helmetlessness while biking is a stupid action. Whether it makes you stupid over all, I couldn't say. Probably have to meet in person first to decide. I know I do some really stupid things, some by accident others on purpose--and still generally consider myself intelligent (and trying to stay that way oldguyonabike :). Oh except for the guy who was riding the wrong way down the Williams St bike lane, crossing Weidler with your *kid* behind you (on his own bike, also with no helmet) and weaving all over the road--not only are you stupid, but you should be arrested for child endangerment.

Cecilanne gets a prize for best new label. :)

It's been an interesting and amusing read. So far the only thing I've concluded is that I'll be ordering my Xtracycle from Seven Corners.

wsbob
06-27-2007, 11:49 PM
ephany, I did not suggest you do research before you asked the question. I effectively suggested you supplement your question with some general criteria indicating the level of protection a helmet is designed to offer a wearer relative to impact they might encounter in a crash.

I wear a helmet, so I couldn't answer your question.

ephany
06-28-2007, 09:07 AM
ephany, I did not suggest you do research before you asked the question. I effectively suggested you supplement your question with some general criteria indicating the level of protection a helmet is designed to offer a wearer relative to impact they might encounter in a crash.

I wear a helmet, so I couldn't answer your question.
I guess if my goal were to convince people to start wearing helmets, I might take the time and energy to do that...but I don't think it really helps and anyway, that's not my goal at this time. But a friend sent me this link (http://www.iihs.org/research/fatality_facts/bicycles.html), which I found pretty interesting. I leave it for everyone to draw their own conclusions.

mizake
06-28-2007, 09:21 AM
1. Out of 18 posts (so far), two people actually answered the question.

2. tfarhrner asked *15* questions in response to the question (hint: a question is not an answer), some of which involve guns, Afghanistan and rape. (Huh? What do shooting victims have to do with cycling exactly?--for the record, that's rhetorical).

3. tfarhrner answers the question after it is re-asked by a man.

4. wsbob suggests I do research before asking the question. (Hint: the question IS my research---I really want to know. I was *this* close to asking a guy who passed me on Williams today but it's replies like tfahrner's that make me hesitant to ask in person. I might get shot and I didn't have my bullet proof vest with me).

5. nuovorecord is concerned for my status in the community. (Thanks, but the only person I'm trying to score points with is my girlfriend. I made dinner and did the dishes tonight so I think I'm OK. She wears her helmet too. OTOH, tfarhrner just opened a new bike shop. I'm surprised he's not more concerned with, if not 'getting points' then at least not being rude in a public bike forum. I'm really bummed, cause I *was* very excited about the shop and had been telling lots of friends about it.)

6. Duncan feels insulted. Yes, I think helmetlessness while biking is a stupid action. Whether it makes you stupid over all, I couldn't say. Probably have to meet in person first to decide. I know I do some really stupid things, some by accident others on purpose--and still generally consider myself intelligent (and trying to stay that way oldguyonabike :). Oh except for the guy who was riding the wrong way down the Williams St bike lane, crossing Weidler with your *kid* behind you (on his own bike, also with no helmet) and weaving all over the road--not only are you stupid, but you should be arrested for child endangerment.

Cecilanne gets a prize for best new label. :)

It's been an interesting and amusing read. So far the only thing I've concluded is that I'll be ordering my Xtracycle from Seven Corners.

That was even more obnoxious than the original post.

brock
06-28-2007, 10:00 AM
That was just plain obnoxious.

Yeah, no kidding.

3 is especially funny, Ephany, how do we know your gender? Get over yourself.

Duncan
06-28-2007, 10:08 AM
I said that I had my own safety criterea, and that being called stupid by ephany didnt bother me- I wasnt even irritated.

Now the missrepresntation of my post in the abstract is irritating, but I am still uninsulted- because the authors inability to read isnt my problem.

Tbird
06-28-2007, 10:58 AM
< drum roll, please>

I don't wear a helmet, because I don't want to. It's my brain, not yours. I feel I can introduce any substance to it or present it with whatever level of hazard I deem acceptable. Mine, Mine, Mine...;)

Now, why don't I want to wear a helmet? Well, mostly for reasons tfarhner has suggested. Particularly, that because when non-sport riding at a reasonable pace on city streets, I don't feel any less safe than walking. (notice I said reasonable pace, something most folks riding the streets of PDX fail to understand) (http://ride-me.blogspot.com/2007/06/nascar-nation-and-bicycle.html)
Now, when I do ride my MTB on single track or other non-groomed surfaces I do wear my helmet. Mostly for the same reasons as above. I feel this is less safe and a sport related activity with high speeds, irregular surfaces and variable obstacles and hazards. The argument could be made that road conditions and autos present these same types of hazards to which, my reply would be to refer back to my original post about safety.

nuovorecord
06-28-2007, 11:26 AM
You call people stupid in your initial post, and then wonder why you aren't getting substantive responses to your question? Go figure...

BillD
06-28-2007, 11:57 AM
That was just plain obnoxious.


I thought so too. But then so was the original post. Especially the sentence alluding to Ms. Slawtas' sad experience as if wearing a helmet would have changed the outcome, followed by the gratuitous "(Anyone know how she's doing btw?)".

Ephany, if you're really concerned why don't you call the bakery and ask?

As to helmets:
Let those who ride decide... I wear one. Always. I would not classify those who don't wear a helmet, or people who surf, skydive, hunt, or street luge as "stupid".

nrkmann
06-28-2007, 01:06 PM
I know that in 2 city crashes I have had (1 with a pedestrian and 1 w/ a car) that I would not be typing these letters now had I not had a helmet on. I distinctly remember both moments when my head made contact with the cement. Helmets are a fashion statement for the intelligent who want to stay that way.

I resemble that remark. Down twice and two destroyed helmets, but I walked away. I keep the two destroyed helmets to show others what a 20 lb head can do.

I resent the idea that if you are severely injured by your own foolishness that I have to pick up the bill. Show me a million dollar medical policy and ride without your helmet all you want. However, if I have the possibility of having to pick up the tab, then I have a voice in the rules. Remember, "no taxation without representation" was one of our founding principles.

"When people have no manors we make rules. When people don't follow the rules we make laws." DDA

Regards, nrk

brock
06-28-2007, 01:11 PM
I resent the idea that if you are severely injured by your own foolishness that I have to pick up the bill.

Ok, then start with the smokers, the obese, the speeders... Do you think that each one of those 'foolish' activities has a bigger impact on our health care system that helmetless bike riders? Like, by orders of magnitude? I think so...

nrkmann
06-28-2007, 01:15 PM
yes, yes & yes. I pay my bills, you pay yours... nrk

Duncan
06-28-2007, 02:46 PM
Ok, then start with the smokers, the obese, the speeders... Do you think that each one of those 'foolish' activities has a bigger impact on our health care system that helmetless bike riders? Like, by orders of magnitude? I think so...

I couldnt help but see some dude in a bike helmet yelling at people at resturant "You, put down the Bacon dammit, your BMI is over 30 so salad and weak tea for you."

That is the funniest image I have had today, thanks.

mizake
06-28-2007, 04:28 PM
i'll make sure that next time i leave the house i'm fully encased in bubble wrap.

oh, and next time you go hiking without a full-body kevlar suit, i don't want to have to pay the bill afer you get mauled by a bear.

BillD
06-28-2007, 06:11 PM
i'll make sure that next time i leave the house i'm fully encased in bubble wrap.

oh, and next time you go hiking without a full-body kevlar suit, i don't want to have to pay the bill afer you get mauled by a bear.


In a responsible society, Bear Suits (http://outside.away.com/magazine/0597/0597grizzlies.html) are worn whenever leaving your property and entering a public space.

wsbob
06-28-2007, 06:35 PM
So what's the deal ephany? Do you wear a helmet? What are you asking for anyway? It's kind of starting to sound like you did so, just to mess with people's heads.

Jakelin
06-28-2007, 09:29 PM
One of my Prof's in college had a son who was riding down a hill in PDX and had a stray dog run out in front of him. He ends up going down, breaks his arm in a few places and completely cracks his helmet. The doctor said if he hadn't been wearing that helmet he likely would be dead, or brain dead.

I didn't pick cycling back up seriously until recently and I used to never wear a helmet on the occations that I rode, but now I always do. Accidents aren't called 'on purpose's'...they happen because we don't expect them and don't avoid them. As much as I didn't like the helmet at first I don't really notice it now.

mizake
06-29-2007, 07:21 AM
In a responsible society, Bear Suits (http://outside.away.com/magazine/0597/0597grizzlies.html) are worn whenever leaving your property and entering a public space.

Wow. That bear suit story was highly amusing and mildly depressing all at once.

Greg Raisman
06-29-2007, 08:21 AM
I have to tell you that reading this conversation and other similar debates about helmets makes me sad. Some of you may know that my roommate in grad school was killed on his bike. One block from home, the spot could be seen from the glass door in our living room.

This February will be ten years since Don died. From a head injury, no helmet. When you live through helping your friendís mom pack his stuff, going through his black book to call his friends to let them know he is dead, and telling someone that the person they collided with was dead, this whole debate about helmets become far less political and philosophical.

When I read articles like this one -- http://www.treehugger.com/files/2007/05/cyclists_head_r.php -- I am left wondering if Don would be alive had he had a helmet on. It also leaves me wondering about his mom, dad, and siblings. Itís a terrible question to live with. Would he be alive?

In the past, Iíve posted statistics that show how many more people have died in our country without a helmet on versus with one. The response was wrenching for me. Someone actually told me that I had reached a ďpredetermined conclusionĒ because there were people that would have died anyway Ė even if they had a helmet on. Heck, does that mean that the some number of thousand people that likely would have survived their head trauma had they had a helmet on donít matter?

All these demands to prove a negative (prove that a person would not die if they wore a helmet) strike me in the same way that the people who fought seat belts and motorcycle helmets use. They also strike me as similar to the successful arguments that cigarette companies used for decades to deny that their product causes health problems.

I work very closely with trauma nurses and surgeons in my work life. I can tell you that they have a helmet program for a reason. They experience too much avoidable tragedy from head trauma not to do something about it. They donít need studies or statistics or anything else to validate what they see on an all too regular basis. Unlike the people in this post who tell stories about how a helmet saved their lives, my professional companions have to provide service to those who did not make the choice to protect their own head.

Duncan
06-29-2007, 10:14 AM
Greg,
I understand your position, however, I feel that it is important to allow people to determine their own level of risk... whether or not I agree with it. I am sorry that you have lost friends to bike accidents, as I have lossed loved ones to preventable illnesses, but the reality is that they chose to engage in the activity that lead to their death, and that was their path. Death is always the end result of life, and loss is the part of love- if you didnt care about them you wouldnt be saddened by their departure.

The fact of the matter is that while it would be great if we all lived to be 80, thats not everyones karma- people will die from bike accidents, accidental drownings, slips trips and falls, alcohol relatated illnesses, etc before their dotage. Those of us who love them and are left behind can miss them, but to try and monday morning quarterback the events that lead to their demise doesn't do much good. Using personal expirence to effect you choices is one thing (I do that too, I had a bike accident where I am pretty sure clips-ins would have left me with a broken leg), but let others live their own lives.

lazlo
06-29-2007, 11:13 AM
"When people have no manors we make rules. When people don't follow the rules we make laws." DDA

I have no manors, but I do have manners. And I wear a helmet.

Duncan
06-29-2007, 12:08 PM
what does it mean when a helmeted biker blows a stopsign at a busy intersection at 20 mph? That he is being safe because he is wearing a helmet?

schwelvis
06-29-2007, 11:22 PM
I have a helmet in the shed which came between me and the trail out by Lewis and Clark last summer with seven cracks in it. The structure of the helmet is held together only by the plastic shell on the outside. The right side foam is compressed visibly about a third smaller than the left (non impact) side. The shell is dimpled from impact like a golf ball. The head encased in the helmet skidded down the hill about 10 feet and was a little shaken but none the worse for the wear.

I take the helmet to show and tell at my kids preschool.

peaceschwelvis

Attornatus_Oregonensis
07-02-2007, 10:18 AM
Greg's post is right-on. The level of defensiveness here is astonishing. It's as though these people know they're wrong and will try to introduce any related or unrelated issue to distract from answering a very simple question. A great example would be the "don't tell me what to do" line of thinly veiled projection. Nobody said you have to wear a helmet. In case you forgot, the question was "Why don't you wear a helmet?" Thanks to those who have tried to give an honest answer.

Val
07-02-2007, 01:09 PM
Ah, yes, the ever popular helmet debate. Since I have been seen riding without one more often than with, I suppose I should attempt to answer. I don't wear a helmet when I don't feel that the risk justifies it. When I feel that it does, I do. If I were to approach the issue from a sensible statistical point of view, looking at the predominant causes of head injury in the United States, I would absolutely always wear one when...(wait for it)...riding in or driving a car. We can all agree that head injuries can be terrible, and we can all see how they can easily happen when riding a bike, but the fact is that less than 1% of all the head injuries anually are caused by bicycle related crashes, while around 50% are caused by automobile related crashes. Intuitively, we do not feel at risk from head injury when encased by steel, and so we (and I, still) do not wear a helmet then. Based on my own experience (over 30 years using a bike as primary transportation - that's right, I've been doing it since before there were such things as bike helmets), I do not feel at any greater risk from head injury during my ordinary rides than I do working in the warehouse where I spend most of every day. I have been known to wear a helmet when riding in a large group, on bike rides organized by a group that would be liable in case of injury, and when riding offroad or in isolated, high traffic areas. I assess the risk for myself, and I react accordingly. I hope that this provides a bit of illumination and insight, ephany.

brock
07-02-2007, 01:38 PM
... the "don't tell me what to do" line of thinly veiled projection. Nobody said you have to wear a helmet. In case you forgot, the question was "Why don't you wear a helmet?"

With all due respect AO, the content and tone of ephany's posts seems to me to be more judgemental than a simple question, inviting the defensiveness that you cite.

I wear a helmet 95% of the time - I have a long commute, I race occassionally and ride in large groups, I have a job that very much depends on my little brain.

But that other 5%? Well, I love the feeling of the wind in my hair, the simplicity of throwing my leg over the bike without 'gearing up'. I've even been known to strap my helmet to my bars on a long, hot ascent to stay cool! Gasp! The risk from times I decide to forgo the helmet pale in comparison to the risks we all take in daily life, and I feel comfortable assessing the risk and making the choice for myself.

Attornatus_Oregonensis
07-02-2007, 01:41 PM
[T]he fact is that less than 1% of all the head injuries anually are caused by bicycle related crashes, while around 50% are caused by automobile related crashes.

Do you have a ... (wait for it) ... citation to support this factual allegation?

Attornatus_Oregonensis
07-02-2007, 01:50 PM
With all due respect AO, the content and tone of ephany's posts seems to me to be more judgemental than a simple question, inviting the defensiveness that you cite.

I can see how the tone might be viewed that way. She did refer to "stupidity." Civility is an overlooked virtue.

Rixtir
07-02-2007, 02:01 PM
FYI, I always wear a helmet when I'm on a bike. I evaluate everything I do according to the classic risk-benefit formula (which is also used frequently in setting legal policy): B < P*L

B = Burden of taking a precaution that decreases the risk of loss
P = Probability of a loss from the risk undertaken
L = Size of the loss from the risk undertaken

When, B < P*L, a precaution is justified economically and, in my view, logically.Yeah, but you have to make a living with that brain of yours. In fact, I have to make a living with my brain too, so I wear a helmet too. Kind of an intuitive application of B<P*L, I guess.

Rixtir
07-02-2007, 02:15 PM
*The trifecta (no helmet, no lights, dark clothes at night--and after last night I'll have to think of a new term for the trifecta who's also wearing headphones. Any suggestiong?)Here's one I saw a week ago:

No helmet, no lights, dark clothes, riding against traffic, running a stop sign (on a fixie, so possibly no brakes. :) ).

Val
07-02-2007, 03:11 PM
A.O.: Try here: http://www.cdc.gov/ncipc/pub-res/TBI_in_US_04/TBI_ED.htm and here: http://www.biausa.org/Pages/facts_and_stats.html for some basic stats. This is just the result of about 15 minutes research, but what I see is that nationwide, around 800-900 cyclists die of head injuries every year, compared to over 50,000 total deaths. Yes, this is deaths only, not total head injuries, and it's more like 9%, but considering that the numbers for motor vehilce crashes are 16,800 deaths, there is still a serious discrepancy in assuming that cycling poses the greater risk. It is also quite interesting to browse various presentations of these statistics, as there is quite a bit of variation, but most sources that I could find indicate that around 50% of the total number of injuries (not just deaths) are realted to motor vehicles.

bikey3
07-02-2007, 04:39 PM
A.O.: Try here: http://www.cdc.gov/ncipc/pub-res/TBI_in_US_04/TBI_ED.htm and here: http://www.biausa.org/Pages/facts_and_stats.html for some basic stats. This is just the result of about 15 minutes research, but what I see is that nationwide, around 800-900 cyclists die of head injuries every year, compared to over 50,000 total deaths. Yes, this is deaths only, not total head injuries, and it's more like 9%, but considering that the numbers for motor vehilce crashes are 16,800 deaths, there is still a serious discrepancy in assuming that cycling poses the greater risk. It is also quite interesting to browse various presentations of these statistics, as there is quite a bit of variation, but most sources that I could find indicate that around 50% of the total number of injuries (not just deaths) are realted to motor vehicles.

It's also important to look at statistics with a critical eye...The vast majority of people in the country use cars as their primary mode of transportation, NOT bicycles. Even in Portland, the supposedly most "bike friendly" city, a tiny fraction of the population regularly commutes by bicycle as opposed to cars. So of course there will be more automobile casualties - it's hard to compare bike casualties in this way because for the most part people aren't cycling, they're driving. You need lots more research, more detailed variables and a clearer scale to make any kind of credible claim about cycling being less dangerous. 15 mins of internet research doesn't really cut it. As it seems to me, in a car you're strapped in surrounded by airbags and millions of dollars of research on keeping passengers safe when impact occurs at high speed. You also have insurance and a legal system that gives huge precedence to cars over bicycles. which of course should give no illusion of total safety, as driving is one of the leading causes of death in this country...but on a bike you got nothin. Except your helmet, maybe some flimsy gear and the brain that helmet is protecting. You are very vulnerable biking on roads that are designed with the needs of the automobile in mind rather than public health.

I used to hardly ever wear a helmet, and I have absolutely no good excuse. I probably could have intellectualized some noble revolutionary reason why not, but it was mainly because I thought I looked dorky, I'm young and think I'm invincible, and I hated my hair becoming a matted sweaty mess. I've since, after the persistent pestering of a concerned boyfriend and a bit of getting over myself, began wearing my helmet 99% of the time. Biking should not be as dangerous as it is, but until infrastructure makes vast improvements I'll continue to strap the ugly sob on my noggin. But the wind in your hair does feel really nice. It's a tradeoff.

Val
07-02-2007, 05:03 PM
Admittedly, 15 minutes of research isn't much, but that was intended to show how easy it is to see the discrepancy. For a more detailed approach, try this: http://www.bicyclinglife.com/images/TopBan1.jpg Some of the studies quoted here are a bit outdated now, but the point is that our instinctive impressions are not always as accurate as we may think. It is absolutely true that the infrastructure and legal systems favor the car drivers, but it is also true that they are nowhere near as safe as they think they are. The simple fact that those vehicles inspire, demand, and require all the safety technology that they do is an indication of the danger involved. Cycling will always have the potential to be dangerous, but it always has the potential to be much safer than driving. Be assured that I want all of us to be as safe as we can be, and that I am in no way trying to dissuade anyone from wearing whatever protcetive gear they feel is appropriate. I did want to show that some serious perspective goes into my own choice of headgear each time I make that choice.

bikey3
07-02-2007, 05:46 PM
It is absolutely true that the infrastructure and legal systems favor the car drivers, but it is also true that they are nowhere near as safe as they think they are. The simple fact that those vehicles inspire, demand, and require all the safety technology that they do is an indication of the danger involved. Cycling will always have the potential to be dangerous, but it always has the potential to be much safer than driving.

Well put! I agree. And to each their own. :)

Coyote
07-03-2007, 08:17 PM
B < P*L

B = Burden of taking a precaution that decreases the risk of loss
P = Probability of a loss from the risk undertaken
L = Size of the loss from the risk undertaken



AO said it, but he came to a different conclusion than I did.

B is low. Yes it is a pain to keep track of a helmet, but compared to dialysis, cancer, arthritis, Darth Cheney, etc., the hassle is manageable.

P is also low for L. I have been riding a long time with only a bump or two. I have never hit my head in all of those scrapes. (Well that is not true; I did manage to loose half of a mustache in a drunken crash a week before my wedding. And yes I have been married long enough that men used to wear mustaches without necessarily being an assassin.)

L is huge. I live in my mind. Damaging it in a recreational activity would be foolish. (Did say that out loud, or was that a flashback?)

However, P1 is 100% for L1

L1 = The loss of freedom, joy, satisfaction, accomplishment, et. al. from thinking that cycling is always a dangerous activity.

Therefore, if you re-write the equation:

B<P*L-P1*L1

And if L1 is greater than, equal to, or kinda close to L, then you are rock solid without that helmet. Personally, I have not seen my helmet in years. I think my wife may have used it as a planter for hanging basket.

wsbob
07-03-2007, 10:45 PM
I'm terrible with algebra, probability and statistics. Thanks anyway Coyote, common sense works better for me. I think I'll just wear my helmet. Hope somebody is there to call 911 for you when your head goes bashing on to the asphalt.

mizake
07-04-2007, 08:21 AM
I'm terrible with algebra, probability and statistics. Thanks anyway Coyote, common sense works better for me. I think I'll just wear my helmet. Hope somebody is there to call 911 for you when your head goes bashing on to the asphalt.

see here it is almost like you're hoping that he'll bash his head just so you can be right.

wsbob
07-04-2007, 01:52 PM
Mizake, sorry to leave that impression. I'm hoping no such thing ever happens to anyone that doesn't wear a helmet. I was just being a little cheeky in commenting.

bikey3
07-04-2007, 06:51 PM
However, P1 is 100% for L1

L1 = The loss of freedom, joy, satisfaction, accomplishment, et. al. from thinking that cycling is always a dangerous activity.

Therefore, if you re-write the equation:

B<P*L-P1*L1



Hmm I never really thought about it that way. Interesting.

Yesterday I was deep in the suburbs of Sherwood, and I saw 2 children riding their bikes on the sidewalk of a deserted, wide residential street. They were both wearing helmets, and while crossing the street the little girl toppled over. Her brother was ahead, and was so concerned he jumped off his bike, ran back and hurried her to the safe sidewalk even though not a single car was coming. It was really cute to see him watching out for her like that, but also a little sad that even a 7-year old child playing is totally petrified by the risks of the ominous street.

It probably is very freeing and joyful to let go of those worries. For me that doesn't make L increase enough to stop wearing my helmet but maybe sometime in my lifetime more streets seem safe enough that it will. Biking is still pretty freeing and joyful for me anyway, with my helmet.

Attornatus_Oregonensis
07-05-2007, 07:37 AM
L1 = The loss of freedom, joy, satisfaction, accomplishment, et. al. from thinking that cycling is always a dangerous activity.

Wow, that's pretty melodramatic. L1 is not part of my equation because I have never experienced such a thing from putting on a helmet. Rock solid without a helmet, indeed -- you were referring to your head, right?

TiAx
07-07-2007, 06:33 PM
I'll answer the question.

I wear the helmet 98% of the time. The other 2%, like Brock, I skip the helmet when riding somewhere safe, slow, but mostly because very hot days, or I strap it to the handlebars going uphill, and wear it going down.

I like the freedom of making my own choice though, I'll tip my helmet to that.

bobsyouruncle
07-08-2007, 01:27 PM
A.O.: Try here: http://www.cdc.gov/ncipc/pub-res/TBI_in_US_04/TBI_ED.htm and here: http://www.biausa.org/Pages/facts_and_stats.html for some basic stats. This is just the result of about 15 minutes research, but what I see is that nationwide, around 800-900 cyclists die of head injuries every year, compared to over 50,000 total deaths. Yes, this is deaths only, not total head injuries, and it's more like 9%, but considering that the numbers for motor vehilce crashes are 16,800 deaths, there is still a serious discrepancy in assuming that cycling poses the greater risk. It is also quite interesting to browse various presentations of these statistics, as there is quite a bit of variation, but most sources that I could find indicate that around 50% of the total number of injuries (not just deaths) are realted to motor vehicles.

Fun with statistics! Aren't you assuming that the cyclist population is as large as the motorist population?

tfahrner
07-12-2007, 10:39 AM
It's been a while since I checked this thread. Maybe I should let it go but it eats at me.

2. tfarhrner asked *15* questions in response to the question (hint: a question is not an answer), some of which involve guns, Afghanistan and rape. (Huh? What do shooting victims have to do with cycling exactly?--for the record, that's rhetorical).

3. tfarhrner answers the question after it is re-asked by a man.

4. wsbob suggests I do research before asking the question. (Hint: the question IS my research---I really want to know. I was *this* close to asking a guy who passed me on Williams today but it's replies like tfahrner's that make me hesitant to ask in person. I might get shot and I didn't have my bullet proof vest with me).

5. nuovorecord is concerned for my status in the community. (Thanks, but the only person I'm trying to score points with is my girlfriend. I made dinner and did the dishes tonight so I think I'm OK. She wears her helmet too. OTOH, tfarhrner just opened a new bike shop. I'm surprised he's not more concerned with, if not 'getting points' then at least not being rude in a public bike forum. I'm really bummed, cause I *was* very excited about the shop and had been telling lots of friends about it.)
Ephany, I'm sorry that my reply struck you as rude. My fifteen rhetorical questions were in answer to your one rhetorical question. You made it clear that your mind was made up about the importance of riding with a helmet always. So it read to me like "why are you dumbasses so dumb?" You expected mild-mannered response to a somewhat provocative, possibly insulting question? I answered with some exuberance that you didn't seem to follow.

Guns, Afghanistan, rape etc... let me explain. I think that drivers who express concern about the lack of helmets on some cyclists are somewhat analogous to gang-bangers expressing concern about the lack of bullet-proof vests on innocent people walking in the hood, or like Taliban who express concern for the safety of women not wearing burqhas. The concern may be sincere, but the danger they refer to is primarily a product of their own behavior as a group. The defensive measures they counsel tend to validate the primary dangerous behaviors. Of course, they regard themselves as the exceptions who would never themselves harm a cyclist -- it's the other drivers. It's traffic: it's "them." You seem to have read my rhetorical questions as some kind of threat. I'm sorry.

I had no idea of your gender.

In public bike forums I speak as a public person, not as an owner of a private bike shop dealing with potential or real customers. We have a fine and growing selection of helmets, by the way. I would never dissuade anybody from wearing a helmet, and in fact I strongly encourage people to do so who are new to bikes, "sharing the road" with intense high-speed motor traffic, or who are riding in an aggressive manner, taking unnecessary risks for sport or fun. If you are wearing other bike-specific clothing out of need instead of just to fit in, it's almost a given that you'll be riding with a level of intensity that counsels a helmet. My kid always wears a helmet. Our test riders do too, even against protest (I got a Dutch guy to humor me, even. It's an insurance thing). On the other hand, I would never think to give anybody a hard time who shows up or leaves riding without a helmet. "Nice hat!"

Your bringing up Dawn Slawta really touches a nerve. Dawn is reported to have broadsided a car in an intersection whose stop sign she blew, drunk in the middle of the night with no lights. And you see this as a lesson in the importance of helmet wearing? There are too many important lessons to pass up here on the way to the helmet thing. Of course I wish she had been wearing one, but it's near the bottom of the list of things wrong that night.

Yeah Xtracycle!

Val
07-13-2007, 12:30 PM
Indeed, one important thing to remember about professionals in the bicycle industry who, like Todd, do not forcibly insist on helmets for everyone is that we are not against helmets, but we do have serious issues with the helmet crusade. The insistence on portraying bicycling, or even standing with a bicycle between one's legs while a picture is taken, as a drastically dangerous activity bothers us, and we feel a need to reply. More fun with statistics, anyone? This one can be found on the BikePortland homepage: http://neptune.spacebears.com/opine/helmets.html and this one can't: http://www.bmj.com/cgi/content/full/321/7276/1582?q=y These links are included strictly for the sake of perspective, and are not intended to persuade anyone of anything.

wsbob
07-13-2007, 01:28 PM
I've never been particularly aware of a "helmet crusade" being conducted to promote the use of bicycle helmets, except for children, by parents and police safety programs. I don't know why people are so touchy about this. Look, do what you want...there's no law that says you have to wear a helmet when you ride a bicycle.

It's your head, and doctors and emergency rooms are more than prepared to tsk-tsk in regards to your appearance there when you show up with a concussion because some idiot convinced you it's perfectly safe to ride without a helmet because statistics said it was so.

Having said that, it's also interesting to note to what ridiculous extremes people can go to in collecting, interpreting and using statistics to try mess with everyone's heads, including their own. It's about as bad as the way people use the bible....oh yeah...with a capital "B" for the arch-rigid out ones out there.

The helmet safety issue is simple physics. soft mass driven by inertia, arrested by sudden impact=dramatic re-arrangement of the soft mass. Really, I don't know diddly about physics....I just made that up. Here's maybe an easier test, that incidentally, I haven't tried. How about going to Whole Foods or one of those other fancy grocery stores, buy one of those little watermelons that's about the size of a persons head (should be 12 lbs), strap it into a helmet and drop it onto the pavement from about head height. Then drop a melon without the helmet.

If nothing else, it sure sounds like more fun than dinking around with specious statistics.

mizake
07-13-2007, 01:32 PM
I've never been particularly aware of a "helmet crusade" being conducted to promote the use of bicycle helmets, except for children, by parents and police safety programs. I don't know why people are so touchy about this. Look, do what you want...there's no law that says you have to wear a helmet when you ride a bicycle.

It's your head, and doctors and emergency rooms are more than prepared to tsk-tsk in regards to your appearance there when you show up with a concussion because some idiot convinced you it's perfectly safe to ride without a helmet because statistics said it was so.

Having said that, it's also interesting to note to what ridiculous extremes people can go to in collecting, interpreting and using statistics to try mess with everyone's heads, including their own. It's about as bad as the way people use the bible....oh yeah...with a capital "B" for the arch-rigid out ones out there.

The helmet safety issue is simple physics. soft mass driven by inertia, arrested by sudden impact=dramatic re-arrangement of the soft mass. Really, I don't know diddly about physics....I just made that up. Here's maybe an easier test, that incidentally, I haven't tried. How about going to Whole Foods or one of those other fancy grocery stores, buy one of those little watermelons that's about the size of a persons head (should be 12 lbs), strap it into a helmet and drop it onto the pavement from about head height. Then drop a melon without the helmet.

If nothing else, it sure sounds like more fun than dinking around with specious statistics.

^^Part of the Helmet Crusade.

Val
07-13-2007, 02:39 PM
mizake: exactly. Other facets of this crusade will become obvious to anyone who pays attention to various legislative efforts nationwide.
wsbob: unfortunately, there are many laws requiring helmets for bicycle riders - just not where you are. Some of us get touchy about that because we feel that a relatively safe activity (cycling) should not be singled out and portrayed as being much more dangerous than it truly is while other activities which have a greater potential for causing head injury are not similarly regulated. We like riding bikes. We don't like it when people insist that riding a bike is certain death unless done with a styrofoam hat. I think we may be slightly less touchy about this than some people are about trying to influence our choice of headgear. I believe I may have mentioned this before, but I really don't want to talk anyone out of wearing a helmet. I do want to convince as many people as possible that there is much more to bicycle safety than that, and that riding safely is one of the best things in the world. Rubber side down!

wsbob
07-13-2007, 05:39 PM
Well, I'm definitely not being exposed to the brunt of some kind of helmet crusade like some of you people apparently are. Sorry, I just didn't realize all of you were enduring such agony over the experience. It's not that big a deal. All you have to tell people that hammer you on the issue is, first nicely....this is the U.S. and barring any laws against it, I'll do whatever I want. If that doesn't work, well then just tell them to...well, I'm sure you know what to tell them.

The helmet is designed to do primarily one thing, and one thing only; protect your head and your brain from a relatively modest impact. The impact is the critical factor here that the helmet offers protection for, not against the occurrence of an impact. A LBS salesperson ought to be able to relate this to customers rather easily.

A person might happen to bicycle for a very long time without a crash or a head impact or maybe never have one. So, I suppose some people will say that this being the case, people convinced that it's prudent to wear a helmet, and doing so, would be wearing them for a very long time, with no real benefit gained from it. They might claim further that, therefore, the need for a helmet, based on the odds that they'll actually have a crash involving a head impact, is of very small importance.

They are entitled to that opinion, and can act on it where their own head is concerned, but it seems reasonable for other people thinking about cycling and whether or not to wear a helmet, to be informed of exactly what level of protection a helmet is capable of providing them according to manufacturers specifications. Is there something wrong with providing this basic, factual information to bicyclists? Is there some reason that the presentation of this basic, factual information would be intimidating to certain cyclists? There's no good reason it should be.

Regarding cycling being dangerous; in some situations, of course, it is. In certain places downtown Portland, other cities and all over the state, it's definitely dangerous, but not simply because some cyclists choose not to wear helmets. Such a notion would be ridiculous. Cycling inherently is not that dangerous, but in multi-use situations, with cars, trucks, pedestrians, visual and physical obstructions, it can get rather dangerous.

That doesn't mean that cycling should or is going away from high motor vehicle congestion areas like downtown and major thoroughfares. People that argue in favor of this happening, simultaneously promoting the notion that cycling is dangerous and should be discouraged or prohibited, are clinging to an old comfortable but archaic order of car exclusive roadways. Countering this entrenched position will not be accomplished by going into a tizzy about being pressured to wear a bicycle helmet.

Wear a helmet or not, as you personally see fit. Help others to understand clearly just what level of protection a bicycle helmet is designed by its manufacturer to provide its wearer. Work actively to enable all users of the road to understand the increasing role of bicycles on roadways for utilitarian and recreational uses, and the resulting need for better designed roadways and traffic controls to more safely enable travel for all road users. Maybe someday, conditions on the streets will be so mellow, even someone like me will be able to feel safe without wearing a helmet.

tfahrner
07-14-2007, 11:14 PM
Well, I'm definitely not being exposed to the brunt of some kind of helmet crusade like some of you people apparently are.
Well, perhaps if you're extra careful you should try riding without sometime. Maybe once a month I get scolded by either a driver or a (presumably) recreational/sport rider for "setting a bad example" etc. Once I got scolded by a rider who plowed into a car mid-scolding (can't make this stuff up: http://clevercycles.com/?p=69 ) The frequency increases with the first spring warmth when seasonal cyclists have a surfeit of anxiety to project onto me. I make a point of hailing apparently thoughtful helmetless riders (i.e., those riding in a seemingly competent, cautious manner) during these hard weeks. And today a tall guy in a very attractive Nutcase helmet came into the shop, who I guess had read this thread, and announced rather menacingly to a friendly staff guy "I'm not here to buy anything. I'm here to give you shit about your 'no helmet' thing. Not very clever! Not very Clever! Not very Clever!" and then he marched out leaving the staff guy to wonder WTF. How creepy is that? I spent at least half an hour today helping people select helmets, by the way.

And yesterday afternoon, 10th and Hawthorne (right by the shop), a woman rider plowed into the side of an SUV, single occupant. It was real bad. I didn't see the collision but did see her being lifted into the ambulance, head stabilized, oxygen. I saw them cleaning her blood from the street. Her body left an impression in the side panels and her skull and/or helmet shattered the windshield. She was riding carbon fiber in what looked like espadrilles/tai chi slippers. The accounts of eyewitnesses and the position of the body, bike, and SUV suggested strongly that the rider wasn't being too careful.

I wonder whether she was wearing a helmet, and whether that was partly what made her feel safe proceeding at high speed into an intersection she probably couldn't have seen too well based on how motorcage traffic was backed up idling at the time. Similarly I wonder how many riders suppose that wearing a helmet makes it safe to wear an iPod. I do know that she probably wouldn't have been laid out in the street bleeding had a couple-ton motorcage not appeared in her path so suddenly that there was no time to react. (Same with Dawn Slawta.) I suppose that when she arrived in the ER, highly educated drivers asked if she was wearing a helmet. I suppose that if the answer was yes some of them added a tick to their "bikes are dangerous" column, and if it was no, "you had it coming."

The police noted that the biker wasn't in the bike lane. I noted that while I didn't see the crash, so wasn't going to argue, perhaps she was preparing to turn left which would have necessitated her leaving the bike lane. As we chatted a couple other cyclists on cell phones without helmets blew past us preparing to turn left. The police yelled to them "get in the bike lane!" I shook my head.

I gave the SUV driver a hug; she was real shook up, small and stifling sobs. Her mom was killed in a car crash last year. I have a few direct ancestors myself who were killed by cars, one as early as 1915. That ancestor, then an old man, had the audacity to be standing in the middle of a street in a city whose streets, like Portland's, were designed as places for people to be. Most descendants of those lines keep driving; what has not destroyed us has made us weaker, and destroyers ourselves. I think of that old man in 1915 as my family's, and by extension our whole society's, last link in the 99.9% normal historical human pattern of getting around our whole lives at no faster than about 20 mph, and living places relatively free of lethal threats for a moment's inattention in supposedly public space.

wsbob
07-15-2007, 12:23 AM
tfahrner, you've got some good tales, and some good points made. I enjoy reading them.

I guess you mean that if I'm real careful, I might try riding without a helmet for the purpose of getting an idea of what some of the screwy reactions doing so has unintentionally prompted from various unaffiliated helmet zealots. That's all I need is more crap from nutcases. Well, thank you, but I think I'll just take your word for it.

It's an interesting point you make about bicycle helmets possibly leading certain wearers to a state of overconfidence regarding the level of protection the helmets are designed to provide the wearer. I wouldn't be surprised at all if this is true. See, that's the thing...I have a feeling the average person, including the people that actually buy and wear helmets, even expensive ones, may very well not have much of an idea about bicycle helmet protection capability. I'm not sure why this is.

I'm inclined, (without having done research) to think that people buy helmets based on a certain vague degree of safety they've been assured by word of mouth, that the helmet is going to provide them, rather than actually be informed about this from a salesperson. Maybe salespersons know, but aren't saying because the customer isn't asking.

So, I would imagine there is quite a range of expectation of protection related to helmets on the part of many people that wear them, none of which is probably based on the manufacturer's spec, and are probably often way out of proportion to the level of protection that the helmet can realistically offer the wearer.

As a result, some cyclists are out there stomping the pedals in an adrenaline rush, in heavy traffic off the bike path maybe because of a mistaken impression that the helmet infuses them with some kind of immortality. This tai chi carbon fiber slipper gal might have been going 25-30 mph when she hit the SUV. Do bicycle helmet R&D units even do tests with crash test dummies to approximate accidents like this? I wonder if I can remember to do some research about this.

As I've more or less said before, I just wonder if people are really being properly educated about what level of protection their helmet can provide them. I just bought a new helmet recently; a $30 Bell, discounted to $20....looks great....shell fused to the foam. Many other models were available appearing to be of the same general construction, some of them costing a lot more money.

The impression I got, reading information on the cartons for different helmets, is that the helmets were not really sold on the basis of protection levels afforded wearers, but on style, level of ventilation, and harness design. I don't think I ever noticed specs on the carton for the kind of impact the helmets were designed to protect the wearer from. That just seem stupid. Well, maybe I just missed the text somewhere amongst all the flashy graphics and so forth.

I never even asked a salesperson about the helmets designed level of protection when I bought this one most recently, because I had information in mind from a study many years back...near as I can tell, that part of the helmet's construction has not changed so much, even though styling and harnesses have. Anyway, asking would be an interesting experiment to find out what salesperson actually know about this part of a helmets performance.

pidamos
07-15-2007, 11:31 AM
Because it just ain't cool and doesn't look cool to wear a helmet!

tfahrner
07-15-2007, 01:58 PM
I never even asked a salesperson about the helmets designed level of protection when I bought this one most recently, because I had information in mind from a study many years back...near as I can tell, that part of the helmet's construction has not changed so much, even though styling and harnesses have. Anyway, asking would be an interesting experiment to find out what salesperson actually know about this part of a helmets performance.
The vast majority of bike helmets sold in the US today claim to meet Consumer Product Safety Commission guidelines, not the older, more stringent Snell or ANSI standards which were third-party verified. (CPSC is the same body that requires bicycle brakes to be able to skid the rear wheel and nothing more.) CPSC certification is something the manufacturer claims without need for independent verification. The prescribed testing procedure involves dropping weights in the 10-lb range from heights of 4-6 feet onto helmeted head models (low-resonance magnesium alloy head models, natch), with an accelerometer inside the head model.

It's my impression too that most people pick helmets based on style, price, lightness, ventilation, and fit rather than perceived relative safety. It seems to me that only fit is positively correlated with higher safety, while lightness and ventilation work against it. And if the styling and the cost make the riders feel like they need to ride faster to hold the racer-in-training act together, that's probably a negative too.

misc.
07-15-2007, 02:33 PM
I wear a helmet when commuting to work, and when off-road. I don't bother if I'm headed to the store for milk, or out for a few beers.

I commuted without a helmet for three years, and felt completely comfortable. After recognizing that my body no longer bounces back the way it once did, I conceded the wisdom of wearing a helmet during rush-hour traffic.

Now that I've become accustomed to wearing a helmet, I've noticed that my 'spidey-sense' rises to a higher level when I'm tooling around without one... or conversely, perhaps the helmet serves as a security blanket to lull my awareness.

Rixtir
07-15-2007, 03:12 PM
(CPSC is the same body that requires bicycle brakes to be able to skid the rear wheel and nothing more.).I agree with your comments about the helmet safety standards. However, a bit off topic, the CPSC standards for braking performance are NOT the "skid test." The CPSC standards are that the brakes must be capable of stopping the bike within 15 feet from a speed of 10 MPH. This is the same standard adopted in the Uniform Vehicle Code, and more recently, by the State of Oregon.

wsbob
07-15-2007, 03:42 PM
"The prescribed testing procedure involves dropping weights in the 10-lb range from heights of 4-6 feet onto helmeted head models (low-resonance magnesium alloy head models, natch), with an accelerometer inside the head model." tfahrner

I don't quite understand that test procedure. In fact, now that I think about it, my earlier idea about informally testing a helmet with a watermelon doesn't make sense to me either. What I would imagine the real force that a helmet should be reasonably able to protect against, would be that produced by the inertia from helmet wearers of various weights. In other words, take your 165 lb crash test helmet protected dummy and drop it on its head from 6' above the ground. Or, move him on a bicycle for some distance and have it stop suddenly, letting the helmeted dummy impact with something, just like they do with the crash test dummies in cars.

Maybe those ideas have all been thought of, tried and rejected. What do I know about science?

aaron
07-17-2007, 09:18 PM
Most really, really, really smart folks that I know in the bike industry agree that the current designed helmets do very little in the event of an auto wreck. Some even argue that a helmet makes it more likely that you will hit your head!

From my conversations with advocates, industry professionals, other bike shop owners, and life long cyclists, the conclusion is this:

Helmet use and sales are based on fear and increasing helmet sales. Fear is ALWAYS use anecdotaly by "victims", professionals and marketeers. Actual crash data and analysis is not available.

If you are afraid of getting hit by a car and smashing your head, the only helmet that might help, even a little is a motorcycle helmet. Second best would be a Down Hill Mountain Bike style helmet. Motorcycles are goverened by the DOT of each state. The tests are much more rigorous for motorcycle helmets.

Most bike wrecks involve injuries to the hands, arms and legs and the number one bike wreck injury, a broken collar bone. Fact is you head just doesn't hit the ground that often. Shouldn't we be wearing more padding?

Even so, none of us would ever discourage ANYONE from wearing a helmet. Keep it a personal choice. The world and the rider/driver are safer by the very choice of a bike over a car. Let that be the reason!

Helmets are good, usually, but not necesary. Getting more people on bikes is what we all want. Everywhere there has been a helmet law for adults, there has been a decrease in cycling.

I know from owning a bike shop and catering to regular folks that most people do not want to wear a helmet. I do not preach to them either way. I just give them the facts. Seattle and King County have a mandatory helmet regulation (by the board of health). I let them know that. We stock a wide variety of helmets.

It interesting to note that in PDX there are about 4 times as many folks riding bikes as Seattle and in Oregon your helmet law only applies to those 16 and younger. In fact, Seattle and King county are one of the VERY FEW places in the USA that require adults to don the styrofoam hat.
http://www.helmets.org/mandator.htm

For you helmet/safety folks out there, know this, even a minor crack in your helmet makes in ineffective in a crash. I inspect helmets all the time and about 50% of the ones I look at have a crack. Do this simple test: Upside-down pull on your helmet. Gently! Look for the styrofoam to spread and reveal any cracks. A visual inspection will not reveal the cracks. You have to pull gently. If the helmet is cracked, it will NOT save you! Buy a new one! Helmets are NOT recycleable. They are not durable! Only the hard shell type will withstand being in a bag or being dropped. The thin alien head style (Giro, Bell, etc) will not withstand even a short drop without damage.

All of this info is in the owners manual the comes with each helmet.

If a helmet law or requirement (even peer pressure) keeps people from taking to the wheel (1880s slang for a bicycle), isn't that a bad thing? More folks on bikes makes us all safer and less likely to have an accident, statistially speaking.

Aaron Goss,
Owner, of Aaron's Bicycle Repair in West Seattle. www.RideYourBike.com

PS, Please stop giving my dear, dear friend, Todd a hard time, He is an honest, forthright, nice, family man. He truly cares about everyting bike and just want the world to be a better place. Why on earth do you think he opened a bike shop, a Dutch bike shop? To get rich?

wsbob
07-17-2007, 09:52 PM
From the STP rider hit by a motor vehicle driver:

"Gerald Marvin holds up a shattered blue and white bicycle helmet he credits with saving his life." Oregonian article, Tuesday, July 17, 2007

http://www.oregonlive.com/news/oregonian/index.ssf?/base/news/1184642714268910.xml&coll=7

"Most bike wrecks involve injuries to the hands, arms and legs and the number one bike wreck injury, a broken collar bone. Fact is you head just doesn't hit the ground that often. Shouldn't we be wearing more padding?" aaron

Most people's brain cells, mental function and not a small amount of body function are located, not in their arms and legs, but in their head, . True, your head may not hit the ground that often. As long as it doesn't, everything's cool. When it does.....not so cool. You makes your choices and you takes your chances.

"Some even argue that a helmet makes it more likely that you will hit your head" aaron

I still don't understand the basis for this argument. Overconfidence?

aaron
07-18-2007, 01:55 PM
A bike helmet makes your head much larger. Humans are not built like Q-tips! I bet Gerry's shoulders, and hips are bruised! Styrofoam helmets and look pretty awful and most people think that it was the helmet alone that saved them. I hear that all the time. The impression of buying a wearing a helmet is that it will protect you from an accident with a car. Bike helmets are NOT designed for high speed impacts! When you hit your head and the helmet is destroyed, of course it saved you. Modern helmet are not very durable and it doesn't take much at all to really mess them up. The human skull is about 1/4" of solid bone and is very, very rigid. Also there is fluid between the brain and the skull. It is like our head was built to withstand impact or something! Gerry's helmet prevented him from scrapes to the head and a bad headache.

Keep in mind that I am not advocating for or against the use of helmets. What I am advocating against is mandatory helmet use. Also, if there is going to be a helmet law, then the helmets should be made better and car drivers and passengers should also be required to wear them too. The number one injury in a car accident is still to the head! And while we are at it what about skiiers, snowboarders, roller skaters, skate boarders, etc.? Sure many of them do wear helmets, but there is no law. Why single out an activity that statistically is safer than baseball?

The above statements are not desined to persuade anyone of anything. Just thoughts.

Now let's get more people riding bikes.

Rixtir
07-18-2007, 02:13 PM
"The prescribed testing procedure involves dropping weights in the 10-lb range from heights of 4-6 feet onto helmeted head models (low-resonance magnesium alloy head models, natch), with an accelerometer inside the head model." tfahrner

I don't quite understand that test procedure. In fact, now that I think about it, my earlier idea about informally testing a helmet with a watermelon doesn't make sense to me either. What I would imagine the real force that a helmet should be reasonably able to protect against, would be that produced by the inertia from helmet wearers of various weights. In other words, take your 165 lb crash test helmet protected dummy and drop it on its head from 6' above the ground. Or, move him on a bicycle for some distance and have it stop suddenly, letting the helmeted dummy impact with something, just like they do with the crash test dummies in cars.

Maybe those ideas have all been thought of, tried and rejected. What do I know about science?Helmets aren't tested the way tfahrner described. Here's How Bicycle Helmets Are Tested. (http://www.helmets.org/testing.htm)

Rixtir
07-18-2007, 02:17 PM
If a helmet law or requirement (even peer pressure) keeps people from taking to the wheel (1880s slang for a bicycle), isn't that a bad thing?Do you have evidence that a helmet law (etc.) has kept people from taking to the wheel?

Gerry's helmet prevented him from scrapes to the head and a bad headache.You really shouldn't be giving a medical opinion, unless you have a medical degree, or more relevantly, are a credentialed accident reconstructionist who examined this particular helmet in this particular crash.

aaron
07-18-2007, 02:37 PM
anyone can have and opinion! And in my post I think I pretty clearly said they were just thoughts! nothing more!

Wear a helmet if you wish, just don't force everyone to!

Remember, bikes are safe, cars are dangerous, more people on bikes is the goal here.

beelnite
07-18-2007, 02:46 PM
Also, if there is going to be a helmet law, then the helmets should be made better and car drivers and passengers should also be required to wear them too. The number one injury in a car accident is still to the head! And while we are at it what about skiiers, snowboarders, roller skaters, skate boarders, etc.? Sure many of them do wear helmets, but there is no law. Why single out an activity that statistically is safer than baseball?


BRAVO! Well said! Better include pedestrians and joggers!

Rixtir
07-18-2007, 02:55 PM
anyone can have and opinion! And in my post I think I pretty clearly said they were just thoughts! nothing more!.Anyone can have an opinion. Not anyone is qualified to offer a medical or forensic opinion. There's a difference...

wsbob
07-18-2007, 03:04 PM
"A bike helmet makes your head much larger. Humans are not built like Q-tips! I bet Gerry's shoulders, and hips are bruised! Styrofoam helmets and look pretty awful and most people think that it was the helmet alone that saved them. I hear that all the time. The impression of buying a wearing a helmet is that it will protect you from an accident with a car. Bike helmets are NOT designed for high speed impacts! When you hit your head and the helmet is destroyed, of course it saved you. Modern helmet are not very durable and it doesn't take much at all to really mess them up. The human skull is about 1/4" of solid bone and is very, very rigid. Also there is fluid between the brain and the skull. It is like our head was built to withstand impact or something! Gerry's helmet prevented him from scrapes to the head and a bad headache." aaron

Who knows? Maybe I'm the only one that a lot of what you're saying there doesn't make sense to. A helmet makes your head "much larger". So what difference would that make? Force from wind resistance or helmet weight? To me, helmets seem very light, and they've become ever more aerodynamic.

From the line in the Oregonian article, I didn't get the impression that Gerald Marvin thought it was the helmet alone that saved his life....even though he does credit it for saving his life, likely along with other coincidental factors.

Bike helmets are not designed to protect against high speed impacts, but is that to say that people should disregard the protection a helmet can offer them against low speed impacts? I wonder what a doctor would think about the suggestion that the human skull, with its 1/4" of very rigid sold bone and fluid liner is built to protect a person against the kind of low speed impact a cyclist might possibly sustain in a crash? What are some possibilities that such an impact might include? Asphalt, concrete, some part of a car, a guardrail, a rock, a window? I guess you could get lucky and crash into a Teletubbie. Somehow, I've got a feeling the Doc would say something like, "If at all possible, wear a helmet for a crucial, extra margin of safety".

So aaron, you're advocating against mandatory helmet use. What do you mean? For people under 16 years of age, including children? I haven't even checked the Oregon law personally, but I just read somewhere on another thread that it mandates helmet use for people in that age category, not for older adults. There's a lot of parents in this world that aren't too good at the job. Somebody has to look out for these kids, and such a law seem to me to help a little in that respect.

At this point, I would not be inclined to work for or support a law mandating helmet use those older than 16 yrs. I don't think it's too smart to eliminate any more responsibility for making good choices about your own personal safety than is absolutely necessary.

Rixtir
07-18-2007, 03:38 PM
wsbob, I agree with much, but not all, of what Aaron says. Helmet standards are a very low bar to pass. Most helmets are designed to protect you in a fall from your bike, not from a high-speed impact. I think there's a difference, though, between saying a helmet is only designed to protect in a low speed impact, and saying a helmet can't protect you in a high speed impact. Even if there's only a slim chance of the helmet protecting me, I'll take that slim chance over no chance.

For anybody who thinks head protection in a low speed impact is useless, consider this: The vast majority of bicycle accidents are of the cyclist-only, falling off your bike variety. No cars involved. Exactly the type of accident a helmet is designed to protect you in. Furthermore, one third of all cycling accidents reported helmet damage, and there was no accompanying head injury in 69% of these accidents.

If you'd like to read more on what helmets can and can't do, how they're tested, where helmets are required, helmets standards, helmet reviews, etc., check out the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute. (http://www.helmets.org/)

wsbob
07-18-2007, 06:00 PM
I wouldn't say that aaron and others are wrong in making points about circumstances where helmets shouldn't be expected to be effective or may not be particularly necessary, especially with cyclists in mind that enjoy the pleasure of riding without a helmet.

It is though, wrong for them to ignore circumstances that helmets are designed to be effective and are effective for, especially if doing so leads other people to incorrectly conclude that a bicycle helmet offers them no significant protection.

I'm kind of inclined to think that upon the owners of bike shops, as aaron identifies himself, (comment #75), there's a greater than average responsibility to advise people about what kind of performance and protection people can reasonably expect from various kinds of bicycle equipment, including helmets. All they need to do is give them the straight and skinny. What's so hard about that?

I believe the following link (thanks aaron and rixtir) would be helpful to anyone trying to decide whether or not their safety would benefit from wearing a bicycle helmet. (I just noticed though, that the explanation of the test does not make any mention of mass equivalent to various average body weights loading the helmet as the tests against the anvils are conducted. I don't understand what's going on with that):

"How Helmets are Tested"

http://www.helmets.org/testing.htm

mike_khad1
07-18-2007, 08:16 PM
Two years ago, if you had asked me, I would have told you that I wore my helmet to set a good example to my kids. I bicycle commute to work every day. I have 40 years experience on a bike mostly without wearing a helmet. I certainly have skills enough to avoid circumstances where it would be important whether or not I was wearing a helmet.

On my way home from work in 2005 I was on Holliday, crosssing Grand Ave where Grand traffic has a stale red light. I was coasting (slightly downhill) watching the light to make sure it didn't change green with me in the middle of the intersection.

I wasn't watching where the front wheel was going. Next thing I knew, I looked in front and saw I was about to hit a concrete post. While I was reaching for the brake levers, my front wheel hit the post and then the top of my helmet hit the post. I felt the impact down to my shoes.

It was a stupid, slow speed crash, that bent my front fork, bent the frame, and would have killed me (or seriously injured me) if not for my helmet.

Now, at age 49, I won't step over my top tube without my helmet on.

chopstic
07-18-2007, 10:30 PM
I think the issue is the same as the seatbelt or motorcycle helmet laws, it really should be the riders choice since it doesn't concern others safety whether or not you wear a helmet, but we all know that eventually those oregon liberals will pass law requiring it be worn.

fetishridr
07-18-2007, 10:31 PM
that white bike was installed for an unhelmeted rider. its at SE 26th and stark if youre interested.
growing up i was saved twice by helmets. one wreck was at around 10 mph and i ended up with a broken scapula and a shattered helmet. the other accident was at 30 mph and it resulted in a ton of road rash, a seperated shoulder, a face that looked like raw meat, and oh yeah, a shattered helmet. both time the ER docs said i would be dead if my skull had taken those impacts.
now i race bikes, i commute daily, even in the rain today. i'm not concerned about my own bike handling skills. i'm concerned about other riders and drivers hitting me. i have not had a collision yet, but i will have a helmet on when, NOT IF, it happens.
i like to think of it this way, i think its worth it to wear a dorky helmet every day if when i'm plummeting toward the asphalt in an uncontrolled fall i have it on to save my life.

for those who choose not to wear helmets because its their right. i feel its natural selection when an unhelmeted rider falls on their head, plain and simple. A cop has a dangerous job and they wear a flak jacket. i ride a bike and i wear a helmet.

rainperimeter
07-19-2007, 02:20 AM
i wear a helmet mostly based on an accident i had when i lived in minneapolis (365 days a year biker regardless of temps or weather). in early february (04) i ate shit on a very off street bike path (ala the springwater corridor) on my way home from work. someone had built a jump/mound of snow in the path and being dark out, about 9 pm, i couldn't make out the mound. i launched! and unexpectedly. came down on my side, fractured my clavicle and hit my helmet-ed head on the ground. it was single digit temps that evening and i'm convinced that if i had knocked myself out (helmet or not) or cracked my skull open, i'd likely have froze to death. and i hated minneapolis at the time and didn't want to die there.

a helmet is cheap insurance if you ask me.

but if you don't wear one, whatever. i don't give no shits...knock yourself out (OH!!).

tfahrner
07-19-2007, 09:49 AM
Helmets aren't tested the way tfahrner described. Here's How Bicycle Helmets Are Tested. (http://www.helmets.org/testing.htm)

Actually Rixtir I read and paraphrased (very briefly) the long and tedious CPSC text in my description. I stand by it as accurate given its brevity. I stand corrected on the CPSC brake rule; that appears to be new as of 2002; previously it was the infamous rear-wheel-skid-test I believe.

While I'm typing, here's an example of the kind of reasoning/politics that could have us wearing walking helmets and lightning rods whenever outside of cars or other places of business: http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20070718/adults_helmets_070718/20070718?hub=Health

(the lightning rod thing is a reference to http://neptune.spacebears.com/opine/helmets.html , which compares the death rates of riding a bike with being struck by lightning.) ... "don't you know your brains could be fried by lightning at any second... won't you think of the cost to society to deal with your electrical burns, and think of the example you set for children and how much trouble is a personal lightning rod after all, you selfish foolish macho man?"

jake_m
07-19-2007, 12:03 PM
I'm neither a hardcore helmet wearer nor a fervent anti-helmet activist. I wear one most of the time, but occasionally leave the house without it. The thing is, as much as I detest cars and drivers when I'm on my bike I feel like when I'm wearing a helmet, they tend to take me seriously.

Maybe it's in my head, maybe not, but I feel as though the general attitude to me as a cyclist changes simply because I have a helmet on. For that reason alone--eliminating at least a little animosity--it's worth it to me to wear my helmet more often than not.

tfahrner
07-19-2007, 01:07 PM
I'm neither a hardcore helmet wearer nor a fervent anti-helmet activist. I wear one most of the time, but occasionally leave the house without it. The thing is, as much as I detest cars and drivers when I'm on my bike I feel like when I'm wearing a helmet, they tend to take me seriously.

Maybe it's in my head, maybe not, but I feel as though the general attitude to me as a cyclist changes simply because I have a helmet on. For that reason alone--eliminating at least a little animosity--it's worth it to me to wear my helmet more often than not.
That's interesting. I know what you mean, but I respond in a nearly opposite manner to the same dynamic. I don't want to be seen as a "serious road user," pretending that my clothes, helmet, glasses, gloves are analogous to drivers' steel cages, restraints, airbags, etc., because they aren't. My right to public space isn't correlated with my degree of investment/indebtedness in armor, insurance, registration, etc. I want to be seen instead as a vulnerable human being enjoying neighborhood streets designed before cars existed, cautious yet unafraid, courteous yet assertive of my rights. If the wind's in my hair, so much the better to project a care-free image for biking. My ID is neither a driver's license nor a bike helmet.

PS: I wore my $125 properly-fitted helmet on the way in today because I was too heavily engrossed in thoughts having nothing to do with biking/helmets to be confident I'd pay best attention all the way in.

anthony
07-19-2007, 06:34 PM
I don't wear a bicycle helemt because I don't have to.
I don't wear a bicycle helemt because I don't want to.
I don't wear a bicycle helemt because I don't need to.
And I don't wear a bicycle helemt because I shouldn't need to.

I wear a helmet when I ride for sport, ie racing.
I wear a helmet when I stunt ride, ie jumping.
I wear a helmet when I mountain bike. And I wear more body armour than a helmet for this activity.

And I always wear a helmet when using any type of motorbike or ATV.

I wear a helmet when there is signifigant risk.

But I don't wear a helmet to ride to work, or to college, or to pick up groceries, that's just overkill. I don't wear a helmet when I'm walking, and I don't wear a helmet when I'm jogging. And I don't wear a helmet when taking transit. Why should I have to wear a helmet to ride a bike when I am riding in a low risk fashion?

rainperimeter
07-20-2007, 01:52 PM
Why should I have to wear a helmet to ride a bike when I am riding in a low risk fashion?


it's not your riding that you need to worry about...it's unseen shit on the path in the dark. it's dudes in pick ups who don't yield to you in intersections. it's yuppies who door you in northwest. it's assholes who gun it out of their parking spot on the side of the street and cross multiple lanes of traffic on sw broadway.

Val
07-20-2007, 10:31 PM
Well, this certainly has been a lively discussion - but I knew it would be. At this point, both sides of the the discussion (please, it really doesn't have to be an argument; we all want to be safe) have reached a point of near repetition. One thing that strikes me is that we seem to have lost ephany (remember, originator of the thread?) fairly early on. Still out there, ephany? Hopefully, all this has at least given you a few things to think about. Sometimes there are many aspects to seemingly simple issues.
I have a few things to add: Jake M.: please refrain from characterising anyone here as "a fervent anti helmet activist." We all agree that helmets will protect your head, and none of us have ever tried to talk anyone out of wearing one (funny, that sounds familiar, somehow). What we object to is the insistence that riding a bicycle is always, without exception, so dangerous that to do so without a helmet is near suicidal. We don't think so, and so far, the only evidence we have been shown to support this view has been various stories of freinds and relatives who have been injured or killed. Personally, I have known several freinds who have been killed in traffic, and could add my own horror stories if I was so inclined. If I did so, it would becvome obvious that I have known more people who were killed in cars, and only know of a few killed by cars while on bicycles. I prefer to look at the larger picture, though, rather than assuming that my personal experience is the only evidence needed to determine policy for everyone.
rixtir: as usual, you take a thoroughly rational approach and refrain from personal attacks. Thank you for that, and for providing actual data for those who would like to actually learn about these issues, rather than simply reacting emotionally, as seems to be far too common. You asked for evidence that helmet laws reduce the number of cyclists. If you look at the article that I linked to in the British Medical Journal ( http://www.bmj.com/cgi/content/full/321/7276/1582?q=y ) you will find several studies cited that indicate this trend (a very thoughtful article, with many sources; well worth perusing). Here are some more: http://www.bikebiz.co.uk/news/26613/Cochrane-researcher-admits-lid-law-may-decrease-bike-use and http://www.bikebiz.co.uk/news/21780/Lid-law-land-agrees-that-health-benefits-of-cycling-outweigh-the-risks It's a trend that seems to vary from instance to instance, but is consistently detectable. I believe it may be possible to reverse the effects of such a trend over time, but there is no denying that the trend exists.
Finally, I would like to restate that Todd, Aaron, and I are in no way opposed to helmets. We all own them and wear them when we feel that they are appropriate. We object to the practice of creating an atmosphere of fear around one of our favorite activities. We are not alone in this: http://www.kenkifer.com/bikepages/advocacy/mhls.htm If you have not browsed through Ken Kifer's Bike Pages, you are in for a treat. He spent his life on bikes, and was one of the most sensible and knowledgeable folks ever. It is not only individuals who express this attitude; respectable organizations share it as well: http://www.ctc.org.uk/DesktopDefault.aspx?TabID=4688 Once again, our goal is to encourage as many people as we can to improve their lives and their health by riding bicycles. Helmets are one piece of equipment that can help this to happen, but we find fear to be counterproductive.
At this point, I feel that I am becoming repetitive, as well. Thanks to everyone who was willing to discuss these issues, and thanks to those who actually answered the question (I like Tbird's and anthony's the best). Roll on!

wsbob
07-20-2007, 11:26 PM
Nice summary of the discussion Val, with good general points raised. I hope people have found it to be a discussion rather than an argument, out of which they gained some solid information and reasoning that will help them decide when, where, and if they should wear a bicycle helmet when they ride.

I have to say that I've never personally been very moved by those claiming that bicycling is generally an inherently dangerous activity where any moment you could be crashing like Evel Kneivel. It's not, because most cyclists aren't trying stuff like Knievel. Nevertheless, cyclists do occasionally fall. Falling and hitting stuff is what is dangerous. It might only happen once in a blue moon, or maybe even never, but the chance that it might is tangibly there.

Because of that fundamental reality associated with bicycling, everybody that rides a bike should be appraised of the information that a bicycle helmet can provide you some pretty cheap protection against the potential impact of a fall at speeds of 10-15 mph. Then, they can intelligently make the decision to wear one or not. Go to this website to read for yourself:

http://www.helmets.org/

nrkmann
07-30-2007, 09:41 PM
I just wonder if people are really being properly educated about what level of protection their helmet can provide them.

There are no protection levels, just go no-go for each use (http://www.smf.org/). Lots of good data at the Snell Foundation... nrk

slowneasy
10-23-2010, 10:47 AM
Now, I am still on the planet because I wore a helmet. A motorcycle helmet and riding motor cycle is different than riding a pedal bike. I dumped my bike while young and stupid going around a corner to fast, maybe 40 instead of 20, put on the front brake and did an over the front of the bike flip, landed on my leather side and slid into a curb head first. Without a helmet I would not be here. The helmet did exactly what was intended of it. Absorbed the impact enough to just leave me with a nasty concussion. So, anytime anyone bumps their head with or without cushion, they are accumulating brain damage. At some point in time, even a slight blow could amount to just enough to tip the scale of coherent human being into incoherent human being. This is why I wear a helmet while I ride my bike. I know plenty about head trauma.

beelnite
10-25-2010, 11:46 AM
I rode without mine the other day. The kids weren't around... it was wet from the night before anyway so I just... left it...

Gawd it was awesome!!! I felt so free and kinda naughty...

I want to do it again.

biciclero
10-26-2010, 12:54 PM
I mostly wear my helmet to make other people happy (one of whom I have to live with, so it is worth it...). Like Beelnite, I too enjoy a helmet-less ride from time to time (I will forgo the helmet for a quick spin from the office to lunch), but then I wonder...is it my ever-increasing age that makes me feel like a safer rider without the helmet, but also makes me feel more like I should wear the helmet?

DaveT
10-28-2010, 10:58 AM
I don't believe anyone over 18 should be required by law to wear a helmet, know how to spell, put their pants on before going out in public, or consult a doctor before purchasing potentially lethal drugs for a self-diagnosed condition.

I do reserve the right to take such things into account when I assess someone's level of intelligence.

Dave

beelnite
10-28-2010, 12:32 PM
And I reserve the right to assess someone's level of intelligence when they dare to ask me or comment as to why I am not wearing my helmet. ;)

Thorlak
10-28-2010, 06:03 PM
This thread goes beyond beating a dead horse, like digging up a fossilized horse, cloning it from its DNA, right hooking it on Broadway and then beat it with a stick. I wonder if surfing forums have threads that start " Why don't you wear chain-mail when you surf in shark-infested waters?"

beelnite
10-30-2010, 08:52 AM
it's like watching a favorite Christmas movie every year...

or all the Star Wars movies- 1 through 6 - in order... again...

it's like the seasons we look forward too - a time to renew and add subtle nuance mayhaps lost on some...

but treasured by others


--personally I find my inner perspective still gains some richness by visiting "dead" issues from time to time. it's like a check in... what am I thinking? learn anything new? plus... there's always new folks joining the forum... and biking for perhaps the first time, i hope!... so... carry on! be not afraid to echo or copycat or mirror or heck to even be tiresome!

all votes count.