The Worst Day of the Year Ride is February 11th

Alta pitches helmet vending machines for Vancouver BC bike share

Posted by on June 27th, 2012 at 4:01 pm

Much has been debated about the how the use of helmets impacts bicycling rates (or doesn’t). Now the debate is finding a new battlegrounds among the burgeoning crop of bike-share systems throughout North America.

Vancouver B.C. is an interesting case. The city is lauded as a leader in bicycling (they’re even hosting the major international cycling conference Velo-City this week), yet they are saddled by an all-ages, mandatory helmet law. Like Portland, Vancouver is working on their roll-out of a bike-sharing system and many people are watching how the helmet equation plays out. After all, if helmets are mandatory, that means every person who checks out a bike-share bike must have one on.

The fear among many observers is that the helmet obligation will effectively kill the chances of bike-share’s success in Vancouver. Bike-share works because it’s a casual, impulsive thing, used for quick short trips often taken by tourists or downtown business folks shuttling between meetings. In other words, not the type of trips (or customers) that are easily helmeted.

How concerned is Vancouver? Here’s a snip from a Vancouver Sun article published earlier this week :

Jerry Dobrovolny, Vancouver’s transportation manager, acknowledged B.C.’s helmet law poses the “biggest risk” in getting the city’s proposed subsidized public bike rental system off the ground and may potentially result in the program being shelved.

Well, now it appears a solution has come forward. Open File reported today that Alta Bicycle Share, the Portland-based company and leading bike-share operator, is proposing to install 125 bike helmet vending machines — one at each of Vancouver’s rental kiosks. An Alta rep told a local newspaper at Velo-City that it will be a “seamless rental process” so when you swipe your card to get a bike, you’ll also be able to get a helmet at the same time.

It’s also worth noting that Alta is not only based just over the river from City Hall, they are also one of the four companies selected to be a possible vendor for our system (along with B-cycle from Wisconsin, Portland Bike Station, and The Bike Share Group from Seattle).

Will we see Alta’s helmet vending machines here? How Portland will handle the helmet issue?

We may not have a mandatory law; but we do have a lot of righteous people in this town who feel the City should not condone cycling unless helmets are involved. The Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) is well aware of this fact. In their request for proposals for a bike-sharing vendor, PBOT mentions helmets several times.

In their RFP, PBOT lists helmet availability as one of the “uniquely ‘Portland’ public benefits” that they’d like to see spring up at rental stations (along with free maps, food/drink vendors, and ATMs). PBOT also asks potential vendors to describe in detail their, “Ability to dispense complementary materials, such as the ability the sell or dispense bicycle maps, bike helmets or other information from the kiosk…” Helmets also come up in a section where PBOT asks vendors to describe the “user experience.” “Describe your plan to provide helmets for bike sharing users,” it reads.

My hunch is that PBOT included that language only to appease helmet-conscious constituents. After all, not only are Portlanders not legally obligated to wear helmets, we already have a very high rate of helmet use in this town. The most recent counts put the percentage of helmet use at 80% — a three percent increase over the year before.

Even though they might be inclined to pitch the helmet vending machines here, I hope Alta resists. The last thing we need to do with precious space at bike-sharing kiosks is to give people the idea that a swipe of the card might lead to a smash of their head.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Thank you — Jonathan

  • Dave June 27, 2012 at 4:14 pm

    One big concern with the helmet vending machines, is that they are dispensing “one size fits all” helmets, which means they will probably not fit most people properly, in which case they are likely to offer even less protection, encourage people not to wear them properly, and the potential for them harming the wearer in the case of a crash is greater. I don’t think, even if the bike-share is successful, that this is doing the people using the service any favors.

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    • El Biciclero June 27, 2012 at 4:42 pm

      Hear, hear! Among other things, this is a big beef I have with mandatory helmet laws. Nothing guarantees that helmets worn by compulsion will fit or be worn properly. Many times, as you note, an ill-fitting or improperly-worn helmet is worse than none.

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  • BURR June 27, 2012 at 4:17 pm

    Are the bike helmets in the proposed machines for rental or for purchase?

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    • Dave June 27, 2012 at 4:18 pm

      I heard that they will be for rental – you’ll return them to the machine, and it will sanitize them by steam cleaning.

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      • John Lascurettes June 27, 2012 at 5:44 pm

        And what’s to guarantee the structural integrity of the helmets that are returned? It doesn’t take much of a bump to a helmet (including just dropping the helmet) to render it no longer effective. I see a LOT of rapid shrinkage happening to the usable inventory in these machines.

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  • Sunny June 27, 2012 at 4:39 pm

    What’s next, rental spandex with chamois pad? That’s like renting used underwear from a vending machine — which one can already do in Japan(land of the ubiquitous vending machine). I don’t know how you steam clean sweat from helmet pads.

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    • El Biciclero June 27, 2012 at 4:55 pm

      After the steaming it will be sterilized sweat.

      If steam cleaning a helmet actually gets it clean and doesn’t degrade the materials, where can I get one of those steam cleaners? I’ve heard of people running helmets through a rinse cycle (no detergent) on the top rack of a dishwasher, but I’ve always been too afraid of damaging my helmet to try this.

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  • ed June 27, 2012 at 5:29 pm

    Washington cites, like those in Australia that have already been through this charade will realize the absurdity of helmet laws for cyclists. They are active agents for stifling bicycle usage anywhere in the world they have been attempted. Not opinion, not hyperbole, but simple statistical fact, with Australia at the head of the list. One of the few places in the world that hasn’t enjoyed the bike renaissance as a result of their attempt to make cycling appear dangerous, extreme and requiring special equipment.

    If we look to mature and grown up cycling cultures we will see very little helmet use outside of the sport realm. Of course in those places everyday use is the big thing and sport is a side factor. In non cycling cultures like here and Australia where cycling is largely seen as something for sport race and recreation we see emphasis reversed and everyday use is marginalized. We have the the preoccupation that special gear is needed – we have to “kit up” before we get on a bike. We don’t have driving clothes, we don’t have pedestrian clothes but we must have bike clothes; even when going a few miles to work. I love gear and kit, and raced for years, but this fetishizing the bike as an extreme activity is what holds us back from cycling for the vast public who might otherwise use them.

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    • JNE June 27, 2012 at 5:44 pm

      Right on, re “specialized gear” — just the other day I was riding from a lunch back to my office downtown, and a snarky Fred in color-coordinated team spandex and lycra pulled up next to me at a red light and said “nice shoes,” commenting on my black leather oxfords. I laughed. I was trying to get from lunch back to my desk. I wanted to reply to the Fred, “nice spandex.” But, as we waited for the light (yes we waited for the green, all you haters) I thought, my oxfords can push pedals just fine, and so I said, “they do the trick,” and made my way back to work. Of course, I should admit, I did have my nutcase on.

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      • Rol June 27, 2012 at 10:47 pm

        “Yeah, your mom really did a great job polishing them.”

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        • Rol June 27, 2012 at 10:50 pm

          …would have been an excellent reply.

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          • JAT in Seattle June 28, 2012 at 7:14 am

            Whether or not this was intended to be a two-part reply, it’s still the greatest BP post ever.

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      • spare_wheel June 28, 2012 at 12:11 pm

        no to be a pedant but that was incorrect cycling taxonomy. freds eschew lycra and clipless shoes for tube socks, hairy legs, gym shorts, and sneakers/sandals. i suspect that the cycling specimen you described is the common urban “lance”. shaved legs with overly orange or tan “plumage” are the defining feature of homo cyclensis lanceus.

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        • trixie July 1, 2012 at 11:19 am

          The “Fred” was actually a MAMIL (Middle Aged Man In Lycra)

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      • CaptainKarma June 28, 2012 at 2:07 pm

        I’d have just given him a weird look for a weird comment.

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  • Sunny June 27, 2012 at 5:37 pm

    What qualifies as a helmet? I can’t afford the nice expensive 100 dollar plus helmets so can I just take one of the cheap throwaways and introduce a bazillion more holes for ventilation in the heat of summer? We’ll call it the swiss cheese and termite helmet.

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    • Spiffy June 28, 2012 at 7:42 am

      I’m thinking that wearing a Darth Vader helmet would qualify…

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  • Jake June 27, 2012 at 5:38 pm

    Lived in Vancouver four years now, never once felt particularly threatened from a car. I just don’t understand the mandatory helmet law. I’ve always found drivers in Vancouver to be MUCH more conscientious of cyclists too.

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    • Jake June 27, 2012 at 5:40 pm

      Also, lived in Melbourne for six months and yes, most of the bike share racks are nearly full all the time, complete waste. Hardly ever saw bike share system bikes on the road there. Don’t see this Vancouver bike share going much better.

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    • seaweed June 29, 2012 at 3:12 pm

      With all due respect, I find it is very worrisome that you “don’t understand the mandatory helmet law.” Either, you must not care or be proud of your faculties, or you have a noggin made of titanium! Because even the now separated bike lanes on Hornby and Dunsmuir do not protect you from “human error” (dare I call it that!!), including your own!!

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      • Dave June 29, 2012 at 3:21 pm

        I’ve fallen and hit my head on the ground while walking down the sidewalk. I’ve fallen and hit my head at home while leaning back in my chair. I’ve slipped, fallen and hit my head while in the shower. Should we all be mandated to wear helmets 24/7, then? You see where this argument leads, I hope.

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        • Seaweed June 29, 2012 at 3:49 pm

          You seem to be comparing a static or near-static head impact to one with speed and velocity, possibly coming into contact with another moving or, sometimes worse, static object. While I agree that we can’t possibly fathom or be expected to go grocery shopping with our heads wrapped in foam and plastic, I also need not google and flash you the many news links of cyclists whose lives have been saved because of such protected gear, including a dear friend; and those, unfortunately, who were not wise.

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          • seaweed June 29, 2012 at 3:55 pm

            It’s a preventative, not bulletproof, measure.

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          • Dave June 29, 2012 at 4:01 pm

            And plenty of people have also died with helmets on. It’s certainly no magic shield, and it doesn’t help prevent many serious brain injuries, even if it does help keep your skull intact (which it also only does up to a point).

            Also, moving with speed and velocity is all relative. I usually ride about 8-10mph, a speed at which most crashes are easily survivable without a helmet (I’ve experienced 4, so far, all extremely non-traumatic, with no head impact at all). I don’t believe my behavior is dangerous enough to warrant a helmet, and I don’t believe I should be *made* to wear one because someone else is freaked out that I might hurt myself. I don’t mandate you wear oven mitts while cooking, even though I have no idea if you’re responsible enough to not grab a hot pan with your bare hands.

            We have requirements for seat belts and airbags in cars, because if we were to go bouncing around inside a car during a collision at 30-70mph, we’d be likely to be disastrously injured or splattered all over the inside, and we’re required by law to drive those speeds (or very near them) when those speed limits are set.

            None of this is the case when it comes to bicycles, and so I believe people should have the choice to wear one or not based on their own behavior and circumstances. I’m not saying that wearing a helmet may not be a good idea sometimes, but I don’t believe it should be legally mandated for every person every time they get on a bicycle for any reason.

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  • Matt June 27, 2012 at 5:43 pm

    There are other ways to wash helmets in large quantities. This machine is not cheap, but will do the job much better than steaming and it won’t heat up the helmet and degrade foam like steam might:

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  • Hart Noecker June 27, 2012 at 5:50 pm

    The fastest way to kill bike share is to impose helmets.

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    • seaweed June 29, 2012 at 3:23 pm

      And perhaps the fastest way to rid ourselves of socialized health program is by bankrupting the system through preventative (or less urgent and drastic) care.

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  • dwainedibbly June 27, 2012 at 6:13 pm

    Rental helmets should be required to have rainbow mohawks, or something similar.

    Offering helmets for people who want them is ok. Requiring them is not.

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  • was carless June 27, 2012 at 9:10 pm

    Personally, I kind of doubt that I would rent a helmet, especially if I was just riding within downtown. I find helmets give me a peace of mind when riding longer distances, faster, and more aggressively in traffic, when I’m actually being dangerous. I figure if a car actually hits me at 35 mph+, I’m probably going to be dead of trauma to the internal organs/broken bones anyway.

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    • sw resident June 28, 2012 at 8:17 am

      “riding longer distances, faster, and more aggressively in traffic” – none of these are inherently dangerous and are also relative. Racers and messengers do all these things and unless you are one I doubt your bike handling skills and judgment come even close.
      It’s all about your skill set – if you are not riding within your skill set, then you are being dangerous.
      Urban streets are one of the most challenging environments. Rookies riding downtown probably need helmets the most.

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  • SV June 28, 2012 at 8:01 am

    Oh boy, the helmet debate. Here we go again. My opinion: So what! If you’re offered the opportunity to rent a helmet, so be it. I doubt many people will use them, but what about those that would prefer to rent and ride with a helmet? Are they asked to bring one along or go buy one? Or do you just tell them if they are going to get hit they will die anyway? Either way the helmet is a tool many people are used to. How do you tell them no sorry, go to BikePortland and read through the dozens of threads on why you’re wrong 🙂

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  • Avoiding Drivers June 28, 2012 at 8:03 am

    C’mon, get real. Sure helmets may be a pain in the glut, but we don’t wear them because biking is dangerous or because we’re bad bikers… we wear helmets because there are so many idiot, distracted, and inattentive automobile drivers out there. It’s something like soldiers wearing helmets – not because they area danger to themselves, but because others are a danger to them. It would be stupid for a soldier to walk onto a battlefield without a helmet, and any biker who wants to roll down a street full of automobile drivers without a helmet is making the same argument. You’re not protecting your brain from yourself, you’re protecting it from others. Careless, inattentive car drivers have hit me twice while I was riding legally on the street. Trust me – the helmet is worth it.

    Bike sharing is an excellent idea – the more bikes we can get on the road, the less we rely on cars. This is increasingly important now that we’ve passed peak oil, right? Once cars are off the road maybe we can look again at helmet laws. Until then, do you want your loved one or child on the road without that protection?

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  • John Landolfe June 28, 2012 at 9:44 am

    Jonathan, I respectfully disagree with your article’s conclusion. Riding a bike CAN lead to a smash of the head, just as driving a Car2Go could lead to a head on collision with a pickup, or foregoing physical activities (like biking) could lead to heart disease. A crash is unlikely but people should have the option just as a Zipcar comes standard with airbags and seat belts. Our culture is littered with images of car wrecks and advertisements pushing car safety standards and clearly people are being scared away from driving. The central conceit of helmets decreasing biking is thoroughly debunked by the fact that helmets and ridership in Portland have generally trended upward in tandem.

    I’ve personally had my helmeted head connect with asphalt twice. I’ve seen a friend get hit by a slow moving drunk driver and inevitably fall backward on her own helmeted head. I’ve worked in a Neuro ICU filled with half a dozen car crash victims and two bike crash victims. Someone I know got in an unhelmeted bike crash and is now six figures in debt for the uninsured metal plates in his skull. People can make their own cost-benefit analysis as to helmet use (I’m not going to demand anyone eat fresh vegetables, either)but it’s my opinion that a helmet is one of the cheapest and least cumbersome ways a person on a bike can avoid head injury and expensive medical repercussions.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) June 28, 2012 at 9:57 am

      Hey John,

      I don’t actually draw that conclusion. I never say riding a bike can’t lead to a smash of the head. I’m just saying there’s no reason to scare people into thinking that it can.

      As a society, we have decided that cars — given their speed and inherent danger — must be equipped with safety features and that people must use them. We haven’t done the same for bikes.

      Obviously, if you hit your head on the ground, you’re in trouble. No disagreement there. And I’m not anti-helmet at all. I wear one a lot, just not always… And I feel that the constant paternalistic attitude America has toward bicycling is a real deterrent because it doesn’t match up with the stats.

      In other words, for how afraid people are to bike, it’s really not as dangerous as most people think.

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      • El Biciclero June 29, 2012 at 1:26 pm

        “…for how afraid people are to bike, it’s really not as dangerous as most people think.”

        This is a key observation: the fear of bicycling far outweighs the actual danger of it–in large part thanks to helmet proponents. Fear is a powerful sales tool.

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    • Randall S. June 28, 2012 at 4:28 pm

      It’s disappointing to me that someone associated with the cycling program at a research university has so little awareness of the research done on cycling and injury.

      First of all, our culture is not “littered with images of car wrecks.” Few, if any, of the thousands of car deaths every year make it into the news.

      Second, it’s pretty clear that no one is being scared away from driving. What ever gave you that idea?

      Third, anecdotes are not data. “I know a guy who broke his helmet!” means nothing. Furthermore, none of the anecdotes you offer even suggest the helmets worked in those instances. Bicycle helmets only provide impact protection when the styrofoam liner is crushed.

      Fourth, I’ve never had my head, helmeted or unhelmeted, come anywhere near the asphalt in 20+ years of riding. It sounds to me like you are an extremely dangerous rider if that’s something frequently happening to you.

      Fifth, Kathyrn Rickson was wearing a helmet when she was killed in May. Mat Barton was wearing a helmet when he was paralyzed in June. Why don’t you list those anecdotes off when you’re talking about how effective helmets are?

      Lastly, I can tell you an activity that is (or was) perceived to be dangerous because of safety measures: driving. When seatbelts were first introduced, people refused to buy cars with them, as they felt it made automobiles look unsafe. Unfortunately that’s no longer the case, since the 35,000 motorist deaths every year doesn’t seem to be dampening anyone’s enthusiasm for driving.

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      • John Landolfe June 29, 2012 at 9:33 am

        Oh geez. Here we go. Randall, I spent 8 weeks at PSU on a single research topic: bike helmets. Frankly, I didn’t want to get into the science of it because anybody with 10 minutes of free time and Google can find something that purportedly “debunks” helmets just as, in our gilded information age, you can “debunk” evolution and climate change–simply because science refuses to claim absolute truth. What I can tell you, if you read the research papers end-to-end (not the cherry pickings on biased websites & one hilariously ignorant TED talk I won’t get into) is that scientists have put a lot of time and effort (dozens and dozens of studies) into the question of whether bike helmets do what they’re intended for, prevent head injuries from bicycle crashes, and they do exactly that. In fact, if you read OHSU’s own research, you’d see that the evidence points to riding experience having little to nothing to do with actual crashes. So feel smug about your neighborhood streets, not the way you ride.

        Head injuries are one of the worst kinds of injuries a person can experience and I know this from experience, my work, not anecdotes. Just as I choose to look up when I stroll through a crosswalk and eat an apple instead of french fries, choosing a helmet is a low cost, lightweight choice for a rare, high cost event. I make these choices every day. You make your choices every day. You might as well argue that no one has ever died from not eating apples. Meanwhile, your stats are nonsense. Most injuries in the U.S. are A.) car crashes and B.) the elderly. Should drivers wear helmets? Well, cars are the #1 killer of young people worldwide and kill 10x as many Americans as 9/11 every year. That’s a rationale argument for car helmets–it’s ridiculous for cultural reasons.

        You can make whatever fashion statement you want. I’ve not made any claim that your right to manage your risk isn’t your right. And if you don’t see images of car wrecks everywhere, I have 30 years of great action movie and bad television recommendations.

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        • Dave June 29, 2012 at 12:03 pm

          John, to be fair, your playing a bit of a game with your response too. I’m pretty sure you know full well that the health risk a person takes by eating crap food everyday is *significantly* greater than the health risk a person takes riding without a helmet, responsibly, around the city.

          One is guaranteed to have a major impact on your health, no two ways about it. The other offers moderate protection, if you crash, and hit your head, to the top portion of your head.

          It is a cheap, effective protective measure against small to moderate injuries, yes. But you’re sensationalizing a bit the actual risk that person is taking in the first place. And, if you read the research studies, end to end, you’ll find that many of them (especially well-quoted and impervious ones that claim 85% reduction in head injuries) have fatal flaws in methodology that render them essentially irrelevant.

          My point here (directed at the general audience), is that we need to stop playing these games, the “my science could beat up your science” and let each person just look rationally at what the actual risk is, what the actual protection is, and then let them make their own decision based on what their comfort level is, no snide remarks about eating veggies or irrelevant comments about how reckless a person must ride if they’ve crashed or if they wear a helmet.

          We’re all adults here, and we’re capable of making our own rational, well-informed decisions, and I don’t think we need to be so reactionary about everything, or so defensive about someone disagreeing.

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          • John Landolfe June 29, 2012 at 12:58 pm

            Dave, I think my argument is being taken too broadly. I haven’t said anything to disparage riding around the city without a helmet–only that helmets offer protection against the kinds of injuries they were designed for and that the science really is heavily weighted to this side. I picked the apple analogy (pun, sorry) because as an object it’s just one small, possibly fruitless (ok, that was intentional) way of pushing back against genetics, environment, and inevitable mortality.

            For some reason I set off some fellow with trolling comments about my biking skills, the work I do, etc. I don’t care about that but I do think it’s worth challenging the argument itself. I totally agree that people can be too reactionary which is why I took care to first cite what I do agree with in this original story. You and Mr Maus are both smart, savvy people. Smart people just need to disagree sometimes, for fun’s sake.

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            • Dave June 29, 2012 at 2:35 pm

              🙂 Have to appreciate a punny response 🙂

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            • Randall S. June 30, 2012 at 3:31 pm

              If you read my comments elsewhere, you’ll find that at no point have I EVER claimed helmets were incapable of preventing injuries. You’ve handily defeated an argument I never made, while attempting to insinuate that I got my information from TED talks and google, while you got your information from “real research.”

              Dave is dead on: people need to understand the factual risks of cycling, not the sensationalized fear mongering. Riding a bicycle isn’t significantly more dangerous than walking or driving. That’s why I don’t wear a helmet; not because of some “fashion statement.”

              Also, your statistics are completely false. “Most injuries” in the US are neither car crashes NOR the elderly, something you would know if you’d, you know, done any research. The leading cause of nonfatal injury is unintentional fall, of which less that 25% are persons over the age of 65.

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  • John Landolfe June 28, 2012 at 10:09 am

    I agree with 99% of what you’re saying. But my 1% misgiving is the last two lines–specifically that helmets “give people the idea” that biking is unsafe. People may perceive biking as unsafe because they generally perceive roads as unsafe for a human body not inside a plastic shell. Or they may read trumped up news reports (my guess). Or safety promotion might lead people to believe biking is an unsafe activity. These are all legitimate conjectures but lack any scientific measure to support the claim–and yet that last argument, that helmets increase perception of danger, is very pervasive among the cycling community. I can’t think of any other activity that is thought to be perceived as dangerous as a direct result of safety measures offered. That’s all.

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  • CaptainKarma June 28, 2012 at 2:01 pm

    Personally, I probably would have given up bicycling if I hadn’t developed the helmet habit. Much as I enjoy riding, I enjoy clear cognition even more. Car & truck drivers are becoming more of a threat, not less. Helmets make it *more* likely many of us ride. I don’t think they should be mandatory, but I don’t want to have to subsidize someone’s vegetative state (through higher insurance or medicare tax) because he/she refused to protect themselves,

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  • Mike June 28, 2012 at 2:48 pm

    So if you are against mandatory helmet laws are you also against the requirement to wear a seatbelt? Also, now that the supreme court upheld Obama’s health insurance mandate do what you want and if you end up with a devestating head injury because a helmet is just a pain, you will be covered.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) June 28, 2012 at 2:54 pm

      Nope. I’m not. As I alluded above, head injuries caused while bicycling haven’t come close to the level of concern and quantity that injuries caused while driving have.

      It’s not apples to apples. Cars are fundamentally different types of vehicles and they have a much more serious history of injuring and killing people than bicycles do.

      I am in favor of making policy in light of these inherent differences between bicycles and cars. That’s why I think the “Idaho Stop” law is good policy and why I think not making people wear helmets is good policy, and so on.

      The “Same Roads, Same Rights, Same Rules” mantra is completely wrong in my opinion and advocates who trumpet that do a disservice toward making bicycling a more accepted, safe, and pleasant way to get around in America.

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    • Randall S. June 28, 2012 at 4:29 pm

      Good work comparing apples to solar power. Are you in favor of mandatory pedestrian, car, and shower helmets?

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  • ed June 28, 2012 at 3:49 pm

    For those who feel all cyclists should be helmeted because people do crash and have head injuries, I must write this again. As long as you are consistent and always wear a helmet WHEN YOU DRIVE, you can make this argument, otherwise please cease your hypocrisy . After you have finished scoffing, please read on. The #1 source of head injury in the US is motor vehicle accidents – the occupants. 80,000 per year. The single most dangerous thing you can do in your daily life is to drive a car. It is imperative as a car culture that we must all deny this. There actually was an attempt in Australia to require motor vehicle operators to wear helmets in the 80’s which was met with a predictable firestorm of resistance and backlash from both the public and auto industry. Car biz folk know full well that helmet wearing labels the user as doing something inherently dangerous and they don’t want car use to seem that way of course. And the public also doesn’t want to be reminded and of course can’t be bothered.

    But if you employ the tired argument: “if it saves one life” etc. then you will wear a helmet when driving too. If not, stop pontificating. You have made the decision that even though driving is very dangerous and you are doing what causes the most head injuries of all, you deem it safe enough to not wear a helmet. Fine! But this is exactly what you fault others for doing with a far less dangerous activity – cycling. I would love to see a note in reportage of car crashes stating “the driver/occupant was not wearing a helmet” as they do for bike accidents. The point is helmet use makes whatever activity appear extreme and dangerous, and John/Joan Q. Public already has enough excuses why he/she doesn’t ride. We had comments here the other week actually chastising Naked Ride participants for not wearing helmets. A very short, closed to traffic course; with about a thousand police supervising and a pace close to walking speed! That is madness, and maddening. I use a helmet when riding fast and hard. I use one when off road. I don’t usually use one when going to work, the grocery, restaurant, the theater etc. I make this calculated choice compounded by my awareness that I want non-cyclists to feel that cycling is not something inherently extreme and dangerous (such as driving) and they too can do it without a mass of special gear. If you drive and don’t wear a helmet at all times when doing so you have no ground to stand on in criticizing this. Let’s face this cultural blind spot head on – difficult to do as it may be.

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    • Randall S. June 28, 2012 at 4:53 pm

      A few notes:

      There are about 420 cyclist deaths due to head injuries every year (in the US), out of 45,000 total deaths to to head injury, and 1.7million traumatic brain injuries. If you believe you need a helmet to prevent a head impact, you should be wearing one 24×7.

      “Could” a helmet save your life? Absolutely. So could a bulletproof vest.

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  • David Parsons June 29, 2012 at 11:13 am

    For those who feel all cyclists should be helmeted because people do crash and have head injuries, I must write this again. As long as you are consistent and always wear a helmet WHEN YOU DRIVE

    You realize, I hope, that when you’re in an automobile you’re already legally required to be strapped into a nice big crash-resistant container already. Sure, you can also wear a helmet, but at non-race speeds it would be more of a fashion statement than anything else.

    But on the subject of helmet vending machines, I wonder how many extra rentals would happen from people who won’t ride without a helmet (as opposed by rentals that don’t happen from people who are so anti-helmet that they wouldn’t even touch a bicycle that might have used by a helmetted rider?)

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