Splendid Cycles

The Monday Roundup

Posted by on October 22nd, 2012 at 9:20 am

Not sure what’s more painful: This guy’s
face, or the misguided “safety”
campaign exploiting it.
(Photo: Boston Public Health Commission)

Welcome to Monday. It’s time to roundup all the noteworthy news and stories from the past week…

— A new PSA campaign in Boston is an example of when officials get over-eager on the “bike safety” idea. The Boston Public Health Commission is behind a ridiculous and scare-inducing campaign to encourage helmet use that includes billboards of men with bloodied faces and the “No Excuses, Wear a Helmet” tagline. Thankfully, the Boston Biker blog has called it out, saying the ads, “Might actually do more harm than they avoid.”

— Perhaps public health folks feel justified in their fear-mongering with studies like this one from Ontario, Canada that found, “cyclists who did not wear a helmet were three times more likely to die from brain trauma than those who wore protective headgear while riding.”

— For a PSA that might actually do some good, our friends Russ and Laura from Path Less Pedaled published their latest video: How Bicycles Can Save Small Town America.

— If the back-and-forth of Romney and Obama vying to be the most fossil-fuel friendly candidate during presidential debate number two wasn’t enough to make you gag, how about Senate candidate Todd Akin using a statement about declining emissions against his opponent. Akin’s video uses a statement from Sen. Claire McKaskill (D-MO) saying, “the good news is our emissions are way down because of the recession.” Scandalous huh? Because we all know a healthy economy is way more important than a healthy planet.

— Here’s some good news for all of you who help get kids on bikes: It might just make them better drivers when they grow up (assuming they’ll ever need/want to drive at all).

— On that note, here’s a wonderful blog post from the biking family behind the Tiny Helmets Big Bikes blog that outlines their path to “car freedom”.

The Unlikely Cyclist is a new shop that is on the cutting edge of an exciting new trend: Stylish bike shops owned by women and geared specifically to them. What makes this new one even more interesting is that’s located in Costa Mesa, CA (not a place that’s known for its bike culture).

— Several readers emailed me The Stolen Bike Finder, a new stolen bike listing and recovery site from San Francisco.

— Speaking of links you’ve sent in, the $20 cardboard bike that’s headed for production was emailed to me by dozens of people. And with good reason. If the bike can really be sold for $20 and it’s reliable and durable for city use, it could open up some interesting possibilities. (Of course, we we all know the reason more people don’t bike isn’t for lack of a cheap bike; it’s because they don’t feel safe on auto-dominated roads.)

— If you’re into infographics, check out this one from Governing.com showing where Americans bike to work.

— Hey look, the editorial board of a major newspaper in San Francisco is actually advocating for more bold bicycling measures (instead of undermining them like a certain major newspaper in Oregon likes to do). Not just that but they are willing to call the kettle black by pronouncing, “A cars-first approach cannot be the norm moving ahead.”

— Maybe those editorial board members have seen the bicycling revolution happening on the streets of San Francisco — a revolution that isn’t just about activism or Critical Mass; but about the “enthusiastic” market for, “bicycles that can carry several people and heavy loads.” Yes, cargo bikes have taken hold in the bay area in a big way.

— In Pittsburgh, some bicycle (and motorcycle) cops are outfitted with cameras attached to their helmets. That’s a cool idea I’d love to see here in Portland.

— The League of American Bicyclists announced a bunch of new “Bike Friendly Cities” last week. The one that got the most attention was Los Angeles. Yes Los Angeles, California. The announcement led BikinginLA to proclaim, “Hell freezes over.”

— If you just can’t fathom L.A. as a biking hotbed, I recommend this article by Ron Milam: The Case for Los Angeles as a Bicycling City.

— The American Journal of Public Health has published a new study that finds separated bike infrastructure can reduce the number of injuries to urban riders by half. (No telling yet whether this study will help cities like Portland actually start building more of them.)

— What do you do if you live in Dallas, Texas and are sick of the cycling renaissance happening everywhere else but your town? You go outside and paint your own sharrows.

— I hope none of those guerrilla sharrows are painted on a new, 40-mile stretch of Texas highway that’s set for 85 mph speed limits. Yes, they are raising speeds in Texas when speeding is known as a major killer. “More than 3,000 people were killed on Texas roads last year, a higher fatality rate than the national average,” a local newspaper reported. Oh well, no biggie. Just think of how it will help the economy!


If you come across a noteworthy story, drop me a line and I’ll consider it for next week’s roundup.

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. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

  • Skid October 22, 2012 at 9:36 am

    How is a regular open face bicycle helmet going to protect your face?

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    • Patrick October 22, 2012 at 9:55 am

      That’s what I was just thinking. Full face is the only thing that would have prevented that injury! They should have chosen a better stock photo. like one with a gash on the top of his head?

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    • Randall S. October 22, 2012 at 11:06 am

      Hehe, I came here just for that: a bicycle helmet wouldn’t prevent any of the injuries shown in the picture.

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    • My Magic Hat October 22, 2012 at 1:12 pm

      An even better question would be “How would a helmet have prevented the crash?”

      There is no way to know if the guy in the photo was even riding a bike. Maybe the add is aimed at Motorcyclists, or hang-glider pilots, or Astronauts . . . who knows!

      The reality is that this PSA is not for you, the cyclist. It’s for drivers who are worried that they might hurt a cyclist while they’re sending a text message to the dufus in the back seat of their hybrid SUVs.

      “See? We’re telling bikers how to protect themselves from your carelessness! If you run down a bare-headed biker and he spends the rest of his life in a wheelchair, IT’S ALL ON HIM. How dare he ram his spine into your windshield?!”

      So, yeah. Wear your magic hat. It has the power to protect you from the driver’s insurance company and from the media who will do everything possible to make the collision your fault.

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  • pixelgate October 22, 2012 at 9:44 am

    That anti-helmet ad is stupid. People who constantly rail against helmetless cyclists need to give it a rest already. Until you make it a law, it’s no different than randomly approaching a stranger and berating them for wearing the color blue. Mind. Your. Own. F’n. Business.

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    • pixelgate October 22, 2012 at 9:45 am

      Er, meant pro-helmet ad (as I’m momentarily pre-coffee!)

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    • 9watts October 22, 2012 at 10:30 am

      It is interesting when you think about all the possible dimensions a PSA could highlight w/r/t bicycling, they choose helmets…again. Why? Right because the people biking (with or without helmets) are the others, the ones who need advice.
      Does anyone advise these people?
      from the linked article:
      I would have rather these dollars spent on ad’s that warn car drivers about checking their mirrors before making turns. You could use the exact same image, but instead put it up on a billboard near known traffic jam locations, with the text “Do you want to be responsible for the death of someones son. Check your mirrors for cyclists before turning.”

      or (from the comments following the article):
      Or would it be more effective to print a bunch of stickers that say “Inattentive Driving Kills People” and plaster them on top of these ads?

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    • Randall S. October 22, 2012 at 11:08 am

      I always wonder if the same people who berate helmetless cyclists also berate smokers and fat people.

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    • wsbob October 22, 2012 at 12:45 pm

      Nothing stupid in encouraging people to take safety measures to protect themselves.

      Unfortunately, the Boston campaign’s copy accompanying the photo posted to this story isn’t great, and fails to adequately emphasize that injury protection bike helmets are mainly capable of, is associated with impacts to areas of people’s heads bike helmets actually cover: front, sides and top of skull.

      If the campaigns creators were determined to show pictures of bike crash associated head injuries that could have been reduced by wearing a bike helmet, it was poor judgment to not choose from pictures that would show that type of injury.

      The Boston Public Health Commission web page the link leads to, though source un-cited, gives a fair bit of information in a Q/A format, part of which says:

      “…I know a helmet will protect my head, but will it protect my face? Yes. Emergency department and trauma doctors say that when worn correctly, a properly fitted helmet reduces the risk of head, brain, and upper face injury. In fact, helmets have been shown to reduce the risk of head injury by 85 percent, the risk of brain injury by 88 percent, and the risk of injury to the upper or mid-face by 65 percent. …” Boston Public Health Commission

      The BPHC campaign actually is using three different images, and shows all of them on the web page. The other picture of a guy, shows injuries high up on his left forehead and side of his head that a bike helmet may have helped reduce, had he been wearing a bike helmet. The lower edge of the bash above his left eyebrow is right about where the lower edge of bike helmets tend to be. In the crash, the impact would likely have been taken by the helmet rather than the guy’s head.

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      • Greg October 22, 2012 at 8:58 pm

        A stupid thing about encouraging helmets is it removes the focus from avoiding the crash in the first place.
        Another stupid thing is ‘holier than thou’ attitude (not directed at you, wsbob) which generally accompanies such unasked for advice.

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        • wsbob October 23, 2012 at 12:16 pm

          “A stupid thing about encouraging helmets is it removes the focus from avoiding the crash in the first place. …” Greg

          I believe you’re referring to the ‘false sense of security’ idea some people have raised, that the use of bike helmets, causes people to relax or abandon the caution they must use for safe riding and avoiding crashes.

          Invulnerability and freedom to abandon caution doesn’t seem like an assumption people generally would find wearing a bike helmet, allows them. Crashes are hard on the body, not to mention, gear and bike, even when the person crashing wears a helmet.

          About the bike helmet recommendation “…’holier than thou’ attitude …”: That description covers a lot of territory. Encouragement or admonishment to wear helmets come from a range of sources, for a range of reasons, some good and well intended and informed, some simply ignorant and uninformed.

          Ability to let related, negative remarks roll off one’s back like water off a duck’s back, is a good thing. Solid knowledge about basic protective abilities of bike helmets and their limitations is a good thing to have and be able to offer people that raise the issue out of actual concern, but are short on understanding what helmets can and can’t do.

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      • bjorn October 22, 2012 at 10:17 pm

        they say: “…I know a helmet will protect my head, but will it protect my face? Yes. Emergency department and trauma doctors say that when worn correctly, a properly fitted helmet reduces the risk of head, brain, and upper face injury. In fact, helmets have been shown to reduce the risk of head injury by 85 percent, the risk of brain injury by 88 percent, and the risk of injury to the upper or mid-face by 65 percent. …” Boston Public Health Commission

        but I am dubious because they do not cite a source. This might be a “study” funded by a helmet company… Anytime someone throws statistics out without a source it sets off red flags for me. Pretty sure that there were studies that showed that cigarettes were good for you.

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  • Ken October 22, 2012 at 9:57 am

    The same criticism might be lodged regarding this website (which I otherwise enjoy) which seems to focus way too frequently on collisions, deaths, and danger. While important to stress safety, we shouldn’t scare people off of bikes altogether.

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    • Gary Charles October 22, 2012 at 10:13 am

      I discovered this site just as I was thinking about commuting to clients by bike and very nearly didn’t even try because of this very reason. I understand the reasoning behind it but at times this sites does make it seem like riding your bike is the absolute surest way to get yourself seriously hurt or killed. It’s like watching the 11 o’clock news and wondering why you haven’t been stabbed or shot because it seems to be happening ALL THE TIME based on the reporting. Don’t get me wrong though, I love this site and visit multiple times a day and love what it contributes to the cycling community so it’s not a dig, just an observation.

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      • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) October 22, 2012 at 10:38 am

        Hi Gary,

        Thanks for the comment. I think my response to Ken might help you understand where I’m coming from. I would just add that I think people tend to remember, focus on, and be more impacted by stories of injuries and tragedy because it hits so close to home for those of us who ride these streets. If you stepped back and did an inventory of the thousands of posts I’ve done in the past 7 years, you’d see that the vast majority of them have nothing to do with carnage and danger warnings.

        Thanks for the feedback though. I do take into account as I consider my long list of stories to do.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) October 22, 2012 at 10:35 am


      I hear you. I don’t agree though, that the same criticism could be lodged about this site. I am unfortunately reporting on stuff that’s actually happening and doing it to try and spur action and urgency about changing things to make it happen less. I also try specifically to include more positive stories (like Alan Koch, updates on projects, the Stedman family, and so on), to balance out the bad, tragic stories.

      It’s not an easy balance — to spur urgency to improve streets by showing inadequate conditions and policies, while also reminding folks that biking is awesome and safe and fun and can save the world. Stories about injury collisions are also helpful in identifying trouble spots and often they are simply news that many people expect me to cover.

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  • Allan October 22, 2012 at 10:01 am

    I really like the idea of having colored sharrows to demark different routes. n’hood greenways need sharrows for wayfinding not for anything else, and having a ‘orange’ route or ‘green’ route would be sweet

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  • I shot JR October 22, 2012 at 10:30 am

    As a current resident of Dallas, I can say that NIMBY’s abound and thank your lucky stars if you live in a city that has zoning. Dallas just got way too big and its justified by the ‘well we have tons of room here’ which is true because it’s literally in the middle of nowhere. (There is no reason for it to exist, it’s just a city in the desert/plains with no natural advantage to existing here) so they just build office buildings next to residential areas at random all over the place (as long as it’s next to a big highway – which they’re building more of, well toll roads specifically, because we all know that more roads are the solution to terrible traffic and air pollution). Plus if you bike here at all people will literally run you off the road for being on a bike with no repercussions (happened to me and multiple others). There are small places like Oak Cliff that are purportedly bike friendly, Lakewood is ok because of the Santa Fe and white rock trails. The un-funded Dallas bike plan doesn’t look like it will ever be funded. Despite sharrows, cyclists are still scared to bike on the roads here even for small distances because angry drivers will do nothing but intimidate you here. so yeah Dallas kinda sucks for biking.

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    • Opus the Poet October 22, 2012 at 4:02 pm

      Just as a point of information I was nowhere near the Jefferson Street Viaduct on the night in question. I can prove I was at least 20 miles away from the site on the night in question…

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  • Joe October 22, 2012 at 11:14 am

    This is just crazy, BTW I have crashed with helmet on. face hits as I call them is no joke and saying someone is safe with one on can be a bit miss leading if you ask me. * bad roads cause all kinds of trouble *

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  • Marid October 22, 2012 at 11:31 am

    Whether or not you want to believe studies that support helmet use, this fact is undeniable: if you are in an accident and you aren’t wearing a helmet the public opinion blame will fall on you. Everyone here that reads non-cycling news sites (O-Live) knows this. If you were wearing a helmet and the story doesn’t mention it, the first comment will ask, “Was she/he wearing a helmet?”

    As someone who has fallen a number of times while mountain biking, I can assure you, without a helmet I would have been in serious trouble.

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    • 9watts October 22, 2012 at 11:34 am


      I wonder where folks get that idea?

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      • 9watts October 22, 2012 at 11:39 am

        something else to keep in mind:
        single vehicle crashes – helmet good idea, likely to protect you (?)
        multiple vehicle crashes – helmet conversation may be a distraction, problem often/usually not with the person on bike, helmet or no helmet, and its ability to protect you may be quite limited.

        I wear a helmet, too, but the focus on them in PSAs to the exclusion of a host of other more important matters is getting really tedious.

        Also it may be worth pointing out–again–that in some countries the near complete lack of helmets does not equate to or correspond to the kind of car-nage implied by these ads. In fact people biking (in the Netherlands, for instance) are dramatically less likely to be injured on a bike. Maybe it isn’t about the helmets but about the perils of motordom.

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  • spare_wheel October 22, 2012 at 12:01 pm

    ” Hey look, the editorial board of a major newspaper in San Francisco is actually advocating for more bold bicycling measures (instead of undermining them like a certain major newspaper in Oregon likes to do).”

    The San Francisco examiner is independently owned with “employees” having a substantial interest.

    The Oregonian is 100% owned by billionaires (Newhouse family).

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  • Atbman October 22, 2012 at 12:28 pm

    Ah, yes. The good old “Wear a helmet or YOU WILL DIE!” campaign to encourage the safe and healthy activity of cycling.

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  • Morgan October 22, 2012 at 12:40 pm

    Just an FYI – the bold bicycling measure that the Examiner supported in San Francisco did indeed pass. We’ll be getting a cycle track on the critical dual three block sections of Fell and Oak.

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  • Atbman October 22, 2012 at 1:01 pm

    Re the piece bout how bikes could save small town America

    For a carefully researched report on this argument, take a look at the economic results of the UK Sustrans charity’s development of the C2C route across the north of England


    C2C = Coast to Coast

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  • Atbman October 22, 2012 at 1:06 pm

    Helmet cameras pt.II

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  • q`Tzal October 22, 2012 at 2:13 pm

    Having routinely driven a large truck in Texas recently I must admit that the raised speed limits on “separated” interstate highways is basically a non-issue.
    Yes, speed kills and more speed kills faster.
    As large as TX is I cannot guarantee that these newer relaxed speed “limits” don’t apply to back country roads but I expect it will be exclusively on interstate highways.

    The problem for TX is the culture of driving that has allowed even the most basic safety measure of a separated highway (that of SEPARATION) to be systematically circumvented essentially everywhere but dense urban areas.
    Put quite simply: Texans feel that it is their right to enter and exit the interstate wherever they feel like at what ever speed they feel like.
    It is difficult to see from aerial views but from the ground it is blatant that anywhere on the highway system that is not aggressively blocked off vehicular traffic enters and exits uncontrolled. Much to my 40 ton hauling self’s terror this has often happened with no warning and no consideration that highway users or even simple laws of traction physics.

    So while I agree that the speed limit change is bad I’d much rather pull a 53′ trailer through LA than Texas: the drivers are less nutty in LA.

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    • Opus the Poet October 22, 2012 at 4:10 pm

      What was really “funny” is that Google actually marked those desire lines as on-off ramps in the “labels” on the satellite view.

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  • resopmok October 22, 2012 at 2:30 pm

    How about a PSA: Slow down and obey the rules of the road when you drive a motorized vehicle. There are no good excuses.

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    • Skid October 24, 2012 at 12:03 pm

      Or “I didn’t see him/her” is an admission of negligence. Start seeing cyclists (and pedestrians).

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  • John October 22, 2012 at 2:32 pm

    (Of course, we we all know the reason more people don’t bike isn’t for lack of a cheap bike; it’s because they don’t feel safe on auto-dominated roads.)

    I think you over-state the fear factor– most people don’t bike because they live in the burbs, or because it’s raining, or because it’s too far. Biking is hard– driving is the easy way out. USA!

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    • 9watts October 22, 2012 at 2:38 pm

      I’d add to that cultural habit. Their peers drive; they have a car and a license, and an insurance agent and know where the gas stations are and where you can get the cheapest gas; it’s the normal way to get around.

      It is not considered odd for someone with a car to offer someone who doesn’t have one a ride, but never the reverse. The walking or bicycling individual doesn’t as a rule invite the driver to walk, bike with them.
      We all ‘know’ cars trump every other mode, not because that is in fact how it is, but because we grew up believing it and not looking for contrary evidence.

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      • Pete November 3, 2012 at 4:33 am

        Imagine a conversation where someone in an office break room says “I drove my car to work today” and the natural evolution of the conversation elicits the response “yeah, I see car drivers speeding and running stop signs all the time, someone should do something to get them off the road!”

        I’d love to have $1 for every time a conversation about bike commuting heads instantly in this direction, or for that matter every time Hollywood uses a bicycle to portray a character as quirky or downtrodden. Heck, I’d even go for $.01 every time I see a car or car insurance commercial while watching for the weather on TV news!

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  • ScoBu October 22, 2012 at 4:25 pm

    I’ve always been puzzled when the issue of helmets comes up on this site. I’ll never tell another cyclist they need to wear a helmet but I will think they are an idiot if they don’t. I’ve broken my collarbone mountain biking, went over the handlebars. I really don’t remember how my head hit the ground but I know it did because of the crack in the helmet. A few years later I was heading down McName somewhere around 40mph when my back rim cracked (I’m 6’5″, 230 so the rim must not have been rated for me). I spun like I was on a rotisserie, landed on my back and head whipped the back of my helmet onto the road. Had a contusion for a couple of weeks on my back but nothing even close to a headache despite completely spidering the back of my helmet. The next year I dislocated my left elbow while entering a corner on my commuter. Got a slow leak puncture in my front tire or something because as I entered the corner my front tire slide out, I hit my inside pedal and was launched.

    My point? Not one of those involved another vehicle or pedestrian, two of them involved a mechanical failure and two of them necessitated my replacing my helmet.

    So from my own personal experience I simply do not see the argument for going sans helmet. Your life, do what you want. But I’ll still think you are an idiot.

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    • 9watts October 22, 2012 at 6:06 pm

      And yet, the Dutch don’t wear helmets and fail to get injured and killed while biking at anywhere near the rates we do here. Must be something else.

      Making Cycling Irresistible: Lessons from The Netherlands, Denmark and Germany
      John Pucher; Ralph Buehler, Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, Rutgers University, New
      Brunswick, New Jersey, USA
      First Published: July 2008
      from which I’ve excerpted a few short passages:

      “Thus, the Netherlands has the lowest non-fatal injury rate [of cyclists] as well as the lowest fatality rate, while the USA has the highest non-fatal injury rate as well as the highest fatality rate.

      … The cyclist injury rate for the USA seems extremely high relative to the other countries.

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

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      • Help October 23, 2012 at 1:20 pm

        That has nothing to do with the point made above. How many of the Dutch in the study were mountain biking or cycling at 40mph? Big difference between that and riding on separated infrastructure at 8mph.

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        • 9watts October 23, 2012 at 1:25 pm

          Of course.
          But the role played by aggressive riding styles isn’t generally part of the conversation. If playing Evel Knievel tilts the odds against us arriving unscathed, let’s not lose sight of that by focusing all our energies on helmets.

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  • 9watts October 22, 2012 at 6:13 pm

    I should say that I also used to think everyone else was an idiot for not wearing a helmet. I was the only kid in my high school in Germany who wore a helmet. But I’m coming around to thinking that we’ve got our priorities all screwed up here focusing on helmets when they are neither necessary nor sufficient to keep or motivate people to be(come) healthy happy cyclists. Sure they ‘make sense’ in the way your stories illustrate, but mostly they are a distraction from the complexities and dangers of our streets and roads here in the US, the abysmal driver education, the high speeds in town, the crappy enforcement, the absence of real consequences for running over people biking, the lack of concrete insights into what sharing the roads might actually require.

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  • Elle October 22, 2012 at 10:14 pm

    Just wanted to say thanks for including our post about ditching the car. You and so many others have helped give us the confidence and guidance to jump into cargo biking. It opened up so many new adventures and possibilities, as well as the courage to go car-free. Thanks!

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  • Keith October 24, 2012 at 8:56 am

    Why stop with a crash helmet when riding a bike? If you are trying to prevent injury from a probable mishap, you should also want to avoid other injuries by wearing a crash mouth-guard, crash elbow and knee pads and, what the heck, a crash cup.

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  • Skid October 24, 2012 at 12:05 pm

    I have broken two helmet in the past year as a result of crashing. I don’t think I would be typing this if I didn’t wear a helmet.

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