Tonight I bought a new helmet. It was on sale at REI. It’s a nice helmet, I like it. I didn’t need it until my former helmet saved me from concussion last evening. I failed to engage a train track on Railroad St. (irony?) at a sufficient angle and my rear wheel shot out from under me. I have a bruise on the side of my head, but no concussion. (The ER doc said I didn’t). I would post a picture of my former helmet here, but I don’t know how.
The point is that, had I not been wearing my former helmet, there would be a contusion on the outside of my head and a concussion inside. Maybe worse. I think I am a fairly capable rider, I road bike, I mountain bike. Usually I stay upright.
On my way to work today, I saw at least one person riding with speed without a helmet. The cap he was wearing was very stylish.
Over the last year or so I have seen more and more people riding bikes on the streets of Pittsburgh, and noticed how few of them are wearing helmets. Maybe it’s over confidence, maybe it’s fear of helmet hair, maybe it’s ignorance of the consequences.
I appeal to all of you who think you are too cool for a helmet, please become an organ donor. Pittsburgh’s hospitals need more organ donors.
This is the most controversial topic in cycling.
But I agree that regular cyclists should wear helmets. It is not so important for the occasional rider. It’s an issue of exposure.
There are dozens of scientific studies showing the effectiveness of helmets in preventing head injury. Even for motorcyclists, where you’d think an accident means death with or without a helmet, death rates have consistently risen in states that have repealed helmet laws.
On the other hand, there are whole web pages disputing individual studies, or arguing that helmets promote risky behavior, or protect only because riders using them ride more safely. It is like the anti-vaxxers. But a lot of it is aimed at helmet laws, which is a different issue. Requiring helmets all the time reduces cycling, leading to negative health effects more significant than the small risk of head injury for the occasional cyclist.
Btw I went to the trouble of finding a helmet that is designed to reduce the risk of concussion by allowing the helmet to slip against the head so that a crash doesn’t lead to dangerous twisting fierce on the brain–seems like a good idea.
Think of them as an insurance policy. You can get along just fine without one, until you need one. They’ve saved me a couple of nasty bumps on two different occasions.
For me, now, they are an excellent thing to hook a mirror and a rear-facing light to. The latter is essential, the former really helpful. Neither works as well without the helmet to hook them to.
I’m at the stage of my life (40+) that my risk taking is much less and I think about my own mortality more than i did when I was 20. If buying a new helmet every few years ($50 a pop) can give me some sort of assurance, however small, that I can ride my bike and have less of a chance to be neurodevasted or dead, I’ll take it. But then again, I’ve always been quite harm avoidant.
Glad to hear it saved you from a worse injury.
I’m glad you’re ok. You’re not the first to have this happen on Railroad St, by far.
Helmets are great. I ride with one. It makes sense to me.
I’m under the impression that Helmet Laws are not great. The thinking goes, mandatory helmet laws makes people think cycling is dangerous, so we have fewer cyclists on the road. Paradoxically, the greatest thing that reduces car-on-cyclist deaths in increasing the number of cyclists on the road. So while helmets make sense for me (an individual) and many others, the notion goes that at the macro-level (not the Marko Level, which is a different thing) that helmet laws are counter-productive.
This notion that the single greatest thing you can do to reduce car-on-cyclist deaths is dubious, in my opinion – it limits the scope of actions to the politically easy. Probably the greatest benefit would come from enforcing speed limits, but that doesn’t seem within my span of control.
A improperly fitted and/or improperly fitted (e.g., unstrapped) can be more dangerous than no helmet at all.
I’m not sure if Neosporin will fix a concussion, but this young lady is not wearing a properly fitted helmet:
A properly fitted helmet is effective against brain injuries, but is not protective of improper use of said brain.
I wrecked in the exact same place in the exact same way. I was also wearing a helmet, but the EMS medics and the emergency room folks all told me that most of the people that come in from bike accidents weren’t wearing helmets, reflective gear, or lights.
I’ve been taking Spring Way lately rather than Railroad.
In general, if you are doing something that seems like it would be unsafe without a bicycle helmet? It would also be unsafe with a bicycle helmet.
It seems counterintuitive, I know, but those flimsy things really don’t provide much protection, beyond what they are designed for: preventing head injury in kids riding bikes low to the ground at maybe 6 mph.
@mick, there are numerous scientific studies showing bicycle helmets provide remarkably good head and face protection in crashes.
I think it’s safe to say:
1) they do well what they’re designed to do well. See the “Cyclist down at Highland and Stanton” thread and photo.
2) beyond that, they offer little protection against other harm (Angela, Mike, Susan). Angela was badly hurt, but her helmet was intact.
3) there is significant potential for a false sense of security while wearing one. Whether this does more harm than good is debatable.
4) There is also the knowledge that requiring one when there is reduced chance for harm may lead to less chance rather than more that someone will bike, thus doing nobody any good.
Also, I’d suggest that people concerned about increasing their head’s resistance to damage educate themselves (i.e., don’t take my word for it) on the standards used by Snell, CPSI, ANSI, etc. Those tests simulate, at maximum, an impact from a drop of just under 7 feet, which is roughly equivalent to a fall at 14mph.
Anything above that general type of impact is not covered under the standards, hence the oft-repeated statement that “helmets are designed to protect your head when you fall off your bike, not when you’re hit by a car.”
In short: rather than picking an abstract helmet stance based on who has the cleverest slogan or appealing statistics, decide first and foremost what kind of protection YOU want to have, based on your riding style, environment, risk tolerance, etc.; then, look at the available equipment and the standards of testing that they undergo, and choose the best match.
-If you want something to help protect your head during collisions with a car or high-speed falls, look into safety gear with better protective ratings than traditional bike helmets.
-If you want something to mitigate low-speed collisions, a regular bike helmet is a fine choice.
-If you wish to convince others to change their minds re: helmet use, try staying polite and factual; implicit or explicit accusations of stupidity or malice are unlikely to change anyone’s mind.
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