Helmets

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netviln
Participant
#

Not trying to come off as a jerk, but why doesn’t everyone wear a helmet? Seriously, after yesterday’s accident in Oakland, and all the previous accidents, studies, reports, etc, I don’t understand why people don’t wear helmets.

If a helmet is adjusted correctly, it isn’t uncomfortable. A good helmet doesn’t get hot. What a helmet does do, it protects you.

You may say, I wont be in an accident. Talk to a group of cyclists and you will find most have been in an accident and many in an accident with a car.

I personally think that helmets should be required by law, just like seat belts are required in a car. Helmets are cheap, plentiful, and come in a variety of styles and color to match any outfit.

If you can come up with a valid reason why you shouldn’t wear a helmet, I’m all ears. If you value your hairstyle over your skull, thats your decision (In that case, might I recommend JD’s hairmet). But realize if you are in a accident, and you do receive major head injuries, one of the main questions that will be asked is why weren’t they wearing a helmet.

I feel sure this will spark a flame war, but sometimes they need to be sparked.


Lenny
Participant
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Yesterday evening I was talking with a cyclist who never wears a helmet.I asked him the same question you proposed.He asked me if I wear a helmet when riding in a car?? He stated there’s more deaths from head injuries in car crashes than bicycle accidents.I didn’t know how to respond to him and was one of those gotcha moments.He walked away with a big smile on his face.How do you respond to something like that???I do agree with you that every cyclist should wear a helmet.


Lee
Participant
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I didn’t wear one for a while because the strap irritated my cheeks enough to make them break out with acne. I managed to treat it consistently enough that now I can wear my helmet again. I used to chide myself saying that I valued my complexion more than my life. After my roommate got creamed by a bus and lived, I wear it religiously. Perhaps it takes someone you know personally having their life saved or ended to scare you into it.


cburch
Participant
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got pushed into the backend of a semi by a pat bus back in 99 with no helmet on and survived with very mild nerve damage to my face. have worn my helmet religiously ever since. i got lucky once, not going to tempt fate again…


netviln
Participant
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Lenny, I think the counter to that argument would likely be that new cars come with airbags and that most head injuries in cars are caused when people don’t wear seatbelts, or don’t have airbags.

That being said, its also a game of numbers. Saying there are more head injuries in cars is kind of silly because there are far more auto accidents than there are bike accidents.


reddan
Keymaster
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But realize if you are in a accident, and you do receive major head injuries, one of the main questions that will be asked is why weren’t they wearing a helmet.

And why should that matter? You’ll also be asked why they weren’t on the sidewalk, on a bike path, or in a car. The “why weren’t they wearing a helmet” question is classic blame-the-victim crap.

Me, I wear a helmet pretty much all the time except for lunchtime cruises on the trail, but I have no expectations that it’ll save my life. I expect it to prevent scalp lacerations, and help mitigate concussions, but that’s about as far as it goes.


Mary
Participant
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Lenny, here’s a counter argument to the cyclist who compared head injuries on bikes and in cars.

If you look at absolute numbers (as opposed to relative numbers), the number for drivers will always be higher than the number of cyclists. More people drive cars than ride bikes, so more people get into car accidents compared to bike accidents. Some of those people sustain serious head injuries.

It’s kind of like saying “There are more heart attacks per year in New York City than in Pittsburgh.” That doesn’t mean people here are any healthier, just that there are far more people in NYC.

It’s a bogus argument.


J Z
Participant
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willie p
Participant
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I don’t wear a helmet and I am a pretty active rider (couple hundred miles a week), been riding about 20 years, raced cat 1/2 (with helmet), have a nice bike, good equipment, etc…

I probably throw a certain amount of caution to the wind in doing so, but my thoughts are that if you get hit by a car (when riding in a law abiding way, i.e. NOT on a sidewalk and cutting across traffic, or running redlights or riding against traffic), that if you get hit hard enough by the car where a helmet would be useful, you are probably going to die or be seriously paralyzed, so the helmet (to me, at least) has marginal value. By contrast, in bike racing, where you probably won’t have a high likelihood of getting hit by a car, but rather a bike to bike crash or a single-bike crash (for instance, you flip over the bars) a helmet will give you the ability to get up and keep riding/competing. Yes, there are freak accidents in racing where deaths happen, but those are small in comparison to the any number of crashes that happen during a race.

I’m not here to debate helmet v. no helmet – someone just asked why people don’t wear them and I just explained my own PERSONAL reason.


bstephens
Participant
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I’m a hardliner on this issue. I think wearing a helmet when riding on the road should be a law.

Seatbelts are a law. Same thing. Even if it weren’t a law, would you not wear a seatbelt because it’s uncool or uncomfortable? Hell no. It will save your life. You might not get a second chance to change your mind.

Also, what kind of example are you setting by not wearing a helmet? Would you let your kids ride on the road without a helmet?


Nate
Participant
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I’m not getting sucked into this, but I will dispute the statement “hit by car” => “helmet not useful”

It’s not hard to get doored. I was doored quite a few years ago — the car door caught my handlebars and I was flipped sideways into the road where the back of my head hit the pavement. Hard enough to crack the helmet, and leave me a little stunned. I rode away.

But it is a personal choice, and the most critical piece of safety gear is not a helmet, but the thing inside it.


netviln
Participant
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When I lived in Georgia, I remember them passing a law for under 16 riders to have to wear helmets or the parents would receive a citation.


reddan
Keymaster
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I think wearing a helmet when riding on the road should be a law.

That’s the sticking point for me…when any safety measure crosses the line from “good idea” to “mandatory”, I get twitchy. The “for your own good” slope is a slippery one indeed…

The mandatory helmet thing particularly bothers me, because it creates a bias in the minds of cyclists and motorists alike where the expectation is that “accidents” are just part of day-to-day life, and it’s the cyclists’ responsibility to make some token nod towards being protected.


erok
Keymaster
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Let those who ride decide.

any mandatory law like that is just going to inhibit people from riding. it’s also shown that the more people that ride, the safer everyone is.

i wear a helmet all the time, and think everyone should. but i don’t think the state should waste their resources regulating it.


erok
Keymaster
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for every cyclist pulled over for not wearing a helmet, there’s a car speeding, or running a stop sign or red light that could hit a cyclist who wouldnt have needed a helmet.


netviln
Participant
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I do agree that proper education would be head and shoulders better than any equipment laws. Perhaps bike safety courses in schools? And education goes both ways, I also think bicycle safety should be taught or at least be required knowledge for motorists on the drivers license tests.


sloaps
Participant
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I have never worn a helmet while biking, mopeding, skateboarding (halfpipe and street), snowboarding, skiing, surfing, or climbing. I have worn helmets and other gear for baseball and football. Most of my concussions have come from snowboarding, the others are from baseball.

I’ve been in a few accidents and collisions on a bike, but the injuries have amounted to bruises, sprains and road rash. I just cant bring myself to put a helmet on my noggin.

// Point being is that based on my history I should either wrap myself in foam or never leave the house…


dwillen
Participant
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Owner of 3 cracked helmets. Collisions with car door, another bike, and an angry mountain. Not sure what would have happened to my melon had I not been wearing one, but I’m guessing it is better that I was.

I feel a little naked without my helmet on… Plus, when someone kills me with their car, I don’t want that little blurb at the bottom of the article “the cyclist was not wearing a helmet”.


brian j
Participant
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have never worn a helmet while biking, mopeding, skateboarding (halfpipe and street), snowboarding, skiing, surfing, or climbing. I have worn helmets and other gear for baseball and football. Most of my concussions have come from snowboarding, the others are from baseball.

I’ve never worn one climbing, but I took a HUGE fall a few years ago that has given me pause about that decision. I was very lucky….


Lyle
Participant
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Any personal anecdotes here are subject to selection bias. Or in other words, we’re not going to see anyone posting “I wish I’d worn a helmet, I might still be able to read and write.”

I’m pretty much with erok and reddan on this: I always wear a helmet and strongly encourage that others do, but I oppose mandatory laws.

That said, if the public is exposed to a steady string of stories about serious injuries or fatalities where the cyclist wasn’t wearing a helmet, then we will get a mandatory helmet law forced on us. So, like it or not, we need to push helmet use in order to prevent it being mandated. Ironic, huh?


argylepile
Participant
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wearing my helmet, to me, means protecting precious cargo. also, i have a very close relative who is a cyclist, was in a bad fall and cracked their helmet in three places. without it, who knows what would’ve happened. on the flipside, i also know someone who fell and smacked their head(helmet-less), suffered a concussion, and still won’t wear a helmet.

i don’t really engage others face to face about why they may choose to not wear a helmet. i like what erok says “let those who ride decide.” i may mutter under my breath about it, but ultimately it’s my noggin that i have control over protecting.

at this point, as somebody else stated, i feel absolutely naked without my helmet. couldn’t imagine riding without one.


Nick D
Participant
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I think it is the cyclist choice. Comparing it to seat belts isn’t fair, I dont think they are comparable at all.

Although I wear a helmet, and push helmet usage to everyone I ride with, I think you should have the freedom to make the choice for yourself. I think the second a law passes all it would do would hurt cyclists.

When I used to skateboard, I’d rarely wear a helmet, except at parks. I had a pretty bad fall once, and I can say the helmet definitely saved me, at least from stitches.

I also wear a helmet on my scooter, and although I have been in 2 accidents (25mph and 50mph), I dont think the helmet was even touched either time.


HiddenVariable
Participant
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i agree that laws mandating helmet use are not the right approach. seat belt laws, it could be argued (rather compellingly, in my opinion), protect road users who are not in the accident that required the seat belt. it doesn’t take much of an accident to jar someone out of their seat if they’re not belted in, and once that happens to the driver, no one is controlling the car. this is not such a dangerous thing on a bike.

personal anecdote: i feel as though a helmet may have saved me from some truly serious damage. i was in a wreck a number of years ago, where i broke my helmet and sustained a rather serious concussion (e.g. i don’t know how the wreck happened). i can’t predict what would’ve happened if i didn’t have that small amount of foam around my melon, but i’m pretty sure the back of my head would’ve smacked hard on the pavement, and i doubt it would’ve been pretty.


Mick
Participant
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I almost alway wear a helmet. Various comments.

If we push for more people to wear helmets, I think that will lead to more, not less, pressure for it to become legally mandated.

Seatbelts really haven’t been shown to save lives and mandatory seatbelt laws might actually do the opposite. On the other hand, what seatbelts do sucessfully is lower the risk of deabilitating head injury.

That is far more expensive to insurance companies than actual death – hence seatbelt laws.

I think the same argument probably applies to helmets.

I hate hate HATE it when car drivers ask me about my helmet as though I were a child and they were a responsible adult. Although I haven’t done it, yet, I think about going ballistic. “Lemme see if I have this straight. You are driving a car – A CAR! A thing that kills 40,000 Americans every year – and YOU are lecturing ME on safety? Do YOU have a helmet?”

Mick


maggie
Participant
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well said, erok.


StuInMcCandless
Participant
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On the bicycle, I almost always wear a helmet. Very VERY rare occasions I don’t.

On the unicycle, I almost never wear a helmet. Simple reason: My head isn’t what’s going to get hurt in an accident. Knees, elbows, hands, shins … yes, those, all the time. But in 35 years of riding the unicycle, I’ve never had a head injury.


Kordite
Participant
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I read a number of European blogs and from what I read there, there is very little helmet use. There is also, because of the prevalence of cycling and and cycling facilities, a much lower accident rate and thus a lesser need for helmets.

There is also evidence that countries and municipalities that then begin pushing helmets and helmet laws actually reduce ridership. Pushing people to wear helmets make people think cycling is dangerous and thus they stop riding.


brian j
Participant
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There is also evidence that countries and municipalities that then begin pushing helmets and helmet laws actually reduce ridership. Pushing people to wear helmets make people think cycling is dangerous and thus they stop riding.

I’d be curious to read about this. Perhaps it’s just because I’ve been riding a bike with a helmet since I was six, but I have trouble believing someone wouldn’t ride a bike because they had to wear a helmet. I’d believe Grant Petersen’s hypothesis that people don’t ride because they think they have to wear lycra before I believe the helmet thing. I mean, wouldn’t the same reasoning apply to cars? “I have to wear a seat belt? I’m not driving!” Also, look at how car seat laws for infants/kids have changed in the past 30 years–talk about making an activity seem incredibly unsafe…

That said, I don’t buy into mandatory laws either.


erok
Keymaster
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i’ve talked to people who didn’t ride because they weren’t sure if it was legal to lock to a parking meter.


reddan
Keymaster
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There is a set of Australian studies of cycling trends before and after mandatory helmet laws were put in place, indicating a decline in overall cycling.

I haven’t reviewed the studies or the data behind them, so make no claims with regard to their validity, accuracy, or degree of bias.


brian j
Participant
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i’ve talked to people who didn’t ride because they weren’t sure if it was legal to lock to a parking meter.

I suspect those people were just looking for excuses not to ride….


Lyle
Participant
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I’ve learned that you can’t always take people’s reasons at face value. Sometimes they don’t want to admit their true reasons, even to themselves.


brian j
Participant
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I’ve learned that you can’t always take people’s reasons at face value. Sometimes they don’t want to admit their true reasons, even to themselves.

Yes. When I first started commuting, I would look for excuses not to do it, especially if I was feeling lazy or the weather was less than perfect…


erok
Keymaster
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actually, after i told him it was legal, he started riding for short trips.


erok
Keymaster
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I suspect those people were just looking for excuses not to ride….

as in “i don’t have a helmet”


brian j
Participant
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I would love to see medical research (not simply statistics about injuries) about whether or not there is a correlation between helmet use and greater injuries in the event of a crash. Even though the study reports that cycling participation decreased after helmet laws were passed, there were still more cyclists on the road (per their own numbers), meaning that there would likely be more accidents.


rsprake
Participant
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My mom used to work in a mental rehabilitation hospital and she saw plenty of kids come in with head injuries with no hope of ever being able to walk or even function. The story was always the same, no seatbelt or no helmet. I would never be caught dead on a bike without a helmet.

With healthcare costs skyrocketing aren’t things helmet and seatbelt laws a good thing? Just playing devils advocate, I can see both sides of the argument.


Nick D
Participant
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I guess I just don’t like laws telling me what to do.

Don’t get me wrong, I fully believe helmets save lives, but so does exercise.


Kordite
Participant
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willlliamo
Participant
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I always wear a helmet, and it’s a very simple decision: I want to stay pretty, and nobody looks good missing pieces from their head.

I also look at it as an issue of self respect, realizing the potential benefit and seeing yourself as something worth protecting, even if it’s uncomfortable or unattractive.

There are a lot of responsible things that are also a pain in the ass…part of being a grownup is getting over that.

That being said, I would oppose a mandatory helmet law because you aren’t really put anybody else in danger by not wearing a helmet. I respect that it’s a personal decision, I just don’t respect certain decisions people make.

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