@stu, the problem is that the question is much more complex that it appears, it hasn’t been well researched, at least lately, and the biggest public health issues don’t align with our concerns.
According to the Cross-Fisher 1977 study, only about 12% of bike accidents involve a collision with a motor vehicle. But other data indicates that those collisions account for a high proportion of serious accidents. A large fraction of those involve children, doing things like riding out from driveways without looking, or running stop signs. And a lot of the remainder involve cars hitting cyclists on rural roads riding without lights at night.
See, for example, http://www.wright.edu/~jeffrey.hiles/essays/listening/ch2.html
So what does this mean for us? We’re not children, we follow the traffic laws, more or less, we have lights.
People like (more or less) us are different from the target share-bike user. For example, we ride faster and we’re more comfortable with cars around us. Such factors increase risk and it’s reasonable to talk about helmets. I ride with a helmet.
Share-bike are very different. They are heavy and they are geared very low (even with the 3 speeds). It’s hard to go fast. (Though I guess if you find a steep-enough hill, you could. But you’d have to be able to climb that hill, something share-bikes make difficult.) I don’t think these riders need roadie-level helmeting to get themselves cross-town because I do not see how to OTB on a share-bike.
It does strike me as a speed thing (per @byogman).
On a mildly related topic, I’ve been told that people in the organ transplant professions were not altogether unhappy with the repeal of the motorcycle helmet law: a new source of fresh, young organs. Let’s not give them ideas…
“But you’d have to be able to climb that hill, something share-bikes make difficult.” Truer in a flat city like NYC than in ours. People who live in the east end might plausibly check out a shared bike and head down to the nearest trail via Greenfield Avenue or even Bates, figuring they’d check the bike back in downtown and perhaps take a bus back to the east end.
It is kind of obvious, if you put a helmet law in place, bike share will be used much less. People aren’t going to walk around with a helmet and many won’t want to use some community helmet, which is kind of gross. On top of all this, if you preach to all you MUST wear a helmet, it promotes fear to those thinking about cycling and they just will not take that step. I think NYC would be making a huge mistake mandating helmets. If they do, they might as well mandate them for pedestrians.
“Outrageous Acts of Science”
I keep seeing ads on the Science Channel for this Saturday’s show (9pm) that highlights that airbag/invisible bike helmet.
The promos show one of the show’s hosts just whipping his head around in his seat and the helmet deploys.