To Encourage Biking, Cities Lose the Helmets

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stefb
Participant
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PS- always tuck and roll don’t catch your fall with your arms.


Eric Lundgren
Participant
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Helmets could keep you safe if you don’t think so I don’t care. I do not think people should have to wear them though. If you don’t want to wear one it doesn’t and won’t hurt me so don’t wear one. I think the same should apply to seat belts and motorcycle helmets. Thin the herd.


dmtroyer
Participant
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More anecdotal European evidence… I was just in Southern France for 2.5 weeks and I would say 5-10% of riders wore helmets and virtually all scooter riders (maybe there is a law?). There were more than a handful of bicycle riders wearing big yellow construction vests, as well. There was some separated bicycle infrastructure but nothing like Amsterdam or Copenhagen, bicycles were accepted on the roadways and filtering by them, scooters and motorcycles is assumed.


jonawebb
Participant
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I was reading some of the anti-helmet stuff on the web and it really made my head hurt. Helmets don’t protect against head injuries, etc. It’s really insane, like the vaccines-cause-autism sites, or the ones about Morgellon’s disease.

It’s pretty easy to test whether helmet protect against head injury in a bike accident. Simply have a friend hit you on the head with a baseball bat while you’re wearing a helmet. Now, take off the helmet and repeat. See the difference?


orionz06
Participant
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Anti cycling helmets or anti motorcycle helmets? There is a big difference between the two and still a huge variance in what a chosen helmet will offer.

You can choose a motorcycle helmet that is legal in a helmet required state that is all but useless, last time I checked. Likewise with bicycles. Very easy to choose a helmet that might be useless for the application despite the best efforts to be safer.


salty
Participant
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I don’t think bicycle helmets are useless – I fell and hit my head last winter and I was glad I had the helmet on. But, it’s nowhere near the protection of a motorcycle helmet, and I know it’s only going to help in limited circumstances.


anon123
Participant
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Yeah, jonawebb, it’s not a perfect analogy, but I definitely see the comparison to the vaccines-cause-autism stuff.

My mom (who has an MD and has worked in trauma units) cried (with relief/gratitude, I guess) when she saw my banged-up helmet after my wreck in February because it so clearly did its job when a car caused my head to hit the pavement at something in the 15-20 mph ballpark. I would have been so screwed without it. Maybe not dead, but certainly not neurologically unscathed.

Do whatever you want, and definitely don’t think that a bike helmet makes you invincible or that it is anything like the protection of a motorcycle helmet or similar. If nothing else, though, if your head gets knocked into the pavement, it’s going to hurt less if it’s covered than if it isn’t. And your brain won’t object to a little extra cushioning.


AtLeastMyKidsLoveMe
Participant
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From the google:

About 75% of all bicyclists who die each year die of head injuries

85% of head injuries in bicycle accidents can be prevented by wearing a helmet

http://www.headinjuryctr-stl.org/statistics.html


Kordite
Participant
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Statistics that are missing from that website is how many accidents there are that do not have head injuries and are likely unreported. “75% of those who die, do so from head injuries” is a scary sounding number. But how many of those involved in an accident do not die? Without that number it is impossible to assess actual risk.

And, again, the take away from the article is that with more cyclists, the total number of accidents goes down. 75% of a diminishing number is also a diminishing number. And the European numbers show that the overall risk goes down at a higher rate than the the risk of being helmetless might push the risk up.

In an an individual incident where a person crashes and hits their head, it will ALWAYS be safer to have a helmet on than not. But, with more cycling there is safer cycling and, overall, less risk of having any sort of accident in the first place.


Mick
Participant
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Two thing for the bottom line:

1) If it is unsafe to do something without a bicycle helmet, then it is also unsafe to do with a bicycle helmet.

2) The exercise a person gets from riding without a helmet extends their life expectancy more than the risk of not having helmet reduces it. That is, riding without a helmet is a healthy activity.


Anonymous #

Rice says: “Pros don’t release. Expertise my ass.” Um, I am not riding in a pack with other cyclists inches from me riding over 30mph. Not a good comparison.


jonawebb
Participant
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When I crashed and broke my collarbone, I released just fine. That was why I broke my collarbone. I missed a turn and hit a curb. But I also woke up in the emergency room, and my helmet had a crack over the right temple. So maybe my technique wasn’t quite right. It still turned out to be a good thing I was wearing a helmet, though.


melange396
Participant
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> PS- always tuck and roll don’t catch your fall with your arms.

brilliant advice, stef


AtLeastMyKidsLoveMe
Participant
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AtLeastMyKidsLoveMe
Participant
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And this (I know how hungry you all are for data…):

http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/811386.pdf


Anonymous #

I think whether or not someone wants to wear a helmet while biking is their choice. I choose to wear a helmet when biking in traffic because yes, it is dangerous, and we shouldn’t pretend otherwise. I can’t tell you how many of my friends who have been in bike accidents have told me a helmet was the difference between life and death.

But I think the part of this article that resonated with me most was the comment about how in America there is a social stigma that comes along with not wearing a helmet. On one rare occasion I decided not to wear a helmet while out on a leisurely bike ride through the park (not in traffic) and had a man shout “Wear a helmet!” at me. Honestly, I was pretty annoyed. As if it didn’t cross my mind. If what I’m doing isn’t jeopardizing anyone else’s safety, then it’s none of his business how I decide to ride.

I just wish people would lose the judgement sometimes. I think fear of being judged or labeled is what keeps people from taking up biking.


buffalo buffalo
Participant
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> I think fear of being judged or labeled is what keeps people from taking up biking.

So, so true, and not just for biking.


HiddenVariable
Participant
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and that is why i don’t go around telling people “you’re doing it wrong.”


edmonds59
Participant
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HV – ++++that.


helen s
Participant
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“and that is why i don’t go around telling people “you’re doing it wrong””

I do not question other riders on helmet use, but I am curious obout the idea of cyclists encouraging other cyclists to behave themselves in public. this has been touched upon in a few threads and maybe needs it’s own space.


Anonymous #

“I am curious obout the idea of cyclists encouraging other cyclists to behave themselves in public”

I agree this is definitely a discussion all it’s own. Helmet use is not required by law in PA, and I don’t think it should be, but what about something like going through red lights? As far as I know, there’s no law about running red lights on a bike (someone correct me if I’m wrong), but if it was, would that make it kosher to call another cyclist out on it?

I feel like there’s very little established etiquette on how to behave on the roads, so it’s hard to know when it’s appropriate to say something to someone. I think the lack of enforceable rules also confuses motorists, and is probably the root of most bike/car conflicts. Sometimes cars get really confused when I stop at stop signs, I think because they expect me to run through it. It’s like they don’t know what to do.

I think that 4 foot passing law that just went into effect is the perfect example of a concrete guide for both bikes and cars on how to behave around each other. Granted, you’d think giving bikes passing room would be common sense, but maybe it’s the first step towards developing a real set of road rules.

Sorry I’m a little off topic… Maybe I’ll start a new thread…


cburch
Participant
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follow the same rules as you would in a car. the law isnt any different for bikes, other than allowing you to filter through a traffic jam or treat a light on a sensor you and your bike cant trip as though it was malfunctioning.


edmonds59
Participant
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To ammend my earlier enthusiastic support of not telling people they’re doing it wrong, if I saw a cyclist blowing thru a crosswalk of school kids I would probably catch them and pump-lock their front wheel. Kind of a non-verbal adjustment.


Steven
Participant
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And even the rules cburch mentions aren’t really bike-specific. A car can proceed through a malfunctioning red light too (though sensors that ignore bikes are more common than completely broken sensors that ignore everything).

There aren’t very many bike-specific laws in PA. Here’s a summary of them. Otherwise, we’re supposed to behave the same as cars or other traffic.

I agree that a big part of the problem is that many drivers and many cyclists simply have no idea what the law says, and just try to behave the way they see others do (or not much worse).


HiddenVariable
Participant
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…but I am curious obout the idea of cyclists encouraging other cyclists to behave themselves in public.

mostly what i mean is people out there walking around, riding bikes, doing whatever, they’re not my children or my students or my employees. i don’t have any power over them. so to tell them they’re doing something i consider foolish comes across as self-important and judgmental. i try to avoid being those things.

if it rises to the point where it affects me, i might tell someone they’re being a jagoff. or i might just call them a jagoff. but i don’t leave the situation thinking i did something constructive.

if someone is doing something truly dangerous to themselves and others, and it appears to be out of ignorance, and i have the opportunity to engage them as a person, i might suggest they try something different. but i’m not going to yell at them as we pass.


HiddenVariable
Participant
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I feel like there’s very little established etiquette on how to behave on the roads, so it’s hard to know when it’s appropriate to say something to someone. I think the lack of enforceable rules also confuses motorists, and is probably the root of most bike/car conflicts. Sometimes cars get really confused when I stop at stop signs, I think because they expect me to run through it. It’s like they don’t know what to do.

i wanted to disagree with this, but i think you’ve got it mostly right. however, the confusion comes, i think, not from people not knowing the laws as they pertain to bikes, or bikers being inherently unpredictable, but from bikes being new and different. and this is also, i believe, the main reason why the more bikes there are, the safer biking becomes. people go from “what the hell is that doing there?” to treating you as though you’re just normal traffic.


jonawebb
Participant
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My feeling is that if laws don’t make sense, and aren’t enforced, I can understand people not following them. I’m thinking of the law that requires a full, foot-down stop at stop signs, and the law that requires cyclists to wait until a red light changes before they proceed. I feel perfectly comfortable disobeying these laws, and certainly don’t blame others for doing so.

If the laws were more reasonable, as they are in Idaho, I’d follow them and expect others to.

Living in a civil society does not require full compliance with every law, especially when those laws are unjust, out of date, or simply not suited to the world as it is.


AtLeastMyKidsLoveMe
Participant
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“I am curious obout the idea of cyclists encouraging other cyclists to behave themselves in public”

I believe cyclists who flaunt the law give motorists the idea that ALL cyclists flaunt the law. However, I don’t think it is my place to chastise them. I DO think it is my place to provide a (hopefully) good example.

My world view: all I can do in this world is try and do the right things, be a good example to others, and hope. If it makes an impression on someone else, then that’s a bonus.


jonawebb
Participant
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OK, flout not flaunt, but my general reaction to this is similar to some oppressed minority group telling each other we’d better behave because white people judge us all by the misbehavior of a few. Well, that might be true, but that is not a winning response in this country. We should instead stand up for our rights and demand to be treated as part of the majority, like other oppressed minority groups have successfully done.


AtLeastMyKidsLoveMe
Participant
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Really? “…oppressed minority groups…?”

We ride bicycles. We are not institutionally repressed, tortured or targeted. Yes there are collisions between motor vehicles and people on bicycles, but those are not conducted as a matter of political or ideological expression.

We need to get over ourselves. It’s just riding a bike.


jonawebb
Participant
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Hundreds of cyclists die every year, due to the indifference of drivers, traffic engineers, and the public in general. Sounds kind of oppressed to me.


stefb
Participant
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I feel more free and happy than oppressed on my bike…


reddan
Keymaster
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To be fair, thousands of road users of all kinds die every year, due to the indifference of the public in general. We’re firmly in the majority in that regard.


jonawebb
Participant
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I know I started this and it has the flavor of that scene in “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”: Help, help, I’m being oppressed!

But on the other hand when you’re riding down Fifth Avenue in traffic and encounter the active, even life-threatening hostility of the other users of the road — well, you’re being oppressed. Of course motorists die in accidents, too, but when cyclists are killed by the utter lack of care on the part of motorists and nothing is done in response — you’re being oppressed. When major road work is planned and there is not even the slightest attention paid to the need for bicyclists use of the road, even though our tax money funds it — we’re being oppressed.


reddan
Keymaster
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Heh…given the cavalier attitude with which I see motorists on Fifth treat one another, I think the problem is not one of anti-cycling oppression, but that they ARE treating us the same way as they do other motorists. That is: very, very badly and unsafely.

Merely for the sake of discussion, let’s grant the point that overt hostility, injuries and deaths without consequence, and a lack of consideration whilst planning road work is a form of cycling-specific oppression. Given that, what traffic rules should one violate to make any of the above improve? What illegal actions should one take on the road to decrease hostility, increase concern over cyclist injuries, and encourage the same people who are sharing the road with us to include cyclist needs in the next round of planning?


jonawebb
Participant
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Hmmm… that’s not exactly what I was advocating. But it’s an interesting question nevertheless.

I was just reacting against the point of view that we’d better behave ourselves so that people stop treating us so badly. I claim that doesn’t work in this country. People aren’t treating us badly because cyclists run stop signs. Minority groups get treated better when they demand it, not when they behave themselves better. African-Americans didn’t get the right to sit anywhere they want on buses in Birmingham by being polite.

I have been thinking a bit about nonviolent direct action in this regard and I have to say it is a complex step to take and I am not advocating taking it without lots and lots of thought and consideration of whether the time is right. But typically the actions taken involve disruption of the normal way of doing business, in order to ensure that minority rights are respected. E.g., if a road was being planned without consideration of cyclist use then that process could be disrupted in various ways.


reddan
Keymaster
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Ah, I see.

Personally, I don’t believe that we should behave better in order to get better treatment from others…I believe that _everyone_ who uses the road should behave better, and that under no circumstances can you foster that goal by claiming exemptions for one group.

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”


AtLeastMyKidsLoveMe
Participant
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Dan just nailed it. +1


jonawebb
Participant
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I go out of my way to be polite etc. to motorists. But I do not expect this to lead to the change we want to see in the world. I think it’s just the right way to act and the best thing for me as a human being.

We see very slow growth of cycling infrastructure here in Pittsburgh — when we made the Bronze level I was amazed the bar was set so low. A few bike trails here and there, some paint, and we’re set.

None of this is to disparage the hard work people here do advocating. I know how hard and discouraging such work is.

But when I look at, say, CMU, and see basically zero cycling infrastructure in the nearby streets — this is not happening fast enough. I mean, it really isn’t. And please don’t forget it took two deaths in a week to get signs on Penn Avenue.

I just don’t think any of these problems will be solved by us being nicer.


AtLeastMyKidsLoveMe
Participant
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I think there is a bit of mix and match going on here, though. Or maybe I’m misunderstanding your intent.

It sounds like you’re suggesting cyclists “act out” to motorists to be respected.

OR… are you saying cyclists need to be the squeaky wheel – or even the squeakiest wheel, so to speak, in terms of traditional type advocacy, such as what Bike PGH does with government agencies.

It is an important distinction, because they’re very different things.

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