October 1, 2012

"Pushing helmets really kills cycling and bike-sharing in particular because it promotes a sense of danger that just isn’t justified..."

"... in fact, cycling has many health benefits."
"Statistically, if we wear helmets for cycling, maybe we should wear helmets when we climb ladders or get into a bath, because there are lots more injuries during those activities."
Why don't the pedestrians wear helmets? Apparently, per mile traveled, they're as likely to take a blow to the head as a cyclist.

Anyway, the problem is that there are these great bike-sharing systems, like we have here in Madison with B-Cycle. You pay a daily or annual fee to access the system, and then you can get a bike out of a station on one city corner, bike somewhere you want to go downtown, and just stick the thing into another station, where it's automatically locked in.

It's very quick and easy, especially if they have a lot of stations near places you like to go. But the ease is ruined if you need a helmet. So all these efforts all these years to get people to feel they must have a helmet are at odds with the new bike-share agenda. When the overeager agendas of environmentalism and safety collide, somebody's going to get hurt.

The linked NYT article is attempting to dictate the winner: environmentalism (i.e., bike sharing systems and the no-helmet approach). Amusingly, the main argument is: Europe! In Europe!, you won't hear any fretting about helmets.

126 comments:

TWM said...

I prefer cyclists wear helmets. That way when I throw my empty soda can at their heads it doesn't hurt them.

TWM said...

Plus they probably pick it up after and recycle it so it's a win-win . . .

rehajm said...

“Riding in New York or Australia is like running with the bulls — it’s all young males,” says Julian Ferguson, a spokesman for the European Cyclists’ Federation. And that’s in part what makes it dangerous.

When liberal causes collide! The translation here: Once we dispose of all those pesky automobiles, we'll work on getting rid of all those pesky men.

Shouting Thomas said...

You probably should wear a helmet, but the wearing of a helmet probably shouldn't be enforced by law.

Bicycling is very safe, until you have an accident. I know because I broke my collar bone and my friend, Big Joe, nearly died in a bicycle accident.

Nobody thinks the hard drive on their computer is going to fail, until it does, which is at the end of the computer's life cycle.

So, just about nobody actually backs up their home computer. Doesn't seem to matter until it crashes.

FloridaSteve said...

Making helmets mandatory for recreational biking is idiotic. I tell my 10 year old she does not have to wear on and I'll pay the fine if some pinhead wants to make a fuss. I'll make her wear one while riding a bike when they put seatbelts in her school bus.

Mary Beth said...

In Denmark they do promote helmets for pedestrians.

"A walking helmet is a good helmet"
"Traffic safety isn't just for cyclists. The pedestrians of Denmark actually have a higher risk of head injury. The Danish Road Safety Council recommends walking helmets for pedestrians and other good folk in high risk groups."

FloridaSteve said...
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TWM said...

"European Cyclists’ Federation"

A perfect example of a group formed by people with way too much time on their hands. And also way too much sanctimony.

Sorun said...

That way when I throw my empty soda can at their heads it doesn't hurt them.

Which is why I have a slingshot and a bag of marble mounted on my handlebars.

EDH said...
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EDH said...

"You got a helmet?"

”Oh, I’ve got a helmet. I got a beauty.”

Problem solved!

Ron said...

Maybe the idea for pedestrians to wear head gear would be ok if it WEREN'T bike helmets, because they make people look like aspiring velociraptors. Maybe older headgear like fedoras and top hats could be made of, say, kevlar, thus increasing our fragmentation protection.

Women used to wear more hats with feathers; perhaps that could be reencouraged only instead of feathers maybe have them be mobile wi-fi antennas, thus making women "hot spots" in more ways than one. Downton Abbey could be morphed into Download Abbey.

chuckR said...

"The pedestrians of Denmark actually have a higher risk of head injury."

I'd like to know how many of those injured were staggering home after a good Friday night of drinking.

Sorun said...

"The pedestrians of Denmark actually have a higher risk of head injury."

I'd like to see the helmet that protects you from a falling piano.

AF said...

"Apparently, per mile traveled, [pedestrians are] as likely to take a blow to the head as a cyclist."

This is a case of misleading with statistics. First, per-mile isn't the right measure, because biking isn't an alternative to walking, it's an alternative to driving or taking transportation. Second, these stats are from Europe, where bikes and bike lanes are common. I would surprised if the same is true in the US, where you usually have to share the road with cars and drivers aren't used to cyclists. Pretty much everyone I know who rides regularly in the city, including myself, has been thrown off their bike at least once. Whether or not you land on your head is just dumb luck.

That said, the government shouldn't be "pushing" helmets, or bikes for that matter. Just provide equally as good infrastructure for biking as there is for driving (eg, lanes, parking, etc.), and then let people choose whether and how to ride.

BarrySanders20 said...

Wife and I did an anniversary weekend in Montreal over Labor Day. The bike share system there was very nice. I am not a big rider, but it was fun and easy (Easy Rider!) to get around the city and parkways along the St Lawrence using the bikes. It was apparent to me that the users were tourists because the locals all had their own bikes and would not ride the clunky but sturdy and utilitarian community bikes. You would need a city with a lot of tourists or students to make this work.

The Montreal system was cheap, too, as long as you take a series of short trips, checking the bike in at any station within one hour. Two minutes later you can take the same bike, or a different one, and there is no extra charge. No helmets required. The bike stations were ubiquitous. A helmet requirement would have taken away some of the fun and ease because you would have to pack a helmet or buy one there.

The auto traffic seemed much more aware of bikers than drivers here and the designated bike lanes were safely removed from the vehicle traffic by curbs.

Helmet use should not be required to ride. Helmet use should be required for Obama voters.

DrMaturin said...

Maybe I'm biased here because my 12 year old nephew was killed while riding his bicycle without a helmet. He was sideswiped by a truck and hit his head on the curb. I think (but will never know) that a helmet would have saved his life. What I do know that to this day his mother blames herself for his death since she let him ride without the helmet.

CWJ said...

First world problem.

Tyrone Slothrop said...

I had a bad bike accident in May. I blew my front tire going downhill at about thirty and I went down hard. I broke my pelvis and contracted osteomyelitis of the spine. I am just about to go back to work after lying flat on my back all summer.

It would have been a very different story if I had not been wearing my helmet-- I probably would be dead. I smashed my head on the pavement hard enough to shatter my helmet, but my head was not injured. Trying to compare climbing a ladder or walking on the sidewalk is ludicrous. Biking is orders of magnitude more dangerous.

And Florida Steve, I hope you say goodbye to your daughter every time she takes off on her bike.

Sam L. said...

I got thrown from my bike and hit my head on something hard. Nobody'd heard of bike helmets back then. Came to on an examining table an hour or so later.

As I like to say, there appears to have been no aldkjflpaoirfj;len/l

jimbino said...

Only the 47% should be required to wear helmets, because the rest of us will continue to support them, including their health care through Medicaid and CHIP.

AF said...

Holy crap, three minutes of Googling US bike safety stats turned up this gem of Eighth-grade-textbook irony

The Risks of Cycling. Ken Kifer has a huge page with lots of stats and analysis . His conclusion is that cycling is not dangerous. Ironically, he was later killed while riding his bike.

Michael said...

I will keep getting PSA tests and I will keep wearing a helmet. i would not ride in traffic without one and especially not on some crappy city-owned bicycle.

I am sure those bikes are very well maintained.

rehajm said...
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LakeLevel said...

ferchrisakes people, stop riding bicycles. They are death traps. If this were a new product introduced today, the consumer product safety commission would ban them outright.

exiledonmainst said...

I don't wear a helmet, because I ride my bike only on bike trails. If I rode it on the streets, I'd wear one.

I'm more afraid of dogs not kept on leashes than I am of hitting my head on the pavement (and I'm a dog lover). A couple of weeks ago, a St. Bernard ran toward my bike, growling. He obeyed when his owner called him back, but I briefly imagined having my leg ripped off by Cujo. Since then, I ride with pepper spray at hand. I'd hate to use it on an animal, but I'd hate to lose a limb even more.

rehajm said...

I'd like to know how many of those injured were staggering home after a good Friday night of drinking.

Drunk walking is eight times more dangerous than drunk driving, by the way...

The Crack Emcee said...

People in helmets look like dorks, that's my take.

Tyrone Slothrop,

I had a bad bike accident in May. I blew my front tire going downhill at about thirty and I went down hard. I broke my pelvis and contracted osteomyelitis of the spine. I am just about to go back to work after lying flat on my back all summer.

Glad to hear it,....

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Wearing a helmet should be YOUR choice. If a person wants to take the chance of head injury.....their choice. If a person is fearful of head injury...wear a helmet.

The nanny mentality, the one size fits all mentality is taking away our freedom to choose. We can't choose what to eat for lunch, how large of a drink we want to have, what temperature we keep our houses.....it just goes on and on and on.

I have a friend who suffered a head injury, biking to work, when a dog rushed his bike and caused him to fall.

Personally, I would wear a helmet. But I don't think I should have the power to force everyone else to do so.

bagoh20 said...

When something in our society goes too far and steps all over people's individuality and liberty, it's still just "follow the money". Find the lawyers, because it's their greed and the greed they infect their clients with that is the root cause.

Kit said...

I would very much prefer to wear one, but don't think it should be mandatory (though I reserve the right to mock those who don't).

Maybe this is a business opportunity for someone - rent out helmets. That or bring your own if there's a chance you'll end up renting a bike.

Tyrone Slothrop said...

Thanks, Crack.

TWM said...

"Which is why I have a slingshot and a bag of marble mounted on my handlebars."

Ah huh, sure you do. The old adage of never bring a knive to a gunfight applies . . . never go up against a truck with your 10 speed.

TWM said...

My obvious disdain for cyclists aside, I wouldn't ride one without a helmet any more than I would ride my motorcycle without one. You don't have to be going very fast to take a fall and one good slam on the head is all it takes.

bagoh20 said...

I would choose to wear a helmet on longer trips or when I think the conditions warrant it as I do in So. Central L.A., where the Homies may throw bottles at me, but I don't want to be forced to when I just go a couple blocks to get my meth, cigarettes, and ammo.

TWM said...

"Knive" should be "knife" but you knew that.

syd B. said...

OK, so how do you feel about legislation that requires, by law, anyone under the age of say 18, to wear a bike helmet? Statistically, in every legislated region requiring helmets, bike related head injuries have been significantly reduced. I can see the argument that adults should have the choice, but I'm a supporter of a low that protects children who may not know better. Adults that may not know better, well the world is full of them and they should be free to abuse themselves in any way they want. Hell half the country still supports Obama and what could be more dangerous than that?

TWM said...

Does the city provide a helmet with each bike? If not, lawsuit heaven. And, honestly, even with I imagine.

carrie said...
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carrie said...
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Ignorance is Bliss said...

Apparently, per mile traveled, they're as likely to take a blow to the head as a cyclist.

Not all blows to the head are equal. On a bike you are more likely to be traveling at a higher speed, and I suspect you are less likely to be able to break your fall before your head hits.

carrie said...

If buying a 32 oz. soft drink can't be a choice, then wearing a helmet shouldn't be a choice either. I would bet that there is more of a one-on-one correlation to harm from not wearing a helmet than there is to harm from buying a 32 oz. soft drink.

Zach said...

If you're going to ride at anything above a walking pace, or on public streets, you need a helmet. Ultimately, it becomes a numbers game -- if you spend a certain amount of time on a bike, eventually you will be in an accident.

Most bad accidents aren't really avoidable through better bike handling. They happen when a car turns in front of you or sideswipes you, or when the surface gives out on you unexpectedly. You can't predict when that will happen, and you can't avoid it by being more careful -- thus, there will be times when you will hit the ground hard and are in no position to defend yourself.

Many Europeans don't wear helmets, but I think this is more because a larger amount of their cycling is on sidewalks or protected bike lanes where speeds are low and the likelihood of accidents is minimal. When they do sport cycling or ride on public streets, they wear helmets, too.

garage mahal said...

Tyrone
Wow. Glad to see you back on your feet. Sounded like a nasty fall.

MadisonMan said...

so how do you feel about legislation that requires, by law, anyone under the age of say 18, to wear a bike helmet?

I try to get my 16-yo to wear a helmet, and my 19-yo. Do they listen? No. At some point, you have to let them learn.

I say this as someone who has cracked a helmet in a bike vs. unpredictable pedestrian collision.

AEH said...

I currently am doing graduate school in Montreal. I bike 6 km to school every day. It is a nice system, and most people do not wear helmets, but I have definitely seen my fair share of crashes. Bikers are reckless here compared to my experiences at the UW. Bikers often have accidents with each other because somebody goes full speed through a stop sign without slowing down or looking both ways. For my own safety, I slow down and stop, and wear a helmet.

Bike theft is common and the police don't do anything about it. That's a reason the locals have started to do the Easy Rider system.

rhhardin said...

I always wear a helmet (original Bell 1975 mushroom helmet) with a baseball cap under it, but only to keep the sun off. It's great insulation.

Original stupid sponge pads are replaced by a forehead maxipad, on which millions has been spent on sweat holding research, instead of zero.

MayBee said...

In London, we have the extremely popular "Boris Bikes" bike sharing program. There are no bike lanes that I've noticed near me, and almost nobody wears a helmet.

bagoh20 said...

Where helmets should be required is on airliners. 500 mph? Just opening the window can be fatal.

Also in the stands at baseball games, anywhere below a balcony, tall buildings, or trees.

MadisonMan said...

From the Article:

In their short lives, Europe’s bike-sharing systems have delivered myriad benefits, notably reducing traffic and its carbon emissions.

No evidence is cited for this claim, and I'm wondering if the reduction in traffic is more related to economic stagnation.

But why present evidence or edit if the sentence conforms to your worldview?

Carol said...

I've been wondering about the helmet issue ever since I heard of Portland's free bike programs, which was imported to Missoula. But then I like to wear one, to keep my head warm in the winter and cool in the summer.

But clearly one proggy cause is at odds with the other. Helmets shouldn't be mandatory, but isn't there a legal risk if somebody borrows a bike then gets a head injury? You know, "if defendant had provided a helmet this wouldn't have happened."

That's where the rubber meets the road!

rehajm said...

Most bad accidents aren't really avoidable through better bike handling. They happen when a car turns in front of you or sideswipes you,

They also happen when you ride on the wrong side of the road, weave between lanes of traffic, ride too closely to parallel parked vehicles, ride through red lights, ride into active crosswalks..

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

AF,

This is a case of misleading with statistics. First, per-mile isn't the right measure, because biking isn't an alternative to walking, it's an alternative to driving or taking transportation. Second, these stats are from Europe, where bikes and bike lanes are common. I would surprised if the same is true in the US, where you usually have to share the road with cars and drivers aren't used to cyclists. Pretty much everyone I know who rides regularly in the city, including myself, has been thrown off their bike at least once. Whether or not you land on your head is just dumb luck.

Funny thing: I've spent the last decade-plus living in bike-friendly cities with dedicated bike lanes (San Rafael and Novato, CA, and Salem, OR), and yet I still find more cyclists on the sidewalk then in the bike lanes, and going opposite the traffic as often as not. They seem to be an irony-resistant lot, as no one balks when I (on foot) have to step into the bike lane to get out of the way of the bike barreling down the sidewalk.

My husband is an avid cyclist, and used to do his twelve-miles-each-way commute on a bike (the current one is prohibitively long, so he drives it). I have nothing at all against cyclists, provided they (like drivers) obey the rules of the road and (like drivers) stay off the sidewalks.

Dan from Madison said...

I would agree that helmet wearing for slow moving, recreational cycling is over the top. However when you get into quicker road bikes and competition I would highly recommend them. I was on a descent of a category one mountain in the Pyrenees a year ago and saw one of my riding mates eat it up ahead. His helmet was destroyed. If he would not have been wearing it he would have died right then and there. As it was he still was concussed. This isn't saying that helmet wearing saves your life every time, as deaths in the pro tour still happen.

Sorun said...

"Also in the stands at baseball games...

Absolutely. And they should be full face helmets along the baselines between the backstop netting and the outfield.

bagoh20 said...

The thing is that we simply don't need every law we can think of. We don't need every law that makes people safer. We don't need a law to make every aspect of our lives about compliance.

Just think about your day for a moment. Is there anything you do that does not have a law controlling some aspect of it? The pillow you slept on is regulated, the toilet's flow, the shower's flow, and on and on. Is that how we should treat each other, just because we can? It's already well beyond what people 100 years ago could even imagine. What will it be like in another 100? People will be begging for a fatal head injury just to be free.

Chip S. said...

Just require everybody--cyclists, pedestrians, people on ladders, people in bathtubs--wear hard hats. At least then we won't all look like dorks.

exiledonmainst said...

"They also happen when you ride on the wrong side of the road, weave between lanes of traffic, ride too closely to parallel parked vehicles, ride through red lights, ride into active crosswalks."

10/1/12 10:14 AM

Yep. Just yesterday, I had to slam on my brakes because a cyclist came sailing into the intersection, breezing right past a stop sign. He didn't even turn his head to check oncoming traffic. If that's how he normally navigates city streets, it's only a matter of time before he gets hit -and his magic helmet won't save him.

Chip S. said...

Once we're all wearing hard hats, the only dangerous activity left will be washing our hair.

Mandatory shaved heads?

bagoh20 said...

" but isn't there a legal risk if somebody borrows a bike then gets a head injury? "

See there is the problem. The fact that someone makes a bicycle available should not make them liable for anything other than the injury caused by some misrepresentation of the bike. There should simply be a sign that says you waive all rights to sue when you take the bike. Nobody is forcing you to take the damned thing.

Pastafarian said...

Isn't it obvious why we have to wear helmets here, when they don't have to in Europe?

One million lawyers, that's why.

Personally, I'd be more worried about injuries or infections I might sustain by sitting on the same saddle that, minutes before, was rubbing against the sweaty taint of some fat cheese-eating Code Pink hippy.

Thanks, but I'll pass.

Richard Dolan said...

"Pushing ...." It's what the NYT does these days, always pushing you to conform to some ideal. Another word for the same thing is preaching. But without an adequate bible, it's not often successful. They need a better one.

exiledonmainst said...

A few summers ago, when I was sitting on the front porch of my brother's house, I spotted a neighborhood child riding his bike on the sidewalk. He was on the sidewalk despite the fact that my brother lives on suburban cul-de-sac with very little car traffic. And the kid had on not only a helmet but knee pads.

It's my theory that kids like this are the ones who end up going nuts and rioting after college sports victories. They've been so coddled and over-protected their entire lives that they go bonkers when they finally find themselves in a situation where Mommy is not standing guard over them to make sure they don't even suffer the trauma of a skinned knee.

TML said...

I've been racing competitively for 25 years and, at 50, still do. Believe me, it's very competitive even at the Masters 55+ and 60+ levels. I ALWAYS wear a helmet. First off because you must if you want to do any of the training rides. And the club I race for insists on it, rightly so. It's 100% mandatory. I was hit by a car in NYC (I work there on and off and keep a bike there) and hit my head first. I'm only alive because of the helmet. I shan't even address the idiocy of "why don't pedestrians wear helmets?" argument. Too stupid to merit a response. An excellent, very light helmet will set you back about $100. STFU and get a helmet.

bagoh20 said...

" STFU and get a helmet."

The helmet won't prevent most serious injuries, and many people are seriously hurt or killed every year with helmets on. Doesn't it make much more sense to ban bicycling? It's the only way to be sure. It's only way to be safe.

BarrySanders20 said...

"Personally, I'd be more worried about injuries or infections I might sustain by sitting on the same saddle that, minutes before, was rubbing against the sweaty taint of some fat cheese-eating Code Pink hippy."

I laugh.

Yes, exceptions to the community bike program would be required to exclude the naked hippy Madison rider from saddling up on a community bike. I did not see any naked riders in Montreal and we wore clothes while riding in public.

I wonder if Althouse's anti-shorts sentiment applies to community bike riders? A helmets and trousers requirement would suck.

Michael K said...

After running trauma center for years, the fatal bike injuries I've seen were riders on fast (multispeed) bikes and riders hit by cars. One teenager was hit so hard his corduroy pants left a pattern in the fender paint of the car.

Here in southern California we have another hazard for mountain bikers. About 8 years ago, two women were riding in the hills nearby and one was attacked by a mountain lion. Her companion beat it off. Her husband, a local oral surgeon, fainted when he saw his wife's face before she went to surgery.

While looking for the lion with a helicopter, sheriff's deputies found another lion victim a short distance away. He had been dead a while and the lion had eaten his liver. He had stopped, apparently, to repair his bike and the lion jumped him from behind.

The story

Chip S. said...

OK, I'll belabor the obvious.

Different people use bicycles in very different ways in very different environments. TML's comment demonstrates that at least some cyclists are able to perform their own cost-benefit calculations and decide for themselves.

That's never good enough for the nanny state, so we end up w/ kids wearing body armor to ride on the sidewalks of their cup-de-sacs.

BarrySanders20 said...

Ha! And I wore Birkenstocks while riding those community bikes, too.

Birks, shorts, no helmet and a community bike. I didn't realize I was a hippy.

Chip S. said...

I'll just let that typo stand. Clearly, safety was foremost on my mind.

traditionalguy said...

Well reasoned and true about the risks of dying on bicycles.

But dying is not the fear. Brain injury creating a human vegetable is the fear.

MayBee said...

cup-de-sacs.

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

miss j said...

helmet locked to bike. Foldable/disposable helmet liners dispensed on site or to carry. There problem solved.

MayBee said...


But dying is not the fear. Brain injury creating a human vegetable is the fear.


And then it becomes a public health issue because we are all going to be paying more for the health insurance that covers expensive long-term care.

Just like giant sodas and diabetes.

bagoh20 said...

"cup-de-sacs"

If ever a better name was devised, I never heard it. Change the damned Funk & Wagnalls on this one.

bagoh20 said...

"Just like giant sodas and diabetes"

And don't forget the biggest health care drains of all: The people who live long lives with their years of check ups and injuries and illnesses. Long life should be banned too. To die instantly, and young should be the goal we all strive for to keep health care costs low.

Inga said...

Tyrone, I worked on a brain injury rehab unit for a few years, many of the patients were under forty, unhelmeted bike and motorcycle riders. Very sad.

Inga said...

Bagoh, unfortunately some don't die instantly, some live with severe brain injury.

Alex said...

Crack - always a man to the end. Better to have your brains splatter all over the pavement then wear a dorky helmet. That's a real man for ya.

Alex said...

Bagoh, unfortunately some don't die instantly, some live with severe brain injury.

Like some of our resident trolls here.

bagoh20 said...

"Bagoh, unfortunately some don't die instantly, some live with severe brain injury"

This is why I wear a helmet...with an explosive charge wired to go off at 2.0Gs. It's actually a mandatory reform buried on page 2053 of the ACA.

Aridog said...

BarrySanders20 ...

Helmet use should not be required to ride. Helmet use should be required for Obama voters.

Now THAT one was good. You da' man :-)) !!

Inga said...

Bagoh, you'll go out with a BANG! :)

SteveR said...

Compared to years past, automobile safety has improved greatly, even though traffic has increased as well as speeds. Bicycle safety, but for the advantage of wearing a helmet (such as it is) has not changed since the 19th century while nearly every other safety factor has become worse. And doesn't include that tendency of some bicycle riders to not follow the rules.
Add it up and there are simply better and safer ways to get around, better ways to reduce your carbon footprint and better ways for the vast majority of people to exercise.

exiledonmainst said...

"I wonder if Althouse's anti-shorts sentiment applies to community bike riders?"

I have a neighbor with a lot of leg hair who wears shorts when he rides his bike. I fear that he will get into a terrible accident one day when his leg hair becomes entangled with the bike chain.

Ouch!

goodwithwords said...

I have been riding bikes happily helmet free for around 40 years. Helmets are fine for low impact, low speed collisions but will do little or nothing to proect you from impacts with motor vehicles.In fact, research shows you are at higher risk of an accident if you wear one, because of a) risk compensation (you take more risks as you feel 'protected') and b) motorists give you less room, as they believe a helmeted rider to be more competent, and better protected. I rely on my own eyes and ears, and road awareness (constantly doing the 'lifesaver' check) and make eye contact whenever possible. I would far rather put my faith in my senses than a flimsy bit of polystyrene covered with plastic, thanks. Remember cycling saves lives, cycle helmets do not - but there is lots of money to be made out of selling them, and they are an easy way for governments to 'victim blame' rather than address the real danger on the road - motor vehicles. Australia and New Zealand are two of the most dangerous places on earth to ride a bike - yet they have had mandatory helmet laws in place for 20 years. All the legislation has done is put people off riding there. By contrast, the Netherlands has higher rates of cycling and is far safer - yet hardly anyone wears a helmet. What we need is proper infrastructure for cyclists, not pointless plastic hats.

bagoh20 said...

" there are simply better and safer ways to get around, better ways to reduce your carbon footprint and better ways for the vast majority of people to exercise."

What would be that way that is better than bicycles at all those things?

I've been riding for 50 years with no serious injuries. I don't even know anyone who has been seriously injured. I know it happens, but I know a lot of people personally who have been killed or maimed in cars. Maybe we should just have a maximum human speed of 5 mph at all times, but still we need helmets, because people have been hurt at 5 mph.

Carol said...

Helmets are fine for low impact, low speed collisions but will do little or nothing to proect you from impacts with motor vehicles.

Well, duh. But many bike mishaps are stupid screwups at low speed, especially if you're back on the bike as an adult after many years. Hazards are a lot harder on the grownup body.

About 15 years ago I went over some RR tracks a little too hard, going about 8 mph, and fell rought down and my helmet hit the road right at the temple. I was dazed but okay. Except that my coworkers all saw me on the side of the road with an ambulance as they went home.

Aridog said...

Every time I get close to buying a decent bicycle to ride around here when I feel like it (I'm retired now)...along comes a column or article or post like this one to convince me it isn't worth the trouble.

Bicycling in eastern Dearborn and Detroit has it challenges, the greatest, after ghetto issues, are Michigan divers per se.

Anyone here who drives a car, rides a motor cycle or bicycle here, and doesn't do so with the firm conviction that everyone else out there is trying to kill them, is in denial here. Just as we take aggressive driving to new levels, we take defensive driving there as well. We make NYC cab drivers cry, trust me.

SteveR said...

What would be that way that is better than bicycles at all those things?

better and safer ways to get around? taking into account physics, weather and hygeine a car, bus, taxi, walking

better ways to reduce your carbon footprint? telecommute, don't support environmental groups who travel to Bali for conferences, support the expansion of domestic sources of conventional energy to include both fossil fuels and nuclear

better ways for the vast majority of people to exercise? walking, treadmill, stationay bike, walking, walking.

There are obviously those for who riding a bike is the best way to accomplish these things.





Bryan C said...

"I would surprised if the same is true in the US, where you usually have to share the road with cars and drivers aren't used to cyclists."

Drivers are used to vehicles which obey traffic laws. Cyclists, for reasons I do not understand, feel that traffic laws shouldn't apply to them. The outcome is predictable.

davis,br said...

In 1978 or so, I was test-riding a Gitane I had just restored, on its maiden ride within about a mile of my rural home.I was headed east on a short-downhill on the country mountain road there, back toward my home, and saw an approaching pickup.

I was doing maybe 25-30mph. No helmet (helmets in those days were leather racing affairs ...and yes, for long rides I ordinarily wore mine (even then, and as useless as I knew it would likely be "in the event of" ...I read the cycling mags, and knew how little protection they offered).

I was, as usual, watching for any sign that the driver saw me, was in any wise driving erratically, was preparing to turn, whatever (I've always ridden defensively, whether on motorcycles or bicycles).

It all went down VERY quickly from that point. Crap happens fast at 30mph on a bicycle.

The totally oblivious SOB decided to make a left turn into my oncoming path, without signaling, just as I passed in front of him.

He didn't see me at all. Even when he looked right at me.

I didn't register on his mind. He wasn't "prepared" for a lone cyclist coming down that road.

He clipped the rear triangle, pretzeling the stays and the rear wheel (if I'd been a single mph slower, or a second earlier, I doubt I'd be writing this) on my shiny newly restored French bicycle.

I was catapulted from the bike, which ended up 9 foot up hanging half off the top of a redwood stump about six foot off the paved road.

I hit the gravel. Tucked in and rolling.

I actually rolled to an upright position, running back toward the effing truck that had hit me. I was VERY angry, and screaming like a banshee.

I was even angrier when I smelled the liquor on his breath, and heard his slurred - though very scared and apologetic - speech. If he hadn't been so old, I would have ...well, I didn't. But I screamed a LOT at him.

I was pissed off. Very. The fast that I'd just "not been killed" hit me a few minutes later.

Umm. I had a tiny bit of road rash on my right arm. And I was very, very dusty. That was it.

To wit: I'd had some 3-4 years of martial arts training. I knew how to fall and roll. How to use momentum.

Lucky me? I dunno. Maybe. But true luck would have meant it never happened.

I've always since thought of that incident as being "prepared" (one of my early sensai's had survived a fall from the tail of a B52 when the scaffolding gave way; his three buddies didn't ...he chalked it up to "knowing how to fall-and-roll").

My training kicked in. I lived.

(His insurance paid for a new bicycle, no contest. BFD. He should have been arrested.)

That incident defined my approach to cycling ever after.

And I know that for the typical glancing collisions, being able to and practiced at the fall and the tuck-and-roll is way more important than a helmet could ever be.

And that being alert and paying total attention to everything around you - I call it situational awareness - is way more important than a helmet could ever be.

Just so. Helmets? Sure. Sometimes. It depends upon the type of riding. And it's goofy not to take every advantage of whatever cheap protection avails given the type of ride.

I think children should always ride with helmets (because they are, one and all, graceless and unbalanced klutzes at those ages, and it's stupid not to give them such inexpensive protection).


But for the typical neighborhood ride, no. Not really necessary.

Just exercise some [un]common sense.

Sorun said...

"Cyclists, for reasons I do not understand, feel that traffic laws shouldn't apply to them."

Most people learn to ride bicycles on roads as kids, but kids haven't taken driver's ed yet.

Ask a 10 year-old what a semaphore violation is.

bagoh20 said...

SteveR,

My question was: "What would be that way that is better than bicycles at ALL those things?"

Tyrone Slothrop said...

While I highly recommend wearing a helmet, I agree with a lot of you here who think it should be an individual's choice. The argument for compulsory helmets will be that, since we're all paying for your treatment through Obamacare, the state will have a right to force you to wear one. The same thing will apply to smoking, obesity, and risky behaviors of all kinds. In other words, Obamacare will be the rationalization for relieving you of virtually any freedom you now take for granted.

Michael said...

Years ago a bike racing friend of mine hopped on his bike to coast downhill to another friends house. His bike hit some gravel and the bike slid from underneath him. His head hit a mailbox. He was dead before he hit the ground.

Accidents do not give us advance warning. Distance from our door is not necessarily material.

Triangle Man said...

Helmets do not reduce your risk of having an accident, they mitigate the effects of an accident. You are more likely to have an accident riding in an urban area, but the severity of injury is lower on average so that in one study un-helmeted riders have 3 times the head injuries of helmeted riders. In rural areas, accidents are less frequent, but helmets make a bigger difference. Un-helmeted riders in rural areas (in the same study) had 14 times the head injuries as helmeted riders.

Michael said...

Years ago a bike racing friend of mine hopped on his bike to coast downhill to another friends house. His bike hit some gravel and the bike slid from underneath him. His head hit a mailbox. He was dead before he hit the ground.

Accidents do not give us advance warning. Distance from our door is not necessarily material.

Triangle Man said...

"Cyclists, for reasons I do not understand, feel that traffic laws shouldn't apply to them."

Which laws have you observed cyclists ignoring that imperil them? I see cyclists not stopping completely at stop signs and occasionally crossing an intersection against a light, but these are done precisely because there are no vehicles around.

CachorroQuente said...

TML says:"I shan't even address the idiocy of "why don't pedestrians wear helmets?" argument. Too stupid to merit a response. An excellent, very light helmet will set you back about $100. STFU and get a helmet."

If you're riding your bicycle in a group, it's probably a good idea to wear a helmet. Otherwise, the enhancement to safety is probably insignificant.

The simple fact is, that riding a bicycle, either with or without a helmet, is ordinarily not a dangerous activity. Riding a bicycle without a helmet for a half hour or so is probably about as damaging to your life expectancy as eating a Big Mac. Indeed, bicycling is far less dangerous than riding in a car. In the U.S., we kill thousands and thousands of people in cars, many as a result of head injuries. If you want to significantly reduce head injury costs and helmets is your solution, you'd be much more effective by dictating that auto passengers wear helmets. Or maybe if we demanded that Big Mac eaters wear helmets we could do to Big Mac eating what we've done to bicycling. Think of all the lives saved.

Look up the numbers, curb your smugness, and just shut the fuck up.

M.A. said...

Maybe Cher should push bicycle helmets.....

CachorroQuente said...

Tyrone says: "Trying to compare climbing a ladder or walking on the sidewalk is ludicrous. Biking is orders of magnitude more dangerous."

So, biking is at least 100 times more dangerous than either walking or ladder climbing. That's a really stupid claim. Typical annual deaths in the U.S. as a result of falling off a ladder appear to be on the order of 350. Bicyclists killed in the U.S., about 700. Then you have to allow for exposure. Every weekend day that the weather is nice, the roads fill up with cyclists, but driving around the neighborhood, you'd be lucky to find more than a couple old guys on ladders cleaning out their gutters.

Lyle said...

Someone doesn't want to get sued. It's the lawyers of America fault.

McTriumph said...

The cyclist I T-boned at 60mph was wearing a helmet, but he wasn't wearing it when he it the road. He learn a few lessons, the world is a dangerous place, life is precious and stop signs are there for a reason.

LoafingOaf said...

The more bikers on the road, the safer they all are because the car drivers become more aware they have to look out for them. Helmet laws reduce the number of bicyclists on the roads, so they suck. A helmet should be a choice.

bagoh20 said...

I guess some of us are just different.

If for personal pleasure people started killing themselves by sticking butter knives into electrical outlets, I would not feel compelled to outlaw outlets, or butter knives, or to even mandate all butter knives be made of plastic. It would save lives, but I'm just not of that compulsion to control strangers for their own good. Besides just a philosophical view, I also want the same respect granted to me, and I don't trust strangers to decide such things for me.

People like myself should just be killed at the first signs of such radical propensity - just to be sure. Think of all the laws we wouldn't need if we could just get rid of non-compliant assholes like me.

I Callahan said...

Bicycling in eastern Dearborn and Detroit has it challenges, the greatest, after ghetto issues, are Michigan divers per se.

At least you guys have sidewalks. Out in the newer construction areas (Northern Macomb County, Canton, etc.), there are no sidewalks on main streets, and riding on main roads (everything is over 50 MPH minimum) is taking your life into your hands.

I miss my old northeast Detroit neighborhood (when it was safe). I could ride my bike anywhere.

Shanna said...

Which laws have you observed cyclists ignoring that imperil them? I see cyclists not stopping completely at stop signs

Drivers are expected to follow those laws even when there are ‘no vehicles around’ because sometimes someone comes out of nowhere. Someone was killed here a year or two ago running through a stop sign. And quick googling shows the same thing happened a few weeks ago:

‘bicyclist was killed Monday morning after she ran a stop sign’

Matt said...

What I take from the article is that many people don't seem to know the difference between something that is recommended and something that is mandatory. And because of that they are discouraged from bike sharing programs. It’s still a choice, though. If you don’t want to wear a helmet feel free.

I do think, however, that if you have kids under age 18 you should make them wear a helmet because, after all, the safety of your child should be a priority.

bagoh20 said...

"bicyclist was killed Monday morning after she ran a stop sign"

So what's the problem? Should we fine the dead body? Maybe force it to do some community service checking voter registrations in a Democratic stronghold?

NotquiteunBuckley said...

Hmmm.

"The Denver B-Cycle program — hailed as a progressive and green way to get people out of their cars and onto bikes — now is being criticized as an elite folly that has ignored poor and minority residents.

The City Council votes Monday on whether to expand the popular program — adding 27 stations around Denver that officials hope will boost ridership by 212 percent.

But one councilman is disappointed that stations aren't going into poor or minority neighborhoods."

Cedarford said...

During and after the Beijing Olympics, they had some webcams set up so you could scan Olympic venues and later everyday street scenes at the venues and other notable places.

Notable was time periods when people were commuting to work. Tens of thousands of bicycles, less than 1 in a 100 was wearing Chinese made bike helmets.

I think helmets are not a bad idea for motorcycles or off road biking or biking in situations where you are going at high speeds, or congested urban area where a collision with cars, pedestrians, road hazards exists.

I wear one then, had a helmet of course back when I was young and immortal and unmarried and rode a Yamaha.

But I don't want the safety Nazis obligating helmets on adults. I don't want the Chinese to become by default the country that is freer with less Nanny State hassling than America is becoming.

MadisonMan said...

Drivers are expected to follow those laws even when there are ‘no vehicles around’ because sometimes someone comes out of nowhere.

I often run the red light at Dayton and Randall. Coming from Dayton, because of the construction, you're turning left from the right-turn lane, and the sensor to toggle the light doesn't work in that lane. So rather than wait for minutes, I wait one, and if the light doesn't turn, I go.

Cars on Randall past 9:30 PM are quite rare, which is when I do this.

Aridog said...

I Callahan ....no question about it, the lack of sidewalks in the far suburbs is a problem...riding on the thoroughfares after dark is near suicidal.

I once had horses and rode almost every day, but after a while I had to keep them 75+ miles from home just for their safety and mine. When the Orthopods and Neuro dudes told me I shouldn't ride horses anymore, I looked at motorcycles, and later bicycles. Didn't work out.

I damn near bought an old Zundapp from the 50's and restored it, but that's hardly a "cruiser." Only reason was nostalgia ... that is the first motorcycle I ever owned...a one jug nut numbing vibration machine.

In the city both bike types are suicidal unless you are riding with colors and a crowd. The only colors around here that I was comfortable with are still around but very subdued today due to federal prosecution...apparently rightly so. Damnit.

On an informal basis they were pretty good folk....one guy, "Bones" especially, who rode with his dog on the back seat in a custom box. However, as a "Fed" I was in no position to join up, nor did I want to do so.

I still may buy a bicycle and tote it to places to ride, like Rouge Park, Hines Park, and various other locales, like Bell Isle....as well as some mild dirt trails.

Shanna said...

So what's the problem? Should we fine the dead body?

Of course not, that was in the response to the idea that cyclists only run lights and stop signs when it's totally fine. Obviously not.

MadisonMan said...

(to be clear: I run that stoplight while driving my car. On my bike, I can use the bikepath to avoid the light altogether)

Robert said...

It should be legal to ride your bike without a helmet.

But large sodas should be illegal.
---Liberals

Kirk Parker said...

" Just provide equally as good infrastructure for biking as there is for driving"

Ummmm, can we tax bicycles at a comparable rate, then?


bago,

"What will it be like in another 100? People will be begging for a fatal head injury just to be free."

This.

Harold said...

I read davis,br, and have a similar story.

Car at stop sign. Driver looks right at me, then looks to the right, and as I get to the corner, PULLS OUT IN FRONT OF ME!

She saw me all right- a guy on a bicycle, therefore, going slow. I was doing 30, a slight downhill with a tailwind. I screamed, she braked, I swerved, and my pedal caught her front end, stopping the bicycle short. I kept going, that old momentum thing. Hit the ground, properly, rolled, and got up. Pissed. But it was an old lady. Coming from a church meeting!

Total injury- a scrape on my leg where it hit the brake lever on the way over the bars. And a few scratches on the side of the helmet. A few months of judo when I was kid helped with the fall.

I have heard judo described as the Art of Gentle Falling. And I remember the first few weeks of lessons were learning how to fall. This wasn't the only time knowing how to fall has helped me out.

So maybe we should make a few months of beginning judo mandatory in schools. And possibly prevent a lot of injuries later on in life.

I think learning how to roller blade is much more dangerous then cycling. Made out eldest where helmet, knee and elbow pads everytime he went out. One day he gave the old, "But Dad, all my friends..." And we put our collective feet down, and he went out grumbling, with safety equipment on. An hour later he came back. Deep scratches on the back of his helmet and elbow pads. His friend, sans equipment, had scratches on the back of his head and his elbows. Funny thing about that. We never said anything to him, but he never again left the house without helmets and pads... and always without being reminded.

John Lynch said...

It has many health benefits until you are hit by a car.

If it's so safe, then why so many laws to protect cyclists? Do the laws work?

Do cyclists work?

madeleine said...

Ten years ago, I had a bike accident which would have cracked my skull had I not been wearing a helmet. I was wearing it because my kids were with me and I required them to wear helmets. My mom has had a bike accident while wearing a helmet and *still* had a concussion and temporary memory loss. However, I never wore a helmet growing up, and that's what I really prefer. My solution today: I just never ride my bike any more because I can't stand the helmet but I won't ride without one. Not the ideal solution, but there it is.

madeleine said...

Oh, and my mom's accident occurred in a campground parking lot at the end of a mountain bike ride. No speed involved, just a tangle with other riders and an unfortunate landing.

MadisonMan said...


Do cyclists work?

??

I ride my bike to work. So yes, I do work.

Maybe I'm missing a point.

wyo sis said...

What has suddenly caused the social engineering nannies to switch their loyalties? A new green-liberal-let's-move social policy is threatened by an old we-are-in-charge-of-your-safety social policy and one of them must go.

What a dilemma!

Being liberal, we can't stay with an "old" idea, so it must be abandoned. And, not just abandoned, but violently refuted and made to seem ridiculous.

This is what liberals do---that which is new, costly and untested must always be better. "They do it in Europe!" Always a selling point for liberals.

Mel said...

I was 7 when my bike hit a rock about two inches in diameter and the same rock hit my temple. 38 hours later, when I woke up, my left hand didn't work properly anymore. I couldn't make it tie my shoe for nearly a year and it took five to make it write my name again. I would NEVER pick up a knife to use it with my left hand. And I still have trouble typing on a touch screen because of fine motor control issues.
I am lucky. I can walk and talk and my neurological issues are minor. I even learned to ride a bike again and ride to work on a regular basis. I wear a helmet and my kids wear helmets. A) I know what can happen if I don't. B) It's another piece of reflective equipment that makes me easier for motorists to see.
Make your own decisions; the course of my life made mine.

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