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« After the Storm | Main | Don Dave »

Here we go again

A brand new study shows that bicycle helmets reduce the risk of serious head injury by 70%. How about a worthwhile study into the actual cause of death of every cycling casualty. Were they wearing a helmet, and if not, would a helmet have prevented that death anyway?

Because if a cyclist is hit by a motorized vehicle doing 60 mph, he will most likely die from blunt force trauma to both the body and head whatever he is wearing. The same goes if he is crushed under the wheels of a vehicle. Does a study like this conclude that someone so crushed and dead, but avoided head injury because they wore a helmet. Does that count as a win for the helmet?

Wear a dozen woolen hats, each stretched over the next, and that too would probably reduce the risk of head injury, but that is not the issue. Studies like this just make it easier for legislators to make helmet use mandatory, and harder for those opposed to argue against.

I am not against helmet use, I wear one myself, but I am definitely against being compelled to wear one. Why not helmets for pedestrians, as more of them are hit by cars and die than cyclists. How about the elderly, they are always tripping and falling?

How about mandatory bullet proof vests for everyone, as about 10 times more people are shot to death in the US than are killed on a bicycle. We could start with bullet proof vests for school kids, and people shopping in malls. That would cut down the number of fatalities in the event of a mass shooting.

I am being facetious of course, but is it just me or can anyone else see how ludicrous it is to single out the cyclist to wear protective gear. To make him wear it under the threat of a fine, or by peer pressure from other cyclists.

It is a distraction that diverts attention from the real problem of people driving carelessly. 


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Reader Comments (38)

Well, helmet laws vary by state for motorcycles, maybe it will end up that way for bicycles too.

In CA helmets are mandatory for kids up to I'm not sure what age. 16? 18? I'll skip a helmet on rides where they are not necessary, including errands riding with 4-lane traffic down the main business street where I live.

September 30, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterRubeRad

As I understand it, the risk of head injury for someone on a bicycle is the same as for a pedestrian and the way bicycle helmets are designed, built, and tested mean they should offer the same protection for pedestrians, so what I don't understand is, why are some people after only the people on bikes to wear helmets?
Also, as I understand it, people on bikes who die from head injuries alone make up less than 20% of all cycling deaths. Helmets protect something less than a third of the head, an area less likely cushion a blow and without any real data to back this up, I'd be willing to bet, those rare impacts to the head that do cause death would be in excess of the maximum impacts tested for on bicycle helmets.
Such a lot of fuss over such a small bit of protection

September 30, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterBrad

you wear a helmet to ride but not to walk. you don't wear a bulletproof vest. how did you arrive at these decisions? seems illogical by the tone of your article.

September 30, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterayjaydee

Call me a pushover, but I'd rather be alive than a martyr for principle. The studies are simply conveying objective numbers. What people do with the product of these studies can certainly vary from humane to political interest. But, the facts are the facts, and from them there are takeaways that can increase the safety of the public.

September 30, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJoeHydrick

Just because a practice statistically decreases injury doesn't mean it should necessarily be adopted/forced. Wrapping everybody 2 ft thick in bubble wrap would decrease injuries. Outlawing cycling would also decrease cycling injuries.

More relevantly, lowering speed limits (and enforcing them) would decrease traffic fatalities, but the public is already unwilling to obey the existing speed limits (and willing to pay for extra gas burned for driving so fast), so that's not gonna change, even though it would make a hell of a lot more actual difference than a bicycle helmet law would.

September 30, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterRubeRad

Precisely my point. If I were to walk everywhere wearing a helmet, or wear a bullet proof vest, I would be looked on as a crazy person. Over the years the cycling community has believed the marketing hype, "Drunk the Cool-aid" so to speak until it has become the norm for a cyclist to wear one. I resisted wearing a helmet for 56 years and have only worn one for the last 10 years. My reasons are, it is part of the kit, along with the gloves and shoes,and it can't hurt. My main reason, in the event of an accident an insurance company cannot refuse to pay on the grounds I didn't take every precaution.

PS RubeRad: You are spot on.

September 30, 2016 | Registered CommenterDave Moulton

When we look around the world we find that Amsterdam and Copenhagen have the lowest rates of cycling injuries and deaths. How can this be as hardly anyone there is wearing a helmet. The reason is that, for the most part, people are not clipped to their pedals and they are riding under 20 kph. If you really want to force people to ride safely this is the way to go.....No?.... I thought not.

September 30, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterPhil Kent

I've written about this on my small blog and i totally agree. There are many injuries possible in a impact with a car the head is one small area and no one considers activities with equal risk as requiring a helmet.
I understand it for 'sport' same with cars and racing drivers wearing helmets but no car driver would think about wearing a helmet in general driving despite it reducing their risk of head injury by a large percentage.
Helmets are only tested from a 2m vertical drop anyway which doesn't account for 20mph travelling speed and the speed of the other object. Again like most people I too wear one when I believe I am riding in situations where i deem the risk is higher and that's the point; I decide if my risk is appropriate.

September 30, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterNigel

I thought the most significant reasons for cycle safety in amsterdam are:

1. urban design of intersections, cycle paths, that maximizes visibility
2. such a high volume of cyclists that cars are used to them, and considerate of them


1. cars CAN see cyclists, and
2. cars DO see cyclists

(where 2. is the most significant factor)

September 30, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterRubeRad

I don't wear a helmet to prevent my death. I wear a helmet to prevent serious head injury if I come off my bike. And my helmet has done so a number of times.

September 30, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterayjaydee

A number of years ago I was in an accident that injured my shoulder enough that I needed surgery, and the 1st question most asked was "were you wearing a helmet?".
When I responded that I probably would have been better served wearing shoulder pads, I just got blank stares as if to ask "WTF are you talking about?".

Go figger.

October 1, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterTony P

Like Dave have been riding for close to 70 years, In England, the only thing we ever had, for Tracks eventsm was a CRASH HAT, Leather bands, pretty useless I thought, I have been wearing a helmet the last few years, WHY? I guess that something is better than nothing?? The jury is still out as to just how much more safe a helmet is. My son Paul 46yrs old a cat 3 racer says a aero helmet shaves several mins, time off in a 40k

October 2, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterjohn crump

I think the point Dave is making is that it shouldn't be mandatory any more than any other safety option. In fact, selecting cyclists is discriminatory but well within the political goal of doing something that has optics of accomplishment. Doesn't matter if it is real or not.

A couple of years ago, Jay Leno asked one of the Sheen sons if he ever rode a motorcycle growing up. He said "No, it's unsafe" Leno replied, "Wear a condom!"

October 2, 2016 | Unregistered Commentersjx426

According to the study being considered here, the jury is not still out. They claim to have figures to prove that using a helmet will reduce my chances of having a serious head injury by a very significant amount.

October 2, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterayjaydee

If all the cool macho cyclists were willing to crawl off and die when they accidentally suffered a traumatic head injury, I would be fine with their attitude. Unfortunately when a cyclist receives a debilitating head injury and requires constant care that could go on for years or decades, that person rarely has the resources to pay for it and the tax payer is saddled with the bill which can amount to several hundred thousand dollars a year. The government uses the same logic they employ when they require the mandatory use of seat belts. Our medical system is required to provide some level of care to anyone who needs it. There is little doubt that a cyclist is offered some level of protection from wearing a helmet and perhaps our lawmakers, who have to figure out how to pay for indigent care, are not out of line by requiring helmet use. At the very least a person who refuses to wear a helmet should be considered to already have signed his or her organ door card.

October 3, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJon Carr

Jon Carr, no one is denying cyclists do not suffer severe injuries and/or die, or that a helmet does not provide at least some protection, but I think if you looked at the issue objectively, you couldn't help but find there's more than a little disagreement to what degree helmets help prevent serious injury or death.
I also think your opinion that people riding bicycles without wearing helmets cost the taxpayers money is without foundation. People who ride bicycles regularly save the taxpayers loads of money, a large portion of which is attributable to savings in medical care.
In other words, cycling is so dangerous that if people who ride bicycles without helmets do it enough, they can expect to live longer, healthier lives than that of the general population.
That's a good thing Jon, and something that should be encouraged.

October 3, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterBrad

and those that ride bikes AND wear a helmet will save the taxpayer even more. the folks riding bikes with a helmet are not the general population.

October 3, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterayjaydee

That's far from a fact ayjaydee, there are more than a few studies that show helmet use and mandatory helmet use hasn't shown any discernible benefit.
I'm not quite understanding your second point. You're probably addressing the fact that riding a bike is a good thing, and those who do ride them are better off than the vast majority of the population that don't get any kind of exercise, so I'll leave it at that

October 3, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterBrad

A while ago in Toronto a cyclist was crushed to death under a 50 ton streetcar, the first thing that was said in the news was "a cyclist was killed by a streetcar today, the cyclist was not wearing a helmet". As if wearing a helmet would have saved his life. What they are trying to do is shift the blame from the streetcar driver to the cyclist, and this always happens when a cyclist is injured or killed by a vehicle, shift the blame to the cyclist if he or she is not wearing a helmet.

October 4, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Medlock

Well Brad, I have come off my bike a number of times and cracked my helmet. I didnt have to go to the doctor because the helmet took the blow,so I know I saved the taxpayer money.

October 4, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterayjaydee

That's wonderful ayjaydee, I'm glad you weren't hurt, but it seems you've not understanding how it is that helmets are designed to work. The EPS foam that is the primary substance making up a helmet works to prevent injury through its cells collapsing, not separating. A helmet must crush, not split, to work properly. If a helmet splits it is considered to have failed. Perhaps despite this failure, your helmet had prevented some type of minor injury, like a scrape or bruise but perhaps not. The helmetless can, and often do fall from bicycles without injury. It is a particular mindset that assumes any fall off a bicycle will result in a serious injury and that's a dangerous assumption because it keeps people away from doing something that is good for them through the fear raised by such concerns. Fear that is misguided and unproductive.

October 4, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterBrad

Minor injury? Lol! When the outer shell is badly scuffed and cracked, that would have been more than a minor injury.

October 4, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterayjaydee

Well, it is true that one persons minor injury is another's major injury which is why the argument here isn't to not wear a helmet, it's to not compel others to wear a helmet. Wear one if you like, but understand that riding a bicycle isn't any more risky than going for a walk or drive

October 4, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterBrad

That is pure nonsense. Walking is far less likely to result in a fall than riding a bike.

October 4, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterayjaydee

My title for this piece of "Here we go again," was very apt. I want to thank everyone for a lively discussion. Helmet use, or "Non-use" is almost like religion or politics to a cyclist. You just have to allow the other guy his POV or not discuss it at all.

October 4, 2016 | Registered CommenterDave Moulton

Ah, and that is how helmet advocates promote helmet use, by convincing the public that riding a bicycle is dangerous, much more dangerous than walking or driving. While everyone is entitled to their own opinions, they are not entitled to their own facts and examining those facts show the claim that riding a bicycle is relatively dangerous is simply, not true. Cycling, like life itself, is not without risks, but on balance, its benefits exceeds its risks. If that's dangerous, we'd all be better off to be led to it

October 4, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterBrad

Lol! the oldest trick in the book, moving the goalposts. Nowhere did anyone here say bike riding was MUCH more dangerous than anything. But don't let that get in your way!!

October 4, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterayjaydee

ayjaydee, you just posted "walking is far less likely to result in a fall" than riding a bicycle.If that doesn't suggest riding a bike isn't more dangerous than walking, I don't know what does.

October 4, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterBrad

Which part of MUCH seems to be confusing you??

October 4, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterayjaydee

(Sigh) Here we go again. Probably because there will always be a segment of people who not only see things differently, but who also aren't interested in viewing the topic from an objective perspective

October 4, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterBrad

Lol! give yourself another pat on the back while I rebait my hook.

October 4, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterayjaydee

While I do respect what Dave has said (allow another their point of view or just walk away) I still believe I should at the very least allow an opposing view the opportunity to understand when their facts are incorrect.
The time to walk away is when you know facts mean nothing or just having an argument means more than understanding the point being made. Like now.

October 5, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterBrad

Bad diets can cause poor health and adverse medical conditions. Save the taxpayers money by mandating healthy diets and banning junk food.

October 5, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJohn C

If a cyclist chooses to not wear a helmet, maybe their brain isn't worth protecting. Probably a part of the same group of people who argue that seat belt use in motor vehicles shouldn't be mandatory. Darwin proven correct once again. I am 62 years old and have been riding since I was 17 and began wearing a helmet (Giro) in the late 80's. I have been saved twice from serious head injuries because I was wearing a helmet. Over the course of time I have witnessed serious head injuries suffered by cyclists not wearing a helmet and now I have a policy of not riding with anyone who is not wearing a helmet. Never again do I want to have to give first aid to a person when I can see their brains thru the split in their skull.

October 9, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterDon

Into the breech, not sure I can add anything to the devolving conversation. I have moved to Germany, Munich specifically just over a year ago. I used a helmet almost always when riding in the US. Some use was work required. I have had mechanical failures that landed me on my head and damaged the helmets also involving loss of consciousness. Helmets work reasonably well for that kind of crash. Helmets don't protect you from crashes but they might protect you from head injuries should you be in one.

I now don't use a helmet for riding around my new town. We have good infrastructure and great separation from motorized vehicles for the most part. Not Holland scale. I use my helmet when I'm on the racy bike or riding through parks where I'm going over 15 mph. In Holland you are supposed to wear a helmet on a racing type bike. Danger increases with speed. The faster you go the more protection you need if you crash.

Cycling is not inherently more dangerous than walking in most cities. Driving concussion rates from collisions are at or above those on bicycles. If we were really rational we would slow down drivers and make them use helmets with Hans devices to protect them from the neck injuries that helmets can cause.

October 11, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterRalph


There are other reasons for coming off your bike besides interaction with automobiles.

October 13, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterayjaydee

I personally am concerned about all these people continually falling off their bikes. Unless you race often why are you falling off all the time? I have been riding regularly for over 50 years and can count on one hand the number of times I have come off, usually due to road surface or inattention on my own part.
Wearing a helmet should be a personal choice. I wear one now as it's almost anathema not to. It's part of the kit and really doesn't bother me these days. But people shouldn't be put off cycling because they don't wish to wear one.

October 14, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJW

Pretty strong statistics pointing to helmets saving lives- just look at the percentage of total fatalities where the cyclist was not wearing a helmet. Sure, some cyclists wearing helmets still die, but at nowhere near the rate that cyclists not wearing helmets do.

March 22, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMichelle

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