To Bike Helmet or not to Bike Helmet?

  To Bike Helmet or not to Bike Helmet?

Helmets are awesome but you know what’s better?

Protected bike lanes. Helmets help, but not nearly enough–and studies show the cars drive closer to cyclists with helmets on.

“Meanwhile, it seems that bicyclists wearing helmets may encourage riskier driving by motorists. Traffic psychologist Ian Walker from the University of Bath equipped a bike with a sensor to record the distance between him and passing vehicles. He took more than 2,300 measurements and found that motorists passed him more closely when he wore a helmet. (He was also struck twice, by a bus and a truck, during the study — both times while wearing a helmet.).” Read the rest of this article, here.

You know where no one wears helmets? Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Utrecht…what makes folks feel safe cycling, including children and families, is more folks on the road. And helmets often discourage folks from cycling, and lack of bike lanes even more.

“The evidence paradoxically seems to show that while wearing helmets does make cyclists safer, helmet laws don’t make cyclists safer and actually harm public health in the long run…” Read the rest here.

Furthermore, head injuries in cars? Very common. Yet no one advocates for helmets on car drivers.

“In other words, if the reason we are supposed to wear helmets while biking is to prevent serious head injury on the off-chance we get into an accident, then why is it socially acceptable for pedestrians and drivers to go about bare-headed? Why has cycling been singled out as an activity in need of head protection?”  Read the rest, here.

You know what we should advocate for? Protect, separate bike lanes. And texting and driving, and other forms of distracted driving should be made illegal with severe penalty.

The stat comes at 3:47:

A few months ago, I was hit by a car. I wore a helmet for a few weeks, after, then started forgetting (as I rolled down the Hill upon which I live, inevitably about a minute into the ride I’d intone a silent dammit!)…then just gave up. It messes up your hair. It spoils that feeling of the wind and open sky, the convertible-top-down feeling that is bike riding. It’s hot, stuffy, it makes little noises around your ears, the very ears upon which I’m dependent to hear cars sneaking up behind me. It’s ugly, turning me from Waylon into a Legoman.

Here’s a few more serious reasons.

Oh, and it can and will save my life—if I wear it. So how do you all get yourself to wear a helmet? Or do you not bother? Should it be made a federal law, as it is in parts of the country, and in Canada where I visit me mum?

”Over the past several decades, society has come to equate safety with helmets,” said Charles Komanoff, the co-founder of Right of Way, an organization that promotes the rights of cyclists and pedestrians. ”But wearing a helmet does not prevent crashes.”

Vox agrees:“Chris Bruntlett: We — like you — live in a place where helmets have been mandated by law, because they’ve been accepted as a commonsense safety device, normal as a seatbelt. But the Dutch show that [for them], safety in infrastructure, safety in slowing cars, and safety in numbers are all far more important than safety in body armor… David Roberts: Yeah, the US approach seems to be to up-armor the cyclist so that cars don’t have to change.” Mr. Speaker, do you support requiring city bike riders to wear helmets for safety. CJ: Because if you require helmets, you’ll have much, much fewer people riding bikes across New York City. It is a barrier. It has not worked in other cities around the world. It has not worked in the United States of America. On face value, you might think it’s the right thing to do, but if you did that, you would have a fraction of the people biking in New York City. We want to encourage cycling in New York City, not make it more difficult. There have been studies about this, in the United States and around the world. It has been counter-productive, not helpful, not made it safer, so we are not going to go in that direction. It sounds like an easy sound bite to say, “Let’s make cyclists do that,” but if you look at the research and the facts and the studies, it’s not the right thing to do. SR: But we are talking about safety. Isn’t it almost a no-brainer if helmets can help keep cyclists safer. CJ: If you look at the studies, they’ll show you that it’s not a no-brainer. That actually, if you require helmets, it becomes less safe on the streets of the city because you’d have less people who cycle, which means that [drivers] don’t have to think about cyclists. It’s counter-intuitive in some ways, but that is what the science shows on this. Most people who are killed by cars and trucks, a helmet wouldn’t even help them because of the sheer scope of the accident. SR: Not to be truculent, if a cyclist gets hit, falls and lands on his head, isn’t it logical that a helmet is going to help him? CJ: We want people to wear helmets. But requiring them to wear helmets is a totally different thing. Go look at what other cities across the United States have found out when they tried that. It hasn’t work. It’s made it less safe for cycling in those cities.

“…in places where helmet requirements have driven cyclists off the road it has been argued that the negative effects on public health outweigh any possible benefits in prevented injuries. In Australia, when a helmet law was introduced at a time when the popularity of cycling was on the rise, a 44% decrease in children cycling was observed, which was five times the size of the increase in children wearing helmets. According to a paper published in the BMJ, it would take “at least 8000 years of average cycling to produce one clinically severe head injury and 22,000 years for one death“. It has also been estimated that the health benefits of cycling outweigh the life-years lost by a factor of twenty to one.”

“A helmet may have lessened my impact, but to prevent the crash in the first place, I needed a safety strategy that looked beyond the helmet.” Read the rest, here.