10 June 2009

Get Yer Torches! It's a Bike Helmet Witchhunt!


In a perfect world, an individual who chooses to promote everyday cycling, and who has dedicated a great deal of time, energy and personal resources to do so, would be set high atop a pedestral to be respected by the local and global community.

Instead, Matthew Modine, actor and founder of Bicycle for a Day, is subject to a cyber witchhunt these days.

Instead of focusing on the good this guy is doing, all the focus is on his personal choice of whether he wishes to wear a helmet or not. Which he doesn't.

Ironically, the man is more well-informed about helmets than the pundits who seek to hunt him down.

It started in an interview by Tim Murphy in New York Magazine, which was picked up by Ecorazzi and then Treehugger.

The witchhunt was off to a cracking start in NY Mag with the title: 154 Minutes With Matthew Modine - The actor and activist wants to make the world a greener place. But why won’t he wear the helmet his wife bought him?

Already right there we're not talking about making the world a greener place or Bicycle For A Day. The focus is far from these good things. Instead, we focus on the bad. The journalist is interested in the man's private business.

Michael Andre d'Estries at Ecorazzi picks up the pitchfork, salivating as he sharpens the points, when he writes "There’s an interesting quirk, however, to Modine’s love of biking — he doesn’t wear a helmet... the 50-year-old says he doesn’t wear one, because he doesn’t assume he’s going to get hurt. Right — because I wear a seatbelt with every intention of getting in an accident." [So it's 'quirky' that 50% of American cyclists don't wear helmets? Hmm.]

Then Lloyd Alter at Treehugger, darling of the helmet industry, gets his knickers into the usual twist. Let's face it, this guy is the Fox News of the bicycle world.

Let's get one thing straight. None of these three men are helmet experts. Lloyd tries to fake it like a porn star but really, these are journalists in Emerging Bicycle Cultures writing about cycling. Let's not take them too seriously. If I want news about the latest cricket Test Match, I don't read Icelandic sports websites.

What IS serious is their lack of support for everyday cycling and their eagerness to promote The Culture of Fear instead of promoting a life-extending, safe, healthy form of transport that can also transform cities into more liveable places.

I've visited a number of Emerging Bicycle Cultures through Copenhagenize.com and CopenhagenCycleChic.com and cycled in all of them. When I lecture about Marketing the Bicycle to the Sub-Conscious Environmentalists I have a slide in the powerpoint that sums up how cycling, in many Emerging Bicycle Cultures, is branded:

The difference between North America and other Emerging Bicycle Cultures is remarkable. I covered the rebirth of the bicycle in Paris last year and I was recently speaking in Riga and Moscow. Helmets don't even feature on the radar. Before the start of our Cycle Chic ride in Moscow, one of the organisers apologised that there was an older chap in a helmet and he hurried over to ask him to take it off. In Spain, France, Italy it's the same. When a Polish fashion blogger asked other Polish fashion bloggers to take a photo of themselves with a bicycle in the style of Copenhagen Cycle Chic, there weren't any helmets in the photo montage.

Even in an established bike culture like Japan in general and Tokyo in particular, there are hardly any helmets among everyday cyclists, as you can see right here.

All the people involved thus far in this discussion are homo sapiens who have developed the ability to judge personal risk for themselves. At that level, we're all equal.

So why is it so different in North America?

The question of lack of helmets has little to do with infrastructure. It is a cultural and, most importantly, economic issue. There are 100 million daily cyclists in the EU accordingly to the European Cyclists Federation. Easily half don’t have dedicated infrastructure and yet they don’t wear helmets.

The reason is quite simple. All the main helmet manufacturers are American. When they started suddenly promoting helmets in the late 1980’s, they targeted their local market and aimed helmets at those who cycled there; namely sports enthusiasts and hobby cyclists. The helmet was yet another piece of ‘necessary gear’ to be sold. The manufacturers capitalized on their branding of cycling as a fast-paced, sweaty sport.

Ironically, no helmet manufacturer will tell you that helmets will or can save lives. When I met a marketing man from a European helmet [and other stuff] manufacturer at the Velocity 2009 Bicycle Conference, who wandered around with a helmet dangling from his bag, I asked him straight out: "Can your helmet save your life?" He shrugged and laughed uncomfortably. "Can it?" "Well, not save your life, no." When I asked why he walked around with it he simply replied, "Because I sell them."

At least this guy knew what many people do not. That bicycle helmets are merely merely designed to protect the head from non-life threatening injuries in solo accidents under 20 km/h. And preferably if you land flat on the crown of your head, please. They are not even tested for impact on the sides or back.

The lack of helmets in countries outside of America and her cultural puppet state, Great Britain [wink wink nudge nudge], is because helmet manufacturers are American. With regards to Australia, it is hardly surprising that a Vice-President from Bell flew all the way to Australia to be present at every hearing in the early 1990's regarding passing the mandatory helmet laws. He sat quietly in the audience and spoke with the proponents of the law in the breaks.

What if the main helmet manufacturers were European? Who knows how things would be. One thing is certain, they would certainly be subject to the usual strict standards applied to other goods and services. As it is now, the helmet industry sits at the table when the standards are decided. As a result, the EU standard 1078 is among the weakest in the world.

Would I want cigarette manufacturers at the table when deciding about health laws and campaigns? Nope.

So North America has had decades of branding cycling as a 'sport' or 'fast-paced recreational activity' and not much else. This mentality has sifted down to individuals, like the three journalists up top, and has so ingrained itself on the population that the helmet is virtually religious folklore. Hardly healthy for a sound debate or for providing citizens with the big picture and the ability to choose for themselves.

In the current debate, nobody seems to give a shit about the 40,000 motorists killed in America each year, not to mention those who are maimed. Nobody seems to think that motorists should wear helmets, even though motoring helmets actually exist. The risk of drowning is much higher than dying while cycling, so where are the lifevest advocates? What about the 87,000 people hospitalised each year in America because of THIS shockingly dangerous activity? Why aren't they sold safety gear? Where's the logic?

It's usually absent when there is money to be made. Surprise, surprise.

The helmet scepticism in Europe and elsewhere is due to a more thorough review of the available scientifc research on the subject, instead of emotional propaganda. It can be summed up in the report issued by the European Council of Ministers of Transport [the ministers of transport for each EU nation] called National Policies to Promote Cycling (2004).

"Though helmets are widely accepted as reducing the severity of head injuries, the issue of mandatory requirements for helmet use has been controversial for a long time. PROMISING, a research project commissioned by the European Union and coordinated by the SWOV Institute for Road Safety Research (2001), suggests that from the point of view of restrictiveness, even the official promotion of helmets may have negative consequences for bicycle use, and that to prevent helmets having a negative effect on the use of bicycles, the best approach is to leave the promotion of helmet wear to manufacturers and shopkeepers.

The report entitled 'Head Injuries and Helmet Law for Cyclists' by Dorothy L. Robinson, Bicycle Research report No. 81 (March 1997) shows that the main effect of the introduction of the general helmet law for cyclists in Australia was a drop in bicycle use."

This is the upper echelon of Europe government speaking here. They're worried about fearmongering and public health. Furthermore, the national cyclist federations in Holland, Germany, Belgium, Great Britain, Ireland, France, among other countries do NOT actively promote helmets and they fight legislation tooth and nail.

Even the European Cyclists' Federation, at the recent Velocity 2009 Bicycle Conference in Brussels, produced these badges in the interest of placing the focus back on the positive promotion of cycling, instead of fear-mongering. And if Matthew Modine is victim of a witchhunt, imagine what would happen to the Dutch Cyclists' Federation's [Fietserbond] traffic consultent, Theo Zeegers, if he were let loose in the North American press. Drawn and quartered by four SUVs, head left on a spear outside the city's gates.

The general attitude towards helmets in North America is the result of decades of exaggeration, misinformation, emotional blackmail all backed by the economic interests of the helmet industry. If I was 'over there' I'd feel duped and brainwashed.

Matthew Modine will live to cycle another day, despite the witchhunt. He has made his choice - he wishes to promote cycling and public health. All power to him.

The millions of potential cyclists who have been brainwashed into believing that cycling is dangerous and that a helmet will magically prevent them from harm are, however, at risk. Our sedentary lifestyle needs fixing and urban cycling can contribute massively to improving public health. With this incessant fear-mongering, the odds that the silent masses will get on bicycles are slimmer than slim.

It's about promoting helmets or promoting cycling and public health. We can't do both. I've made my choice.

79 comments:

jarvinho said...

While I agree that helmets should in no way be compulsory, I do, however, owe my life(or at least my lack of a severe brain injury) to one.

That's just me though, I like to ride fast, and people with cars like not to look for other road users when they drive out into the middle of the road.

Maybe if I lived in Denmark where I could ride leasurely along the dedicated cycleways, a 6 foot tall chain smoking, beer drinking supermodel at my side on classic upright bike, I wouldn't bother either as she might not like me if my hair was all messed up. But, alas, twas not to be, and lying sweaty and unconscious on a potholed street in Scotland was where I was destined to end up, my skull and brain safely cocooned from their impact with both the car and the road by some american polystyrene.

portlandize.com said...

I think one of the weirdest things to me, is that something like 90% of major head injuries in cyclists are in automobile/bicycle collisions, and yet even the cyclists' response in order to prevent those injuries is "wear a helmet".

We recently had a cyclist in Portland who was hit by a car and killed while riding the wrong way on a one-way street in car traffic, and his mother's advice to other cyclists was "wear a helmet!" - not "follow traffic flow," not "ride responsibly" - no, "wear a helmet!"

If 90% of major head injuries occur in collisions with automobiles (not to mention other major bodily injury), wouldn't it be time much better spent preventing collisions rather than just putting a thing on your head which is largely ineffective at doing any major good in an automobile/bicycle collision, not to mention an object that could actually increase your risk of a concussion, hematoma, etc?

And you thought 1940's Russia was good at propaganda.

Todd Scott said...

I can't help but think that helmet manufacturers are *not* behind this push. Instead, I would suggest it's because road agencies/government need a safety message for bicyclists. Telling us to wear helmets and putting the safety burden on cyclists is far easier and cheaper than improving bicycle infrastructure.

cafiend said...

You paint a picture of a reprehensible government/corporate conspiracy to make us look dorky while riding.

I picked up a little of the helmet habit from two excellent cyclists (and hardly pawns of propaganda) in Florida in the mid 1970s. Helmets were hardly big business back then. These two people, all by themselves, had picked up the notion that the big Bell mushroom might be a good idea.

I continued to go "Euro" while training to race and commuting until 1985, when I started riding a much busier road. Even so, I would skip the brain bucket on many rides.

The helmet gradually became a habit in the 1990s. Now I just don't think about it. Nor do I consider it a magical piece of body armor. It could help and it's not that much trouble to wear. It's also one piece of bike equipment no one will steal.

Incidentally, regarding boating, there are vigorous campaigns promoting the use of personal flotation devices. In whitewater paddling, helmets are highly promoted. So safety afflicts all manner of activities. Some people get preachy and extreme about it.

I suggest mandatory and constant use of blinders and ear plugs.

Antoine said...

While I agree with most of your arguments Mikael and you have given me much to ponder over, the first comment by jarvinho sums up my feelings exactly.

I too have avoided a certain brain injury in a motorcycle accident at only 70kph. The impact with the road smashed a hole in the kevlar/fibreglass shell by my ear and I only suffered abrasions, slight concussion and a sore neck. 70kph is a speed I attain daily bicycle commuting in wet, hilly, suburban Auckland amongst appalling driving and on substandard roads.

I also smashed a cycling helmet completely in half (something it was designed to do) in a high speed display of poor mountainbiking technique. So although I wouldn't wear a helmet when popping down to the shops if It wasn't the law in New Zealand, I don't think American polystyrene should be demonized either.

Right, I got that off my chest... I'm off to find that 6 foot tall supermodel now.

Jym said...

=v= Treehugger is hopeless. Go there right now and there's a thumbnail link on every page about "Hollywood Hotties and their Eco-Car."

grvsmth said...

Here's a video of bike safety advice from the City of Paris. Notice what safety advice - and accessory - are missing from this video.

Kelvin said...

"The helmet was yet another piece of ‘necessary gear’ to be sold. The manufacturers capitalized on their branding of cycling as a fast-paced, sweaty sport."

70km/h is what Olympic track sprinters go at. I think a helmet is definitely a good idea at that speed. On the other hand, I doubt that Matthew Modine is going anywhere past half that in Manhattan.

Incidentally, on the issue of boating and floation devices, the common vest-type PFDs aren't actually designed to orient the human head automatically above water (for that, you need the collar-type PFD). Their main purpose is to maintain buoyancy, which is useful for avoiding treading water in open water, or avoid being towed under by current in rivers and such. Like bike helmets, they're widely promoted, but supporters overstate their utility: the best way to avoid drowning is to learn how to swim.

lagatta à montréal said...

I definitely agree that helmets could be a good idea for athletes cycling as fast as cars and motorcycles. Not for me puttering along.

It is another message of impunity for car drivers.

Thankfully the Bixi and the growth of chic cycling (just saw a dude go by in a very nice suit) are militating against that here, though there are still too many.

There are so many real safety issues to address. It is a way of seeming concerned about "safety" while not addressing them, and making cyclists feel vaguely guilty about demanding security.

Adam M. said...

I'm sorry but not wearing a helmet is stupid. Of course you didn't stop there. You justified Matthew Modine's choice by saying it is a conspiracy by the helmet industry? That helmet won't save lives? Why didn't you come to the assumption that Matthew Modine doesn't wear a helmet at the risk of not being recognized? How about the uncool factor when your picture is being taken?

Safety is safety. Our kids need to know you HAVE to wear a helmet while biking (and numerous other sports). He believes we need to take responsibility for our planet. He should remember his responsibility as a role model. Sometimes your choice gets trumped by your responsibilities.

I'll continue to support Matt and his Bicycle For A Day. At least my kids will have me for an example.

Melbourne Cyclist said...

Todd Scott & lagatta: I'm with you - if there's a big push, or even legislation, towards getting cyclists wearing helmets, then when a cyclist without a helmet is injured/killed, it's seen as their fault.

There was a horrible incident here in Melbourne a few months ago, where a three months pregnant cyclist was killed when she was hit by a tour bus in a notorious yet popular with cyclists street (Swanston St - it's popular because there are no cars on the street, just trams up the centre, way too many delivery trucks and taxis, and tourist horse drawn carriages too; plus there's good infrastructure feeding into both ends of the street. Tour buses have now been removed). Reports are fuzzy, with the general consensus being that her wheels got stuck in the tram tracks, and consequently her bike tipped over and dumped her under the bus.

I overheard several conversations along the lines of "well she shouldn't have been on the tram tracks should she?". There was no analysis of why she was on the tracks - was she intentionally cycling up them to stay clear of the delivery trucks, because it felt safer (the available road between the trucks and the tram tracks is insufficient to avoid a door opening without going onto the tracks), was she swerving out to avoid a door swinging open, or a vehicle pulling out when she was alongside it (without signalling or looking, as is too often the case), was she trying to avoid a jaywalker perhaps? No, the people having these conversations seemed perfectly happy with "she was somewhere she should not have been, therefore it was her fault", fairly much a 'she deserves to be dead' sort of attitude.

In terms of helmets, no they should not be compulsory, they should be entirely optional, and yes, their promotion should be left up to salespeople. I do wear a helmet, for two reasons: 1). it's the law here and I don't want to get fined; 2). I grew up riding horses (proper English saddles), and had it drummed into me by my parents that I had to wear a helmet if I wanted to ride, so I already have a helmet habit. It could be broken if I felt safe cycling - I was perfectly happy cycling without it in Amsterdam for example.

I seem to remember a study that concluded that motorists drive more slowly and carefully around cyclists without helmets, as their perceived risk of causing harm is higher, thus putting the responsibility for safe driving back on the motorist (rather than 100% defensive cycling with the cyclist). Could be something for us all to consider (particularly in cities with inadequate infrastructure / wrong attitude).

Melbourne Cyclist said...

Adam M: why is not wearing a helmet stupid? Provide some justification if you don't want to be verbally shredded by the anti-helmet folks!

And if you truly believe that kids should wear helmets when cycling, because it's so dangerous, do you also insist that they wear helmets when climbing trees? When running down the street? When walking down the stairs? All of those activities also carry risk of head injury, probably similar if not worse, than children cycling.

lagatta à montréal said...

Adam M. trying to be polite.

I have a master's degree. I speak five languages. I am NOT stupid, nor am I foolhardy. I have fought for cyclists' rights and for cycling as a normal pursuit in normal clothes for over 3 decades.

I will not accept people forcing me to wear a helmet, a hijab or any damned thing to grant impunity to those who are at the root of a problem of insecurity or violence.

Bicycling in town to get where you are going is not a "sport". Yes, of course it is healthier than sitting in your frigging car or even taking public transport, but it is not something what requires "kit". I had a great deal of pleasure recently watching the World Cup women's top cyclists here, but they are athletes - normal that they should be wearing kit. I have NO illusion of being one of them. Sadly, some people, mostly men, who are my age and no more athletic than I am, do entertain such an illusion. The number of pudgy middle-aged civil servants I've seen in cycling kit... Painful, and unnecessary to take part in cycling.

greenloco said...

A helmet did not help this guy: http://www.startribune.com/local/45470472.html?elr=KArksUUUU.

Adrienne Johnson said...

@Antoine- you state " I too have avoided a certain brain injury in a motorcycle accident at only 70kph."

Motorcycle helmets are as far removed as could possibly be from bike helmets. One is designed and tested and retested rigorously (not the bike one). Motorcycle helmets are designed for high speed, high impact collisions, most likely with other vehicles. They can not be compared (I ride a Nighthawk 750, so don't think I do not understand MC helmets).

You also stated "70kph is a speed I attain daily bicycle commuting in wet, hilly, suburban Auckland amongst appalling driving and on substandard roads."

That speed is totally unrelated to what the average bike commuter experiences, especially in urban environments, and by the description of your environment, inappropriate. I was thrilled to reach 32 KMH the other day, but it was short lived because it was not an appropriate speed for the situation I was in. If your roads are substandard, the solution is not high speed and helmets, it is brakes and repaving : )

I might also say that I have owned the same MC helmet for over 10 years. It has not hit the pavement. Perhaps there is some self evaluation needed here.

Robert P said...

Todd Scott raises a point not often made in this debate, and it's good to see it aired.

The only organisation pushing helmets in Ireland is the Road Safety Authority, precisely because (I suspect) they feel they must be seen to be doing something for cycling, and this is so much easier than tackling the crazy state of traffic on our road network.

In related news, I hear the police are thinking of making bullet-proof vests compulsory for all citizens. "What do you mean you weren't wearing your vest when your shop was held up at gunpoint? You were seriously injured? Serves you right." [/sarcasm]

Carlton Reid said...

I'm the executive editor of the UK trade magazine for selling bicycles and bicycle kit.

You'd think I'd be in favour of helmet compulsion: lots of enforced sales of 'safety' equipment.

But I'm not in favour. Helmet compulsion (and, for that matter, helmet promotion) leads to a decrease in cycling, and therefore a decrease in whole population health.

I wear a helmet when cycling but I'm a sport cyclist and it's part of the 'uniform'. I fully realise the contradications of my choice.

I also understand how a flimsy piece of polystyrene is not going to save my head in a collision with a car or truck.

Mikael is right, helmet standards have been heavily watered down since the 1970s. Today's helmets are far less protective than the helmets that started the whole safety kick. Why? Fashion and comfort. Lightweight, airy helmets are NOT gonna be as safe as the kind of heavy, vent-lite cycle helmets of old.

Don't believe me? Check out how many of today's brand helmets are tested to Snell standards.

Found any yet?

Snell standards are what every bike journalist used to advise people to look for. Not any more, cos brand helmets are now tested to CPSC standards, certified by...helmet manufacturers.

If people really, truly wanted to protect their heads they'd get on to eBay and buy up any 1970s Snell-certified cycle helmets out there.

Sure, they look crap, they make you sweat like a pig but they might save your noggin in a 17.5mph crash to the ground (not into a car, obviously). This is 5mph more 'safety' than today's cycle helmets.

See, even the safer helmets of yesteryear weren't *that* safe.

People: wear a cycle helmet if you want, but please don't rant at those who choose not to.

Ah, but it's an expensive medical issue? Folks who get injured on bikes when not using helmets 'cost' health services. But so do motorists who don't wear helmets, and crash and smash their heads. There's no clamouring for auto head safety gear when it would be much more protective in a whole population sense.

'If helmet compulsion saved just one life it would be worth it'. That's an oft used argument, but it's fallacious. The 'just one life' proponents don't use the same argument for pedestrians, motorists etc, just cyclists.

Mikael is doing a great job of bringing the helmet debate to a wider audience.

townmouse said...

I think Portlandize has made an excellent point here which is in danger of getting lost in the noise of who's calling who stupid. The fact is, it's mostly traffic that makes cycling more dangerous so that really should be where the onus of maintaining safety lies. That's how the Dutch read it in the seventies and look at them now. Whereas the English speaking world (and Mikael can I just say how much I resent that 'puppet state' crack? Especially because it's probably true...) went the other way and tried to make roads safe by armouring people into their cars. The Tory government in the 80s in Britain specifically refused to promote cycling because it was too dangerous.

Unfortunately it's now become almost a self-fulfilling prophecy that cycling is dangerous. As such, people wishing to encourage it look around for something that might make it safer. And lo and behold: the magic hat! Their arse is covered (maybe that will be next?) and they can tell everyone to go play in traffic with a clear conscience.

Just a cyclist said...

Thanks for the posting Mikael. That the Bell vice-president was present behind the scenes at hearings that led the australian government to pass the mandatory helmet law was something that I strongly suspected.
It would be cool if you could provide your source for this.
Well, I guess that, during all this, the Bell emissary did not keep his hands in his pockets all the time either.

Maybe Bell had an emissary present also when the BMA suddenly changed their policies and declared to be positive to a helmet laws? Here is an excerpt, from the debate they had prior to the voting that led to the policy change. Its a quote from a pro-legislation doctor:

"I feel that, I take that, I accept that injury to the brain, depends how you define head injuries but injuries to the brain not affected a great deal by helmets but helmets do protect the shredding of the scalp. I feel that we should support this motion as it protects the scalp even if it doesn't protect much else."

...Maybe its wrong to say that the only argument against "not wearing one" is about vain?

(source for the quote above: http://www.bikebiz.com/news/19740/BMA-votes-for-cycle-helmet-compulsion)

cafiend said...

Helmets are a Band Aid on the problem of pushy, selfish road use. Air bags and crash structures in cars are the same thing. A car mechanic I know said, "You want people to drive better, get rid of all these air bags and shit. Put a big fuckin' spike in the middle of the steering column. They'll slow down!"

Any compulsion to dress or behave in a certain way must be questioned. But cycling has to beat many negative perceptions. Apparently, so do cycling helmets. How did it get to be such an angry debate? Anti-cycling forces must be laughing their asses off at it.

Sean Carter said...

there was a well publicized head-on collision between two cyclists on the pathway here in calgary a few days ago and the media seized on the fact that these two guys were not wearing helmets - instead of focusing on the real issue - shitty pathway design.

here are my thoughts on my blog - http://critninja.blogspot.com/2009/06/head-on-collision-symptom-of-bigger.html

the "youd-better-wear-a-helmet" culture here in NA is shockingly pervasive and engrained so deeply into our society that its the first thing that people talk about when the subject of bike crashes comes up.

why?

why dont we poo-poo drivers who get a head injury from a crash who were not wearing helmets?

i wear a helmet when i mountainbike, i wear a helmet when i race, and i wear a helmet when i am on group rides. that makes sense to me because of the heightened chance of an accident. i dont wear a helmet when i am out shopping. i dont wear a helemt when i am riding around town.

i think we need to keep making this point that helmets should be a personal choice - period.

Zweiradler said...

Thank you very much, Mikael, for once again standing up for common sense instead of emotional propaganda.

Kelvin said...

Sean: I made an immediate connection reading your post. There's a similar situation in Ottawa where off-street cycle trails are so heavily used and promoted that I think on-street paths are neglected. I suspect this is a jurisdictional thing (the main off-street paths are managed by the NCC, whose job is to make the capital area look good, and not design transportation networks, which is the city's job)

Which leads me to the point that I sometimes feel equally unsafe on off-street bike paths than bike lanes, because the cyclists are less predictable there than motorists. A sufficiently assertive cycling style with appropriate deference when needed makes me pretty confident that drivers know what I'm doing and vice versa (though I should note that I don't cycle commute to work). But on off-street trails, the mix of pedestrians, rollerbladers, rec cyclists, and spandex cyclists seem to have no concept to alert each other to their presence: I'm the only person that calls out when passing someone. Makes me wonder if all this babying and coddling of cyclists away from the dangerous streets (of which helmets are a part) are really making us safer or not.

Lovely Bicycle! said...

Mikael, you may have addressed this elsewhere in the blog, but I can't find it:

If the EU (and especially Denmark) are examples of freedom of choice and police non-involvement in the issue of helmet use, then how do you explain the Danish "hugging policeman" bit? Whose idea was that and why? Because to me, it seems that if anything, the EU aspires to emulate the US in terms of helmet use.

Kelvin said...

Lovely:

http://www.copenhagenize.com/2009/04/danish-helmet-propaganda.html
http://www.copenhagenize.com/2009/05/man-stops-bicyclists-wtf.html

Anonymous said...

I agree that focusing on helmet use hurts cycling by creating a perception of danger. Personally, I wear a helmet when riding fast or mountain biking, but not when doing urban A to B travel.

Still, I'm not sure that attributing sinister motives and grand conspiracy theories to helmet manufacturers is helpful. Do bicycle manufacturers participate or lobby on traffic policy? Sure, and that is motivated by self-interest - the desire to sell more bicycles. If the same bicycle manufacturers lobby against mandatory helmet laws, is it so their sales won't dip? I'm not saying it is true, but it is easy to attribute a sinister motive.

Science is where this argument should start: can helmets be proven effective in any substantial way (skin abrasions aside)? And next, IF effectiveness has been proven, greater policy considerations should be factored-in: does the mandatory use have so significant a down-side (such as decreased ridership) that the cost outweighs the benefit?

From what I have read so far, allowing choice is the best policy. Choosing one or the other doesn't make you stupid: it makes you free.

Mikael said...

thanks kelvin.

lovely... there are 500 million in the European Union. One media consultent in one small city in Denmark is hardly "The EU aspiring to emulate the US... etc"

the European Cyclists Federation, mentioned in this post, is the umbrella org for cyclists in the EU and I highlighted their position in the post

Tom said...

@Adam M.

Stay away from my kids. Dick Cheney and the schools here in the heartland already have them so scared that if you add “bikes are dangerous" to the mix then the only thing they will want to do is stay in bed.

No catastrophic injuries there, but they will probably die of heart disease or boredom by the time they are 20.

lee.watkins said...

I live in Baltimore, MD. I asked my local police how I could avoid being harassed by motorists when I ride a bike around the city. He told me to wear a big fat gun on my belt - that's what he does and it works great.

I don't know about Denmark, but here in the USA we have open carry laws. Anyway, I tried wearing the gun and now magically the motorists not only see me but they are almost rather polite. It's actually a pretty facinating experiment.

Okay, I know, a gun may be a deadly weapon, but then - so is a car - especially they way they are handled with regard to cyclists in the USA. I guess respect here requires equal footing. In my opinion, if you can't be trusted to be responsible with a gun, you certainly can't be trusted with a car either.

I think the USA gun culture has a lot in common with the car culture. It's not that we trust other people with guns and cars, we just don't want anyone to infringe on OUR rights to have and use them in any irresponsible way we deem necessary. In many ways, the car replaces the gun as the primary form of personal protection and/or assult etc.. All americans are equal as long as they are equally armed....

Oh by the way, when I asked police about the helmet, he replied "that's going to get you any respect". Nice...

A Bike Commuter said...

To start, I agree that people should be able to choose whether to wear a helmet or not.

As pointed out elsewhere in these comments, however, a cyclist in the USA bears the responsibility for any injuries sustained while riding if he/she does not wear a helmet. There is little discussion of other factors.

In the event of any litigation arising from a cycling accident (e.g., civil suit against a driver) then hope you were wearing a helmet. If not, expect 'contributory negligence' to reduce your claim... or to expunge the other party completely.

So if you won't wear a helmet for safety -- and who would given that they are essentially worthless in a high speed fall or an accident involving a motor vehicle -- then consider wearing one so your family might have some hope for justice once you're 6 feet under.

Andy Clarke said...

My oh my. How quickly the pitchforks turn. So we’re meeting with Mathew Modine for the first time. We’ve done our homework and checked out Bicycle for a Day materials, we’ve watched Full Metal Jacket one more time, and in the course of our conversation happen to mention that if we posted the BFAD promotional video on our website we’d catch all kinds of grief from some of our members who would only see that he wasn’t wearing a helmet. The moment passed.

We had a good meeting, discussed loads of ways in which we could help support and promote BFAD, and we’ve stayed in touch. We had a booth at the recent BFAD event in New York City; we promoted the event to our members in the NYC area; one of our staff is in a video that was shot during the event; and we’re looking forward to promoting BFAD in September and beyond. If that constitutes being part of a witch hunt, we’re going to have to re-write our relationship with lots of rides and events – including our own!

Andy Clarke
President, League of American Bicyclists

Mikael said...

Thanks for commenting, Andy. And for clearing up the spin, which I read on the above websites.

You could, however, come out strong and make it clear to your members that helmets are a matter of personal choice and that sometimes helmets will be in photos/films and sometimes not.

It would be a sad world that only featured helmeted cyclists in films and photos and not the rest who choose not to wear them. Especially since only a small percentage of global cyclists wear them.

Cycling is so much more than that.

Scottish Cyclist said...

As some one who rides fast (often 50Km/h +) on potholes traffic ridden Scottish streets.

I try never to wear a helmet, it makes me safer, I have to think! I know how to ride with motor vehicles, I ride as if I was driving, keep awareness of what is going on around you, plan ahead. It is not rocket science.

Cycle safety is about:

a) better training, not silly polystyrene head wear. Personally I would like to see all adults taught to cycle safely on the roads (it makes them better drivers too).

b) getting more cyclist out on the road.

There is hard evidence from around the world to support this view, which is more than can be said for the a cycle helmet saved my life anecdotes.

Anonymous said...

GAWD! this whole thing is absurd. I'm at work, so I can't pick apart this entire piece, but your 'facts', presentation and skewing is as awesome as Treehugger's fascism.

Helmets won't protect you from every injury, nor will they, by themselves 'save your life'...Nor will a seat belt in a car. These things are safety measures, not guarantees. That is why helmet makers don't say they will save your life. They'd get their asses sued off by the bereaved families. Get serious. Wear a helmet if you feel you need to stack the odds in your favor. Don't if you feel your hair is prettier without one. Not every accident involving a bike involves a head strike, but when it does, and you are wearing a helmet you'll think you were pretty smart to wear one. When someone else commuting in front of you makes a quick left and your hairdo hits first you'll be the jackass.

I have no problem with you not wearing a helmet, or choice regarding helmets- but don't expect me to like paying for your strain on the medical system, or be happy when my insurance rates go up because of you. Put yourself in a larger context and you'll see that its not about you, and your helmet, but all of us and our responsibility to one another. THAT is why we have motorcycle helmet laws- because we keep having to scrape up twenty-somethings brains off the roads. It costs a lot to the society at large.

My head has hit the road three times in twenty some-odd years of riding and racing- each time the helmet undoubtedly lessened my injury. I have one friend who has a lasting brain injury because of his vanity. I know another person currently in the hospital because of crash- with a brain injury...without that shitty sub-SNELL standard helmet she would be dead. So say what you like about the helmet industry, the propaganda, the fascist helmet brown shirts, helmets are better than no helmet. But the notion that European fashion/lifestyle choices are reason to discourage helmet use is absurd.

Just a cyclist said...

Oh... another anonymous fear mongerer.

You guys have been boosting your egos for two decades now reproaching and scaring others. Yet, your activity does more damage than good (except for your egos and some multinationals).

So why not stay clear from cycling and find another target... car passengers perhaps?

Anonymous said...

I am a US citizen, but lived in the UK for 6 years. When I returned to the US it was instantly apparent to me that our so-called culture is both primitive and barbaric, not to mention narrow minded and destructive. Almost any movie made here displays in the most embarrassingly open manner our soap-opera sense of relationship as well as our values based on repression, violence, and condemnation. We apparently believe in US AGAINST THEM as the ruling paradigm.

It's almost amusing to see Modine branded as a pinko. I'm surprised he wasn't also labeled a dyke.

Ours is a society based on fear, so the attitude here is "friends don't let friends go without a helmet." Potential disaster lurks within every turn of the wheel!

Adrienne Johnson said...

I treat people every day who have spent their lives eating crap food, getting fat and refusing to take their high blood pressure medication. A 10th of them cost the US more in medical bills and insurance rates than all of the injured cyclists put together. I treat people by the dozens, every week, who have 100% put themselves into their horrid health, but we don't penalize them and they are what is breaking the health system in the US, not cyclists without helmets.

So if you want to rail against heath care costs of people on bikes, I invite you to tackle diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure first as they are the #1 killers world wide.

These are all diseases that can be successfully combated through cycling, BTW.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

I am a US citizen, but lived in the UK for 6 years. [...] Almost any movie made here displays in the most embarrassingly open manner our soap-opera sense of relationship as well as our values based on repression, violence, and condemnation.

A little tangential, but has anyone else noticed that cyclists only appear in American movies just before they have an accident or just before they cause the hero of the movie to swerve in his car?

In fact, even when the hero of the movie is a cyclist, he will always have a traffic accident before the end of the movie ('You, Me and Dupree', 'The 40-Year-Old Virgin', for example).

I assume this reflects accurately how average Americans see cycling. It's a very distorted view.

Dermot

Dapper Dan said...

I don't think a helmet would have saved you in this scenario - London's own mayor very nearly got squished! http://link.brightcove.com/services/player/bcpid4221699001?bctid=24043468001

Anonymous said...

GAWD! this whole thing is absurd. I'm at work, so I can't pick apart this entire piece, but your 'facts', presentation and skewing is as awesome as Treehugger's fascism.

Man. I stop paying attention for a few days and someone takes my place.

-The (Real) Troll

Mikael said...

GAWD! this whole thing is absurd. etc. etc. etc.

What with all this rising unemployment, the number of trolls surely increases.

But don't worry The Troll. You'll always be my favourite. This GAWD schmuck is so brainwashed that soap is running out his nose and ears.

jfisher said...

"cultural puppet state, Great Britain"

Thanks so much for that statement, kindly shove it where your head is.

Reasonable article with some good points otherwise.

Anonymous said...

My two cents (good American coinage, not those flimsy little Euro-cents):

If you bother to read Treehugger's post, it is hardly Fox Newsish. Indeed it acknowledges both that helmet laws may discourage cycling AND that drivers may give cyclists with helmets a wider berth. In other words, it is careful and reasonable and actually engages opposing points of view, something that other bloggers might want to consider...

-"The" Troll

Mikael said...

With 50% of my DNA being English and being equipped with the noble gift of GBI [Great British Irony], I stand beside my puppet state comment.

Trolly... you are actually right. But I am referring to his body of writing, not the singular article.

rabeille said...

A few weeks ago, here in Toronto, I got caught in some streetcar tracks while trying to dodge construction and crashed. I wasn't going very fast so I didn't have serious injuries (roadrash, black eye, bruised cheekbone). The first question asked after "What happened?" was "Were you wearing your helmet?". I wasn't and the constant browbeating has been ridiculous. This mentality is too ingrained and I doubt I will see it change in my lifetime.

Incidentally, the doctor I saw said a helmet would not have prevented my injuries. When I share this insight, it is shrugged off with a "you should still wear a helmet". Sigh.

Mikael said...

rabeille: respect to you for having to deal with this crap from the uninformed. stay strong!

Cian said...

Re US films - I Heart Huckabees is one which treats cycling diffrently. Although, it is a crazy film. Cycling is featured in it heavily, but just as a way to get around. And it's even features in the poster for the film (http://www.imdb.com/media/rm3937901824/tt0356721).

Here's a clip which includes them cycling, the bit after is dubbed, I don't know why or what the dudding says... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xy6ijDNU5bc

cafiend said...

I Heart that movie!

chapstix said...

The helmet law in Australia is a complete cop out by the Police and Politicians. It's easier and cheaper to think they've made cyclist safe without focusing on the real danger, the motorist.

Anonymous said...

Trolly... you are actually right. But I am referring to his body of writing, not the singular article.

Okay, so I went and looked up earlier articles by Lloyd Alter:

http://www.treehugger.com/files/2009/05/andrew-sullivan-on-helmets.php

http://www.treehugger.com/files/2009/04/bike-helmets-helmet-laws.php

Both of these seemed to be reasonable (acknowledging that the Dutch and Danes have important lessons to teach us about cycling, that helmet laws may discourage cycling, etc.), though I can understand how some people might disagree with his perspective.

- Trolly

Anonymous said...

'we want people to do something, but its inherently dangerous. we could force them to take safety precautions, but we really want them to do it... so lets just let them die so we can achieve our utopian vision of traffic engineering'.


fucking assholes.

Cian said...

Trolly,

Lloyd Alter's writings are simplistic and presumption.

Why simplistic and presumption? He uses once-off events as if they can be taken to be controlled case studies (ie once off cases of people dyeing or not while helmeted or not).

Another example is where Lloyd mentions Dr Ian Walker's research which shows that, on the roads where he tested, drivers drove closer to helmeted cyclists.

But then Lloyd tries to counter this by pointing to an NYC report which says 97% of cyclists who were not wearing a helmet. However, the same report points to a study which says only "22% of bicyclists on streets wore a helmet". It's called context. And this context shows the 97% stat is simplest.

The NYC report also lacks any context as to what time these accidents occur at. So, it's easily imaginable that most helmeted cyclists are commuters and cycle when there are more cyclists are around (thus safety in numbers comes into play). While it also could be likely that those cycling at statistically more dangerous times (such as night and weekend nights)are non-helmeted.

So, these factors could massivly distort the 97% stat.

As the (full) saying goes: "A little learning is a dangerous thing; drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring: there shallow draughts intoxicate the brain, and drinking largely sobers us again." (Alexander Pope)

Mikael said...

while i find 'fucking assholes' to be a fine and useful phrase on occasion, in this forum it just comes across as 'too stupid to discuss intelligently'.

remember your lifevest when on the beach, please. it's a safety precaution.

Anonymous said...

Hi Cian,

That's true about I Heart Huckabees treating cycling differently from most US films. I seem to remember that it even shows a firefighter cycling to fight a house fire and getting there much faster than the firefighters in their truck. However, he is unable to tackle the blaze because he has virtually no equipment with him.

He probably could do with a bike trailer.

Dermot

Craig said...

I think, in Canada, the helmet laws partially result from the fact that we have a national health care system, and society dictates that, if we are going to foot the bill for your healthcare, there will be some demands put upon you, like high tax on cigarettes, compulsory seat belts and for us cyclists......the helmet. Is this a valid argument for helmet laws? All other arguments aside, I for one think so, how about you?

Melbourne Cyclist said...

Craig: I think it depends rather a lot on whether wearing the helmet would reduce the healthcare costs. If not, then no, it's a dumb link to make.

Cigarettes & higher tax: people have been told cigarettes are dangerous to their health, if they choose to ignore that and smoke anyway, then the taxes they pay can go towards the quite-probably-required healthcare (in theory).

Cars & seatbelts: seatbelts have been shown to reduce the injuries incurred in the event of a car crash. Therefore not wearing a seatbelt would result in a higher healthcare cost in the event of a crash (on average). Hence compulsory seatbelt wearing.

Bicycles & helmets: helmets have not been conclusively proven to reduce injuries, and thus healthcare costs, in the event of accidents. Helmets may provide some protection in the event of a low speed (sub-15km/h), no-motor-vehicles-involved crash. They do not provide any protection from, for example, breaking your leg as a result of getting hit by a car (nor most other motor-vehicle-related injuries). Therefore the wearing of a helmet cannot be said to be a reasonable demand. If there was some form of protective gear that had been shown to reduce injuries, then yes, I might be able to see it as a reasonable demand.

On the flip side of course, cycling has been proven to reduce the healthcare costs incurred by an individual from 'lifestyle diseases', i.e. conditions such as heart disease and type two diabetes, which have lack of exercise (such as cycling) amongst their causative factors. Taking this to an extreme, I'm sure I could make a case for compulsory cycling laws...

Anonymous said...

As an anecdotal note, I have to tell y'all about a conversation I had the misfortune to be involved in recently.

While having a few beers with friends, we were joined by a friend of a friend who we don't know very well. In the course of the conversation, it came up that his father was recently involved in a bike vs car accident while on a group ride. I got the impression that it was a stooping type collision (car rushes past the group, pulls in front and brakes). He went down intentionally trying to keep from going over the trunk, was wedged under the car and broke his neck. He's effectively a quadraplegic, now. His neck was broken by the way he landed on his helmet. His doctors say that is what did him in: the helmet, not the impact.

Now, directly after having related this story, he was told that we don't wear helmets. His response: "You're f***ing stupid!" I couldn't believe my tender ears. Not only had this guy told us his dad's condition was directly caused by, not the survivable accident, the effect of the helmet itself but that it was foolish to not wear one. He headed on into the normal territory of "A helmet has saved my life a hundred times..." I guess it goes to show how much of a knee jerk/ingrained reaction it is regardless of direct, terrible evidence to the contrary.

Shrug.

-David

Mikael said...

that story boggles the mind, david. brainwashing is so frightfully powerful.

cafiend said...

How to Wash a Brain:

Step 1: Place brain in an expanded-polystyrene bucket full of holes.

Just a cyclist said...

No, brainwashing is pounding the unhelmeted heads until they are covered. After all, what could be more important than that?

Lord Peter said...

As my American city with no history of cycling culture has connected a series of bike trails over the past 15 years in a such a manner that they now actually go places, the use of the trails has skyrocketed such that the main trail is now used by 2 million times per year. It is even plowed in winter.

As usage of the trail has increased, I have noticed that fewer and fewer people are wearing helmets; this has been particularly pronounced in the past two or three years. I see this as a sign that civilization is slowly making inroads, even in my extremely auto-centric town.

The fact is that helmets have been made so light that they are of no real use in a crash (aside from perhaps preventing abrasions). Despite the huge increases in the number of people wearing helmets in Australia, there has been no noticeable effect on the number of deaths and injuries. You would think that, with the number of people proclaiming on the internet that their helmets "saved their lives", that there would be *some effect*. But there is none - aside from a 30% decrease in cyclists.

If you are really afraid of crashing, wear a motorcycle helmet. They do offer actual protection.

But the main point is that cycling is not dangerous. In my state of 6 million, 15 people died while biking last year. 14 in collisions with cars, 1 for reasons unknown.

Don't believe the hype.

jimm said...

Just thought I'd add that you can get modern Helmets that complie with SNELL - Specialized for example.

Bryan said...

I think we should just leave it up to personal choice. I wear a helmet when I skate bowl and ramp because I have smacked my head on numerous occasions. I don't wear one skating street because my falls tend to be more controlled. I almost always wear a helmet while biking because I'm a clumsy oaf on a bicycle. And a friend of mine has a bunch of skull staples from sliding out on a turn all by his lonesome. I would prefer to keep the fedora on my head and not in my basket but alas I find myself in near collisions everyday in NYC. But just because I value my head over the ease and pleasure of going helmetless doesn't mean that I give a damn if you wear a helmet.

Just a cyclist said...

The snell standard for motorcycle helmets is rather controversial. The certified helmets are apparently optimised to withstand unrealistic blows (twice on the same spot) which it (obviously) is not being able to adequately cushion. The motorcycle helmet certified to the Snell standard is optimised to cushion a blow down to 300 G, a force that is considered to give a critical brain injury.

Obviously, bicycle helmets have much less cushining material and lack the hard plastic fully supporting shell. If the demands of Snell standard for them is comparable to the MC standard, that might explain why they seem to be prone to brittle failure, which may have lead to some bragging about helmets broken into pieces...

Source for the controversy mentioned above:
http://www.motorcyclistonline.com/gearbox/motorcycle_helmet_review/index.html

Anonymous said...

People should be able to choose . . . . . .

But . . . . . . . . .

If you wanted to design a personal transportation device that would result in head trauma in an accident, it would look much like a modern bike w/ drop bars.

So, the more upright you are, probably the less you need a helmet.

I also buy the logic: don't require helmets, bike use goes up, the more bikes the greater awareness from automobiles, the safer we all are.

But . . . . . . .

People should remember, helmets not only make you look a bit dorky, they make you anonymous as well. Even good friends don't recognize me with a helmet. Who cares if you're a geek if no one knows who you are? It's practically a disguise.

Offroad, I've crushed two helmets and have seen a friend crush one. Probably didn't keep me from dying but absolutely preserved quality of life.

On the road I have low bars and ride fast.

I wear a helmet.

Just a cyclist said...

Is the racing bicycle with drop bars a machine meant for head mashing? ...Damn all those racers who, in cycling caps, raced and crashed with them for a century (Armstrong included) without ending up as "vegetables". Those ignorant bastards.

Robbo said...

Scolding us to purchase and wear bike helmets serves as a sorry substitute for what we truly need here in the states.

It's so much easier than addressing the very real need for more bike-friendly transportation infrastructure. So many barriers, so few bikes.

Elliott @ Austin on Two Wheels said...

The LAB refusing to work with Modine is completely false. I just posted a followup story about this after talking with Matthew Modine and LAB staff and there was never a disagreement and the LAB supports Modine's organization. The reported took the comment from Modine out of context and implied facts that were not the case. You might want to do a followup post on this just so people know the LAB was not the bad guy in this.

Lloyd Alter said...

If you actually read much of what I write, particularly my post Do Bicycle Helmet Laws Do More Harm Than Good?, you would find that I concluded:

Don't confuse helmets with helmet legislation. I will concede the point that helmet legislation may cause a reduction in the number of cyclists, which can be counterproductive if we are trying to promote cycling. I might even go so far as to accuse governments of shifting responsibility to the heads of cyclists and away from the drivers of cars by putting cyclists in such lousy infrastructure with lousy drivers.

Mikael said...

took you long enough to get here, lloyd.

The Consultant said...

Wear a helmet, don't wear a helmet. Actually, I don't care very much. Indeed I would prefer not to mandate such things by law.

None-the-less, people's arguments make no logical sense. The prevailing opinion seems to be that cycle helmets, if they have any value at all, do so in slow speed head-to-ground collisions. The same people seem to think that they ride in town, slowly, so helmets are pointless. Guys who ride fast only wear them when they are riding fast. When apparently they do nothing.

Bah.

I wear a helmet. I don't know if little bits of polystyrene will save my life / brain cells / skull whatever. Clearly, nothing much is going to help if I fall off and a bus runs over my head. If I wash out the front round a corner and my head bounces off the road? Who knows. I'll take my chances that it absorbs some of the impact. Since riding with a helmet has never bothered me, I guess I keep on riding with it.

A.

Mikael said...

and that same logic applies to wearing motorist helmets and pedestrian helmets.

right?

The Consultant said...

Mikael:

Well not really.

Last time I checked cyclists are moving considerably faster than pedestrians. Indeed they are moving, frequently in town, faster than a car.

And unlike a car, they do so with the benefit of either seatbelts, airbags or a big metal cage.

So no, you are comparing apples and oranges.

Mikael said...

Pedestrians and motorists have a higher risk of head injury in virtually all jurisdictions in the world.

In fact, an Australian study suggests that 25% of all motorist deaths could be avoided in the motorists had worn helmets. Even with seatbelts and airbags. That's what led to the design of motoring helmets, which you can read about on this blog. The University of Adelaide was responsible for the design, encouraged by the Australian government. So it's not haha funny, it's quite relevant. 25% fewer motorists deaths a year, in America alone, would be 10,000 lives saved.

Testing helmets involves a simulation of a pedestrian falling without using their hands.

The French bicycle users federation has a page with french stats but the stats are quite similar around the world.

So, as ever, I prefer logic.

The Consultant said...

Mikael:

Logically, pedestrians aren't moving at double digit speeds, relying on balance and gyroscopic forces to keep them upright, with two parallel road contact patches that might be a few cms in total diameter.

Cars on the other hand are usually only moving at double and triple digit speeds unless in traffic, and have collisions which involve head-on and offset crashes with other, equally fast moving, metal boxes.

Look, as I said: wear a helmet or don't. I don't care. I wear one. Feel free to laugh and point as you cycle past. But let's not try and convince ourselves that, if you fall over and your head hits the ground, a little something absorbing some of the energy, that isn't your head, might not be a good thing.

What irks me is that you want to conflate two arguments.

You can argue about the utility of bike helmets. That is not a good wicket to be on. On balance you will lose. A helmet is, on balance, better than no helmet. Indeed the fact that you chose to rely on statistics that 'prove' that motorists and pedestrians would be better off wearing them seems to bear this out.

A better argument is that I don't care to have the 'state' dictate the risks that I am, or I am not, willing to assume. And that is a better wicket to be on. That argument has legs.

So I would suggest you get more passionate about the latter, and leave the whole, 'bike helmets don't have any value' argument alone.

Tawrence Tulkie said...

You guys are insane! The reason people wear helmets in the US is because:

1) There is shit healthcare here and you're likely to pay big for an injury.
2) General cultural paranoia about everything.
3) There is TERRIBLE bike infrastructure here (unlike Europe) so the odds of a collision with a car is much higher in the US.

Ian Woofenden said...

I wonder if anyone else is still reading these comments...

It bothers me every time someone says, "A helmet saved my life" or "A helmet saved me from a head injury."

How do you know?!? There is no control in that study -- it's just your guess that you would have been hurt without the helmet.

cafiend said...

When my head was hit by an unsecured piece of plumbing pipe sticking out the side of a pickup bed, I guarantee my helmet saved me from at least a nasty bruise, if not a decent laceration from the heavy PVC tubing.

Having hit the pavement with and without a bucket several times I can't say for sure whether the helmet was an asset or simply a fashion liability. But don't sweat it. Almost everything humans do is based on guessing and approximating. Despite the modern industry's claims, the bicycle as we know it is simply the result of years of tinkering. Take your best guess and go forward.

Anonymous said...

Hi cafiend,

I guarantee that you don't know whether it saved your life or not, since you didn't try the same accident with and without the helmet...

;-)