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Forum: Hazards & Safety

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Thread: The Great Helmet Debate: Another look by Al Cyone on Sun 30 Sep 2012 08:09 (US/Pacific)

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#26: Re: The Great Helmet Debate: Another look (thread)
By Douglas Boyd on Mon 1 Oct 2012 10:26 Edit Delete in reply to #25     Reply (1)   Printable Relation | Link | Bookmark | Report
I agree that the debate is boring because it is so polarizing.

It should also be pointed out that there's a difference between riding down a sleepy country road in the middle of nowhere in Scotland (where I was recently), and riding through a dense city or heavily trafficked suburb (where I am usually). I do, however, wear a helmet in both circumstances.

I would just add that I know I walked away from both my accidents (and was able to yell at the driver, and file a proper police report resulting in insurance payouts to cover the hospital bills and the damage to my bicycle) because I was wearing a helmet. One impact caused the helmet to split, not my head. One impact took a huge chunk out of my helmet, and not my head. I trust that experience far and above statistics and research grants.

      
#27: Re: The Great Helmet Debate: Another look (thread)
By Chris White on Mon 1 Oct 2012 10:41 Edit Delete in reply to #1     Reply (1)   Printable Relation | Link | Bookmark | Report
I very rarely wear a helmet whilst touring, though I do carry one. I do, however, use my mirror constantly, everywhere, always.

Strange how you never hear a heated debate over mirrors. After all, isn't it better to avoid getting hit in the first place?

      
#28: Re: The Great Helmet Debate: Another look (thread)
By Pete Staehling on Mon 1 Oct 2012 10:50 Edit Delete in reply to #27     Reply (1)   Printable Relation | Link | Bookmark | Report
"Strange how you never hear a heated debate over mirrors."

You don't? I thought that one was just about as common and just as polarizing.

      
#29: Re: The Great Helmet Debate: Another look (thread)
By Chris White on Mon 1 Oct 2012 10:53 Edit Delete in reply to #28     Reply   Printable Relation | Link | Bookmark | Report
I must have missed it. Lucky me!

      
#30: Re: The Great Helmet Debate: Another look (thread)
By iain c on Mon 1 Oct 2012 11:01 Edit Delete in reply to #21     Reply   Printable Relation | Link | Bookmark | Report
According to the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute 97% of dead bicyclists were not wearing helmets.

That 97% stat is questionable. The same study quoted 74% of cyclist fatalities involved a head injury. Helmets are really amazing if they prevent almost all cycling deaths whether a head injury is involved or not.

http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/downloads/pdf/episrv/episrv-bike-report.pdf

      
#31: Re: The Great Helmet Debate: Another look (thread)
By Dave Butansky on Mon 1 Oct 2012 11:06 Edit Delete in reply to #1     Reply   Printable Relation | Link | Bookmark | Report
Qualifications, cyclist who has been in several helmet cracker accidents and retired Paramedic/EMS director.
I remember compiling data as I had our system indexable by injury and mechanism, most of the bicycle related severe head trauma requiring a type 1 or 2 trauma facility were helmetless accidents especially those with a motor vehicle.

For my own two helmet cracker accidents one was a car that blew a red light and had me scooped up to land on my side while also travelling at about 35mph forward, the other was a door open surprise at about 15 mph where I was pole vaulted off of the door into the air about one meter and my front fork broke when I came down on an otherwise survivable landing flipping me endo. Both were hospital overnighters with CT scans.

While I would never require an adult to wear a helmet some locations are nearly combat zones even Portland Oregon where a dangerous % of the car drivers don't know how to react properly to cyclists or their safety lanes and zones. For someone else if they wont ride with a helmet for style or comfort reasons they will have to deal with consequences which depending on where and how they ride may never catch up.

I like my helmet as much for protection as for a place to mount lights and communication gadgets.

      
#32: Re: The Great Helmet Debate: Another look (thread)
By Robert Ewing on Mon 1 Oct 2012 11:24 Edit Delete in reply to #22     Reply (1)   Printable Relation | Link | Bookmark | Report
I read the NYT opinion piece by Elisabeth Rosenthal in its entirety before it was posted on CGOAB and didn’t give a thought about posting it on the Forum. It doesn’t speak to long distance touring. To reply directly to article, bicycling does present inherent dangers to the rider. Some of these dangers, particularly serious head trauma, can be significantly mitigated by wearing an approved bicycle helmet. The costs of treating and caring for serious chronic brain injuries are largely born by society through health insurance premiums and/or direct government transfers of taxpayers’ funds to the individual and care providers. So there is a cost born by society by those choosing to not wear a helmet and this give society some say in bicycle safety. Now people are entitled to different opinions, but the facts I have stated are simple and verifiable. I challenge anyone to provide statistical evidence to the contrary.

In her article Rosenthal seems to presenting a case for the greater good of getting city folks out of their cars and riding bicycles by doing what is necessary to promote community shared bike programs--all well and good. How about a grace period where the bike sharing is allowed to incubate without helmets until a given threshold of success and acceptance is achieved. Then period of public education about the safety benefits of wearing a helmet. Follow this with a small discount or perhaps a publicly financed insurance benefit to bike sharing riders who wear helmets. Portland, where I live, has a mandatory helmet law for 16 years and younger with free or discounted helmets and fitting provided through several hospitals and civic organization, but adults are free to not wear helmets.

Bike helmets in a way constitute a fourth contact point with the bicycle beyond the saddle, pedals and handlebars. Few of us are particularly concerned about sitting in a rental car or fastening the seatbelt around our waist or even grabbing the steering wheel with our bare hands as long as everything appears to reasonably clean and the same is true for the handlebars, pedals and saddle on a bike. But putting a rental helmet on our head and hair is probably a different story for most of us. (Head lice are no fun.) I suppose industry could create something akin to the “throne-doilies” provided in public restrooms. The airline pass out recycled earphones in neat little plastic bags with the foam contact pads being replaced after every use and the public seems to accept this. Helmets would not only have to be sanitary but they also have to fit and while everyone here on CGOAB, those who wear helmets that is, can properly adjust their helmet, the same is most certainly not true for the beginning or casual metro bike rider. An improperly fitting helmet puts the rider at physical risk perhaps greater than not wearing a helmet, and it also puts the bike share program at higher liability when injuries occur. I don’t know the litigiousness of European countries but here in the United State there are lawyers who could and would blow holes through any liability release mandating helmets or not wearing them.

So BYOH (bring your own helmet) would probably be the only feasible solution and this would definitely decrease use of a bike share program. Helmets are bulky and hard to hand carry. Although the folding bike giant Dahon developed a folding helmet. They mess with your hairdo. (A thread featuring our best helmet-hair photos needs to happen.) Many people are more concerned with their outer appearance than their inner health or the health of the environment they travel in. In my city of Portland something like 11,000 folks commute to work every day to jobs of every description and manage to present themselves as well groomed, and almost all of them wear helmets. So it is doable. It is just a matter of how much society wants to invest in the common good.

Robert

      
#33: Re: The Great Helmet Debate: Another look (thread)
By Brian Huntley on Mon 1 Oct 2012 12:39 Edit Delete in reply to #32     Reply   Printable Relation | Link | Bookmark | Report
Maybe a disposable or personal reusable cap to wear under the rental helmet makes sense - something like what food handlers wear in restaurants.

(Last time I rented a bike - in Austin - I brought my own shoes, pedals, saddle, and helmet. Airport security thought I was a little strange, but hey, it was Austin.)

      
#34: Re: The Great Helmet Debate: Another look (thread)
By Matt Hayden on Mon 1 Oct 2012 13:58 Edit Delete in reply to #2     Reply   Printable Relation | Link | Bookmark | Report
For me a helmet is cheap insurance. I get why people want to make it mandatory; the injuries I've sustained in some crashes (mostly commuting) would have been worse without it.

      
#35: Re: The Great Helmet Debate: Another look (thread)
By john molloy on Tue 2 Oct 2012 04:27 Edit Delete in reply to #1     Reply (2)   Printable Relation | Link | Bookmark | Report
I just returned home to London after roughly 3000 miles unhelmeted touring around the Balkans and Europe without a scratch.
Went out on my tri-bike 3 days later got knocked off 3 miles from my house, went over the top and ended up in hospital. It was a strange experience because at the very last minute leaving my house I went back in and replaced the cap i had on my head with my helmet. I have always been in the 50/50 camp and with no particular rationale would sometimes wear it and sometimes not. I'm glad I did because there is an obvious dent on the helmet which was the first thing that hit the ground. It didn't help with my collar bone which broke into 5 pieces. I had an operation last week and am now on the slow recovery path.
At the A&E department I believe genuinely that I was given a second class service because I was a cyclist. I don't know how many times i was asked if i was wearing a helmet, almost like they were looking for a get out to blame me for the accident. At one stage somebody came up and asked me if I was the 'man who fell off his bike'. I don't know if they ask pedestrians who are knocked over by a car if they are the person who fell over?
I had an x-ray which showed the bone broken and that was the extent of my treatment. No-one examined me visually, my top was not even taken off. (found out later other injuries around my back and other wrist). Had an orthopaedic surgeon check the x-ray to see if it warranted an operation and to my surprise he gave me a lecture saying at my age with my job I should know better than cycling in London! ( I am a 44 y.o. London Taxi driver). The inference being that if I get injured it's my fault and my problem. I suggested he might like to get hold of the woman who knocked me off and sit her down and give her a lecture about her shoddy, careless driving. He said i should know with my job that we will never change peoples attitude to driving in this country. I told him with his attitude we never will.
You can cycle in a suit of armour but until peoples attitude is changed there will be unnecessary victims. One reason I got out of London this summer was because of the hypocrisy of the olympic games. I asked the surgeon if this is the olympic legacy our government has been trumpeting about, sending the message through our health service for people not to get out and stay healthy after all the flag waving, to which I got no response. (before anyone suggests I have already complained about him to the NHS trust and my mp). I think it may be rather difficult to change view points when you have someone of a surgeon's stature saying you shouldn't ride bikes in London, compared with a London Taxi driver arguing you should. Who would the people who take major decisions about infrastructure and policy listen to?
Sorry for the rambling post (I think it's a bit of therapy, really), I'll probably wear my helmet more regularly when I'm able to ride again but I still think it's just a sticky plaster over an amputated limb. Our society doesn't believe in getting to the root of a problem, just sticking a plaster (or helmet) will do.

Maybe this will get people to wear a helmet

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/bike-blog/2012/may/22/airbag-bike-helmet-way-forward

      
#36: Re: The Great Helmet Debate: Another look (thread)
By [deleted] on Tue 2 Oct 2012 05:34 Edit Delete in reply to #35     Printable Relation | Link | Bookmark | Report
Is a person required to wear a dress along with the inflatable helmet? I mean, it's embarrassing enough to wear bike tights and neon colors. ;-)

      
#37: Re: The Great Helmet Debate: Another look (thread)
By Pete Staehling on Tue 2 Oct 2012 05:46 Edit Delete in reply to #35     Reply   Printable Relation | Link | Bookmark | Report
A bit off topic, but...

I too had an accident a few miles from home after returning from a long tour. I am glad I got better treatment at the hospital than you did. No one asked me if I was wearing a helmet. Some of the staff who were cyclists came by and were hanging out discussing bike touring after my daughter showed up wearing a Trans America tee shirt.

The next day when I was in the hospital waiting room with a family member who was having surgery, the cyclist/doctor who treated me the night before, just happened to walk by. He noticed that I was obviously very sick, suffering with bad nausea from the concussion, and he prescribed some anti nausea medicine for me.

      
#38: Re: The Great Helmet Debate: Another look (thread)
By David Cambon on Tue 2 Oct 2012 07:02 Edit Delete in reply to #1     Reply (1)   Printable Relation | Link | Bookmark | Report
I refuse to participate in any helmet discussions, including this one.

I think what's interesting is that the helmet article appeared in the New York Times. It seems like some of the most intelligent and thoughtful ideas about urban transportation sometimes emanate from New York City. I agree that the bathroom is more dangerous than the bicycle. My worst crash ever happened in the bathroom. If I was wearing my helmet I would have been less seriously injured. I did not go to the hospital but I'm sure I permanently dislodged quite a few valuable brain cells. I was being careful while I was washing my hair in the shower but I was unexpectedly foiled by an unforeseeable calamity. The shampoo I was using dislodged the suction cups on my shower safety mat and the mat turned into a completely frictionless flying carpet that flipped me completely out of the bathtub onto the adjacent concrete floor.

Warning:

The shampoo that frees suction cups from bathtub surfaces is called Herbal Essences Hello Hydration with a fusion of Hawaiian Coconut & Orchid.

      
#39: Re: The Great Helmet Debate: Another look (thread)
By James Thurber on Tue 2 Oct 2012 07:05 Edit Delete in reply to #26     Reply   Printable Relation | Link | Bookmark | Report
Helmets should not be polarizing. You want polarizing? Here's a great example.

My son (and daughter-in-law) are professors @ Oregon State (Go Beavers!). As a result I have both a Beaver Jersey and a (wonderful) Nutcase Beaver Helmet.

Try wearing that in Eugene and you can hear the bullets as they fly past you. I have many friends where I live (Los Altos, CA) who are Ducks (University of Oregon) and whenever I wear my Beaver Helmet (and jersey) there is a lot of teasing that goes on.

They usually carry duck whistles - which make a loud, horrible quacking sound, and when we're having coffee together at Peets (on State St) the noise and fussing can sometimes drive the other coffee drinkers to distraction.

So, whatever other reasons to wear a helmet, being a Beaver could be a top priority!

GO BEAVS !!!!!

      
#40: Re: The Great Helmet Debate: Another look (thread)
By [deleted] on Tue 2 Oct 2012 09:20 Edit Delete in reply to #38   (1)   Printable Relation | Link | Bookmark | Report
Save the humans. Ban safety mats and shampoo!

David, Did it take a full bath towel to clean up the dripping sarcasm about he Times? ;-)

      
#41: Re: The Great Helmet Debate: Another look (thread)
By Lorraine Nygaard on Tue 2 Oct 2012 09:34 Edit Delete in reply to #1     Reply (2)   Printable Relation | Link | Bookmark | Report
It is a debate, and I debate that I have internally as well...there will never be a perfect answer for this:

I never wore a helmet in Japan, though I had children strapped to my bicycle (also helmet-less), and often in a skirt, which would make riding more of a challenge. BUT! busy roads separate cyclists from cars. And regular community streets saw everyone mushed together, so it was a much slower pace.

In B.C., where we have mandatory helmet laws, it feels strange to not have a helmet on. I ride more aggressively than I did in Tokyo, taking the lane when it's my right and all that stuff. There have been a few times when I am rushing to the store and forget my helmet and then I feel all exposed and rebellious.

One of my guests decided to go for an extended solo ride one day without her group. She was on a lonely country road, with no other cars involved. I got a call from the hospital to go be with her. The last thing she remembers was doing a great descent down Rocky Point Road while eating her apple, and then chucking the apple core to the side of the road. Somehow she regained enough consciousness to crawl to the nearest farmhouse. 2 broken ribs, clavicle, cracked hip. She carried her broken helmet all the way to Massachusetts to show her non-helmet friends what saved her from serious head injury.

I don't think that a properly fitted, quality helmet looks dorky at all. Everything else does look really dorky.

I don't understand why skate boarders and snow boarders often don't wear helmets. I don't know how I figure skated for 14 years with a lot of hard falls and no helmet and never had a head injury.

The debate goes on.

      
#42: Re: The Great Helmet Debate: Another look (thread)
By iain c on Tue 2 Oct 2012 10:08 Edit Delete in reply to #41     Reply   Printable Relation | Link | Bookmark | Report
The last thing she remembers was doing a great descent down Rocky Point Road while eating her apple, and then chucking the apple core to the side of the road.

Of course if she had both hands on the bars and been concentrating on bike control rather than eating an apple during the descent of a road she presumably wasn't familiar with she may not have crashed in the first place.

If you are going to crash wear a helmet. They give some protection. I prefer not to crash though. Avoiding things like riding one handed downhill and other unsafe practices has worked for me so far. Don't expect miracles from helmets though. A British study of cycling fatalities for the Dept of Transport reckoned 10-16% of them might have been prevented by a helmet. So figuring out how to reduce the odds of a crash happening is far more important than whether a helmet is worn or not.

http://www.trl.co.uk/online_store/reports_publications/trl_reports/cat_road_user_safety/report_the_potential_for_cycle_helmets_to_prevent_injury___a_review_of_the_evidence.htm

      
#43: Re: The Great Helmet Debate: Another look (thread)
By Al Cyone on Tue 2 Oct 2012 10:43 Edit Delete in reply to #41     Reply (1)   Printable Relation | Link | Bookmark | Report
"I don't know how I figure skated for 14 years with a lot of hard falls and no helmet and never had a head injury."

I suspect you learned (or instinctively knew) how to fall without hitting your head.

But, knowing what you know now, would you wear a helmet while ice-skating? Do you think all kids (all people?) should wear helmets while ice-skating? Perhaps knee-pads and elbow-pads too?

These are not facetious questions.

Most skiers never wore (and never wear?) helmets despite the well-publicized deaths of Sonny Bono and Michael Kennedy (within one week of each other).

Is riding a bike that much more dangerous?

      
#44: Re: The Great Helmet Debate: Another look (thread)
By [deleted] on Tue 2 Oct 2012 11:09 Edit Delete in reply to #43     Printable Relation | Link | Bookmark | Report
I'm thinking we should mandate lifetime wear of full Kevlar body armour of the type seen in Batman Begins, particularly when showering in Canadian showers with shampoo slickened safety mats. Why not throw in mouth guards as well. Why don't we do this? Because the bean counters just don't think our safety is worth the cost. (You won't get this last comment unless you saw the movie).

Seriously now, have you ever noticed how nobody is calling for riders to wear football-type shoulder pads, despite the fact that most riders who fall off their racing bikes end up breaking collar bones and/or shoulders?

      
#45: Re: The Great Helmet Debate: Another look (thread)
By David Cambon on Tue 2 Oct 2012 17:43 Edit Delete in reply to #40     Reply   Printable Relation | Link | Bookmark | Report
I give the Times credit for publishing that piece which is bound to offend advertisers in the oil-military-automobile complex. It is, after all, motorists who have imposed helmets upon cyclists to enhance the misleading notion that bicycles are dangerous.

"Is a person required to wear a dress along with the inflatable helmet?"

No.

It depends.

      
#46: Re: The Great Helmet Debate: Another look (thread)
By Rodney Keelan on Tue 2 Oct 2012 22:06 Edit Delete in reply to #1     Reply   Printable Relation | Link | Bookmark | Report
If I'm on a bicycle when this happens, I think I want my hemet.


View on Youtube

      
#47: Re: The Great Helmet Debate: Another look (thread)
By john durden on Sun 7 Oct 2012 14:22 Edit Delete in reply to #12     Reply (2)   Printable Relation | Link | Bookmark | Report
Here's my point, I don't weir them. 1-I personally know 2 people paralyzed from there helmets smashing their neck in the back. 2-I mainly tour or commute, so a vehicle hitting me at 50+ mph is going to do so much damage that helmet won't protect. So we might as well weir body armor. 3-If I fall off the bicycle and hit my head, then I shouldn't be on the bike. For the fact 33 years of riding a bicycle I have never fallen of to where I hit my head. Scrapped elbows, and knee's. 4-Saves be weight of caring one for the fact it hangs off the back rack for show. 5-Leads back to #1 if I do get hit my a vehicle, I sure in the F&%$ don't want to survive being a damaged person, and dealing with the after affect of getting smacked with a 18 wheeler. Now I think they would come in handy for a Zombie apocalypse, for the fact extra armor on the head or use it to give a good double tap when swinging it. Also good to trow at a presidential candidate. :) Kidding............................................ about the zombie apocalypse.

      
#48: Re: The Great Helmet Debate: Another look (thread)
By Brian Huntley on Sun 7 Oct 2012 15:18 Edit Delete in reply to #47     Reply   Printable Relation | Link | Bookmark | Report
Ride on ice sometime. You fall. You may not hit your head, but you will fall, if you do enough riding.

      
#49: Re: The Great Helmet Debate: Another look (thread)
By Robert Ewing on Sun 7 Oct 2012 16:13 Edit Delete in reply to #47     Reply (8)   Printable Relation | Link | Bookmark | Report
So here's the question for non-helmet wearers. If you know there is a city, state/province or country that requires bicycle riders to wear an approved helmet, would you wear one or would you avoid riding in the area? This speaks to the original post. I suppose there is an opposite question even if it is only hypothetical. If there were a rule to ride helmet free what would you do?

Robert

Edit: I'll try and make the second question a little more real. If your helmet was lost, stolen or for some other reason unavailable or unusable would you continue riding or would you wait for a replacement helmet to arrive?

      
#50: Re: The Great Helmet Debate: Another look (thread)
By Don Weinell on Sun 7 Oct 2012 17:04 Edit Delete in reply to #49     Reply   Printable Relation | Link | Bookmark | Report
If a certain area, trail, or event requires a helmet, then I wear a helmet. I may resent it, but it doesn't bother me enough to get my bike shorts in a wad. There really are bigger things to get annoyed about.


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