Author Topic: "Why I stopped wearing a bike helmet"  (Read 2658 times)

FrugalFisherman10

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"Why I stopped wearing a bike helmet"
« on: November 01, 2018, 07:33:04 PM »
If you haven't seen it already, I thought this piece was super interesting and well written (makes sense for the former Editor -in-Chief of Bicycling magazine). He touches on and analyzes the issues so clearly and thoughtfully.


https://cyclingtips.com/2018/11/commentary-why-i-stopped-wearing-a-bike-helmet/

Enjoy!

YttriumNitrate

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Re: "Why I stopped wearing a bike helmet"
« Reply #1 on: November 02, 2018, 04:39:03 AM »
Interestingly, there have been similar observations regarding helmet use while skiing.
https://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/01/sports/on-slopes-rise-in-helmet-use-but-no-decline-in-brain-injuries.html

PoutineLover

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Re: "Why I stopped wearing a bike helmet"
« Reply #2 on: November 02, 2018, 07:38:28 AM »
I liked the article. I'm a cyclist who doesn't wear a helmet. Many of the reasons he cites are partly why I don't. I don't believe that it's inherently more risky than driving, and we don't even suggest that drivers wear helmets. I get a wide berth as a female (there have been studies on this as well) and most of my driving is on city streets with lots of lights so usually traffic isn't going that fast. I'm in a bike friendly city, so most drivers are used to seeing us. I drive defensively, I'm aware of my surroundings and I try to anticipate what cars are going to do and react accordingly. I don't break laws except when it's perfectly safe, like going through a red light with no cross traffic on a one lane street, after stopping to check.
If I had kids, I'd make them wear helmets, because kids can't do everything I mentioned, plus they don't have the skills or experience I do. I'd probably wear a helmet to model good behaviour too.
I believe that by making everyone believe helmets are necessary for biking and that by not wearing one you "deserve it" if you get hurt, we are creating the perception that cycling is a high risk activity, while in reality cycling to get around is a healthy, safe way to commute. It also takes the onus off of car drivers to share the road, and instead makes it all the responsibility of the cyclist.
Anecdotally, one time I got hit at very low speed by a car who didn't check both ways before going through the intersection, and the first thing she said to me was that I should have been wearing a helmet, even though she was the one in the wrong (she had a stop sign, I didn't). This kind of entitlement is why we need better education, better infrastructure, and stricter fines and penalties for drivers who harm cyclists and pedestrians.

fatcow240

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Re: "Why I stopped wearing a bike helmet"
« Reply #3 on: November 02, 2018, 08:14:26 AM »
If I had kids, I'd make them wear helmets, because kids can't do everything I mentioned, plus they don't have the skills or experience I do. I'd probably wear a helmet to model good behaviour too.

I wear a helmet, primarily for this reason.

The adult on the front of our city's transportation biking page isn't wearing a helmet.  I wonder if that was intentional and related to this topic.
https://www.cor.net/departments/traffic-transportation/bicycle-facilities

DS

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Re: "Why I stopped wearing a bike helmet"
« Reply #4 on: November 02, 2018, 08:29:15 AM »
Anecdotally, one time I got hit at very low speed by a car who didn't check both ways before going through the intersection, and the first thing she said to me was that I should have been wearing a helmet, even though she was the one in the wrong (she had a stop sign, I didn't). This kind of entitlement is why we need better education, better infrastructure, and stricter fines and penalties for drivers who harm cyclists and pedestrians.

Interesting. Seems to be a common message across many things we deal with. "The victim should have been prepared to defend themselves."

GuitarStv

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Re: "Why I stopped wearing a bike helmet"
« Reply #5 on: November 02, 2018, 08:30:45 AM »
Yesterday while cycling home I was knocked out of my lane by a car.  Two lanes each way, I'm cycling in the far right one about a foot and a half from the curb.  I wasn't cycling aggressively, or doing anything out of the ordinary, just cruising home a couple km from my house.  I had on my neon orange cycling jacket, helmet, three rear lights, and one front light.  A vehicle about two car lengths ahead of me in the left lane ahead of me signaled and then slowed.  I heard a car behind me gun it's engine, saw him accelerate into the stopped vehicle from the corner of my eye, then when he was right next to me saw him swerve hard into my lane.  I yelled and tried to get over to the right (although there wasn't enough room to do this) and brake, but he clipped me with his mirror and side of his car, sending me over the curb and into the grass.  I tucked my head and rolled, and fortunately came out a little rattled but fine.  The car sped through the next light (which was red) to escape the scene of the accident.

In most cities in North America we don't have the bike infrastructure that the Dutch do.  We don't have powerful laws protecting cyclists like the Dutch do.  Motorists around here will never lose their sense of entitlement around bicycles until cycling is seen a serious mode of transportation and laws/infrastructure change to reflect that.  There is enough opposition to the idea that I know it won't happen in my lifetime.  Cycling (while not tremendously dangerous) is inherently more dangerous than driving in most of North America.  I'm not saying you should give it up, (and in fact I rode to work today as other than needing to true my front wheel, my bike wasn't even damaged) but be realistic about the risks you are engaging in.

I'm glad that I had my helmet on last night.  Not all accidents are preventable through your own personal actions.  While I won't harass you about wearing a helmet, won't support laws requiring helmets, and get the reasoning why you might choose not to wear one . . . I think that on balance you're safer with a helmet on.  At the very least, I don't want to have to deal with the victim blaming that is so often the case when a cyclist has a crash without a helmet.

sol

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Re: "Why I stopped wearing a bike helmet"
« Reply #6 on: November 02, 2018, 08:38:04 AM »
I didn't wear a helmet as a young man, when I had multiple bike accidents.  I have been wearing one consistently for the past ten years, and have had zero bike accidents in that time.

So I suspect that part of the observation that helmet use doesn't seem to reduce injury rates is just that the people who will wear helmets are not the people who need to wear helmets.  Like if you're safety-conscious enough to wear one, you're probably also safety conscious enough to bike responsibly.  That would not mean we should stop encouraging kids and young people to wear them, though.

It kind of makes sense, right?  Most drivers don't wear helmets but professional racers ALL wear helmets, without exception, in every motor sport.  They recognize that they are in a higher risk group than average.  Making all drives wear helmets is probably unlikely to improve the head trauma rates for car accidents, because the people who most need them already wear them and the people who don't wear them, for most part, won't need them.  Bike helmets might be the same way, with a less pronounced segregation of risk pools.

Freedomin5

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Re: "Why I stopped wearing a bike helmet"
« Reply #7 on: November 02, 2018, 08:46:28 AM »
I wear a helmet. Itís technicallg against the law to ride without one here, though most people donít wear helmets.

Also, I thought his argument that not wearing a helmet makes you bike more slowly and carefully is stupid. Shouldnít you bike carefully regardless of whether you have a piece of styrofoam strapped to your head?

My POV is, if wearing a helmet doesnít hurt you in any way and could potentially help you, then why not? At worst, it does nothing for you. At best, it protects you from a head injury.

sol

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Re: "Why I stopped wearing a bike helmet"
« Reply #8 on: November 02, 2018, 09:06:40 AM »
Also, I thought his argument that not wearing a helmet makes you bike more slowly and carefully is stupid.

Was that really his argument?  That's an ooooold conservative canard.  Back in the 60s and 70s they argued that we didn't need seat belt laws, we just needed big pointy spikes mounted on every steering wheel so that everyone would be super careful to avoid car accidents.  They were trying to suggest that this problem just needed "behavioral nudging" and didn't need "oppressive government regulations" about seat belts.

I'm shocked that anyone from the cycling community would embrace such a stupid idea.

Ducknald Don

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Re: "Why I stopped wearing a bike helmet"
« Reply #9 on: November 02, 2018, 09:27:15 AM »
It's an interesting debate, people often quote the Netherlands where only 0.5% of the population wear a helmet and their injury rate is quite low. However that ignores another statistic, that 13% of people who were hospitalised after an accident were wearing a helmet. There are two communities of riders, sporting cyclists who often ride in a group and quite fast and people who are using the bike for transport. It seems a lot of the arguments mix these groups up to prove a point.

In general I won't bother if I ride down to the shop but for a longer/faster ride I always put one on.

elliha

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Re: "Why I stopped wearing a bike helmet"
« Reply #10 on: November 02, 2018, 09:53:31 AM »
As far as I understand bike helmets are the most effective if you fall due to your own errors or if you run into something and this is also more common than being hit by a car. If you are hit hard by a car a helmet will not do much but they also help in less serious accidents where other cyclists or cars are involved.

A colleague was in an accident due to gravel at the bottom of a hill that moved and had plenty of bruises and scrapes but no concussion or much harm at all to her face and head despite hitting her head hard. She was wearing a helmet and it split into pieces due to the impact. She would have survived the fall without the helmet but she would probably have had a concussion and scrapes all over her scalp and face. Now she only had some small scrapes on her face.

I wear a helmet for this reason and to be a role model for my kids.

katscratch

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Re: "Why I stopped wearing a bike helmet"
« Reply #11 on: November 02, 2018, 10:09:32 AM »
I agree; I think that is a very well-done piece, including the foreword.

A huge YES to this bit:
"In the end, the battle over helmets does far more harm than a theoretical fractional rise in head injuries. Cycling is not an inherently complicated or unsafe activity and one does not need specialized safety equipment to ride to a coffee shop. Putting up barriers that discourage people from riding will have a far greater public health impact than trying to shame people into wearing helmets."


A couple years ago I watched my teenager hit a rut and fall to the side of a trail with his head impacting first, hitting a large rock. His helmet was damaged but otherwise he didn't have a single scrape.

Last summer I watched my boyfriend wipe out on a wet surface, going over the bars and landing on the back of his head and shoulders. His helmet made a pretty sick sound hitting the ground but wasn't visibly damaged. He broke a couple of ribs.

I work in neurosurgery and have been involved in care for many patients who had the exact same type of falls from bikes and ended up with intracranial bleeding, traumatic brain injuries, swelling etc.

I definitely notice I am given a wider berth by cars the more I look like a female lollying about on my bicycle. I do wear a helmet because in my daily riding I'm much more likely to take a spill crossing railroad tracks, or be hit by a car that clips my tire or arm rather than a full impact. The cyclists I ride with weekly are split about 50/50.

Overall I'm more likely to injure myself in the shower and while walking down my home's stairs. But it doesn't hurt me to wear a helmet for outdoor self-propelled activities; it saves me money on my health insurance; and my surgeons can avoid lecturing me daily :)
« Last Edit: November 02, 2018, 10:32:02 AM by katscratch »

GuitarStv

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Re: "Why I stopped wearing a bike helmet"
« Reply #12 on: November 02, 2018, 10:28:25 AM »
It's an interesting debate, people often quote the Netherlands where only 0.5% of the population wear a helmet and their injury rate is quite low. However that ignores another statistic, that 13% of people who were hospitalised after an accident were wearing a helmet. There are two communities of riders, sporting cyclists who often ride in a group and quite fast and people who are using the bike for transport. It seems a lot of the arguments mix these groups up to prove a point.

In general I won't bother if I ride down to the shop but for a longer/faster ride I always put one on.

US Standards test helmets at 14 miles per hour.  (https://helmets.org/limits.htm).  That's really, really, really slow.

Bike helmets are actually designed to protect you when you're going for a relaxed ride down to the shop, not on a fast group ride.  They may still provide some protection if you have a fast accident, but don't kid yourself that they were designed for them.

Samuel

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Re: "Why I stopped wearing a bike helmet"
« Reply #13 on: November 02, 2018, 11:01:59 AM »
Yep, that was a really well written article. I especially liked the anecdote about being castigated for his helmet views at a friendly dinner, then watching his friends all leave and drive their families home after having a couple drinks. Risk is a difficult thing to think objectively about.

I also don't wear a helmet. Had one stolen off my handlebars during a brief stop and never got around to replacing it. But my riding is almost all utility riding around a city with decent bike infrastructure and not long, fast road rides or bombing down MTB trails. I'm very aware of surroundings (no headphones!) and constantly adjust to meet conditions. I'll ride side streets, separated bike lanes, or sidewalks (legal here) as appropriate. I only haul ass on a couple stretches of dedicated bike trails, most of the time I'm just defensively meandering. I'm way less worried about getting hit by a car than surprise road conditions or inattentive, unpredictable pedestrians taking me out. Luckily years of skateboarding and roller blading (along with a few parkour lessons) have left me with excellent instincts when it comes to hitting the ground. Ok, that last line probably crossed the line into unjustified rationalization...

I would wear a helmet mountain biking, though.


katscratch

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Re: "Why I stopped wearing a bike helmet"
« Reply #14 on: November 02, 2018, 11:54:42 AM »
Samuel, your comment made me think of how nearly every news article where a cyclist or jogger is killed by a driver notes whether the cyclist was wearing a helmet and whether the jogger was wearing headphones.

Also, "defensively meandering" is perfectly lovely and describes my city riding very well.

sol

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Re: "Why I stopped wearing a bike helmet"
« Reply #15 on: November 02, 2018, 01:22:18 PM »
Samuel, your comment made me think of how nearly every news article where a cyclist or jogger is killed by a driver notes whether the cyclist was wearing a helmet and whether the jogger was wearing headphones.

They also like to mention whether or not a cyclist was riding in traffic, or if a pedestrian was in a cross walk or not, as if either of those things matter in the least.  Let's not forget that we've had pedestrians and bicycles AND ROADS for much longer than we have had cars.  Cars are visitors on our public roads.  These are public spaces owned by all of us, and if I want to walk down the middle of Main Street USA singing a song and waving to my neighbors, like my ancestors have been doing for a thousand years, then I will damn well do it and you can all drive around me.

When did we lose this right?  Why did we all collectively adopt the legal fiction that roads are for cars?

(That was a rhetorical question, because I know damn well where we went wrong.)

katscratch

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Re: "Why I stopped wearing a bike helmet"
« Reply #16 on: November 02, 2018, 01:28:34 PM »
This is a legitimate question, as I've never looked into it -- was the turning point when we stopped making it a crime to kill someone with a car? I'd guess around Ford production time.

I know I could consult Google but my long time lurking has taught me that consulting sol is a wiser choice.

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Re: "Why I stopped wearing a bike helmet"
« Reply #17 on: November 02, 2018, 01:38:54 PM »
Also, I thought his argument that not wearing a helmet makes you bike more slowly and carefully is stupid.

Was that really his argument?  That's an ooooold conservative canard.  Back in the 60s and 70s they argued that we didn't need seat belt laws, we just needed big pointy spikes mounted on every steering wheel so that everyone would be super careful to avoid car accidents.  They were trying to suggest that this problem just needed "behavioral nudging" and didn't need "oppressive government regulations" about seat belts.

I'm shocked that anyone from the cycling community would embrace such a stupid idea.

I'm not about to do the research on it, but I seem to recall reading that some road engineering practices designed to increase safety, such as wider lanes and clearer marking, have zero effect on safety, simply due to the fact that drivers will drive at whatever speed they feel safe at, regardless of markings. The improved engineering only results in faster driving, not improved safety. I don't think it's out of the realm of possibility that in population studies, bikers with helmets might subconsciously increase the risk that they take while biking, thus increasing speed while "safety" remains constant. That said, it's an odd argument to make without actual evidence. I wear a helmet when I bike.

GuitarStv

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Re: "Why I stopped wearing a bike helmet"
« Reply #18 on: November 02, 2018, 02:01:34 PM »
Also, I thought his argument that not wearing a helmet makes you bike more slowly and carefully is stupid.

Was that really his argument?  That's an ooooold conservative canard.  Back in the 60s and 70s they argued that we didn't need seat belt laws, we just needed big pointy spikes mounted on every steering wheel so that everyone would be super careful to avoid car accidents.  They were trying to suggest that this problem just needed "behavioral nudging" and didn't need "oppressive government regulations" about seat belts.

I'm shocked that anyone from the cycling community would embrace such a stupid idea.

I'm not about to do the research on it, but I seem to recall reading that some road engineering practices designed to increase safety, such as wider lanes and clearer marking, have zero effect on safety, simply due to the fact that drivers will drive at whatever speed they feel safe at, regardless of markings. The improved engineering only results in faster driving, not improved safety. I don't think it's out of the realm of possibility that in population studies, bikers with helmets might subconsciously increase the risk that they take while biking, thus increasing speed while "safety" remains constant. That said, it's an odd argument to make without actual evidence. I wear a helmet when I bike.

There's some supporting evidence for the theory:  http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0956797615620784 although I haven't found the full study to read through.

tralfamadorian

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Re: "Why I stopped wearing a bike helmet"
« Reply #19 on: November 02, 2018, 07:45:11 PM »
I wasn't that impressed with his argument- lots of correlation vs causation.

For example, the injury rates vs helmet usage rates in the US vs Scandinavia. It's patently obvious that there are a myriad of factors that affect fatality rates. I would think that the most important consideration when deciding to wear a helmet or not is whether the injury rate of someone riding in your conditions and your location is lower when a helmet is worn.

He does bring up hard data but uses the opportunity to mock the insinuation that a well done study which shows that helmet use significantly decreases the chance of brain injury would lead to the conclusion that (shocker!) wearing a helmet is a good thing.

Yes, better biking infrastructure is needed in wide swatches of North America. However, I make my opinion on these matters known through participation in my local government rather than "making a statement" through blatant disregard of the only brain I've ever going to get.

I wear a hovding when I bike.

Freedomin5

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Re: "Why I stopped wearing a bike helmet"
« Reply #20 on: November 03, 2018, 04:48:29 AM »
Also, I thought his argument that not wearing a helmet makes you bike more slowly and carefully is stupid.

Was that really his argument?  That's an ooooold conservative canard.  Back in the 60s and 70s they argued that we didn't need seat belt laws, we just needed big pointy spikes mounted on every steering wheel so that everyone would be super careful to avoid car accidents.  They were trying to suggest that this problem just needed "behavioral nudging" and didn't need "oppressive government regulations" about seat belts.

I'm shocked that anyone from the cycling community would embrace such a stupid idea.

I'm not about to do the research on it, but I seem to recall reading that some road engineering practices designed to increase safety, such as wider lanes and clearer marking, have zero effect on safety, simply due to the fact that drivers will drive at whatever speed they feel safe at, regardless of markings. The improved engineering only results in faster driving, not improved safety. I don't think it's out of the realm of possibility that in population studies, bikers with helmets might subconsciously increase the risk that they take while biking, thus increasing speed while "safety" remains constant. That said, it's an odd argument to make without actual evidence. I wear a helmet when I bike.

There's some supporting evidence for the theory:  http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0956797615620784 although I haven't found the full study to read through.

Just because other people are stupid, it doesnít mean that I also need to be stupid too. Letís just say, Iím never going to use the argument ďI donít wear a helmet because it makes me bike more slowlyĒ as a personal argument for riding helmetless. Iím fully capable of biking slowly and using defensive biking techniques even when Iím wearing a helmet.

Debts_of_Despair

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Re: "Why I stopped wearing a bike helmet"
« Reply #21 on: November 03, 2018, 08:18:51 AM »
Stupid, click bait article.  The biggest risk of wearing a helmet it messing up your hair.  Just wear it.

Ducknald Don

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Re: "Why I stopped wearing a bike helmet"
« Reply #22 on: November 03, 2018, 08:29:18 AM »


US Standards test helmets at 14 miles per hour.  (https://helmets.org/limits.htm).  That's really, really, really slow.

Really?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nNkwVr1Kwws&t=104s

johndoe

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Re: "Why I stopped wearing a bike helmet"
« Reply #23 on: November 03, 2018, 09:15:13 AM »
I didn't read every word of the article but a few thoughts:

-the author has 3,500 miles ridden in 5 months...wow!
-the reason to not wear the helmet is to make a point, but the risk/reward is unreasonable to me
-I haven't seen anyone mention mirrors, which I now feel naked riding without.  Even if the helmet offers 0 safety benefits the mirror makes me Mich more aware of my surroundings.

GuitarStv

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Re: "Why I stopped wearing a bike helmet"
« Reply #24 on: November 03, 2018, 06:48:58 PM »


US Standards test helmets at 14 miles per hour.  (https://helmets.org/limits.htm).  That's really, really, really slow.

Really?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nNkwVr1Kwws&t=104s

Really. 

I'm not sure what point the video of people cycling around a dedicated bike path in the Netherlands is supposed to prove . . . but 14 miles per hour is pretty slow compared to what most people on a road bike will do on a ride.  It's not unusual for people to maintain 25 mph on flat roads and well exceed that going down hill.  A bike helmet is not designed for those speeds.  It's designed for the extremely slow speeds that the people in your video were going at . . . the one where nobody was wearing a helmet because they were all going so slowly that they didn't feel a need.

Slee_stack

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Re: "Why I stopped wearing a bike helmet"
« Reply #25 on: November 05, 2018, 02:00:45 PM »
There are so few drawbacks to wearing a helmet that I think it seems foolish to suggest that people just shouldn't wear one.

Disadvantages:
They cost some money to buy
They can get stolen
Locking up a helmet with your bike does take about 10 seconds longer
Your hair gets messy
You don't look as 'cool'?

Are there any other disadvantages? Seems such a weird thing to stump for.

DS

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Re: "Why I stopped wearing a bike helmet"
« Reply #26 on: November 05, 2018, 02:07:44 PM »
Quote
Before I go any further, let me state emphatically that I am not out to dissuade anyone from wearing a bike helmet. Although I am about to express my perception that the facts about helmets often are misinterpreted, I believe that helmets confer some obvious safety benefits and that thereís a certain wisdom to wearing one. I would still make my children wear a helmet even if the law didnít mandate it, and I would certainly strap one on for a hard group ride or an adventure on technical singletrack.

GuitarStv

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Re: "Why I stopped wearing a bike helmet"
« Reply #27 on: November 05, 2018, 03:04:26 PM »
There are so few drawbacks to wearing a helmet that I think it seems foolish to suggest that people just shouldn't wear one.

Disadvantages:
They cost some money to buy
They can get stolen
Locking up a helmet with your bike does take about 10 seconds longer
Your hair gets messy
You don't look as 'cool'?

Are there any other disadvantages? Seems such a weird thing to stump for.

- Cars will pass you closer on the road if you're wearing a helmet. (https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/strange-but-true-helmets-attract-cars-to-cyclists/)
- Wearing helmets contributes to the impression that cycling is dangerous, which in turn can keep people from cycling.  Fewer cyclists on the road has historically made things less safe for every cyclist.  (https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2009/may/07/cycling-safety-york-calderdale)
- Studies appear to show that people who wear helmets will unconsciously take more risk than those who do not (http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0956797615620784)
- Bike helmets are not designed for crashes at speeds commonly cycled at. (https://helmets.org/limits.htm)


I'm generally on your side of the argument, but there exist valid reasons to not want to wear a helmet.

TrMama

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Re: "Why I stopped wearing a bike helmet"
« Reply #28 on: November 05, 2018, 04:03:50 PM »
Interesting conversation.

Has anyone here ever had a concussion? Multiple concussions?

sol

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Re: "Why I stopped wearing a bike helmet"
« Reply #29 on: November 05, 2018, 04:08:24 PM »
Has anyone here ever had a concussion? Multiple concussions?

I have had multiple concussions. 

My brain still seems okay, to me, but who knows if I might have been a super smarty pants if I had done a better job not getting kicked in the head.

GuitarStv

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Re: "Why I stopped wearing a bike helmet"
« Reply #30 on: November 05, 2018, 06:35:56 PM »
Interesting conversation.

Has anyone here ever had a concussion? Multiple concussions?

I've been knocked out multiple times.  Enough that I think there's a good chance of problems later in life, and I really want to avoid it again.

rothwem

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Re: "Why I stopped wearing a bike helmet"
« Reply #31 on: November 06, 2018, 10:16:05 AM »
I agree partially with his arguments.  Lets face it, helmets are uncool and they dissuade people from wanting to ride.  There's strength in numbers from cycling since its a tyanny of the majority situation where most people drive cars.  If it were cooler to ride, then we'd have more people doing it and it would be safer.  I get that. 

The frustrating part of his article is the "well its so easy to get killed by a texter even if I'm wearing a helmet so its not worth wearing a helmet at all" argument.  At the risk of dragging this discussion off topic, this seems awfully similar to the people that buy and modify their diesel pickups and then argue that its okay because their emissions are minuscule compared to the emissions of an oceangoing cargo ship or a coal power plant.  IE, the change I make is so small that its not that noticeable so I won't do ANYTHING to improve the situation.  Its an insane logical fallacy.  What about the situations where wearing a helmet might've helped? 

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Re: "Why I stopped wearing a bike helmet"
« Reply #32 on: November 06, 2018, 10:33:44 AM »
Has anyone here ever had a concussion? Multiple concussions?

I have had multiple concussions. 

My brain still seems okay, to me, but who knows if I might have been a super smarty pants if I had done a better job not getting kicked in the head.

Should've been more specific. I want to know if any of the people who're choosing not to wear helmets have ever had a concussion?

I've had a few concussions (none from biking) and I wear helmets for all sports that recommend them because I strongly dislike the feeling of sitting down to tie my shoes the day after a concussion and not being able to figure out how to do it. If a helmet helps protect my brain even a little bit, I don't see the harm in wearing one.

obstinate

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Re: "Why I stopped wearing a bike helmet"
« Reply #33 on: November 06, 2018, 11:07:23 AM »
I'm glad that I had my helmet on last night.  Not all accidents are preventable through your own personal actions.  While I won't harass you about wearing a helmet, won't support laws requiring helmets, and get the reasoning why you might choose not to wear one . . . I think that on balance you're safer with a helmet on.  At the very least, I don't want to have to deal with the victim blaming that is so often the case when a cyclist has a crash without a helmet.
Perfect. It's fine to not wear a helmet. It's not fine to make specious arguments about why it's just as safe. Correlative arguments are especially suspect, because correlation usually doesn't indicate causation.

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Re: "Why I stopped wearing a bike helmet"
« Reply #34 on: November 06, 2018, 11:13:40 AM »
Has anyone here ever had a concussion? Multiple concussions?

I have had multiple concussions. 

My brain still seems okay, to me, but who knows if I might have been a super smarty pants if I had done a better job not getting kicked in the head.

Should've been more specific. I want to know if any of the people who're choosing not to wear helmets have ever had a concussion?

I've had a few concussions (none from biking) and I wear helmets for all sports that recommend them because I strongly dislike the feeling of sitting down to tie my shoes the day after a concussion and not being able to figure out how to do it. If a helmet helps protect my brain even a little bit, I don't see the harm in wearing one.
I have never had a concussion (knock on wood) and I very rarely wear a helmet when biking. I have a friend who got a concussion in a car accident though (and no, she wasn't wearing a helmet, since nobody does that in a car). Yes, I know I'm taking a risk, but everyone takes certain risks all the time, and for my personal risk tolerance this decision works for me.

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Re: "Why I stopped wearing a bike helmet"
« Reply #35 on: November 06, 2018, 12:39:38 PM »
Has anyone here ever had a concussion? Multiple concussions?

I have had multiple concussions. 

My brain still seems okay, to me, but who knows if I might have been a super smarty pants if I had done a better job not getting kicked in the head.

Should've been more specific. I want to know if any of the people who're choosing not to wear helmets have ever had a concussion?

I've had a few concussions (none from biking) and I wear helmets for all sports that recommend them because I strongly dislike the feeling of sitting down to tie my shoes the day after a concussion and not being able to figure out how to do it. If a helmet helps protect my brain even a little bit, I don't see the harm in wearing one.

I've never had a concussion. I usually (but not always) wear a helmet when I bike or skateboard. I've never been in an accident where helmet prevented me from head injury.

Funny thing is, I'm quite accident-prone. I generally have more coordination than the average person, but I definitely take more risks than the average person. This has resulted in broken bones three times that I can think of, and more stitches than I can keep track of. As in, more than a dozen times. But for whatever reason, I've (thankfully) never suffered a serious head injury.

I tend to side with GuitarStv on this one: I still wear a helmet, but I'm certainly not going to jump on anyone's case for choosing not to.

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Re: "Why I stopped wearing a bike helmet"
« Reply #36 on: November 06, 2018, 01:40:29 PM »
I agree partially with his arguments.  Lets face it, helmets are uncool and they dissuade people from wanting to ride.  There's strength in numbers from cycling since its a tyanny of the majority situation where most people drive cars.  If it were cooler to ride, then we'd have more people doing it and it would be safer.  I get that. 

The frustrating part of his article is the "well its so easy to get killed by a texter even if I'm wearing a helmet so its not worth wearing a helmet at all" argument.  At the risk of dragging this discussion off topic, this seems awfully similar to the people that buy and modify their diesel pickups and then argue that its okay because their emissions are minuscule compared to the emissions of an oceangoing cargo ship or a coal power plant.  IE, the change I make is so small that its not that noticeable so I won't do ANYTHING to improve the situation.  Its an insane logical fallacy.  What about the situations where wearing a helmet might've helped?

He's not making the argument that it's not worth wearing a helmet at all, in fact he was very careful not to make that claim. His real goal was not to discourage anyone from wearing a helmet, but rather to encourage others not to criticize those who don't.

Also, the context where he mentioned phone use by drivers:

Quote
The same goes for any outside force advocating something like body paint or daytime running lights for cyclists or high-vis socks. I understand fully that each of these things may have an incremental safety benefit for riders but Iím intensely skeptical of any corporation or government agency and especially entities connected to the automotive industry trying to push responsibility onto cyclistsí shoulders. The problem isnít that Iím not wearing a helmet ó the problem is that streets with crappy bike lanes in the door zone are packed with people speeding in SUVs while they peek at their iPhones.

was specifically in relation to the idea of trying to move responsibility from drivers to bicyclists.

Dabnasty

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Re: "Why I stopped wearing a bike helmet"
« Reply #37 on: November 06, 2018, 02:00:35 PM »
Also, I thought his argument that not wearing a helmet makes you bike more slowly and carefully is stupid.

Was that really his argument?  That's an ooooold conservative canard.  Back in the 60s and 70s they argued that we didn't need seat belt laws, we just needed big pointy spikes mounted on every steering wheel so that everyone would be super careful to avoid car accidents.  They were trying to suggest that this problem just needed "behavioral nudging" and didn't need "oppressive government regulations" about seat belts.

I'm shocked that anyone from the cycling community would embrace such a stupid idea.

I'm not about to do the research on it, but I seem to recall reading that some road engineering practices designed to increase safety, such as wider lanes and clearer marking, have zero effect on safety, simply due to the fact that drivers will drive at whatever speed they feel safe at, regardless of markings. The improved engineering only results in faster driving, not improved safety. I don't think it's out of the realm of possibility that in population studies, bikers with helmets might subconsciously increase the risk that they take while biking, thus increasing speed while "safety" remains constant. That said, it's an odd argument to make without actual evidence. I wear a helmet when I bike.

There's some supporting evidence for the theory:  http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0956797615620784 although I haven't found the full study to read through.

Just because other people are stupid, it doesnít mean that I also need to be stupid too. Letís just say, Iím never going to use the argument ďI donít wear a helmet because it makes me bike more slowlyĒ as a personal argument for riding helmetless. Iím fully capable of biking slowly and using defensive biking techniques even when Iím wearing a helmet.

Interesting. So if you are not susceptible to this phenomenon but research suggests that the average person is, then that just increases the chance that the rest of us are susceptible. Good to know.

For the record, I also think I am not susceptible to this phenomenon. However, I accept that I am human and like most humans I think I am well above average at thinking. Therefore when I see studies like this I try to accept them and recalibrate my thinking. And even if I'm not personally susceptible, the concept is still relevant to the article.

ETA: Thought of an analogy. I'm sure we've all heard the suggestion that if people spend cash instead of using a credit card, they'll spend less. I really do think that this doesn't apply to me because I don't think about money the way the average person does. I might even go as far as to say that people who are susceptible to this kind of behavior modification are stupidsilly, but I certainly wouldn't call the person who wrote an article about this phenomenon stupid because they are in fact correct. Many people will spend less if they use cash and many people will bike slower if they have no helmet.
« Last Edit: November 06, 2018, 02:09:31 PM by Dabnasty »

erutio

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Re: "Why I stopped wearing a bike helmet"
« Reply #38 on: November 06, 2018, 02:39:58 PM »
I have read the bicycling studies where helmet-wearers don't have reduced injury rates compared to non-helmet wearers.  There are obviously biases and valid criticisms of these studies.  But these results have also been reproduced in a few different studies.  The data is there. 

However, whenever this topic comes up, I pose this hypothetical question: 
You are riding your bike and are hit by a car, and as you are flying through the air, do you wish to be wearing a helmet or not?


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Re: "Why I stopped wearing a bike helmet"
« Reply #39 on: November 06, 2018, 04:38:04 PM »
You are riding your bike and are hit by a car, and as you are flying through the air, do you wish to be wearing a helmet or not?

For those of us who are regular riders, this is not a hypothetical question.  I have had this exact thought, while flying through the air, on two separate occasions when I was young and reckless.

erutio

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Re: "Why I stopped wearing a bike helmet"
« Reply #40 on: November 06, 2018, 05:31:52 PM »
You are riding your bike and are hit by a car, and as you are flying through the air, do you wish to be wearing a helmet or not?

For those of us who are regular riders, this is not a hypothetical question.  I have had this exact thought, while flying through the air, on two separate occasions when I was young and reckless.

And in these cases, did you think that you rather have a helmet on or not?

Dabnasty

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Re: "Why I stopped wearing a bike helmet"
« Reply #41 on: November 06, 2018, 05:48:25 PM »
I have read the bicycling studies where helmet-wearers don't have reduced injury rates compared to non-helmet wearers.  There are obviously biases and valid criticisms of these studies.  But these results have also been reproduced in a few different studies.  The data is there. 

However, whenever this topic comes up, I pose this hypothetical question: 
You are riding your bike and are hit by a car, and as you are flying through the air, do you wish to be wearing a helmet or not?

In this specific scenario I would wish I had a helmet but much of the argument being made is that not wearing a helmet would reduce the chances of being hit by a car.

sol

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Re: "Why I stopped wearing a bike helmet"
« Reply #42 on: November 06, 2018, 06:09:20 PM »
And in these cases, did you think that you rather have a helmet on or not?

Both times I was hit by cars I was not wearing a helmet, and both times I thought to myself as I was flying through the air "gee, I wish I was wearing a helmet right about now."

I also survived both of those incidents basically unharmed (the bikes were not so lucky).  They were low speed collisions at intersections where I had filtered up on the right shoulder, and was hit by a car in the lane next to me that was turning right while looking left for oncoming traffic.  As it turns out, 5 mph impacts are more than enough to send you flying.
 

Slee_stack

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Re: "Why I stopped wearing a bike helmet"
« Reply #43 on: November 07, 2018, 12:32:20 PM »
I'm not against choice.

I am against someone making a blanket statement that people (in general) shouldn't wear bicycle helmets because of a few isolated studies that may or may not prove anything.  I see that as doing more harm than good.

The author admitted that they would wear a helmet when riding trails or un-smooth surfaces, but opt out on the road.  OK.  But surprises happen even on supposedly smooth tarmac....even ignoring the greater peril of inattentive or uncaring motorists.





Dabnasty

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Re: "Why I stopped wearing a bike helmet"
« Reply #44 on: November 07, 2018, 01:04:49 PM »
I'm not against choice.

I am against someone making a blanket statement that people (in general) shouldn't wear bicycle helmets because of a few isolated studies that may or may not prove anything.  I see that as doing more harm than good.

Are you suggesting the author made this statement? Because I don't think that's the case.

This thread has me genuinely confused. It seems most of the arguments against the article are attributing things to the author that he did not say.

Quote
The author admitted that they would wear a helmet when riding trails or un-smooth surfaces, but opt out on the road.  OK.  But surprises happen even on supposedly smooth tarmac....even ignoring the greater peril of inattentive or uncaring motorists.

Surprises can happen anywhere, but his argument is based on statistics. The "it can happen" argument holds no water when discussing statistical probabilities.

The greater peril of uncaring motorists is one of the primary points of the article. Drivers are more cautious towards bicyclists with no helmet.

Slee_stack

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Re: "Why I stopped wearing a bike helmet"
« Reply #45 on: November 08, 2018, 10:32:31 AM »
Yes the author is a proponent of not wearing a helmet around town.

Folks who don't know better may read his opinion (a former Bicycling editor even) and presume that a helmet is unnecessary because of a few isolated, unproven studies. 

Frankly I found his argument mainly being that: bicycle safety is really outside the control of cyclists and because drivers are the root cause, there's no reason to wear a helmet.

His 'statistics' are amazingly isolated.  I'm shocked folks would take single casual 'studies' as any kind of proof, particularly with zero causation established.

I mean one guy riding a bike with no helmet, helmet, and a wig is a controlled experiment?!? 

I don't like the article because its trying to conflate disparate considerations/challenges all the while presuming causation. 

Yes, infrastructure often needs improvement.  So does driver education, behavior, and awareness.

Neither of those issues conclude that one should or shouldn't wear a helmet.  Unfortunately, a young reader might take away the point (intended or not) that a helmet is useless...or even worse for you.  That's a huge disservice.

Regardless of drivers, defects, obstructions and debris occur on all roads at random times.  Not sure why that 'holds no water'.  I'm sure you could look up what the statistics of these occurrences are.  And I would wager they are not an exceedingly rare occurrence.  Again, ignoring driver impact, a helmet can affect how much damage is transferred to your skull should you crash as a result of NOT making contact with a driver.  Why would you choose to not wear one?  Because a driver will now hit you??
« Last Edit: November 08, 2018, 10:37:03 AM by Slee_stack »

dude

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Re: "Why I stopped wearing a bike helmet"
« Reply #46 on: November 08, 2018, 11:13:02 AM »
I don't wear a helmet. And I don't care one fucking iota what anyone thinks about it. Worry about your damn self.

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Re: "Why I stopped wearing a bike helmet"
« Reply #47 on: November 08, 2018, 11:18:54 AM »
I don't wear a helmet. And I don't care one fucking iota what anyone thinks about it. Worry about your damn self.

 . . . but you cared enough to tell everyone what you think of it.  Just sayin'.


:P

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Re: "Why I stopped wearing a bike helmet"
« Reply #48 on: November 08, 2018, 08:32:09 PM »
I'd like to inject some data into this discussion.

For the article on risk taking and helmet wearing, let me please inform you all of the actual experiment performed:

The participants were told they were involved in an eye-tracking study, and they either mounted the fake eye-tracking equipment on a helmet or a cap.

Anxiety was measured using a validate questionnaire on acute anxiety.
Sensation-seeking was measured with a different questionnaire.

Risk-taking was determined by having the participants "inflate" a computer animation of a balloon and basically seeing how much they inflated it, knowing it could pop and they lose all their points. It did not involve any bicycling, simulated bicycling or questions regarding bicycling.

Results:
The difference in the risk-taking score was 40.4 with a helmet vs 31.1 with a cap, on a 100-point scale. p=0.01.

There was no relationship between risk taking and gender (p = .66), [self-reported] bicycling experience ( p = .27), and [self-reported] extent of helmet use when bicycling ( p = .60).

The authors also note in their discussion:
"Our findings initially appear different from those of some other studies. Fyhri and Phillips (2013; Phillips et  al., 2011) found that risk taking in downhill bicycling,
measured through riding speed, did not simply increase when a helmet was worn; rather, the people who normally cycled with a helmet took fewer risks
when riding without one."

In that study, the authors found that routine helmet wearers slowed down when not wearing a helmet, but also reported increased anxiety. Routine non-wearers had no difference in speed or anxiety. Essentially all they demonstrated was that people who normally wear helmets don't like bicycling without a helmet.

So - neither study demonstrates decreased safety as a result of wearing helmets. The first study has limited validity to anything related to actually bicycling. The second demonstrated increased anxiety in helmet-wearers if they don't have them on.

Evidence for helmet safety:
There is a meta-analysis regarding bicycle helmet safety. This was a Cochrane Collaborative meta-analysis, considered one of the best groups for reviewing medical studies. Their reports are conducted by experts in the field in question, undergo rigorous statistical review by independent parties, and are generally cited in major evidence-based guidelines by professional medical societies.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10796827

Their main conclusions:
"No randomized controlled trials were found. This review identified five well conducted case control studies which met our selection criteria. Helmets provide a 63%-88% reduction in the risk of head, brain and severe brain injury for all ages of bicyclists. Helmets provide equal levels of protection for crashes involving motor vehicles (69%) and crashes from all other causes (68%). Injuries to the upper and mid facial areas are reduced 65%."

Another meta-analysis was again performed in 2018. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29677686

This included some more studies because their inclusion criteria were less strict, but found the same findings.

"179 effect estimates from 55 studies from 1989-2017 are included in the meta-analysis. The use of bicycle helmets was found to reduce head injury by 48%, serious head injury by 60%, traumatic brain injury by 53%, face injury by 23%, and the total number of killed or seriously injured cyclists by 34%. Bicycle helmets were not found to have any statistically significant effect on cervical spine injury. "

Now for some anecdote
Having taken care of many trauma patients during my training, I can tell you that relatively few bicyclists suffer major trauma (much higher for motorcyclists. However, those who do tend to have been hit by cars, and generally the cause of death is from traumatic brain injury. We are very good at fixing almost all other blunt injuries from moderate-speed collisions, but if your brain is severely injured there's essentially nothing that we can do. Either it recovers or it doesn't. Either you walk and talk again or you don't. The current evidence indicates that helmet wearing does reduce this specific form of injury. There is a fraction of people who suffer severe enough collisions that they would have died regardless, and that sucks. It does not take away from the fact that even low-impact head injuries can have serious consequences. If we had that attitude, we'd say fuck airbags, seatbelts, and hell metal cars. Let's drive around in paper-mache crotch rockets and have fun!

I personally don't give a damn if anyone other than my friends or family members wear a helmet, and especially don't care about people who purposefully refuses to wear them (since I don't do trauma anymore! Hooray!) I sure got sick of explaining to patients' families why their loved one is never going to wake up. So if you don't, please write a letter so it can be given to your family members in the event of your permanent neurologic disability and/or death. Thanks!
« Last Edit: November 08, 2018, 08:56:03 PM by Abe »

avrex

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Re: "Why I stopped wearing a bike helmet"
« Reply #49 on: November 08, 2018, 10:54:17 PM »
I was in a cycling accident. 

When I came to, the paramedics taking me to the hospital told me that I had been unconscious for 10 minutes.
Later I was shown my helmet, which was now cracked, due to the impact.

I am convinced that, without that helmet, I would be dead.