Author Topic: "Why I stopped wearing a bike helmet"  (Read 3622 times)

Dabnasty

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Re: "Why I stopped wearing a bike helmet"
« Reply #50 on: November 13, 2018, 09:18:41 AM »
Yes the author is a proponent of not wearing a helmet around town.

"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 there’s a certain wisdom to wearing one."

This does not sound like someone telling you not to wear a helmet, around town or otherwise.

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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. 

They might... if they have poor reading comprehension skills or only read the title.

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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.

That was not my takeaway at all. He discussed how important it is for cyclists to be aware of their surroundings because their own safety is very much within their control; primarily in the form of avoiding accidents through awareness and visibility. I thought the main argument was that the available data does not provide the definitive answers that some people think it does and that the statistical risk of not wearing a helmet put into perspective with the risks we face everyday is not as terrifying as some people think.

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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?!? 

Agreed. I don't put a lot of weight into the some of the studies cited. Abe did a great job of analyzing some of these studies and I wish the author had gone into some of that detail. But in the author's defense, he never presented these studies as "proof" of anything.

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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??

It holds no water because you took an argument based on statistics and refuted it with "surprises happen". Regardless of whether the data you're making assumptions about here exists and regardless of whether or not it says what you would wager it to say, "surprises happen" is not helpful. Unfortunately, it is how our brains make decisions when it comes to things like safety.
« Last Edit: November 13, 2018, 09:21:45 AM by Dabnasty »

Slee_stack

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Re: "Why I stopped wearing a bike helmet"
« Reply #51 on: November 13, 2018, 12:43:02 PM »
Yes the author is a proponent of not wearing a helmet around town.

"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 there’s a certain wisdom to wearing one."

This does not sound like someone telling you not to wear a helmet, around town or otherwise.

Quote
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. 

They might... if they have poor reading comprehension skills or only read the title.

Quote
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.

That was not my takeaway at all. He discussed how important it is for cyclists to be aware of their surroundings because their own safety is very much within their control; primarily in the form of avoiding accidents through awareness and visibility. I thought the main argument was that the available data does not provide the definitive answers that some people think it does and that the statistical risk of not wearing a helmet put into perspective with the risks we face everyday is not as terrifying as some people think.

Quote
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?!? 

Agreed. I don't put a lot of weight into the some of the studies cited. Abe did a great job of analyzing some of these studies and I wish the author had gone into some of that detail. But in the author's defense, he never presented these studies as "proof" of anything.

Quote
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??

It holds no water because you took an argument based on statistics and refuted it with "surprises happen". Regardless of whether the data you're making assumptions about here exists and regardless of whether or not it says what you would wager it to say, "surprises happen" is not helpful. Unfortunately, it is how our brains make decisions when it comes to things like safety.
So the article was based on statistics and yet you admit the statistics were questionable.

Which is it?

What is your opinion?  Are cyclists safer without helmets or with?  Why?

Johnez

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Re: "Why I stopped wearing a bike helmet"
« Reply #52 on: November 18, 2018, 01:37:44 PM »
Well written article, but damn having a family and kids and doing an experiment like this to prove a point? Dedicated but kind of nuts.

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While I used to rip it at 45 miles per hour, now I’m far more cautious—anything over 30 feels a bit dicey. A bike helmet can deceive riders into thinking they have a cloak of invulnerability that isn’t actually there, and at least one study has confirmed how riders change their behavior when the hat comes off. I never thought of myself as a big-risk taking cyclist but without a helmet I handle certain situations differently.

I've never experienced going 45 on a bike, and 30-without a helmet feck I would have a hard time wanting to go above 20 mph!

With regards to safety studies, how many accidents where the cyclist picks himself, dusts himself off and rides away make the "studies" showing helmet use doesn't confer benefit one way or the other? How many regular cyclists here with brutal close calls have been contacted and participated in some pollster's questionnaire? The writer is relying on his personal anecdotes here and yet there are untold thousands of personal anecdotes where the rider was obviously better off with the helmet.

I'm not sure the helmet is the actual reason we have crappy bike infrastructure, low respect for cyclists, and low cycling participation, and worse safety outcomes. Or that getting rid of helmet laws and culture will affect any of these things. In the cities he mentions cycling is a natural and normal part of the culture, whereas here in many parts of the US, drivers are exposed to cyclists in annoying and awkward ways. If American cities decided to increase population density and make work a rideable distance from home and taxed the shit out of cars, you might end up with a good biking culture.

Ducknald Don

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Re: "Why I stopped wearing a bike helmet"
« Reply #53 on: November 19, 2018, 11:34:25 AM »
I'm not sure the helmet is the actual reason we have crappy bike infrastructure, low respect for cyclists, and low cycling participation, and worse safety outcomes.

The Dutch needed a lot of dead children to force the change.

GuitarStv

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Re: "Why I stopped wearing a bike helmet"
« Reply #54 on: November 19, 2018, 11:41:02 AM »
I'm not sure the helmet is the actual reason we have crappy bike infrastructure, low respect for cyclists, and low cycling participation, and worse safety outcomes.

The Dutch needed a lot of dead children to force the change.

About 400 a year.

https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2015/may/05/amsterdam-bicycle-capital-world-transport-cycling-kindermoord

canuckiwi

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Re: "Why I stopped wearing a bike helmet"
« Reply #55 on: November 28, 2018, 09:52:05 PM »
While anecdotes are not the same as data, here is my anecdote and the lessons I learned.

I was cycling downtown through a major intersection on a green light. Driver plows on through intersection and T-bones me at 50+ km/hr. My head smashes through the windshield, I bounce off and land 30+ feet away. Serious traumatic brain injury. Six weeks in hospital. One month memory loss. Had to relearn how to control one leg. Recovery better than anyone predicted but some effects remain. Wearing a helmet was the only reason I was not killed or suffer a non-recoverable injury.

Lessons:

The legal system takes into account helmet use when determining fault and insurance compensation. Even if the driver was 100% at fault for the collision, you may be partly responsible for your injuries if you were not all taking appropriate precautions (i.e. wearing personal protective equipment). This is particularly important where helmet use is mandatory.

The argument of helmets vs cycle infrastructure is misleading as they are not the same approach to risk management. Like safety in the construction industry or professional motor sports, helmets (personal protective equipment) are the last line of defense if all other risk mitigation measures fail. Larger risk reductions are made by physically removing the interactions between cyclists and hazards (i.e. cars and trucks). In places where these hazards have been almost completely removed (Holland etc), the resultant risk the cyclists may be so small that riding without a helmet is reasonable. I don't believe this is the case in North America (yet?).

I am not a proponent of mandatory helmet laws, as it possibly reduces the number of people cycling. It also gives ammunition to drivers who are looking to cast all cyclists as law breakers/ irresponsible/ justified in being run over etc. I think it is noble if helmet-less cyclists want to sacrifice themselves to prove that cycling is safe. Dead people can lead to better cycling infrastructure. However, because not all hazards are foreseeable and avoidable, it is prudent to wear your personal protective equipment, just like PPE on construction sites or a seat belt while driving.

A helmet only has to save your life once to make it worth wearing every time you cycle.