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To Encourage Biking, Lose the Helmets

Unknown Lamer posted about a year ago | from the so-hot-you-can-fry-brains-on-the-pavement dept.

Transportation 1651

Hugh Pickens writes in about the detrimental effects of mandatory helmet laws (at least as applied to adults): "Elisabeth Rosenthal writes that in the United States the notion that bike helmets promote health and safety by preventing head injuries is taken as pretty near God's truth but many European health experts have taken a very different view. 'Yes, there are studies that show that if you fall off a bicycle at a certain speed and hit your head, a helmet can reduce your risk of serious head injury,' writes Rosenthal. 'But such falls off bikes are rare — exceedingly so in mature urban cycling systems.' On the other hand, many researchers say, if you force people to wear helmets, you discourage them from riding bicycles causing more health problems like obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. Bicycling advocates say that the problem with pushing helmets isn't practicality but that helmets make a basically safe activity seem really dangerous, which makes it harder to develop a safe bicycling network like the one in New York City, where a bike-sharing program is to open next year. The safest biking cities are places like Amsterdam and Copenhagen, where middle-aged commuters are mainstay riders and the fraction of adults in helmets is minuscule. 'Pushing helmets really kills cycling and bike-sharing in particular because it promotes a sense of danger that just isn't justified — in fact, cycling has many health benefits,' says Piet de Jong. 'Statistically, if we wear helmets for cycling, maybe we should wear helmets when we climb ladders or get into a bath, because there are lots more injuries during those activities.'"

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But that's not the real problem. (5, Insightful)

mosb1000 (710161) | about a year ago | (#41522733)

The real problem is that I'm an adult and I can decide for myself whether or not I will wear a helmet. The government doesn't need to make this decision for me.

Re:But that's not the real problem. (5, Insightful)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | about a year ago | (#41522785)

No, the real problem is cyclists are small and drivers aren't given enough experience when learning to drive to identify small targets; They learn that pedestrian-sized obstacles are on pavements.

Cyclists should wear helmets because it can save their life if hit by a car, not to stop a bruise when they fall over at traffic lights because their fancy shoes didn't unclip.

Re:But that's not the real problem. (4, Insightful)

dingen (958134) | about a year ago | (#41522813)

You realize that is just a temporary problem which doesn't need a permanent fix? If you ditch the need for helmets, more people would start cycling, which will make motorists more aware of them. It might take a generation to get fully adjusted, but there are lots of European countries where drivers are fully used to having to watch out for people riding bicycles (and small scooters by the way).

Re:But that's not the real problem. (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#41522913)

It might take a generation to get fully adjusted

Great, so we only have to deal with tens of thousands of people with brain injuries until everyone is adjusted. I have a better idea. Wear helmets, train (and punish if necessary) drivers, and build bike paths at the same time. And by the time everyone is fully adjusted, bike helmets will be the norm and the added safety margin from helmets will remain.

Re:But that's not the real problem. (5, Insightful)

dingen (958134) | about a year ago | (#41522987)

Cycling will never become mainstream while helmet laws are enforced. In none of the countries where cycling is common it is required to where helmets and in every country where helmets are mandatory, cycling isn't very popular.

So lose the helmets and learn to drive. It's the only way.

I do agree with the bike lanes, but that's really an added extra, not a substitute for the above.

And why is it such a problem to have to sit through a generation to profoundly improve something? The lack of long term solutions is exactly what is wrong with the world. Everyone wants everything now and that's just not feasible. The reality is that short term solutions generally make things worse in the long term, not better.

It's called a bike path. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#41522821)

You know, there is a middle way between them being on the pavement and being on the car's part of the road.

Re:It's called a bike path. (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#41522837)

"car's part of the road" ???

This is a mistake. Where does it say the road belongs to cars?

Re:It's called a bike path. (2)

N Monkey (313423) | about a year ago | (#41522975)

"car's part of the road" ???

This is a mistake. Where does it say the road belongs to cars?

It seems to be etched into the brains of some of the car and, worse, truck drivers around here. One on-coming driver even thought it'd be amusing to veer over to my side of the road to give me a surprise. nice.

Re:It's called a bike path. (2)

dingen (958134) | about a year ago | (#41523005)

I believe in the Netherlands, the first tarmac roads were actually placed for cyclist.

Re:It's called a bike path. (1)

vurian (645456) | about a year ago | (#41523075)

That's actually also true for the united states. The first macadamization was done by bicycle clubs.

Re:But that's not the real problem. (5, Insightful)

mwvdlee (775178) | about a year ago | (#41522843)

Then perhaps US drivers should get the same type of driving instructions given in, say, Amsterdam and Copenhagen.

Re:But that's not the real problem. (2)

dingen (958134) | about a year ago | (#41523025)

That would be a good idea even without the cyclists. Proper instructions are key to making roads safe. Look at Germany: no speed limits, yet because of decent training, the Autobahn is less dangerous than the roads are in a lot of other countries.

Re:But that's not the real problem. (3, Insightful)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | about a year ago | (#41523049)

I'm all for this. In fact, I think it should be mandatory to ride a moped for at least one year before you can drive a car. You can ride a moped at 16 in the UK after taking a £100 day course, meaning you could start to drive at 17 as you can now. Not only will it make you more aware of how traffic reacts to smaller vehicles, but it gives you invaluable experience of how handling changes in the wet, which isn't always obvious to a new car driver (We don't do skid-pan training here).
Then again, I also think drivers should be retested every 10 years until their 60th birthday, then every 5 years. I see yuppies swerving in and out of traffic on the motorway daily, but a pensioner pulling out of the wrong side of a junction into oncoming traffic is something else.

Re:But that's not the real problem. (1)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | about a year ago | (#41523055)

Sorry, that should have been a double break, not bold.

Re:But that's not the real problem. (1)

smash (1351) | about a year ago | (#41522867)

So you think pedestrians should wear helmets too?

Re:But that's not the real problem. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#41523077)

There is this crazy type of road surface, sort of like a bike path, that keeps pedestrians away from traffic except at controlled points. I forget what it is called but it is on the side of the road where people can walk. I recommend calling it a walkbeside or a walk-side.

Re:But that's not the real problem. (5, Informative)

xaxa (988988) | about a year ago | (#41522871)

Cyclists should wear helmets because it can save their life if hit by a car.

That's exactly the kind of injury that cycle helmets aren't much use at preventing -- the speeds are too high.

Also, some research showed that drivers overtook helmeted cyclists with less room compared to unhelmeted cyclists, i.e. the drivers take a higher risk because they assume the helmet is protecting the cyclist.

not to stop a bruise when they fall over at traffic lights because their fancy shoes didn't unclip

That's the kind of injury the helmet might help with, and people cycling for sport should probably wear helmets. (Just like people driving for sport wear helmets.)

Re:But that's not the real problem. (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#41523017)

Stupid drivers not driving safely is a problem in and of itself. But when a bicyclist gets hurt regardless of vehicular interaction, well, I bet the bicyclist is going to regret not wearing a helmet if his or her head is hit against something hard.

I bet we'd have more people willing to skydive if they didn't have to lug around backpacks carrying heavy parachutes.

Re:But that's not the real problem. (5, Interesting)

dingen (958134) | about a year ago | (#41523051)

The reality is that you'll be seriously injured anyway if you are hit by a car while driving a bicycle, helmet or not.

By the way, in the Netherlands (where as you might now cycling is very common on the roads) the person driving the car is always liable in a car-bicycle collision. It doesn't matter if the cyclist was running a red light, it doesn't matter if it was on the wrong side of the road: if a car hits a bicycle, it's the car's fault. Always. This makes motorist very aware of cyclists, so despite of everyone cycling everywhere, accidents involving cars aren't actually that common at all.

Re:But that's not the real problem. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#41523097)

Most cycling helmets (in the UK/EU) are only rated to 12mph and for impacts from 1 meter. Most of these are exceeded when cycling normally, I generally cycle at 15mph and my head is more than 1 meter above the ground... cycle helmets also don't cover the sides of your head or your face.

The only way helmets would make a significant difference to cycling is if we had to wear full face motor cycle helmets, in which case we may as well mandate body armour as well. However I would ditch the bike if that was the case...

Re:But that's not the real problem. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#41522949)

No, the real problem is ... drivers aren't given enough experience when learning to drive to identify small targets.

And your solution is to fix this problem applies to something else than the drivers?
That, good sir, is what we in IT call "a patch" -- sometimes even "a quickly cobbled-together, hackneyed patch".

Re:But that's not the real problem. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#41523073)

"Cyclists should wear helmets because it can save their life if hit by a car ..."

Being hit by the car is exactly the situation where the helmet does not help. Not a bit. Helmet helps when you fall over the front wheel and that is the fall tested in those helmet tests. Helmet protection in case of car crash is exactly 0.

It's only effect is that cars tend to drive closer to you, because drivers think that helmet would make significant difference. Cars driving close => bigger danger.

Re:But that's not the real problem. (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#41522787)

and then society has to pay higher hospital bills and health insurance to pay for your health care as you live the rest of your post-car-crash life as a vegetable. So yes, society does have a material interest in having you not act like an idiot.

same goes for smoking, seat belts, and suicide. you're being selfish if you just think its only about you.

Re:But that's not the real problem. (5, Insightful)

Joce640k (829181) | about a year ago | (#41523039)

Did you miss the bit in the summary about cycling saving money by making people healthier?

Re:But that's not the real problem. (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#41522789)

Unfortunately that argument doesn't hold water. You could argue the same for seat belts in cars. If things go wrong on a bicycle then it is usually someone else responsibility to deal with your actions. The child like response of the government can't tell me what to do is rather irresponsible.

The difference in countries that don't have mandatory helmet laws is that there is already a culture of people sharing the footpath/sidewalk with bicycles. So it is alright for people to ride around at medium speed. If you live in a country that doesn't have this sort of culture then you are screwed! You have to share the road with cars. This makes wearing a helmet mandatory.

Of course if you live in a country were the local bird life like to dive bomb passing cyclists in spring time, this is another good reason to wear a helmet.

Re:But that's not the real problem. (1)

mikael_j (106439) | about a year ago | (#41522859)

Unfortunately that argument doesn't hold water. You could argue the same for seat belts in cars. If things go wrong on a bicycle then it is usually someone else responsibility to deal with your actions. The child like response of the government can't tell me what to do is rather irresponsible.

I'm not sure what you mean by "it is usually someone else responsibility to deal with your actions". I'm assuming your implied meaning is that either people who ride bicycles demand society cover their medical costs and that this was some variation of "Taxes are stealing! Everyone should be required to follow insane safety precautions just to get out of bed in the morning or I won't have any of it" or you were implying that when people on bicycles generally only cause accidents in a way that harms others (thought this seems unlikely).

The difference in countries that don't have mandatory helmet laws is that there is already a culture of people sharing the footpath/sidewalk with bicycles. So it is alright for people to ride around at medium speed. If you live in a country that doesn't have this sort of culture then you are screwed! You have to share the road with cars. This makes wearing a helmet mandatory.

Except in most countries bicycles don't belong on sidewalks and foot paths to begin with so this makes the rest of this paragraph wrong as well.

Re:But that's not the real problem. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#41522881)

Do you realize you just posted that on an article about a group of doctors claiming the costs or requiring helmets outweigh the benefits? Theres a point where you are no longer caring about "the greater good" and are actually just being an overbearing asshole. Helmet laws are way, way past that point.

Re:But that's not the real problem. (4, Insightful)

xaxa (988988) | about a year ago | (#41522903)

The difference in countries that don't have mandatory helmet laws is that there is already a culture of people sharing the footpath/sidewalk with bicycles. So it is alright for people to ride around at medium speed. If you live in a country that doesn't have this sort of culture then you are screwed! You have to share the road with cars. This makes wearing a helmet mandatory.

You don't know what you're writing about.

Plenty of European cyclists use the road for some or all of their journeys, yet helmets are not mandatory (except for children, in some countries).

Australia has mandatory helmets, and very low levels of cycling to go with it.

Re:But that's not the real problem. (1)

N Monkey (313423) | about a year ago | (#41523023)

You don't know what you're writing about.

Plenty of European cyclists use the road for some or all of their journeys, yet helmets are not mandatory (except for children, in some countries).

Australia has mandatory helmets, and very low levels of cycling to go with it.

Could that be more due to the relative costs of fuel in Europe and Australia, the slightly increased relative distances and perhaps that car parking is probably easier? (On the other hand, Australian weather is probably far better, so would offset that somewhat)

Re:But that's not the real problem. (1)

YttriumOxide (837412) | about a year ago | (#41522919)

Of course if you live in a country were the local bird life like to dive bomb passing cyclists in spring time, this is another good reason to wear a helmet.

Actually, when I lived in Amsterdam (a good 12 or 13 years ago now), I found the pigeons in the inner city pretty evil when cycling around (actually, significantly worse in the vicinity of coffeeshops which had open windows; so I do believe they might in fact have been stoned pigeons). Still didn't make me wear a helmet though.

Re:But that's not the real problem. (3, Informative)

mvdwege (243851) | about a year ago | (#41523045)

No, you cannot make that comparison. The class of injuries prevented by seatbelts is wider and more common than the extremely rare head injuries suffered by bicyclists.

Mart

Re:But that's not the real problem. (4, Insightful)

CodeheadUK (2717911) | about a year ago | (#41522797)

Agreed.

I've cycled to work for over 20 years and never worn a helmet. In that time, I've been knocked off twice by stupid car drivers. A helmet would have made no difference at all on either occasion.

However, I make my kids wear helmets because they wobble around at low speed and have no road sense. When they're old enough they can make an informed choice too.

Re:But that's not the real problem. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#41522817)

man i lover reading people,s posts then looking at their login names and sigs to put the comment in perspective.

Re:But that's not the real problem. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#41522875)

oops i thought that siad cokehead

Re:But that's not the real problem. (1)

emj (15659) | about a year ago | (#41522937)

Agreed, from what I've heard 12 years is old enough to have road sense and balance, over here you are mandated by law to have a helmet until you are 15.

Re:But that's not the real problem. (1)

rikkards (98006) | about a year ago | (#41522971)

Ontario is the same. You are mandated by law until16. I don't think it should be forced over that age however I do think you are a shallow idiot that is too concerned about how you look with this cage sitting on your head if you don't wear one. Granted the situation of it saving your life is slim however they still happen.

Re:But that's not the real problem. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#41522805)

The government doesn't decide for you. You can still decide, but the government may fine you.
Since in most industrial nations, the society also takes care of a mishap, I think it is perfectly sensible,
that if you decide to take extraordinary risks, that you are paying for those either by additional taxes (tobacco),
or, in this case, fines. What is extraordinary depends on research, and the democratic process.
I vastly prefer that system over one, where the general populace gets the pseudo-choice of a insurance company,
which would supposedly cover that.

Re:But that's not the real problem. (1)

Greyfox (87712) | about a year ago | (#41522845)

And God knows we didn't ride them as children! To listen to the hysterical nanny-state legislators, none of us should have survived to adulthood! Plus, I know how to PLF now, a skill I didn't have when I was 9. I actually have a pretty respectable tuck and roll going on.

Funnily enough I don't need a helmet to jump out of an airplane now that I'm off student status but continue to wear one anyway. I've whanged my head enough times in the plane with my helmet on to appreciate its uses. And since I have the helmet I'd probably wear it biking. I'm a bit more concerned about getting clobbered by motor traffic. I have actually witnessed this happen. Twice. And technically both times, the guy on the bike was kind of at fault, moving from sidewalk to traffic without awareness of his surroundings. The first one was going counter to the flow of traffic as well. Fortunately neither one caused the guy on the bike any significant injury. It just doesn't seem very safe though. And this is from someone who intentionally jumps out of airplanes!

I don't ride a motorcycle, for the same reason. They're just too easy to not see.

Re:But that's not the real problem. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#41522963)

And technically both times, the guy on the bike was kind of at fault, moving from sidewalk to traffic without awareness of his surroundings. The first one was going counter to the flow of traffic as well. Fortunately neither one caused the guy on the bike any significant injury. It just doesn't seem very safe though

Yeah, it isn't very safe. If you ride a bike in traffic, you should pay attention to traffic. And just as cars should give some allowance to bikes in terms of taking the possibily into account that a bike might do something "stupid" such as run a red light, jump on/off the pavement or go the wrong way in traffic; bikes should realize that cars aren't always perfect and make their intentions clear, check to see if the driver noticed them before going into a danger zone, etc.

On a separate bike lane you can allow yourself to be distracted a bit, e.g. by listening to music/radio/podcasts, but in a mixed traffic environment riding should be your #1 activity. This is the same with driving: driving should be your only focus if you're driving a 2000+ lbs vehicle at relatively high speeds through a busy and complicated environment, e.g.any European inner city but also many American downtowns, mall areas etc where traffic comes from all directions and pedestrians, cars, and possibly bikes. If you're on a separate drive lane, such as a freeway or a large parkway, you can allow yourself some distraction.

Re:But that's not the real problem. (1)

emj (15659) | about a year ago | (#41523043)

Sadly most bicycle accidents only involve one person and are caused by bad roads and bad conditions. Single accidents here in Sweden were 70% of all accidents and just 20% involved some kind of car. Basically what might seem dangerous, city traffic, usually isn't, it can be hard to get used to the stress of a crowded street but it's very safe. What is dangerous are those bike paths that seem lovely and then just end abruptly because of bad maintenance.

Re:But that's not the real problem. (0)

AchilleTalon (540925) | about a year ago | (#41522923)

Not true. Even if I am an adult, cyclist and I don't wear an helmet. Following your rational, the government shouldn't impose speed limits, neither the safety buckle, neither any security mechanisms in cars, nor winter tires in upper States and so on.

Re:But that's not the real problem. (0)

circletimessquare (444983) | about a year ago | (#41522981)

i don't think the government should prevent you from drinking soda, and i don't think that the government should make you wear helmets

but there are plenty of situations where a personal choice without any regard as to responsibility becomes a cost society has to bear. such as your hospital trip. there are plenty of situations in life where you shouldn't do something, or it should be regulated, or you should be licensed, etc

this of course doesn't prevent the existence of morons who cry "it's my freedom!" when, in actuality, what they mean is freedom from responsibility

what they mean is that we, the rest of us, should bear the costs for their "freedom" to do something stupid and destructive (smoke in my face means i get cancer, drunk driving means i get killed just for driving on the road, "i don't need health insurance!"- and they break their arm and avoid the bill and we have to pay for it, etc)

it's a sort of blindness, a form of stupidity: people who see the potential for damage only to themselves, or don't see consequences or potential costs at all, or don't see the implications for other people, the environment, etc

freedom is real. i love freedom. there is a whole range of actions in this world which really do impact only me and society has no business butting in

but freedom doesn't exist in a world where people aren't responsible for the consequences of their actions on others

and freedom doesn't mean freedom from responsibility

Re:But that's not the real problem. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#41523009)

The real problem is that I'm an adult and I can decide for myself whether or not I will wear a helmet.

You are quite right. I could see how you feeling adult and deciding for yourself could be a problem, yes.

Re:But that's not the real problem. (1)

chrismcb (983081) | about a year ago | (#41523021)

It isn't so much that the government made the decision for you. It is the government (and not just the government) has educational programs to teach people to wear helmets. It worked, everyone wears helmets.
I understand what the article is saying. I feel safer riding a slow bike in Amsterdam, but I would never ride a bike in America without a helmet. We aren't set up for it. and plus I tend to bike fast enough that I want a helmet.
The problem isn't really about helmet or no helmet. It is about making safe bike lanes and promoting a slower type of bike for transportation.

Re:But that's not the real problem. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#41523047)

The real problem is that I'm an adult and I can decide for myself whether or not I will wear a seat belt / motorcycle helmet. The government doesn't need to make this decision for me.

Re:But that's not the real problem. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#41523091)

When your death or permanent injury doesn't cost the government you are free to kill or maim yourself.

Can't agree more (4, Insightful)

dargaud (518470) | about a year ago | (#41522741)

If you fall by yourself off a bike (losing grip too fast in a curve, hitting the side of a sidewalk), you are more likely to injure your wrists or scrape your legs. There won't be much difference for the head. But if you get hit by a car, a cm of Styrofoam is not going to make much of a difference. And I say this as someone who wears a helmet mountain biking and takes it off on the bike lanes.

The US is absurd: you don't have to wear a helmet on a motorbike, but you need one on a pedal bike ?!?

Re:Can't agree more (3, Insightful)

elhefe38 (1250544) | about a year ago | (#41522763)

But if you get hit by a car, a cm of Styrofoam is not going to make much of a difference. And I say this as someone who wears a helmet mountain biking and takes it off on the bike lanes.

I know at least 5 cases where this cm of styrofoam *made* a difference between a light injury and a very severe one. The latest case did not involved a car at all. I guess you will find out you are wrong the hard way, although I do not wish that to you...

Re:Can't agree more (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#41522857)

You "know" ?

Can you prove it? Or you THINK it made a difference? Or do you LIKE to believe it?

Re:Can't agree more (5, Funny)

Chuck Chunder (21021) | about a year ago | (#41522959)

You "know" ?

Yes, he has invented a machine that allows him to travel alternate timelines in parallel universes. He uses this machine solely for arguing on the internet.

Either that or the damage done to the helmets indicates a level of force best not applied to a naked head.

Re:Correlation (5, Insightful)

hoboroadie (1726896) | about a year ago | (#41523041)

I find the dents and gouges in my helmet to be pretty compelling evidence of injuries and pain that didn't occur.
YMMV, Science Guy.

Re:Can't agree more (1)

Robert Zenz (1680268) | about a year ago | (#41523101)

You "know" ?

You know, there's something called "experience". It's the moment someone tells you about (or you've witnessed yourself) an accident involving a bike, and that all the paramedics/doctors/whoever said "Good thing you wear that helmet, otherwise I'd now need to attach a label to your toe".

Re:Can't agree more (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#41522901)

No one is arguing a helmet may help save your life in certain rare situations.
The argument is the government should not have the right to force people to be "safe"

Do you also argue that the government should enforce a mandatory 8pm curfew? After all when it is dark it is hard to see and less safe, best make it an arrestable offense to be outside after 8pm.

Do you also argue that the government shouldn't even let you leave your home? After all, it's not safe outside.

Why are you not arguing the government make alcohol illegal, since it makes people unsafe as well?
Cars in general are not safe in any shape or form, they are the leading cause of accidental death. You are also arguing for legal banning of all cars.

If one takes your argument to the logical extreme, you are saying the government has the right to end your life, because living is not a safe activity.

Re:Can't agree more (2)

RanCossack (1138431) | about a year ago | (#41522801)

The US is absurd: you don't have to wear a helmet on a motorbike, but you need one on a pedal bike ?!?

I don't think that's the law; a least in my state, you have to wear a helmet until you turn 18, after which it is your choice.

Re:Can't agree more (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#41522807)

And a motorcycle helmet actually illustrates your point really well. To make "being hit by a car" OK on a pedal bicycle you would need a motorcyle style helmet, but obviously no-one is going to wear one of those to ride a bike, they're heavy and awkward and expensive. So they have these smaller, lighter helmets. And they're certified, they have logos on and everything. But wait, what are they certified for?

Well they're certified for falling off the bike and hitting your head on the ground. Low speed impact simulated by a device that thumps the helmet. No crash dummies, no tonne of steel crashing into the cyclist, just a small metal piston and a guy with a clipboard. And those sort of impacts do happen... if you're five and still learning to ride, or if you're a BMX stunt cyclist, or maybe if you're mountain biking. But does it happen on the roads? Not really. No, on the roads what happens is that cyclists get mown down by inatttentive drivers turning across their path, or they ride into a suddenly opened car door, that sort of thing and the helmet doesn't do shit. So why bother with it?

Re:Can't agree more (2)

hoboroadie (1726896) | about a year ago | (#41523083)

If you get hit by a car, you're doing it wrong. Actually, I hit a car door once, my sternum hurt for about a year, but I'm pretty sure my helmet interfaced with the cement when I bounced off and hit the ground. Now I eschew the door zone.
If you presume homicidal intent, it is fairly easy to avoid the cars.

Re:Can't agree more (1)

dissy (172727) | about a year ago | (#41522809)

The US is absurd: you don't have to wear a helmet on a motorbike, but you need one on a pedal bike ?!?

No, that should be:
The US is absurd: Depending on state, you must wear a helmet on both a motorbike And a pedal bike

http://www.fastfreds.com/helmetlawmap.htm [fastfreds.com]

Re:Can't agree more (1)

danielblues (779916) | about a year ago | (#41522879)

Me too, it's a different attitude and risk. My stats: 14 years of daily commute to work, 1 fall (a broken chain on a power standing starting, painful, no help from helmet there) ~25 years mountain biking, 2 broken helmets, 3 bones, many many cm of skin lost.

Re:Can't agree more (1)

emj (15659) | about a year ago | (#41523057)

mountain biking, 2 broken helmets, 3 bones, many many cm of skin lost.

Nice... I'm guessing you guys wear other protective gear as well?

Re:Can't agree more (1)

stephanruby (542433) | about a year ago | (#41522899)

The US is absurd: you don't have to wear a helmet on a motorbike, but you need one on a pedal bike ?!?

I can't speak for the rest of the US, but in California, you are indeed required to wear a helmet on a motorbike. It's been that way since the late 80s, or 90s. It's just that the Hollywood movie making industry does not like to depict Motorcyclists with helmets on.

And in California at least, helmets are not required for adult bicyclists, but they are required for teenagers and kids below 16 years of age. Of course, some University towns and some communities may have their own local ordinances regarding helmets for bicyclists. And if you are a parent, you may not be required to wear a helmet, but you may feel the need to wear one anyhow to set a good example for your kid(s).

And I can't speak about the example given in New York, I've never been there, but I would expect New York to be an extreme example when it comes bicycling compared to the rest of the United States.

Re:Can't agree more (2)

hoboroadie (1726896) | about a year ago | (#41523007)

I crash on a regular enough schedule that I prefer a skater's helmet so I don't have to replace it every time. Wearing the helmet allows me to tumble (gracefully?) and save the parts of my body that aren't my head from an awful lot of hard use. (id est wrists, elbows, knees.)
Here in the People's Republic of California, AFAIK there is a law requiring anyone under 18 years of age on anything with wheels to wear helmets, but apparently its pretty much a secret known to but a few. We have a helmet law for motorcycles here, as well.
I tried wearing a helmet in the car, but it was too embarrassing for my friends and family so I gave it up. I hope I live.

Try again (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#41522747)

Yes, there are studies that show that if you fall off a bicycle at a certain speed and hit your head, a helmet can reduce your risk of serious head injury

People don't wear helmets because they are worried they are going to fall of their bike. They wear them because they are worried they are going to get hit by a car and then have their heads hit the pavement with much greater force.

I knew a kid who rode a bike and then got hit by a car without wearing a helmet. After about 6 months of care in the ICU he was released. He was never able to get a driver's license due to his brain damage. About 2 years after his initial accident he was killed on a bike while he again did not wear a helmet.

Re:Try again (0)

theNetImp (190602) | about a year ago | (#41522795)

It's called EVOLUTION.

Na, Really, Try again (1)

BBF_BBF (812493) | about a year ago | (#41522863)

It's called EVOLUTION.

It's called NATURAL SELECTION, not EVOLUTION.

Ivory tower intellectuals (1, Insightful)

Joe Tie. (567096) | about a year ago | (#41522767)

This is why so many "common people" look down on academia. The blind grabbing of statistics by people who've never lived in anything other than a wonderland of privilege in their major cities. You know why people feel it's unsafe to bike? It's because it's fucking unsafe to bike in areas without bike lanes. Which is pretty much most of the US except for major urban areas or the occasional statistical fluke. Rich people in the suburbs who are terrified of their own shadow are the exception. The norm are people who actually are at high risk of being run off the road if they tried to bike to work at 7am.

Re:Ivory tower intellectuals (5, Informative)

Dr La (1342733) | about a year ago | (#41522825)

Creating bicycle lanes is a much better way to safety for bicylers, than helmet laws. The Netherlands where I live, one of the most bicycle-intense countries in the world, started to create bicycle lanes in the early '70-ies in order to reduce the number of bicycle casualties. And it worked. And we don't wear helmets here (if you see bicyclers with helmets in the Netherlands, it are either racing bicyclers, or foreigners, seldom average cyclers).

Re:Ivory tower intellectuals (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#41522829)

Those people would still be free to wear helmets if they want to though, it's that those who do not need helmets shouldn't be forced to use them.

Re:Ivory tower intellectuals (3, Informative)

Kell Bengal (711123) | about a year ago | (#41523011)

people who've never lived in anything other than a wonderland of privilege

Oh, how I wish academia was like that. It's 8 pm and I'm still at work. When I go home in half an hour, I will keep on working until I can't work anymore. If I'm lucky, I might get to see my family on the weekend. If I don't work this hard, I won't get tenure and I won't have a job. Academia is no wonderland of privilage and it hasn't been since the 18th century, when the only people who had time to think about things were the idle nobility. Anybody in academia today has worked hard to get there and continues to work hard to stay there. Why do we want to stay there? Because it's the only way we can study things we're really passionate about, rather than what people force us to. But at 8 pm after a long day of teaching, I wonder if I really do want to be here afterall...

Re:Ivory tower intellectuals (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#41523033)

This is why so many "common people" look down on the US. The blind grabbing of attention by people who've never lived in anything other than a car-oriented land of mediocre drivers. You know why people feel it's safe to bike? It's because it's fucking safe to bike in areas where drivers know how to drive like there's other people on the road that may not be encased in Abraham II-style vehicles. Which is pretty much most of Europe, (Germany, France, Italy, Switzerland, the UK, Belgium, Spain, the Netherlands), China, India, and plenty other parts of the world except for the occasional statistical fluke. Tank-driving US people who are terrified of having a smaller car than their neighbor are the exception. The norm are people who actually are capable of driving like there are others on the road, some of whom more vulnerable than them, without causing accidents.

Note: driving in some places (italy, china, india) is hectic, yes. Doesn't imply that it's incredibly unsafe.

Re:Ivory tower intellectuals (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#41523087)

"The blind grabbing of statistics by people who've never lived in anything other than a wonderland of privilege in their major cities." That is also called the scientific method... Seriously. That was one of the cheapest attacks on some well designed studies I have seen in a long time. Namecalling does not improve your arguments. And anecdotes are not proof.

Australia (5, Interesting)

Alioth (221270) | about a year ago | (#41522773)

Australia is an oft-cited example. Many Australian territories passed mandatory helmet laws for cycling. Off the top of my head, cycling fell by about 40% in the aftermath, and the injury rate went *up*. (Of course the injury rate may have gone up because the people who were helmet wearers in the first place, and didn't stop cycling, were higher risk takers - and removing the other 40% who were not risk takers from the cycling pool made the accident rate go up - note rate, not absolute value).

Another experiment someone did in Britain was to fit an ultrasonic measuring system to a bicycle to measure how close cars were passing. They tried riding in various different manners, for example further from the kerb (tr.US: curb), with helmet, without helmet, dressed as a woman etc. He found that as a hemetless woman, cars gave him the greatest amount of room, and as a helmeted man, the least amount of room. http://www.drianwalker.com/overtaking/overtakingprobrief.pdf [drianwalker.com]

There's also the theory that the more cyclists on the road, the lower the accident *rate* (absolute numbers may go up) because car drivers are just more used to seeing them. Holland has probably the highest rate of regular cycling, probably the lowest rate of helmet wearing, and probably the lowest cycle accident rate.

In summary, I don't think helmets ever should be made mandatory, and may actually have the unintended consequence of making the remaining cyclists less safe.

Re:Australia (5, Funny)

Chrisq (894406) | about a year ago | (#41522815)

They tried riding in various different manners, for example further from the kerb (tr.US: curb), with helmet, without helmet, dressed as a woman etc. He found that as a hemetless woman, cars gave him the greatest amount of room, and as a helmeted man, the least amount of room.

So rather than a helmet law there should be a law that cyclists should dress as women. I could go with that!

Re:Australia (5, Interesting)

Spacejock (727523) | about a year ago | (#41522839)

I quit cycling and sold my bike when they introduced mandatory helmet laws in Australia. Many years (and quite a few kg) later I caved in and bought a bike, but it still seems ridiculous that I have to wear a helmet to cycle 500 metres to the local shops. On the other hand, when I'm riding 40-50km distances on my road bike I'd rather wear a helmet and gloves because I ride faster and travel on a lot of roads with traffic.

Re:Australia (1)

Yaotzin (827566) | about a year ago | (#41522893)

I have a theory on this. I believe helmet wearing may cause the cyclist in question to become more reckless, due to a false sense of security. Sometimes it feels like cyclists behaving erratic in traffic are more prone to wearing helmets. Cause or effect, who knows? Anyway, I don't wear a helmet, because it looks stupid and won't do me much good if my ribcage is smashed by a car and my lungs get punctured, so I use caution instead. Plus, I haven't fallen of a bike since I was 14, even when drunk like a sailor on shore leave.

I'd say the number one risk to bicyclists are left turns (except in the Commonwealth of Nations) and mostly then because bike lanes are either poorly planned or non-existent.

Re:Australia (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#41522985)

I'd say the number one risk to bicyclists are left turns

I think the major risk is right turns, by lorries/trucks...

Re:Australia (2)

Chuck Chunder (21021) | about a year ago | (#41523001)

Off the top of my head, cycling fell by about 40% in the aftermath,

It should perhaps be noted that approved helmets at the time looked like this [google.com.au] .

I would not start to wear a helmet (2)

avanhel (595935) | about a year ago | (#41522819)

I ride my bike to work every day, in the Netherlands. For the most part I ride on specific bike paths. If I had to wear a helmet, I would probably use a different form of transport in the future. The attitude of the car drivers is different here because people expect people on a bike, which makes it safer.

I'd pay that (1)

smash (1351) | about a year ago | (#41522841)

... just did a trip through Europe and plenty of cities have a public bike system. You put your card in the machine and collect a bike, ride where you want and then return it to the nearest bike rack.

This encourages bike use by tourists, and probably others who are out and about and just decide to ride somewhere rather than catching a cab, on impulse.

You're not likely to go for an inpulse ride (like we did, plenty of times, including around Vienna at midnight), if you need to be carrying a helmet around with you.

View from a Surgical ICU (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#41522865)

I am sitting right now in the Surgical ICU of a level 1 trauma center. 3 of our 34 patients have serious intracranial hemorrhages from bicycle crashes.

Re:View from a Surgical ICU (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#41522905)

And if you go to rehab you'll notice the vast majority of people there have substance abuse problems...

Brains are Fucking Expensive (-1)

Scorch_Mechanic (1879132) | about a year ago | (#41522873)

I never understood people who don't wear helmets when cycling. It's the soundest investment advice ever. The way I see it, all of the money ever spent on or by me ever was invested into that spongy liquid soaked warm stuff between my ears. Every single tax dollar, every single Christmas present, even the money I gave to charity.

If I can reduce the chance of damage to literally the most valuable thing in my life by wearing a $25 helmet OF COURSE I'M GOING TO WEAR A HELMET DO YOU THINK I'M STUPID?

Yes, I'm going to become a legal vehicle driving on roads next to American drivers who zip past me at differences of twenty or thirty miles per hour with inches to spare and I'm not going to wear a helmet because I can't be bothered and/or it makes me "less cool"? I don't think so.
Idiots.

Re:Brains are Fucking Expensive (2, Insightful)

joss (1346) | about a year ago | (#41522961)

Here's two reasons:

1. Helmets give the cyclist a false sense of security.
2. Helmets give drivers a false sense of security.

You may think [1] does not apply to you, and possibly it doesn't but people are incredibly bad at judging that kind of thing. It's very likely that you take more risks when wearing a helment.

The second point is far more important and it's not something you as a cyclist can do anything about. Studies have shown that cars pass closer and faster to bikes when the cyclist is wearing a helmet. On some subconscious level they see the cyclist as being less vulnerable and hence they drive more dangerously around them.

For these reasons I discourage my three daughters from riding helmets when they cycle and I don't wear them myself.

However, even if one discounted both these reasons, mandatory helmets are horrible on principle. Its my own life I may be putting in danger, so if you want to wear a helmet, go ahead, if you want to tell other people to wear a helmet, go fuck yourself.

Re:Brains are Fucking Expensive (1)

Scorch_Mechanic (1879132) | about a year ago | (#41523061)

I can't respond to number one quantitatively because I've literally never cycled without a helmet on, ever. All I know is that American drivers scare the bejesus out of me. I trust them enough to not clip me when they pass me in the bicycle lane when I stay in it and that's about it.

As for point number two I'll take your word on the studies (I can't be assed to dig anything up). I will still wear a helmet because I feel the additional protection is absolutely worthwhile.

By the by, I never suggested anywhere that I thought mandatory helmet laws for all was a good idea. I live in California where the helmet is legally required until age eighteen, and I can literally count the number of children on bicycles with helmets I've seen on two hands. I personally think you should wear one or not as it suits you. I was just explaining why I didn't understand why people would want to not protect their brains, their selves, their perception of who they are, and all the money ever spent by or for them.

Re:Brains are Fucking Expensive (1)

shilly (142940) | about a year ago | (#41522969)

If I can reduce the chance of damage to literally the most valuable thing in my life by wearing a $25 helmet OF COURSE I'M GOING TO WEAR A HELMET

It's all about the "If" at the start of your sentence, though. The question is, "does wearing a helmet increase or decrease the chance of you having a serious head injury?" Of course the intuitive answer is "decrease" but science-aware folks on Slashdot are comfortable with the idea that we don't just accept intuition, we test and find out.

So I'd settle yourself down a bit, instead of calling people names.

Re:Brains are Fucking Expensive (1)

Scorch_Mechanic (1879132) | about a year ago | (#41523093)

No, my question is actually "Is spending $25-$50 for a marginal or even theoretical reduction in the chance of serious brain injury worthwhile considering the immense value I place on the spongy tissue behind my eyes?". It is rhetorical, because for me the answer is "yes".

Please, I love science! Show me more science!

Re:Brains are Fucking Expensive (1)

pantaril (1624521) | about a year ago | (#41523067)

If I can reduce the chance of damage to literally the most valuable thing in my life by wearing a $25 helmet OF COURSE I'M GOING TO WEAR A HELMET DO YOU THINK I'M STUPID?

Are you wearing helmet all the time then? Or just while biking? Why not while walking? Or while entering bath tub?

Bad understanding of risk (2)

thsths (31372) | about a year ago | (#41522889)

> "maybe we should wear helmets when we climb ladders or get into a bath"

Of course we should wear a helmet (or better a harness and a safety rope) when climbing ladders. It is know to be one of the most dangerous activities in a normal household.

But you also have to look at the context. Free-climbing for example is technically much more dangerous than climbing a ladder, but people are typically skilled and very concentrated when they do it. Average folk climbing a ladder are inexperienced and often distracted. This combination can make any activity dangerous.

Driver's education (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#41522891)

In The Netherlands, part of the success is in the fact that sharing the road with bicycles is considered an important part of driver education (and has been for a long time). In cities with (almost) all bicycle lanes separate from the main road, no driving exams are done (example: Almere, the 6th city of the Netherlands has no possibility to do driving exams). Any mistake where a bicyclist is not given the space and care (s)he deserves results in failing the exam, so this part is taken very seriously. In additions, drivers are always held responsible in accidents invoolving bicycles.

As a result, car drivers are very careful around bicyclists and they need not wear helmets. Cycling is considered safe. These factors make more people want to use the bicycle.

My daughter suffered a TBI (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#41522925)

If you really want to risk a lifetime of memory loss, lost speech, confinement to a wheelchair, 24 hour care, a feeding tube and the loss of any "normal" future life, go ahead and ride without a helmet.

Traumatic Brain Injury is a wide awake nightmare both for the patient and those close to them.

Why increase your risk by going without a helmet? Just so your hair looks good?! Death would be merciful for some of the patients I've seen.

Re:My daughter suffered a TBI (1)

mikael_j (106439) | about a year ago | (#41522947)

Well, as others have pointed out elsewhere, the risk of injury appears to actually go up when wearing a helmet (for several reasons including the attitudes of the cyclists themselves as well as others in traffic).

And I suspect that your view of riding a bicycle is one of "Have plan to go somewhere specific, gear up, get on bike, ride bike to destination, "un-gear", done". Sure, this may be the case for some people but most people who regularly get around on a bicycle treat it more like a hybrid between walking and proper vehicle. If I'm heading down to the corner store that is literally 2-3 minutes on my bike with no effort whatsoever on my part, just roll over there. Ok, well I was only stopping by at the corner store, next stop is the library to return a book, then I'm meeting a friend downtown and we'll probably head over to another friend's place after which we'll probably be going to... Are you starting to see my point? Throughout all of this I am most likely not lugging around a 90L backpack suitable for hiding away a helmet (and forget about leaving it on the bike, it'll be ruined or stolen when you get back) so I'm forced to carry the helmet around in my hands all day long.

Meanwhile in the Netherlands... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#41522927)

...most of us only wear helmets when skating - not during ice-skating though. If you loose balance when skating, you can fall on the back of your head and that gives a messy picture. And after you fell other skaters could slip in your blood, so they should wear helmets too. But when you bike, the chances you fall on your head are much, much lower.

Laws should be about self-responsibility and not being allowed to bother others. For instance it is not allowed to have "aggressive defence-tools" (guns, knifes) on you here for *obvious* reasons, and you are allowed to eat French cheese. What most tourists don't understand is that this "non-bothering self-responsibility" is very deep in our culture - you are allowed to smoke marijuana as you like, but you should not bother others with your smell - that is rude and is at the wrong side of the grey area. Want to suicide yourself? Your call, but it is not a quick road though. Jumping in front of train or taking a whole school with you? Bothers, so rude and therefore not tolerated by society.

People are Lazy and Biking is Hard (1)

BBF_BBF (812493) | about a year ago | (#41522935)

Yeah, in hilly northern San Diego, it's really *only* the helmet laws that are preventing 40% more people from riding bicycles. Also it has nothing to do with the way that main roads have 50mph speed limits with a "white line" separating the cars from the bicycle lane. Also not due to the fact that one of the official "bike routes" has an uphill section that is actually on Interstate 5 between two exits where the bicyclists have to ride on the paved shoulder with, you guessed it, a magical white line keeping bicyclists separated from cars on the freeway.

Honestly, anybody stupid enough to believe that eliminating helmet laws will reduce obesity is living in a dream world.

I don't ride much anymore because I'm lazy, not because of helmet laws.

I always wear a helmet (1)

AccUser (191555) | about a year ago | (#41522945)

I cycle at least 60 miles per week from and to my children's schools (I drive them to school in the morning, but cycle home). I always wear a helmet, and when my children cycle with me, I require that they wear helmets too.

I have been cycling for 22 years. In that time, I have only had one serious fall from my bike, about 14 years ago. I wasn't wearing a helmet that day, and I landed on the back of my head, ended up in hospital and was concussed for days. I would not like to go through that again!

Coase costs and the interface between cars/bikes (4, Insightful)

hughbar (579555) | about a year ago | (#41522977)

I ride a bike in London, don't own a car and am in my 60s, to declare interest. I don't wear a helmet and am unwilling to do so.

The arguments that I citing in the heading are summarised here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Problem_of_Social_Cost [wikipedia.org] that is, neither car nor bike is particularly 'wrong' about any of this. The best thing [that we don't really have in London] is safe bike lanes.

However there's also more economics that probably shows that safety features make activities more unsafe by making the operators more reckless: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sam_Peltzman [wikipedia.org] the younger bikers who run lights seem to prove this.

Finally I like to appear as a soft, helmetless pink squishy thing with white hair, I suspect these signals make motorists more careful around me. But, for certain, the debate tends to be emotion rather than reason and statistics.

"...causing obesity..."? (0)

erroneus (253617) | about a year ago | (#41522979)

What causes obesity? Eating wrong. Nothing else.

The majority of calories burned each day whether you are an exercise nut or a couch potato is spent while sleeping and otherwise just living. Adding exercise to the mix has other benefits, but not fighting obesity.

People: Need to change WHAT they eat
Government: Needs to change what is available to eat

Helmets won't help with the big problems.* (1)

Elvii (428) | about a year ago | (#41522993)

As a cyclist and well trained driver (more licenses and drivers training/saftey courses then average, in the USA at least) I don't think helmets will help/hurt much.
I don't wear a helmet except for events/races(lots of close cyclist make me nervous, and odds of an accident likely go up) and while I'm sure a helmet would help if a car hit a cyclist, I'm betting it'll cause lots of damage, helmet or no. No, the problem in my town is it seems cars *try* to cause bike wrecks. Shouting, tossing things at me and my two wheels, or just not watching for cars, never mind less visible bicycles come to mind for reasons why. It doesn't matter that I try to avoid cars, do everything to stay out of busy traffic, drivers still do those very annoying, dangerous things.
That's not to say I haven't done stupid things with cars and bikes, I make mistakes like everyone. But if drivers and cyclists try for safety and to share the roads, it'll help alot more then helmets ever could.

(*I'm sure there's speeds/circumstances/accidents where helmets make all the difference, but it's likely a very tiny percent.)

Forget helmets, worry about cellphones. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#41523031)

I am a 64 year old dutchman and lived for 20 of those in Amsterdam. We do not wear bicycle helmets and we do not wear stepladder helmets or soccer helmets or tennis helmets. Having said that, the dutch infrastructure is very bicycle friendly up to the point that according to our traffic lawas, when a cyclist (or pedestrian) collides with a car, the driver of the car ALWAYS carries the responsibility.

What I am much more concerned about is people on bicycles that carry a cellphone in their hands. Only yesterday I saw a kid of about 14 driving with one hand glued to his ear, falling from his bycicle without any apparent reason, continuing the conversation while falling, hitting the ground, getting up again and driving on.

I do not know how the authorities can stop this, but that is what I worry about.

Paai

To encourage car use.... (1)

dutchwhizzman (817898) | about a year ago | (#41523053)

To encourage car use, lose the safety belt, air bags and bumpers.

I live in the Netherlands, where helmets for cyclists aren't mandatory and we have a lot of cyclists. Yes, compared to the number of cyclists we have we do not have a significantly higher injury/death rate than in the USA, but we do have a lot of injuries and deaths non the less. Drivers are more aware of cyclists here, but the ones that do get hit, often have head injuries. Helmets save lives, just like car driver awareness does. Don't think you can substitute one for the other and make the world a better place. As long as drivers will hit cyclists, the cyclists that get hit have a better survival/injury rate if they wear a helmet, period.

Helmetless bikers: important organ harvesting pool (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#41523079)

The satanic idea behind promotion of helmet-less biking is to extend the pool of organ donors, because most heads hitting streetlight poles head-on are ending up brain-dead and can be legally slaughtered for meat-processing.

There is a lot of demand for organ transplants among the rich and mighty. If you are the actor for Jockey Ewing from the Dallas TV show, you can get a replacement liver, even though severe alcohol abuse is a legal transplant-blocking condition. If you are Dick Cheney, you can get a new heart, even if you are decades beyond the allowed age, while youngsters, as well as family people of 3 kids are dying on the waiting list. If you are Steve Jobs, you can get a liver transplant, even though HIV infection is an exclusion condition.

Please bike without a helmet, because the reptilians need your body, your organs for tranplant!

Better solution: mandatory helmets in cars (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#41523099)

That way wearing a helmet while biking is nothing special. Want to get somewhere without a helmet? Take a walk!

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