2016-09-23 The Venn of the Beholder
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Discussion (49)

  1. Twitch

    Good quality modern helmets are light and have great air flow. This means a lot of the old arguments against them are no longer valid. I would rather crack a helmet than my skull. I may still have a head injury but it might be less severe. This hopefully will allow me more time to love my wife and two daughters.

  2. Stefan 0166

    “This means a lot of the old arguments against them are no longer valid.” There are still enough left for me…

  3. Milessio

    From Aus study of head injury per million hours travelled:

    Cyclist – 0.41
    Motor vehicle occupant – 0.46
    Motorcyclist – 7.66
    Pedestrian – 0.80

    So, do you & your loved ones (also) wear a helmet as pedestrians & when in a car?

    • Niall Kane

      do you have a reference i can cite. I’d love to show that study to a few people

  4. 2whls3spds

    All the arguments are still valid. Magic Styrofoam hats. I consider it to be a free choice.

  5. Don

    Oh good … Rick’s started a helmet debate.
    Yehuda gets it right – http://yehudamoon.com/comic/2008-07-09/

    • Stefan 0166

      To answer Joe’s Question: After all this years, there is still no proof that bike helmets do eliminate or at least reduce any risk. When it comes to numbers, helmet user seem to face double risk to get an head injury compared to cyclists who ride bare head.

  6. Twitch

    We own cars that have modern safety features like curtain air bags that reduce the risks associated with someone making a mistake much like wearing a helmet when riding a bicycle.

  7. Twitch

    I agree that it is your choice if you wear a helmet or not.

    New York issued a statement on their bicycle safety study including these numbers:

    Bicycle lanes and helmets may reduce the risk of death.

    Almost three-quarters of fatal crashes (74%) involved a head injury.
    Nearly all bicyclists who died (97%) were not wearing a helmet.
    Helmet use among those bicyclists with serious injuries was low (13%), but it was even lower among bicyclists killed (3%).
    Only one fatal crash with a motor vehicle occurred when a bicyclist was in a marked bike lane.
    Nearly all bicyclist deaths (92%) occurred as a result of crashes with motor vehicles.

    Large vehicles (trucks, buses) were involved in almost one-third (32%) of fatal crashes.
    Most fatal crashes (89%) occurred at or near intersections.
    Nearly all (94%) fatalities involved human error. All New Yorkers, whether pedestrians, bicyclists or motorists, can help prevent crashes by following traffic signs and signals and respecting other road users.

    Men and some children face particular challenges.

    Most bicyclists who died were males (91%), and men aged 45–54 had the highest death rate (8.1 per million) of any age group.
    Among children aged 5-14, boys had a much higher death rate than girls; Queens had the highest child bicyclist death rate of the five boroughs.

    I happen to be a male in the 45-54 age bracket.

  8. Kevin Love

    I believe that all the people just cycling or walking for transportation to get from A to B should not wear a helmet.

    Why? Four reasons. The first is negative branding. An activity for which a helmet is required is obviously scary and dangerous. Infantrymen going into combat wear helmets. But walking and cycling for transportation are two of the rare activities that have negative danger. The health benefits from walking and cycling for transportation are 31 times greater than all crash risks – even crashes that have nothing to do with the head. We need to present a positive image of walking and cycling, not a negative and scary one. So I ask people: Please do not wear a helmet when cycling.

    The second reason is the nuisance factor. Even carrying around a helmet is a nuisance, much less wearing one. A good transportation system makes walking, cycling or public transit the fastest, easiest and most convenient way of safely travelling from A to B. In Australia, the introduction of mandatory helmet laws led to an immediate 1/3 reduction in cycling. Some demographics, such as female secondary school students, experienced an 80% reduction in cycling.

    The third reason is the safety in numbers effect. Any legal or social pressure for helmet use reduces the amount of cycling, which makes it much more dangerous for those cyclists who remain. So I ask people: Please do not wear a helmet when cycling.

    The fourth reason is that helmet promotion is a distraction from things that actually do increase safety. The Netherlands is the safest country in the world to ride a bicycle. Yet the number of Dutch people who wear a helmet is almost zero. Dutch safety comes from proper cycling infrastructure. Protective infrastructure saves lives. That should be the focus of any cycling safety campaign that actually wants to increase cycling safety

  9. Kurt

    Until I have better cycling infrastructure, I will continue to wear my helmet. But I fullysupport your reasons not to. I wish there were less cyclist killed and injured by drivers.

    • Twitch

      Same here.

  10. George

    In this day and age, every schmuck will read and believe in whatever fits their own thinking, no matter what science and unbiased research say, and this goes beyond the debate about helmets.

  11. mike w.

    My daughter quit riding altogether when i insisted she wear her helmet (i told her she could take it off when she paid her own health insurance.) Her bike gathered cobwebs.

    Mandatory helmet laws have seemed to have a similar effect of discouraging cycling;

    Nowadays i don’t tell anyone that they should (or should not) wear a helmet. It’s none of my business. Although i won’t ride without one- and yes, i have witnessed first hand some horrific head injuries in cycling crashes- it’s still their personal choice.

    How often have we seen children riding along with a helmet dangling from the handlebar, often after they’ve taken it off once out-of-sight of their parent? In California- and maybe other places- parents face stiff fines if their under 18yr old is caught without a styrofoam cap. Is this a productive use of law enforcement?

    Both sides of this debate cite all manner of stats and numbers, but i cannot help but hear that old saw, “Lies, damn lies, and statistics.”

    To echo the motorcyclists’ refrain, “Let those who ride decide.” i oppose any mandatory helmet law. As i’ve said, it’s a personal choice.

    Keep in mind that no helmet will save you from the massive internal injuries caused by a collision with a speeding 2+ tonne motor vehicle.

  12. Weldon

    My brother-in-law doctor works at the hospital and told me to always wear my helmet. He has seen stuff first hand. He always wears his helmet. It doesn’t take much to crash on a bike. You might just have a panic stop and forget to un-clip your feet and just tip over. A car can turn into you or some small animal (squirrel/cat/dog) can suddenly be on the road causing a crash. I would rather my head hit the curb with a helmet on than without it on.

  13. Kevin Love

    A proper safety bollard will. See:


  14. bikingbill

    100 comments. At least.

  15. Rob X

    Until there is better pedestrian infrastructure, all pedestrians should wear helmets. There are about 4300 pedestrian fatalities per year, but only about 730 bicyclist fatalities. The percentage due to brain injury is about the same for each group. And at least one researcher (John Pucher of Rutgers U.) has determined that pedestrians have three times as many fatalities as cyclists per mile traveled.

  16. Rob X

    Every helmet discussion turns up one “I am [or ‘my brother-in-law is’] an ER doctor and has seen bike crash victims, so he knows you should wear a helmet when biking.” Weird part is, national data shows that bicyclists are only a microscopic portion of serious brain injury victims. For every bike TBI, an ER doctor must see 50 other victims of TBI. Look it up! The most common sources are falls while walking (usually in the home) and crashes injuring people inside cars. Yes, despite air bags and seat belts, which clearly don’t protect well enough.

    So why don’t those ER doctors tell all those non-cyclists to wear helmets? Why pretend that bicycling is a huge danger?

    • Kevin Love

      And whenever any of those ER doctors treat a gunshot victim then don’t turn around and say, “Every pedestrian should wear a bullet-proof vest.”

      I wonder why not? Could it be bigotry and prejudice?

  17. Mike

    Over the years of riding off road and commuting, I’ve personally had 3 big accidents where a helmet has saved me

    1st i broke both elbows super manning into the ground whilst dirt jumping , would have messed my head up too but helmet took it all.

    2nd Riding to work one morning turned right at a round about , found some black ice went down like a sack of potatoes and cracked my helmet and banged my knee up, but i hobbled away shaken up but OK.

    3rd Hit by a car and broke my back (not badly) and again cracked helmet didn’t get away so lightly that time but again helmet saved me from hitting the road with my head and no head injury.

    So in my eyes i cant see why you wouldn’t wear one.

    • Stefan0166

      Simply: I do not ride offroad nor race. I had similar accidents, without a helmet and without any head injuries apart from 5 minutes headache after going over bar and hit ground with my forehead.
      And I would have cracked a helmet in any of them…

  18. Stu

    I’m with you on that, Mike. And I disagree with anyone saying “Please don’t wear a helmet” so more people will ride …

    In my first-hand and second-hand experience, it is VERY hard to fall from a bicycle in any manner without hitting your head and the body CAN withstand a lot of battering as long as you don’t crack your head.

    I realized this early when I bought my first helmet, a state-of-the-art at the time Bell Star full face motorcycle helmet in 1973. On March 30, 1974 at 4:30 pm a Datsun 210 pulled an abrupt left turn from a hidden position behind a pickup truck. I broke right fib-tib and left femur and fourth right metaparpal and cracked my pelvis. The helmet had a crushed 4″ diameter flat spot where the interior foam was also crushed from 1″ to 3/8″ inch. But my head and brain were fine. My left leg was shortened by 3 cm. and I can’t lift my left foot because of nerve damage. I can’t run and I can’t balance on my left leg but I can bike and since then I have racked up about 600,000 km on 7 bicycles ( current one is Cervelo R3d).

    In 1975, I bought a Bell Biker helmet and in 1980 a Simplex front quick release broke and when I accelerated from a stop sign the wheel dropped out and I went over the handlebars and broke the shell of the Biker… my head was fine … again.

    In 2007, a Jeep changing lanes behind me swept my back wheel out and I slid on my back to the curb which my helmet struck with sufficient force to crack the shell. My shirt was shredded, but it was cool weather and I had a 2nd shirt and a quilted vest underneath so I didn’t lose any skin. Again, my head was and still is, fine.

    I married a student nurse from the hospital in January 1975 and we always made our 3 kids wear helmets and now they each have 2 kids and make their kids wear them too. My son, in his teenage years, was quite a daredevil and wrecked about 6 helmets; his head is fine today.

    In all these cases the helmets were whacked to a degree where it is obvious that they prevented serious head injury.

    As for a helmet swinging on the handlebar, I can tell you that you don’t expect to crash and you never see it coming in time to grab it and put it on.

    It’s pretty cheap insurance and with the probability being that at some time in your cycling career, you WILL crash and probably hit your head, I can’t see why anyone would take the chance. Your head’s little more than an eggshell against a road or curb.

  19. I wear one in high traffic areas – but am completely against the Socialist-Liberal Nanny-State ™ requiring their use. How did we grow up before we had Big Brother watching every breathe we take, every step we make? Pah!

    As for “the numbers”, there are 3 kinds of lies…

    … so believe what works for you!

  20. bikingbill

    I do wear a helmet on the fast bike, but even that is hypocritical because I DON’T wear one in an automobile, where most head injuries occur.

  21. Tencon

    Why do more car users get injured than cycle riders???

    1. more of them?
    2. higher speeds
    3. more probability with the number of possible crashes per mile
    4. greater miles.

    Yes, a metal box is better protection than a Styrofoam hat but at the speeds involved, any crash that a car users experiences is likely to kill a cyclist if the same speeds and conditions apply.
    It is just that cyclists don’t travel at 40+ mph most of the time. If the metal box is doing 40+ it makes no mater if you are in a car or on a bike, you WILL get injured…

  22. Tencon

    Q: Do we sometimes make it easier for a motorist to hit us?

    I just watched a YouTube video where a user fitted a piece of red plastic as a filter to make the REALLY bright (Off-Road) Creel headlight be a taillight: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=88JEUnm4_Og
    Now I have a number of those lights and I use them as headlights on the lowest setting.
    I use a Fresnel filter instead of the clear lens which gives it a horizontal beam instead of vertical.
    I have yet to be flashed for blinding anybody and am always seen.
    I have thought about using it on the Mango but do not think it is wise as the much lower mounting position would make it dazzle oncoming road users.
    Note in the video above how the red taillight is SO bright that the following viewer cannot easily see what is coming the other way.
    If a motorist moves out to pass, who will they prefer to hit, the oncoming motor or the cyclist they are passing?
    A much better idea is to make the ROAD ahead more visible so the following motor can see more clearly if it is safe to pass.
    I use the Mango main beam when I see it is clear to pass for the following motor.
    Many drivers, cars and trucks, have thanked me.
    I do this when driving as my Army driving instructor father taught me.

  23. Tencon


  24. Tencon

    I have just been reading up on lighting law and came across this comment:https://thelazyrando.wordpress.com/2010/12/30/your-taillight-is-too-bright/
    Quote: Let me say categorically if your belief is the more light you are pumping out the back of your bike the safer you are – you’re wrong. Drivers drunk and/or distracted crash into police cruisers with their flashers going regularly enough that some researchers hypothesize that bright lights cause you to look at them and you steer where you are looking:

    “The “moth-effect” is a myth in one sense and reality in another. The idea that drivers may steer off the road when they fixate flashing lights is likely correct, but they are not drawn to the lights like moths to a flame. Rather, they inadvertently steer rightward, which may or may not take them into collision with the roadside vehicle. Even normal, alert drivers in daylight conditions may steer in the direction of eye position during periods of intense fixation. The cause is likely error in judging heading under eccentric fixation when optic flow cues are minimal and when attentional focus prevents sensing of the need to correct the error. Although bright lights and fascination are not required, of course, it is impossible to rule out these factors in some accidents.”

  25. Rob X

    @ Stu: So many tales of so many helmets damaged beyond repair! Not just your tales; literally thousands saying “My helmet saved my life” or “Obviously prevented a concussion.”

    Trouble is, there’s no drop in fatalities to correspond to the tales. Bike fatalities, although always much smaller in number, have fallen by a smaller percentage than pedestrian fatalities over the past 30 years. Plots of the two show no obvious effect from bike helmet popularity. (And when, oh when, will we get peds to wear helmets?) And bike concussions have actually _risen_ by over 60% since helmets became popular.

    Some data has shown that helmet wearers simply smack their heads a lot more. (Check papers by D. L. Robinson.) Maybe that’s because of more risky behavior, maybe it’s because helmets are way, way bigger than heads. But if there’s no injury or fatality reduction to correspond to the big surge in helmet use, then a broken helmet is proof of only one thing: Helmets are fragile.

    BTW, not a bad marketing scheme, eh? Sell an oversize, fragile impact “target” and claim every hit is A) proof it was needed, and B) a requirement to buy another one. $$$$$

  26. Heffe

    A lack of critical thinking ability or a willful disregard for personal safety are the only excuses for not wearing a helmet. Any comments citing raw car and pedestrian injuries vs bikes should take into account that cyclists as a usage group are, at best, incredibly minuscule numerically compared to those other two groups… obviously. Unless you adjust your data to factor in scale your conclusions are useless. I would guess scaling factors would include total number of miles travelled or time spent in the activity, and total users per group.
    The extant statistics that do stand up to critical scrutiny are unequivocal – wear a helmet, or choose not to knowing that your chances of a life-threatening injury even by yourself at low speeds are greatly enhanced.

  27. Genel

    Considering the actual comic was kinda stats related I’ll offer this: a reasonably cautious rider on a road bike, with platform pedals has about a 50% chance of a life threatening head injury in his/her next 50,000 miles.

    Your numbers may vary.

  28. Rob X

    @ Heffe: Perhaps you missed the “per mile” statement regarding pedestrians and cyclists. Here are the numbers, from Pucher, J. “Making Cycling and Walking Safer: Lessons from Europe,” Transportation Quarterly V. 54 No. 3, 2000. American cyclists suffer only 109 fatalities per billion kilometers traveled, while pedestrians suffer 362. PER MILE, cycling is three times safer for the individual.

    BTW, 109 fatalities per billion km means 5.7 million miles ridden between fatalities. In a later paper (“Making Cycling Irresistable,” Transport Reviews vol. 28, 2008) Pucher revised his estimate, saying cyclists ride 10.8 million miles ridden per fatality. This is supposed to be dangerous, so dangerous that a foam hat is necessary?

    Driving causes many fewer crash deaths per mile, mostly because cars do their high mileage on super safe freeways. For trips short enough to do by bike, the crash fatality per mile or crash fatality per trip figures are much closer. BUT bicycling gives health and environmental benefits that cars do not. Every study ever done on the topic shows that bicycling is safer OVERALL than car travel, because it reduces deaths from heart attacks, stroke, cancer, etc. It is literally safer to ride a bike than to not ride a bike.

    And that’s for the individual. For costs to society, the thousands of annual brain injury deaths of people inside cars or walking are a disaster far worse than the very few bike deaths that _might_ have _possibly_ been prevented by a helmet.

  29. Jaybird

    I wear a helmet in the event of a terrible accident, it should hopefully be better at keeping the skin on my scalp.

  30. Bicycle Bill

    In a society where people do not vaccinate their children against common diseases as “their right to choose” or because of an ever-so-slight claim based on tenuous evidence that the cure might be worse than the disease, there are always going to be some people who opt out of wearing a helmet for much the same reasons.
    As for myself, I have worn a helmet regularly since the days of the ‘Skid-Lid’ and the original Bell ‘Biker’.  I have experienced a couple of crashes and car-bike collisions, both with and without head protection.  While I cannot say that — in the cases of those incidents where I was wearing the brain bucket — that it clearly prevented more serious injury, the fact remains that I am still upright, more-or-less intact, coherent (no brain damage, in other words), and still able to go out and ride.  For this reason, I will continue to strap my current helmet onto my noggin every time I straddle the top tube of my Trek, just as I continue to fasten my seatbelt each time I slide behind the wheel of the “Spokeswagen”.

  31. Rob X

    @ Bicycle Bill – I’m still upright and uninjured after 50+ years of bicycling. Because despite the hype, bike brain injuries are really really really rare. Remember, 10 million miles ridden per bike death. Remember, only about 700 bike fatalities per year, and many of them are helmet wearers.

    And helmets haven’t reduced brain injuries noticeably. In fact, helmets seem to have increased bike concussions – because how else could concussions have risen over 60% since helmets came into fashion?

    Think about all those people who rode as far back as they 1890s. No helmets, no horror stories of brain injury. European royalty rode bikes, and some still do, without helmets. Dr. White prescribed bicycling for Eisenhower, and nobody said “But you must protect the brain of the leader of the free world!”

    The bike=brain injury idea was invented out of nothing by Bell Inc. Safe Kids took it over after Bell donated money to them. But any real look at the real numbers will show the whole thing is a scam.

    Look up the causes of serious brain injury or brain injury fatality. Get a ranked list. Most TBI publications don’t even mention biking among the causes. Why? It’s too small to matter. This whole helmet thing is a modern superstition.

  32. CPTJohnC

    I like helmets because it gives me a place to mount a second light and blinkie. And a camera. Which drivers can see. Amazingly effective.

  33. Persia

    Is there a helmet that protects one from helmet debates?

  34. Mike

    For the stats people out there consider this.

    Who actually reports to the authorities ” oh i fell of yesterday and broke my helmet but i;m fine”

  35. L.W.

    I spoken personally with two cyclists I met at bike shps that were saved from death by their helmets. They still won’t get back on a bike, as the accidents were so traumatic. But they are glad they had it on as they wouldn’t have been alive if they hadn’t. That was pretty much their words. I also read the book Miles From Nowhere. The author, who went around the world on her bike with her husband, made it that whole way fine without a helmet, but was killed close to her home when she got back to California. A car hit her while she was on her bike and she died of head injuries. I know a helmet won’t always save you – like seat belts in a car. But I’d rather have one on than not as there are a lot more cars and distracted people out there than there use to be.

  36. Warren

    No debate for me – here in OZ it is mandatory no matter your age. Mark Steyn commented on it when he was here last time about how stunned he was to see grown men wearing helmets and how little we realised it said about our society.

  37. Milessio
  38. Tencon

    Thanks for that Milessio
    I just read that item and it seems clear to me that helmet use statistics will muddy-up the issue by reducing the number of cyclists as happened in Australia.
    However, as they are looking at introducing a helmet law for motorists as well (Reducing the number of motorists? ) the number of motorists injured by whiplash etc. will increase.
    Unless they also introduce race-car level protection: full harness seat belts, HANS device for neck protection, Nomex fire suit, crush protective footwear and so-on this legislation will only make matters worse.
    On a lighter note, I imagine that if they did all that, the reduction in the number of drivers will substantially reduce the traffic on the roads and cut down the risk that way 😉

  39. zekker

    Helmets don’t change the risk, they lower injures.
    It’s the same as seatbelts, which don’t prevents accidents but help to survive.

  40. Stu

    We all know life is risky. Let’s just skip all the 3rd person studies and anecdotes and take this to a personal level. I just want these two questions answered:

    1) If you have had an incident while wearing a helmet, would your injuries have been worse without it?

    2) If you have had an incident while not wearing a helmet, would you have fared better with one?

    As for me and my 3 incidents – In the first I whacked the top of my head and then slid some distance in gravel with the left side of my head bouncing around. I remember great amounts of noise and dust. The top of the helmet had a 4 inch flattened area; the visor was torn off and the left side of the helmet was badly damaged. At a minimum, I think I would have lost an ear and much skin and probably would have had jaw injuries on that side.

    In the second, I went over the handlebars with my hands on the bars all the way so only my forehead and front top of my head stopped my full weight when I hit the pavement. Nothing broken, but I had a lot of stitches to my chin and still have the scars to prove it. Without a helmet, I might have lost a nose and many teeth.

    In the third, I slid on my back and hit the curb top-of-head-first into a curb, cracking the shell. No head injuries at all. Double shirt saved back; had some scrapes on elbows.

    Would I have done as well in any of these without a helmet? I doubt it. That’s enough for me; no studies matter. Going for a ride on my R3d named Scorch now. Putting on my helmet. YMMV 😉

  41. Matt Metz

    I wear a helmet because I have to. I’ve been in the military for fifteen years and love on a military installation. If I ride without a helmet I’ll get stopped and ticketed by base police. If I am killed while riding and not wearing a helmet, there is a chance my life insurance won’t pay to family after the”line-of-duty” determination is made. Simple enough.

  42. Tencon

    When I was at school, around 1963, I was heading home and pulled out to pass a parked milk float on the A45 dual carriageway in Coventry.
    As I pulled back the rusty bracket on my steel front mudguard broke and the (fender) was pulled around by the wheel until it jammed and I went jaw-first into the road as the bike followed through over the top of me.
    No amount of Styrofoam would have helped.
    In a similar m/c crash in 197? a car pulled across in front of my 1000cc Gold Wing which ‘parked’ itself in between the front wheel and the front door. I went over the top getting a https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colles%27_fracture when my wrist was trapped between the bars and the fairing. Again, no amount of Styrofoam would have helped.
    In both m/c crashes however, my full-face helmets took some real damage and needed scrapping.
    That’s the difference between a sub-20MPH crash and a 30+ mph crash.
    Cyclists rarely have crashes over 20mph and so their injuries are lower unless other factors cause damage (Like a passing 60mph vehicle clipping us!)


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