Note to Self:

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Helmet Question

OK, here's the deal. I've been an avid biker for more than two decades (closer to three), and I have always worn a helmet...then this past spring, for whatever reason, I just stopped.

I had one close call some years back when I was flying down a busy street (today I don't ride nearly as fast or recklessly as I once did) and hit a pot hole and flipped over my handlebars...I hit not only my ribs but also my head on the pavement...thankfully at the time I was wearing a helmet.

Anyhow, at the prompting of almost everyone I know, I started wearing my helmet again (even my yoga instructor asked why I wasn't wearing one). I'm way past the time when I'm concerned about vanity or image on a bike (please don't get me started about the fixie thing), so that's not an issue. It does feel somewhat freeing to ride without a helmet, but I have to admit that I feel safer while wearing one.

At-any-rate, I know that there are people on both sides of this fence that are very adamant about their opinion, and I was just curious how others felt (or if they wore one). If you have a second or two click on the poll to the left and let me know...if you feel the need to express your opinion further, feel free to comment. Thanks.

8 comments:

workbike said...

I'm the same. I wore a helmet most (99%) of the time until last year. I wasn't even aware there was a debate on helmets until someone pointed me at the cyclehelmets.org site.

I looked there and on other places like the bicycle helmet initiative trust in the UK (http://www.bhit.org/). After looking at both sides I put my helmet away.

Since then I've been slandered, verbally abused and bullied by people who tell me I should wear a helmet. My response is the same every time: I don't think the evidence shows cycling is dangerous, or that helmets are effective. If people feel safer with a helmet, that's fine by me, but I want to show cycling (or at least utility cycling as I do) is a safe activity for normal people.

But that's me, in Germany, in a small town and segregated cycle routes. What conclusions others come to is their decision. I just wish they'd stop shouting at me.

Anonymous said...

I just think about the consequences to me and my love ones... people in cars sometimes have aggressive attitudes. You could just fall off...
You could wind up dead or a vegetable.

And I wonder if that not wearing a helmet could be a good reason for loosing any health coverage you may have. They will try anything. 75% of people who go bankrupt and/or loose their house because of medical costs in the USA had 100% healthcover but lost their cover because of the exceptions in the small print or company investigations.

Not a game I would want to play...

My wife is a doctor, and yes helmets do save lives she tells me.

Anonymous said...

Half of people who go bankrupt in the US go bankrupt because of healthcare costs..

I'm keeping my lid on.

Anonymous said...

I figure I have one brain which houses MY thoughts, feelings & memories, which are some of the componenets of ME. Wearing a helmet, although sort of Great Gazoo-ish / lends a small amount of insurance for preserving what little there is housed up there. Since most serious bicycle injuries are to the head, the uncoolness of a helmet is a small price to pay for the treasures stored there.

workbike said...

I understand the thoughts of the other posters here, but remember, I looked at the evidence first.

"You could wind up dead or a vegetable"

├Łou may be right. Where is the evidence?

"Since most serious bicycle injuries are to the head, the uncoolness of a helmet is a small price to pay for the treasures stored there."

Possibly. Where is the evidence?

My wife is a doctor, and yes helmets do save lives she tells me.

Also possible. What evidence?

What scientific studies, where are the papers?

I'm open to the fact I could be wrong, but having looked at whatever evidence I could amass, seeing the studies, and thinking a lot about the pro's and cons, I decided against wearing a helmet.

What I've read makes me think the danger of head injury is very small, and that the effectiveness of helmets remains unproven, and my not wearing a helmet sends a message that cycling is safe and possible for normal people.

If a new study is brought to my attention that shows this more conclusively, then I'll get the polystyrene lid out again. Until then, I'll be helmet free.

But again; I'm in Europe where the European cyclist's federation is not at all pro-helmet, and conditions are very different. If you feel safer and it gets you cycling, I'm not complaining.

Jim said...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bicycle_helmet

Makes for intresting reading...

I am keeping the helmet on.

Jesse said...

I am against mandatory helmet laws, because they have been shown to reduce the number of people who ride bicycles. And safety in numbers is probably the best way we can increase our safety on the roads - the more bicyclists there are, the more aware motorists will be of us, and the more respect we will get.

That said, I always wear my helmet, although I accept that the evidence is somewhat unclear about its effectiveness. I don't expect a helmet to help me much if I have a collision with a car (which is why I ride predictably and visibly - see bicyclesafe.com). But I suspect I'm more likely to get hurt by falling off my bike after hitting a pothole or curb, and that's where a helmet could make a drastic difference.

Besides, the helmet gives me a good place to mount my rear-view mirror, which I don't know how I ever managed without it.

Anonymous said...

I don't wear a helmet, but I ride a cargo bike on residential streets and bike trails. I figure the chances of my landing on my head in a fall are low, and my changes of getting hit by a car are also low. If I did a different type of riding, I might make a different choice. I do make my 5 year wear one as he is both a new rider and a daredevil.

I agree with Jesse. I'm against mandatory helmet laws since that has been shown to drop overall ridership.