Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Wearing helmets 'more dangerous'

Image of bicycle helmet on a young girl
"Cyclists who wear protective helmets are more likely to be knocked down by passing vehicles, new research from Bath University suggests."

Few things are as certain to start a cyberspace flamewar among cyclists as the issue of helmet use. The partisans "for" and "against" are vehement in their attitude. I've noticed that in the last 10 years in San Francisco, the percentage of bicyclists wearing helmets has decreased significantly. (Purely anecdotal observation, not empirical.) I take this as a sign that bicyclists feel more secure on the streets of San Francisco, thanks in part to the success of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition.

Personally, I advise helmet use for kids and newer bicyclists. However, I don't generally wear a helmet on my daily commute. I do wear a helmet for longer country rides. My goal is to create a cycling environment similar to those of Holland or Japan, where few cyclists wear a helmet. Improved safety is a function of tackling vehicule traffic; it should not be the sole responsibility of the victims of motorists. And compared to most transportation modes, bicycling is extremely safe.


Image: Web capture
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site

4 comments:

gwadzilla said...

I tell my kids....

no helmet
no bike

it is a no brainer

the collision with another cyclist or a pedestrian would be enough to throw you to the pavement

well

I do not know how you ride

I ride with some intensity

Anonymous said...

Oooph!
Looking at the "RIGHT" labeled position gives me goose bumps. Its also wrong: The helmet looks too small for the head AND the strap appears loose.
I know that my eleven-year-old son´s head fits into the helmet when the strap is quite tight and he cant move his head without moving the helmet.
He is already through three helmets: The first one became too small (s.o.), the second one broke when he got "hooded" (the inside a little confounded but otherwise fine) and the third was lost at school..
A recent visit to the ER for an unrelated reason had a father bringing in his daughter with a heavily bleeding head wound because her helmet "became loose" on impact.
The headline should be "Wearing helmets wrong 'most dangerous'"

Bike Commuter said...

Every study that has looked at this (I'm an epidemiologist,and this is a research area for me) has concluded that helmet wear reduces your risk of serious injury on a bike. This is at least as true for adults as for kids. The idea that helmets are un-necessary in "safe" bicycling areas is wrong. Studies in Sweden, Denmark and other countries with good bicycling facilities show the same thing: helmets save lives, reducing serious brain injury by 2/3 to 3/4. It is absurd to suggest that drivers have to be responsible for our safety, and not we, the riders. One may make one's own choice to wear a helmet or not, but to encourage others not to on the basis of incorrect assertions and illogic is not responsible.

Matt said...

So is the implication of the Bath study that people "feel safer" with helmets and therefore ride more recklessly? How reliable is this study? Who was in the sample group? (in other words... provide a link!)

I believe that a helmet is just as essential a piece of gear as brakes or pedals. You wouldn't ride a bike without brakes or pedals... so don't ride one without a helmet. Even experienced cyclists can be caught by a moment of inattentiveness either on their part or on the part of a passing motorist. I'd rather have to spend 5 mins in the restroom after arriving at work getting rid of "helmet hair" than have a serious head injury that could have been avoided.