Saturday, March 08, 2008

Colorado study on collegiate helmet use

Image of bicyclist in Colorado
From the Coloradoan (Colorado State University), 03.07.08:

Study: Students fail to wear helmets around town
Tyler Boyd always wears a bike helmet when he mountain bikes. But on Wednesday afternoon, the Colorado State University junior hopped aboard his Schwinn five-speed and prepared to ride from campus to north Old Town--without a helmet. "I just don't want to carry it," Boyd said. "And I figure if I get hit by a car, I'll get hurt either way."

Boyd is not alone. A new study released by CSU this week says college students rarely wear bike helmets while riding around town, even though many of those same students wear a helmet while riding for fun or exercise. (Read more.)
Few topics are as certain to ignite a flame war among bicyclists as helmet use. Internecine arguments over helmet use distract from the necessary united effort to push policy makers to improve the overall safety of streets. My own attitude is that collision avoidance is a better strategy than collision mitigation. Ride smart; don't ride scared.

I trust individual bicyclists to make their own risk assessment, and decide for themselves. If bike advocates exaggerate the "danger" of bicycling, we won't attract many new bicyclists. If a bicyclist feels more comfortable while wearing a helmet, fine. If they choose not to wear a helmet, fine also. Bicycling is safe. Period.

When I mountain bike or ride fast on a weekend outing, I wear a helmet. When I commute I don't. (Just as I wore a helmet when I played collegiate football, but not when I play touch football with friends.) A community with an abundance of helmet-less bicyclists indicates a community where bicyclists feel comfortable and at ease on the streets. A bicycling-friendly community, in other words.

Bicycling is not combat--as this silly Jessica Simpson outfit suggests. (Kneepads?!?) Bicycling is safe.

Image: Coloradoan.
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site


Liam said...

I always wear a helmet and encourage others to do so as well. I never understand why the connection is always made with wearing helmets as protection from cars. Some people will wear helmets on roads but not on trails and bike paths.

Helmets for me are not a protection from collision with cars but an attempt to mitigate the effects of trauma to the head in any type of bike accident. The types of accidents that cause direct trauma to the head are relatively rare but are far more likely to cause death or life-changing injury.

The closest I've ever come to hitting my own head was when I hit a bump in the road and flew over my handlebars. There was not a car around. Another cyclist I know was hit by a car and thrown from his bike and completely knocked out. At the hospital the doctors told him that a 1/3 of the helmet was shorn off. Had he not been wearing a helmet, that would have been his skull instead.

Helmets are cheap, light, and comfortable compared to the alternative. I wear mine knowing that like life insurance I probably won't need it on any particular day, but should it happen I do it will be worth it.

Tom said...

There you go Liam. I'm glad you get "peace of mind" from wearing a helmet.

I don't wear a helmet because I don't percieve enough danger to my noggin when I take my 3-speed for a spin around town to capitulate to the "nanny state". I do try to be aware of cars and never assume that cars see me.

I will say that a mandatory helmet law (now that I'm a law abiding citizen)will reduce the probability of me getting injured on a bike to zero.

That's because I will start driving to work.

zooplah said...

Tom, where I live, you have to wear a seat belt while driving or riding in an automobile. Isn't that a "nanny state"? How is requiring helmets worse?