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Rode his bike on the street and the SUV was unable to avoid. Hmmm. Another leap to possibly unjustified conclusion. Drivers should be able to avoid, period. Very limited circumstances when it's truly impossible to avoid something or someone on the road. More likely, speed or inattention, or both, possibly coupled with an error on the part of the 8 year old, were the real causes of the crash.

Immediately pinning blame on children hit by SUVs just seems so wrong, even if the kid swerved or made a mistake. The kid isn't driving the two-ton death machine.

Now all OT needs is some bike lanes between Washington and Braddock Rd Metro.

@Greenbelt, I hope the boy is alright and agree drivers need to be more careful. With that said, riding alone I have nearly taken down kids going very slow speeds because they do childish things (as should be expected). I don't think the police should jump to the conclusion, but they are trained to perform accident assessments.

Yo bro,

The helmet non-sense has to got to stop. Your denial of their benefits is tantamount to the smoking industry trumpeting no proven link between lung cancer and their cigs. Right, I get it empirically, but it's common sense. If you have some spare time and/or are curious, check out Jim Manzi's "Uncontrolled" for a look at empiricism and conclusions. Or think hard about Tyler Cowen's fallacy of mood affiliation.

Listen, I get that you don't want helmet use enshrined in law, and I don't either, despite being a faithful wearer.

But when you raise your hackles at any mention of positive outcomes from helmet use, you're undermining the credibility you otherwise build on the blog. Not to mention the tone (scare quotes, sarcasm, misleading allusions, etc), which is grating to say the least.

"Unable to avoid him" and "dragged 50 ft" suggests the SUV was going too fast to be safe under the circumstances. This is a residential street, not a highway. http://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&tab=wl

"and they have no way of knowing what would've happened without a helmet. "

Unless he has tons of road-rash on the front of the helmet, but still managed to come out of the incident without major facial damage.

That's a hypothetical, but your immediate claim that there's "no way of nowing", in all cases, is simply not true.

Your denial of their benefits is tantamount to the smoking industry trumpeting no proven link between lung cancer and their cigs.

That's a pretty heavy accusation, considering that the smoking industry knew - based on their own research - that their claims were false. Are you accusing me of the same thing? It aslo seems misplaces since my position is that helmets probably make you safer, but I can't prove it or say how much. So, I don't deny their benefits at all.

It's just that this is sloppy. It's like Mark McGwire and steroids. Even though we can say he probably hit some of his home runs because of steroids, we can't point to any single home run and say "he hit that one because of steroids." That's what the police are trying to say - which is not only scientific non-sense, but it doesn't even come from a doctor or EMT or someone who's actually an expert in these kinds of things.

I get that you don't want helmet use enshrined in law, and I don't either, despite being a faithful wearer.

OK, well, what do you think city council members are going to say when they pass the mandatory helmet laws? I guarantee you at least one will say that they know someone who fell off a bike and their helmet broke and it saved their life. Or they'll bring in some police officer to testify about the time someone was hit by a car and they're life was safed by a helmet. So if you really oppose mandatory helmet laws then you have to push back when false statements like this are made.

when you raise your hackles at any mention of positive outcomes from helmet use

I'm not sure why you think my hackles have risen, but all I did was point out a fact.

you're undermining the credibility you otherwise build on the blog.

Did I say something that was false? Because saying things that are false undermines your credibility. If I say something that is true - and I think I did - I don't see how that undermines my credibility. Perhaps it annoys you, but that isn't the same thing. Perhaps you could explain how it undermines my credibility.

Not to mention the tone (scare quotes, sarcasm, misleading allusions, etc), which is grating to say the least.

OK, well I don't really know how to respond to this, since I don't know what you're talking about. Do you have examples of things that grate you? I don't even know what "scare quotes" are.

Unless he has tons of road-rash on the front of the helmet, but still managed to come out of the incident without major facial damage.

Even in that, highly unlikely hypothetical, they don't know that. The limit of what they can say is "He was wearing a helmet, and we believe he was better off for it."

Some poor kid is hit by a car,dragged 50ft,and had to be airlifted. And we're having a helmet debate? Srsly folks?

Hope the kid gets better and isn't permanently messed up. And if the driver was speeding and/or distracted,I hope he gets the book thrown at him.

"Now all OT needs is some bike lanes between Washington and Braddock Rd Metro."

The cross town streets up there are fine (Madison, Wythe, Pendleton, Oronoco). Pendleton also has the bike sharrow thing painted on it every block. It's the cross town streets by King station that are tricky.

(but both stations in themselves have pretty poor layouts for getting back onto the street without driving against bus traffic or onto narrow and/or busy sidewalks)(Braddock is basically a fortress with those hedgerows)

+1 Greenbelt

One of my pet peeves is far too many drivers (and cyclists) have seemingly zero ability to project possible future conflicts and act defensively.

I've learned that I am made of flesh and can be hurt.

Yeah, I broke 4 bones last year, including one that you should really avoid breaking, the pelvis (I'll compare meds some time, washcycle). But I don't demand that drivers have superhuman reflexes. Sometimes an accident is just an accident.

Right. If you were trying to get hit by a car, could you? If the answer is yes, then you recognize that sometimes cyclists and pedestrians are at fault. Driving safe can help you avoid crashes, but it there is a limit.

"it doesn't even come from a doctor or EMT or someone who's actually an expert in these kinds of things."

Are you sure of this? For all we know an EMT at the scene said that the boy's life was saved by his helmet and the police are simply repeating this. Or maybe they're making it up. Who knows?

Are you sure of this? For all we know an EMT at the scene said that the boy's life was saved by his helmet and the police are simply repeating this.

That's possible, but it doesn't really change anything. Even an EMT can't know what would have happened without a helmet.

"That's possible, but it doesn't really change anything. Even an EMT can't know what would have happened without a helmet."

No, an EMT couldn't "know", but s/he could draw reasonable conclusions from the evidence in front of him.

The bottom line is that I don't know whether this kid was ok because of a helmet. You don't know either. And neither of us knows how much the police know.

The bottom line is that I don't know whether this kid was ok because of a helmet. You don't know either. And neither of us knows how much the police know.

Which is my point. Although, I do know the limit of what the police can know. There are things that they can know and things they can't. I don't know how much of what is in the first pot they know; but I know that 100% of the stuff in the second pot is unknown to them - and that includes what would've happened without a helmet.

@Kolohe

Sure, there are plenty of sidestreets there to take east and west, but they're all lined with cars. I'm talking about at least one cycletrack so we wouldn't have the dooring threat every five feet there. I mean riding the MVT stretch there just north of King Street on weekends is like begging for someone to open his or her door on you. And definitely agreed that Braddock Rd is like a confusing fortress (almost like L'Enfant designed it).

Immediately pinning blame on children hit by SUVs just seems so wrong, even if the kid swerved or made a mistake.

Who else are we to blame? It's irresponsible children that make it impossible for drivers to drive their vehicles at the "natural" speeds these roads were meant to be driven.

Sure, the driver was unable to stop--in fact, was driving so fast they dragged a child 50 feet--but the real indicator of a "safe" speed is how fast 80% of the *drivers* feel safe driving.

The helmet debate suffers from huge causality problems. Remember that people used to universally believe that thunderstorms were caused by angry gods, and anyone who was hit by lightning must have offended Thor.

Right. If you were trying to get hit by a car, could you? If the answer is yes, then you recognize that sometimes cyclists and pedestrians are at fault. Driving safe can help you avoid crashes, but it there is a limit.

There is a limit but we have far to go before reaching it. Too many people accept the current level of mayhem and death as the natural order of things.

Rather than quickly dismissing this as simply a child being in the wrong place at the wrong time I wonder why it is that we accept people in multi-ton steel tanks daily running over people.

Is a 30MPH speed limit (with a gratis additional 10 MPH before we even think you are going too fast) ever an acceptable speed for a road other than a limited access highway?

There are things that they can know and things they can't. I don't know how much of what is in the first pot they know; but I know that 100% of the stuff in the second pot is unknown to them - and that includes what would've happened without a helmet.

I think you're being a little hasty here. Let me offer an alternative to your Mark McGuire example: let's say a cop is hit by a bullet while wearing a bullet-proof vest. He survives. "Well," you might say, "we don't know in this instance whether the bullet-proof vest saved him or not. It's like Mark McGuire and his home runs." But let's say that the point of impact is over a major artery: that's a different kind of information and it provides very strong evidence that without the vest, the bullet would have caused the cop to bleed out.

Now of course, a lot of things might have been different if the cop had worn the vest (maybe he would have moved more quickly or something), and logicians will tell that counterfactuals don't make sense anyway, but it doesn't seem a stretch to say that it's reasonable to say that the "vest saved his life."

"Now all OT needs is some bike lanes between Washington and Braddock Rd Metro."

I totally agree. In fact a design for a bike network in Old Town has been proposed. All we need now is for more people to ask the City Council to implement it.

http://ralphbu.files.wordpress.com/2012/04/transportationplanning_alexandriabikeinfrastructure_final_small.pdf

http://alexandriava.gov/Council

On helmets, the scientific literature is worth a read. According to Elvik (2011, Accident Analysis and Prevention), helmets have "no net protective effect."

http://www.cycle-helmets.com/elvik.pdf

There is also a great article by Curnow (2008, Traffic Accident Analysis and Prevention) on the near-total disconnect between brain-trauma research and helmet design, but I have not seen it on line (a friend sent me a PDF). Briefly helmets are designed to address a type of head injury that is not all that important (but is easy to address). The more important types of injuries are harder to address.

Any idea when the new Alexandria CaBi stations are going to show up on the Spotcycle app?

Is a 30MPH speed limit (with a gratis additional 10 MPH before we even think you are going too fast) ever an acceptable speed for a road other than a limited access highway?

Obviously not, given that in almost every suburban residential neighborhood, you see posted speed limits of 20 mph and vigorous enforcement. I only ever find the speed limits egregiously low in *your* neighborhood, not in *mine*.

But guez, a bike helmet is not a bullet proof vest.

And reasonable or not, saying the vest saved his life is still conjecture.

Jonathan, I gotta call BS on the out-of-context quote you pulled out of that article. The lead sentence to the same paragraph says:
"Do bicycle helmets reduce the risk of injury to the head, face or neck? With respect to head injury, the answer is clearly yes."

The quote you included clearly refers to only a subset of all studies of the issue. The debate may not be settled, but the studies tend to show that helmets prevent injuries.

But guez, a bike helmet is not a bullet proof vest.

It's not steroids either.

And reasonable or not, saying the vest saved his life is still conjecture.

Well everything is pretty much conjecture at the end of the day, isn't it? After all, perhaps we live in the Matrix.

I'm looking forward to seeing "perhaps," "maybe," and "might" in every one of your sentences.

It's not steroids either.

Do you have a point, or are you just being combative?

Crikey, and I gotta call BS on your "BS." The article says helmets tend to _increase_ neck injuries, so overall there is no net protective effect.

And it still refers to a subset of all studies. So you only get that particular result by arbitrarily picking to ignore some studies. Finally, isn't it unusual for a medical article to "net out" one kind of injuries against another kind? WTF? That's another red flag in this article for me.

Crikey: I'm not an expert on the subject. I don't know if is unusual for an author in Accident Analysis and Prevention (or in similar journals) to consider that helmets have both positive results (reduced head injuries) and negative results (increased neck injuries) and to draw a conclusion about the net effect.

I am, however, a scientist and have more faith in scientists than in reporters, the police or politicians. All three of the latter have reasons to promote quick fixes and all three seem to take helmet effectiveness as an article of faith. The scientists, bless their hearts, have an economic motivation to produce scientific results that will stand the test of time (or at least the length of their careers).

In any case, all I did was repeat the conclusion of the author, Elvik, and invited people to have a read. While most of the article is inaccessible to the non-expert (I certainly don't understand all that statistical gobbledygook), the summary section is easy to read.

@Jonathan Krall,

Well put. I wish I had a dollar for every time I heard someone say something to the effect, "Well, my sister-in-law is an ER nurse, and she says anyone who doesn't wear a helmet on a bike must have a death wish!" Doctors, nurses, EMTs, police... the only "advantage" these folks over your average citizen is that they have plenty more anecdotes to fuel their confirmation bias.

bump your head against the pavement once or twice then decide if you want a helmet or not

david,

I think you're missing the point. No one is saying that if the probability of being hit in the head were 100% they wouldn't want a helmet on (at least no one that I know of).

But the chances of being hit in the head are not 100%. And even if you put a helmet on and banged your head against the pavement, that won't necessarily mean you won't hurt yourself. I mean look at the problem football is having with concussions. And they all wear helmets.

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