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Don't forget this, as well:

http://www.bath.ac.uk/news/articles/archive/overtaking110906.html

"Drivers pass closer when overtaking cyclists wearing helmets than when overtaking bare-headed cyclists, increasing the risk of a collision, the research has found.

"Dr Ian Walker, a traffic psychologist from the University of Bath, used a bicycle fitted with a computer and an ultrasonic distance sensor to record data from over 2,500 overtaking motorists in Salisbury and Bristol.

"Dr Walker, who was struck by a bus and a truck in the course of the experiment, spent half the time wearing a cycle helmet and half the time bare-headed. He was wearing the helmet both times he was struck.

"He found that drivers were as much as twice as likely to get particularly close to the bicycle when he was wearing the helmet.

"Across the board, drivers passed an average of 8.5 cm (3 1/3 inches) closer with the helmet than without."

Wearing a bike helmet is like using a seat belt, it is for safety. Why would anyone oppose safety? The unwritten problem is the new bike share industry did not plan on providing helmets to riders and now they have no idea how they will provide those helmets if this becomes the law. Safe riding is more important to the public. Support mandatory helmet laws.

Wearing an auto helmet and a flame retardant suit is like using a seat belt, it is for safety. Why would anyone oppose safety? The unwritten problem is the automobile industry did not plan on providing helmets and flame retardant suits to passengers and now they have no idea how they will provide thse if this becomes the law (as it should, and as NASCAR has already done). Safe riding is more important to the public. Support mandatory helmet and flame retardant suit laws.

I saw the table showing that motorcycle fatality/accident ratio increased after mandatory helmet law enacted, but I could not find the part about motorcycle use in Maryland declining. Can you say which page?

Mike,

How often do cars burst into flames even in crashes other than in high-speed races on racetracks (NASCAR)? Also, if a driver is wearing a seat belt in a car which has air bags, would wearing a helmet reduce injuries? I like bicyclists, I am a bicyclist, but when it comes to laws about helmets, logic flies out the door. Flame-retardant suits? Is that logical? Motorcyclists used to say, "Let those who ride decide," which made about as much sense.

Remarkably, I recently had an experience much like Del. McIntosh's. One morning on my commute I saw all these motorists who weren't wearing helmets and I'm like "Wow! There are people commuting to work on a busy city street and they do not have helmets on!"

Please ask your Md. legislators to support a mandatory motorist helmet law. After all, how could anyone be opposed to safety?

"Also, if a driver is wearing a seat belt in a car which has air bags, would wearing a helmet reduce injuries? "

Since belted drivers in cars with air bags still get head injuries, it seems quite possible that helmets reduce such injuries.

Helmets would also likely save lives of pedestrians, and of people taking showers, climbing ladders, etc.

The anti helmet people are quite child like. Like children they have not enough experience to know what dangers they face. I think it's best to have as few laws as possible in all cases helmets included but to say that the helmet has not saved lives is just a pure lie. Now it seems some people think it is more important that more people bike then that lives are saved. No law does not nor should it tell you what common sense should. These drivers hit each other they hit lamps post , bridges anything that's out there. They will hit you too.

"Now it seems some people think it is more important that more people bike then that lives are saved. "

if more people bike, that WILL save lives.

who is anti helmet? I have a nice new Bell bike helmet. I wear it. What I am against is a law that will result in fewer people biking, making ME less safe as a result.

Why is the distinction so hard to understand.

Ok, sure. Flame-retardant suits might be a stretch, but the other safety devices are not.

How about requiring 5 or 6 point harnesses instead of seatbelts? How about requring full-faced helmets with a HANS device, too?

Surely these things would increase safety. NASCAR requires them for a reason.

Don't we have a moral obligation here?

@Tom M: since the pro-law arguments are based on anecdotes rather than data, I guess it's ok to relate the time I drove past a car burning on the other side of 66 so fiercely that I could feel the heat through my window as the FD stood by, unable to save the kids in then back of the car? Yes, cars burn, they're filled with one of the most dangerous materials you're likely to encounter on a daily basis. It's quite the testament to the flexibility of the human mind that people can sit on a barrel of the stuff all day and not even consider the risk. It is interesting that since people consider that to be a "normal" danger, they're unwilling to take special precautions for mitigating it, while not allowing other adults to make their own cost/benefit decision on the question of cycling helmets.

And yes, mandatory NASCAR helmets for all motor vehicle passengers (to include private cars, cabs, buses, etc.) would absolutely save lives. If you consider that unreasonable, the burden is on pro-helmet-law people to explain why saving those lives is less important than saving cyclist lives via a mandatory bike helmet law.

Or, if it's too "inconvenient" for everyone to walk around with a car helmet in case they might use a car, the burden is still on pro-helmet-law people to explain why it's ok to "inconvenience" cyclists the same way.

This boils down to a question of whether you view cycling as a recreational/planned activity, or a transportation option. Unfortunately, some people want to legislate one of those views.

So glad I live in DC.

I like bicyclists, I am a bicyclist, but when it comes to laws about helmets, logic flies out the door.

Not sure why you seem to think this privileges your argument in some way. I've found some of the most controlling, meddlesome, busybodies I've ever met were bicyclists.

Thanks for your comically ironic point about "logic" though.

I always, always wear sunscreen when I go out. It's not a big deal to put on, and it's a very effective way to prevent damage to my skin that might lead to my death. I oppose mandatory sunscreen laws, because some peopel might forget to bring it, and then wouldn't be able to go out, or might choose as an acceptable risk once in a while not to apply it, like for a brief outing. And we know that the effect would be to discourage people from going out and leading a healthier lifestyle, so it would actually have a net negative effect on health.

That's why I oppose mandatory sunscreen laws.

I wear a helmet when I bike. Always. And it's my choice.
The only reason to make helmets mandatory is to collect revenue. The greater danger than a cyclist falling and simply hitting their head is impact from a car or being crushed beneath the wheels.

There's plenty of logical arguments against mandatory helmet laws. Washcycle and other posters here have made the case quite clearly IMO. Too bad people would rather demonize and patronize those with legitimate concerns about a helmet law (like its likely impact on ridership levels) and oversimplify the position of those against the law as being against helmets altogether.

The whole law presupposes that cycling is inherently dangerous, which it is not. Again, a point well made over the years by Washcycle.

If this passes, it screams out for acts of mass civil disobedience. I am picturing a massive group ride with no helmets on going from police station to police station, or perhaps around the state capitol in Annapolis while wearing snarky tee shirts.

I fell off my bike while wearing my lucky socks. I didn't get injured. We need to pass a law mandating that everyone must carry a magical talisman when they ride.

Well, that's totally different. You'd be insane to bike without a talisman.

@david

You just made the case for getting rid of cars to make bicycling safer. Drivers are the real problem. No amount of cyclist armor is going to change that.

Like a mandatory helmet law, a mandatory sunscreen law could have negative consequences. Namely vitamin D deficiency, which brings along a host of medical issues. Point being that before anything is made mandatory there needs to be real data, not just "common sense".

It seems to me that Maryland has jumped the gun with this mandatory helmet law. I have not heard any discussion of what previous actions the state has taken to increase helmet usage along with the results. What educational campaigns have been conducted? What about helmet handouts to the the poor? Did all these fail? Where they even attempted? Why jump right mandatory?

@david "The anti helmet people are quite child like"

Insult much?

As Wash points out, the question before us isn't about the effect of helmets, but the effect of helmet laws. Population-level studies show that the results of helmet laws are:
- Fewer people ride bicycles, leading to a reduction of the many positive effects of bicycling (studies show that the health effects of cycling outweigh the dangers by 20 to 1)
- Fatalities per rider increase. This is the "safety in numbers" effect. It has been seen in study after study that, when the number of people riding increases, the number of fatalities per rider decreases. It is often explained in terms of more cyclists leading to more careful drivers, but it could also be a selection effect. If cycling is seen as less dangerous, more cautious riders take up bicycling.

Just in case this is not clear, please allow me to repeat: Helmet. Laws. Increase. Fatalities. Per. Rider. I know it is counter-intuitive, but I'm guessing this is hardly the first counter-intuitive slice of reality that you, gentle reader, have ever encountered. Sometimes reality is like that.

FWIW, a good summary on the topic of helmets and safety can be found in the book City Cycling, edited by Pucher and Buehler (2012), pp 149-151, in a chapter written by Jacobsen and Rutter. They suggest that the positive effects of helmet wearing seen in correlative studies could be explained by the not-unreasonable hypothesis that careful people are more likely to wear helmets than careless people.

I see the safety in numbers effect every day. Most every time I've had a near-miss or been cut off by a driver, I try to talk to the driver. They invariable say "I didn't see you." But in reality, they did see me (I wear fluorescent colors and flash lights even in the day time on the roads). What happened was, their eyes saw me just fine, but their brains didn't register that they shouldn't swerve into me or cut me off or whatever. Their brain just ignored what the eyes saw. Their brains didn't process that I was there and that driving like an idiot could hurt me.

Every time a driver sees a cyclist on the road, it starts the process of getting their brains to register that they should be alert for cyclists on the road, and should be more careful. After this process takes hold, when their eyes see a cyclist, they begin to have "real sightings" where their brain actually registers the cyclists, not just their eyes.

Wearing a bike helmet is like using a seat belt, it is for safety. Why would anyone oppose safety?

No one opposes safety. In fact most people use helmets and encourage others to do so. What we oppose is this law that might make people LESS safe, with the additional effect of unreasonably limiting free choice.

And seatbelts are different because they protect the seatbelted person and others around them. Helmets don't do that.

Also, if a driver is wearing a seat belt in a car which has air bags, would wearing a helmet reduce injuries?

Yes.

I am picturing a massive group ride with no helmets on going from police station to police station, or perhaps around the state capitol in Annapolis while wearing snarky tee shirts.

Since the penalty for not wearing a helmet is a warning, you can pretty much count on this happening.

JimT, it's in the text "The reason the number of accidents is reduced is because after the mandatory helmet law was
passed, fewer people ride, and many of those who continue to ride, ride fewer miles resulting in a
decrease in accidents."

But the fact that there are far fewer accidents proves that there is less motorcycling - unless you think helmets lead to fewer crashes.

@david
The anti helmet people are quite child like.

srsly?

Like children they have not enough experience to know what dangers they face.

I'm trying to think of a way to properly express my feelings for you that won't get me kicked off this board. Really dude? Mommy and daddy told you you were special one too many times I think.

I've glanced off a car's fender,I've been doored,I wiped out on wet leaves while evading a right hook attempt,I've gone over the bars from hitting a pot hole,and I've flipped from having my front tire go flat in the middle of a sharp turn. I also used to play bike polo,and have had some spectacular crashing while playing. Through all of these incidents,not once has my helmet touched the ground,been damaged,or have I received any injuries above my chest.

I've been riding bikes since I was 3(1972,just out of curiosity,were you born yet?) and have been riding in DC almost daily since '05. I think I'm pretty aware of just what it takes to safety navigate the streets of DC. Don't patronize me you bleepity-bleep.

'safely navigate'
wish we could edit typos

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