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Were the people in the cars wearing helmets? No, they were not. Is driving a cars safer than riding a bicycle? Well, actually no, it isn't.

Statistically, the people in the cars are much more likely to get a head injury than the guy on the bicycle - per mile traveled.

How many people were killed on bicycles in DC last year? Zero.
Absolutely none at all.

Pedestrians make up 27% of all traffic fatalities in DC. Looks to Me like it's the drivers and pedestrians who need helmets - not the cyclists!

How many people were killed in cars last year...?
Have we lost count?

Studies have shown that motorists drive much more aggressively around cyclists who wear helmets, and that the reduction in injuries (most minor) since helmets were promoted is directly proportional to the number of people who gave up cycling because they were told it was too dangerous. What's actually more dangerous is driving cars, and not getting enough exercise, due to irrational fears brought on by helmet promotion.

The risk to cyclists is mainly cars - and that risk is present no matter if you are walking on the crosswalk, driving in another car, etc. The benefit of the bicycle is that unlike pedestrians, your are more visible and move with the flow of traffic. Also, unlike cars, the bicycle poses almost no risk to anyone. In fact, the risks to your health are higher if you don't cycle, than if you do - helmet or no helmet.

How many people would give up driving auto-mobiles in DC, if it was required for drivers and passengers to wear crash helmets? I can just see it now... "you can't drive without a crash helmet in the city, it's too dangerous!" but of course we know it really is quite dangerous to drive, but you can't put on a helmet in a car without people thinking you're a maniac, and if the government suggested as much, there would be total hysteria!

One day 20 years ago I went for my usual Sunday bike ride, 30 miles up the Florida coast on A1A and back. Then I got into my car, swerved to avoid a reckless driver, crashed into a concrete utility pole and spent many weeks recovering from a head injury which is still with me today. Helmets in cars... not a bad idea!

But I certainly ain't going without a helmet on my bike.

"The risk to cyclists is mainly cars"- Lee you make some valid points here.Just another reason NOT to cycle on the roads w/ cars- and another reason why we need DEDICATED BIKEWAYS in DC where it is ILLEAGAL to cycle on the sidewalks downtown.Bicyclists should never be forced to compete w/ cars & trucks- no matter what our macho racer enthusiast friends say about it.When it is car against bicycle- the car ALWAYS WINS !!!!

BTW- I love Berlin !!

Jack, I think there are a lot of safety problems with bike lanes, due to conflicts with the flow of traffic. Take a look at the pedestrian fatality rate, compared to road cyclists, to see what a difference these conflicts make.

However, I do still agree that we do need improved bikeways / bike lanes, etc. in DC, mainly because it will increase the number of people biking - and having more cyclists actually will increase the safety of the individual rider. I think that bike lanes try to answer the complaint about cars, but they don't go far enough to solve the safety issue, and that can be more dangerous that doing nothing at all.

What we really need, is to eliminate large sections of street parking, and in many cases turn narrow 3-lane roads into normal-width 2-lane roads, to make sufficient room for wide cycle lanes, and give "green waves" to pedestrians and cyclists at rush-hour, into the city in the morning, out of the city in the evening. This could be phased in slowly, over the years. This will be unpopular at first, but as people see the success of this system, incrementally the support will grow along with the program. It's been done before, and DC streets have a similar geography.

The experiences of cities has shown that the only way to reach critical masses of cyclists, is to make panning decisions for cyclists at the direct expense of auto-mobile access. I think the rewards will make this worth every effort.

Not to quibble, but it was only one study (not studies) that showed that helmet use effected passing distance. The BHSI has a good review of that here:


Let the rider decide. Period. The safety risks of riding without a helmet are born by the rider, not outside observers. And if you're arguing from the dubious "increased health care premiums for everyone" standpoint, well, there are plenty of other places to start.

So many people seem to have a pathological love of being policed in every aspect of their lives. They're scared to be free to make their own decisions concerning only themselves. This whole mandatory helmet thing is just another silly example. What's next? Ticketing people who ride with one or no hands?

More restrictions mean less cyclists. Less cyclists mean less representation. Less representation means less power. That's not what I want.

I'm not arguing about whether helmet use is a good, bad, or neutal thing. I just want to continue to have the right to decide for myself, same way I do about almost everything else that affects my health.

Worried about your own health? Good, while you're strapping on that helmet nice and tight, put down that artery filling double McDreck burger...you're gonna need both hands.

Funny thing is, no one has mentioned banning MP3 players on runners and cyclists; such devices have the potential to cause unsafe situations for users AND anyone around them.

I don't think we should mandate helmet use. However, I never ride without mine, and my helmet might have saved my life [or saved me from serious injury] just two days ago. I was riding along and saw a light a couple of blocks ahead of me turn green, so I pushed hard on my pedals to accelerate and my left pedal came off. Before I even knew what had happened, I was flying through the air and landed flat on my back with my helmet impacting the pavement hard. Luckily, my backpack was stuffed mainly with some biking clothes I'd just bought and cushioned my back a bit. I walked back to the bike shop to buy a new helmet and get my pedal and crank looked at. All the shop guys were impressed with the "cool" pattern of cracks in the helmet. I hate to think of that happening to my skull.

I had never, not in all my years of cycling thousands of miles a year, ever hit my head in a fall before, but since the mid-90's, I've always worn a helmet.

You might never need one, but you never know. As far as I know, most crashes cyclists have don't even involve motor vehicles, but they generally DO involve other hard surfaces!

Im with iconoclast. No nanny state telling me I cant do this or that on my bike-or my head for that matter.

I think its interesting that when you see video of European cities where cycling is a widely used mode of transportation, not one person is wearing a helmet.

It's true that fewer people in Europe wear helmets. But is it better? When I've been to Europe, I've always noted how many people you see smoking - so there are cultural differences I wouldn't want to emulate. The question is, without helmets are they safer?

I think the question is, without helmets, are they safe *enough*?

Apparently, the answer is yes.

That is a better question, but I don't know enough to say what the answer is. I think OUR system of roads and trails would need to become more similar to theirs before any safety data from Europe becomes applicable here.

Washcycle, you are darn right your fiancee would kill you!

As to the cracked helmet, keep in mind that a bike helmets will shatter at about 5-10mph, right? Isn't that all they are rated for anyway? Your skull, on the other hand, will usually sustain a shock up to about a 35-40mph before you would be killed - at 20mph you still have a 95% survival rate.

In my opinion, if you're worried about your head, and you're going to go to the trouble, why not put on a cheap (ie. thin, 1/2 or 3/4 shell) motorcycle / scooter helmet? They cost the same as as an expensive bicycle helmet, and they have a much higher impact rating. I've seen ceramic models that are very light. The models with zip-in insulation seem like a natural choice for colder weather, yet I've never seen anyone using them on bicycles.

As for Europe, consider that in Amsterdam, for example, you would be taking a heavy bike over cobble-stones, and there are no hills, sitting upright, so your speed is going to be low enough that serious head injury is very unlikely. In addition, consider that they have a tradition-bound system of cycling at critical mass, since long before helmets. If it isn't broken, don't fix it... Mandating bike helmets under those conditions is both unnecessary and politically unacceptable.

By the way most of the bike helmets on the market get pretty lousy reviews from the safety experts, because most of them have big points that stick out on the back, which often have the effect of hitting the pavement in a crash - resulting in serious neck injuries. Often times it is these big protrusions off your head that caused your head to hit the pavement at all, because the head naturally tucks in when you fall.

What's better, subtracting 5mph from the impact speed, or the chance of ducking your head from the impact completely?

I wear a helmet when I ride, but to me the bigger point is not to get hit in the first place. I also wear bright and/or reflective clothing and have a blinking white light in the front and blinking red lights in the back. http://bicyclesafe.com/has a good web site of some of the most common accidents and how to avoid them. Being visible and riding predictably and in safe positions in the roadway seem to be some of the big tips.

Lee brings up an interesting point about a helmet essentially extending the lever arm that is your neck and head in an accident. I think Jobst Brandt (author of "The Bicycle Wheel" and an intransigent old-skooler) was the first to point this out in dramatic fashion on some biking board or other.

I'm not arguing about whether helmets help, hurt, or do nothing, just that the choice to wear one must be the cyclist's. We could go on and on about the benefits of body armor, for example, but ultimately we should each be free to make our own decisions when no one else's life or limb is at stake. Who can argue with that?

That's it (for this post, ha).

So, just 5 minutes ago, this lady is flying down the crowded sidewalk downtown where it is prohibited wearing no helmet, swerving through pedestrians, when a car pulls out slowly from a driveway and she almost t-bones it. She then swerves into a one-way road going the wrong way and almost gets in a head-on with a mustang and crosses another road which had the green and is almost broadsided and then almost hits a pedestrian. If she was in a collision, which seems to be what will eventually happen to her, the problem wouldn't be with her lack of a helmet outside her skull, but the lack of judgment inside. Again, I think helmets are an important piece of saftey gear (with limitations in certain types of falls), but they are much less important than smart actions by bikers, drivers and pedestrians and good infrastructure.

This lady wouldn't have to be dealing with pedestrians nor cars if she were cycling on a dedicated bike way or in a car free zone.I agree that in Europe people also do not put speed at such an important level when cycling.Sitting upright- which does not allow you to go as fast- also allows you to better observe your surroundings- a consideration that is probably not factored into some of these helmet effectiveness studies.Bikes where you sit straight up also keep your back healthy.Crouching forward for speed is one of the worst things that you can do to your lower back.

Who can argue with "but ultimately we should each be free to make our own decisions when no one else's life or limb is at stake"? Anyone who's educated will argue with that...

Why should your, individual, life be the unit of analysis for what should be done as SOCIAL policy? WHY do we always privilege individual solutions to SOCIAL problems?...(in fact, we dont but I dont have the timeor energy to point out the zillion practical interventions that do privilege the social over the individual...).

Why not take the social as the unit of analysis (recall that the etymology of society is "share"...). Cf John Stuart Mill on self-regarding and other- regarding behavior...although this view fails, if one is smart enough to not be trapped in the notion that indviduals are ALWAYS and ONLY the variable that counts for moral action...

This culture cant enforce speed limits or the drug laws, or... How in the HELL will they police helmet laws? The issue here is practical, not moral...

hey w, define "crouching" for me, will ya? ANd then define "bad" for the "back." What part of the back is badly affected? The WHOLE back, from head to butt...only some parts??

Bodies and bike position is MUCh too complicated and nuanced to make stupid claims like the one you did above...

I can show you "crouched" cyclists of 10,000 miles a year and who are in their 30 or 40th year of cyling and their backs are just dandy...proper position is what matters...

Does hitting tennis balls ruin elbows? Watching TV ruin your eyes? Drinking alcohol ruin your liver? Well, maybe...IT DEPENDS...

Remember, ALL MEANING MAKING IS SELECTIVE CONTEXTAULIZATION -- unless youre God, or a Platonist, or...

my chiropractor claims that racing bikes are very bad for your lower back. The lower vertebrae are vulnerable- the older you get- more can go wrong with the ligaments and nerves around the lower back. My chiropractors recoomended a bike where you sit up and ride. It is far safer,and better for the back. This is not "stupid" -it was aserious medical condition and in order to keep cycling I had to address it and get rid of that nasty mountain bike that forced me to bend forward. Go up to the Berlin posting above- in most parts of the world people ride "sit up" bikes.


Define "educated." Oh, and define "social" and then "social policy."

"Why should your, idividual (sic), life be the unit of analysis for what should be done as SOCIAL policy?"

It shouldn't; it should be the unit of analysis for what should be done as MY PERSONAL policy. That was my argument, which any educated person should have discerned immediately. Where do you draw the line on what society should decide?...I'd say when the outcome of those decisions affects SOCIETY as a whole.

"WHY do we always privilege individual solutions to SOCIAL problems?"

As you so quickly pointed out, we don't. And when is not wearing a helmet a "social problem." It's not ANY kind of problem. Being forced to wear a helmet for my own good is a problem..again, that's my point.

And now I've gone and broken my word about posting on this topic. Oh well.

look at this article; https://www.bycycleinc.com/pages/article_MTJ.html


Thinking, no less than breathing and digesting food, takes place outside the body as much as it does inside the body.

Id suggest leaving behind your strict policing of the arbitrary boundaries youve divined for yourself...and then extend and implicate others in.

The world is more complicated than you seem to appreciate... You simply didnt undertstand my comments.

On education, try Dewey's (1916) Democracy and Education, esp since his core views on social psychology have been confirmed by contemporary neuroscience. On "the social" as the all-inclusive variable, see David Graebers delightful and short book: Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology...


it's stupid to advance a general claim when there is no evidence for it: I have been riding in what most will call a "crouched" position for 25 years, at over over 15,000 miles year, at the highest levels of the sport, during the most mundane commute, and while riding vast distances across the country.

Many backs have been ruined by poor cycling position. SO WHAT??!! Folks should pay attention to their position, as a poor one on the bicycle will ruin your back, and many other body parts.

I rarely wear my helmet, but when I do, I wear it so that it's effective (straps shortened, sitting level on the head, etc). The number of people I see riding who do likewise is SMALL, esp among commuters!

I like "sit up bikes" by the way, and agree 99 percent of cyclist should be on them, for the under 5 mile rides that constitute the bulk of their cycling.

I'd really like to see evidence that the non-rounded shaped helmets can lead to neck injury in a crash. While the do make you look like a space alien with their odd wing shape, that shape often has a practical purpose which is to channel hot air out the back as the large vents in the front suck in cool air. Can the rear point get caught on a crack causing you to snap your neck in a crash? Possibly. But you could also have a sinkhole open up underneath you or terrorists blow up a car next to you. I'd say the latter two are more likely, at least until I see some evidence otherwise.

Just like Safety is Sexy stickers say "You'd look hotter in a helmet" that is the biggest reason that I hear from people who don't wear a helmet. The larger then quantity and size of the vents, the lighter and more air flow a helmet will have. I even refused to wear one until a Specialized rep gave me one of their super fancy S1 models.

I don't know if its just a ploy from the helmet industry to get you to purchase their products more often, but I've always been told from manufactorers that helmets should be replaced after a solid impact or every 5 years due to UV light breaking down the polystyrene. It amazes me the older "experts" still use the old Bell helmets from 15 years ago.

jeff says:
"It amazes me the older "experts" still use the old Bell helmets from 15 years ago."

It doesnt amaze me. Helmet use is religion among the educated (sic) classes. Cars can be driven millions of miles, huge homes purchased (we need a sq. foot limitation per person law in the USA...now THAT would be radical...) that have a massive carbon footprint, a big fat diet/appetite for MEAT, not mention A WORD about the economic and racial apartheid practiced in DC, and a million other examples of relevant social praxis, but if you ride your bike without a helmet, or, worse, dont have your kids in one -- may Zeus (or lesser Gods) have mercy on your soul...AND BY THE WAY, ALL THOSE LITTLE BLACK KIDS IN aNACOSTIA DONT HAVE Helmets on...whose going to get outraged about that -- some white rich folks who WALK the Capital Crescent Trail while thier kids ride their tricycles, and live in immorally large homes in Chevy Chase???...

its great to be an American , though, as the sense of entitlement can be breathed in the air: we can always talk out of our ass, and never be called on it.

By the way, Iconoclast [comment edited to remove insult], let me know where and when youd like to have a public debate...perhaps the topic could be "education," or "how to defend a generalization"...

"Extend and implicate others in."

Wow, Mike, that is a fantastic sentence. I bet you had your helmet on really tight when you wrote that.

Thanks, the first two paragraphs of that post are real winners!

As for the comment on my "self-description," if you're going to fixate on and take a "childish" swipe at what is arguably a childish convention to begin with, at least spell it as I do. Details are not yor forte, n'est ce pas?

I think your turbid stream of urine has left a dark stain on the wall just below mine and, alas, my bladder is now empty.

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