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How do you feel about mandatory seat belt laws?

Helmet free. I agree it is a speed issue.

In terms of control, there are a lot of newbies out there. I've always suspected helmets are meant for kids who never had to deal with lever actuated brakes before and don't know how to modulate them.

I actually feel quite out of control when going downhill on a cabi. Weak brakes to start, you don't know the condition, and the bike doesn't track so well if you hit a bump.

I suspect in the paris study the before people were not wearing helmets either.

I've been told to wear a helmet 5 times in the last four years. Four by someone in a car and once by a pedestrian. All experts I'm sure.

I think the data is showing that cabi is pretty safe. I'm sure you could gin up some danger and sell it to the feeble minded, but I'll stick with the numbers.

Seat belt laws make sense because 1) People without seatbelts become projectiles that can harm others - including the driver who may still be trying to gain control of the car 2) Seatbelts keep drivers in front of the steering wheel where they can - and do - regain control of the car. So, seatbelts help to mitigate crashes after they happen thereby protecting others. The same is not true of helmets.

I always wear a helmet, but I wouldn't say they do much to prevent facial injuries. In my last crash, I had four stitches above my eye, and barely a scratch on my helmet.

You say that the claim of reduced risk of head injury in the event of a crash off of CaBi vs. a racing bike is an "explanation for why fewer CaBi riders wear helmets" but there are also other big factors to be considered, such as convenience of carrying a helmet when you're not using it. When I ride my own bike, I usually lock my helmet up with my bike, but on Capital Bikeshare I end up carrying my helmet around with me all day.

You focus to much on the bicycle rider, sure increased speed (which is really hard to do on those heavy cabi bikes unless going down a crazy hill) is more dangerous in the event of a crash, but one of the biggest dangers are not actions that are in complete control of the rider. If a car smashes into a bicyclist at a high rate of speed im pretty sure a helmet is going to help you.

If a car smashes into a bicyclist at a high rate of speed im pretty sure a helmet is [not] going to help you.

Here, fixed that for you.

Crystal you're right. There are other factors at play and convenience is only one of them.

Ryan S. I, like oboe, am not so sure. It certainly isn't what the helmet is designed for, and many cycling fatalities are wearing helmets - so it didn't help them.

Let's grant for the sake of debate that helmets drastically reduce injury in every collision.

Acheiving greater helmet usage is still a non-issue from a public health perspective, since the number of cyclists in serious collisions is negligible. It's well within the range of pedestrians who suffer head injuries just walking around.

The only thing that compulsory helmet laws (or a successful campaign to "raise consciousness" for that matter) will do is reduce the number of cyclists--leading to poorer health outcomes for folks who would've cycled (because of inactivity), and for those who continue to cycle, because their reduced numbers undercuts the "safety in numbers" principal.

Sorry, but anyone who claims to be a "cycling advocate" on the one hand, and can't stop harping about how INCREDIBLY DANGEROUS cycling is, and how YOU MUST ALWAYS WEAR A HELMET OR SUFFER BRAIN TRAUMA is no friend to cycling advocacy.

It's not a cause for me, but a personal choice like putting non-skid pads on the bottom of a bathtub. While I do it, I'm not going to proselytize for it.

But on the reverse side, I'm not in favor of those who argue against it, or who claim there's no reason to wear them. There is.

So we can agree that everyone should just STFU about helmets, so that we can fight about whether we like bike lanes or not.

The only thing I would say about the Puchar quote above is that it could still technically be correct. What he's saying and what you say in response seem to me to be two different things (not knowing his past quotes on such things, of course, just going off this one quote). He says essentially that incidents may spike; in other words the real numbers of accidents and injuries could rise. Responding by stating that the rate of injuries goes down, while a valid defense of the idea that more cyclists makes cycling generally safer, doesn't negate the argument that the actual number of incidents may rise, simply because of a larger ridership. Using that argument is, of course, dumb, because it doesn't say anything about whether the benefits of increased numbers of cyclists outweigh the costs (I think it's almost obvious that they do at this point), but it's not technically incorrect.

Chewey: it's technically unsupported, however, and it may be incorrect. The increased CaBi ridership may actually reduce the overall number of incidents.

Do we have numbers for this?


You make an excellent point, and I think advocacy in either direction is in poor taste (especially when directed at one adult to another). Though we don't have a lot of high-profile helmet-skeptics getting time in print and broadcast warning about how you're all going to die if you sit astride a bicycle--unless you leave the helmet at home.

So there's a basic asymmetry. :)


From the link above looking at incidents in bike sharing systems, it looks like, though the injury rate is very low on bike sharing systems, that there are a certain number of accidents that do occur on bike sharing systems. Unless those aren't adding to the overall numbers of incidents (which would be true, I think, if essentially a number of people were replacing their personal bicycles with greater use of shared bikes), that would mean that adding a bike sharing system to a city would mean that, just because of generally greater ridership, there would be more incidents, even if the overall rate is lessened. But of course, this too would be a poor argument, as Puchar is saying there will be a spike in injuries and fatalities, and the link talking about such things in cities with bike share seems to suggest that serious injuries are actually rather rare. So maybe he's not technically correct, I'm not sure. But I could see where he'd be able to claim that he is correct if the simple increase in the number of riders was leading to an increase in accidents, regardless if the rate of accidents to rides goes down. My main point was that comparing incidents to rates was not a great way to argue that Puchar was wrong.

Chewey, if that is what Puchar is saying then why his comment about inexperienced cyclists? That the new cyclists will be inexperienced is wholly irrelevant to the idea that more people doing A will lead to more injuries from A.

Chewey: i think what you're overlooking is that cycling accident rates generally go down when ridership goes up, because drivers are more sensitized to the presence of cyclists when they see a lot of them. So the number of incidents on bike share systems needs to offset both the number of incidents avoided because someone chose a bike share bike over his or her own bike, and the lower overall rate of incidents that is due to the increased driver awareness.

All this worry over a simple, cheap hunk of styrofoam you can strap to your head to avoid splitting it open.

Antibozo, that's a really good point that I hadn't considered. Though I'm too lazy to look up the statistics myself, I'd love to see whether the number of incidents overall went up, stayed the same, or went down in the year that a given bike share system started up, and what happened in subsequent years. I've long been convinced that an increase in the number of bikes on the road corresponds to a long term drop in the number of accidents because of that fact that you mention about drivers being sensitized to bikes, so I wonder what that looks like in the year of and years following the introduction of something like CaBi.

I was at a picnic a few weeks ago, and one of the children there fell off the monkey bars and hit his head. He got a concussion, and eventually ended up in the ICU.

What we can learn from this is that playgrounds are incredibly dangerous places, and that--if a parent is so irresponsible to even let their child play on a playground--every child must wear a helmet at all times.

And, of course, anyone who makes even a peep of skepticism is the irrational one, because "it's just a simple, cheap hunk of styrofoam you can strap on your head to avoid splitting it open."

I think it was Einstein that said "common sense" is the set of unexamined prejudices we collect before we turn 16.

I suspect that getting a cyclist off a regular bike onto a CaBi increases safety even if they wear a helmet on the first and don't on the second. Just because the bikes are safer. But that does not mean that things couldn't be better if everyone wore helmets.

"Pucher", not "Puchar". I noted his out of context quote in NYTimes, but have no defense here, other than guessing. He's even a coauthor of a recent paper that presents some really compelling evidence of safety in numbers in the USA.

Given the discussions spurred by the tragedy on the trail earlier this week, I would add to WC's list of more important safety interventions reengineering/replacement of those crap CaBi bells.


Those are supposed to be bells? I was wondering why CaBi put "clickers" on all their bikes.

Every pedestrian should wear a helmet and spandex.

That's why I have a spandex helmet.

It certainly isn't what the helmet is designed for, and many cycling fatalities are wearing helmets - so it didn't help them.

Sure... but thats a faulty argument. Just because fatalities and serious injuries occur with helmets doesnt mean to say they dont help. How many injuries did they prevent or make less severe?

Obviously nothing can stop a fatality or serious injury, but are you seriously going to say that helmets dont help prevent brain damage and other head related trauma?

I don't think anyone would argue that helmets don't reduce brain injury where a direct hit on the helmet occurs. The dispute is whether helmets make people healthier overall, and whether compelling or even advocating helmet use yields a net benefit. The studies pertinent to these questions are at best equivocal.

By the way, i think you'll find most of the people here expressing skepticism about the efficacy of helmets nevertheless wear them themselves. They merely wish that the subject would be treated more scientifically by reporters, and that the press would stop scaring people away from cycling by suggesting that helmets are necessary equipment for it to be as safe as many other things people do helmetless.

You might find this interesting:


antibozo gets it just about right.

No one on the "skeptic" side is arguing that helmets are worthless. We're pointing out the unexamined assumptions behind the "always wear a helmet" brigade.

Frankly, there's a borderline demonization that's going on towards those who don't wear helmets, and it dovetails nicely with the demonization of cyclists in general.

Without the fundamental assumption that cycling is INCREDIBLY DANGEROUS, the stridency of the helmet absolutists makes no sense at all.

If you want to take precautions against something that is incredibly unlikely to happen, as I often do, knock yourself out.

But let's stop pretending that helmetless folks are being irresponsible--or worse yet, somehow deligitmizing cycling among the general public because they fail to show proper deference to the notion that cycling is uniquely dangerous.

It's not.

(And, no, the fact that your wife's sister is an ER doctor who thinks that everyone should wear a helmet is not compelling. Talk to your brother-in-law's best friend the epidemiologist, then get back to us.)

Maybe I'm repeating myself, but half the reason I wear a helmet is low hanging stuff over the shoulder or sidepath or cut-through lawn or even the roadway. Tree limbs, vines, slicey things hanging from overgrown bushes. Tip your head down if you see it and have it graze you helmet and not in your face. For big stuff you don't see, you might avoid a nasty bump or scrape. Maybe it's not a problem in the big city, but the further out you get, the more I find it to be a problem.

Ryan S, you wrote If a car smashes into a bicyclist at a high rate of speed im pretty sure a helmet is going to help you. So then I pointed out that they aren't ALWAYS helpful. That's different from saying they aren't helpful. I suspect that on average they are.

How many injuries did they prevent or make less severe?

That's a very good question and one that is very difficult to answer. But considering that it's styrofoam injected plastic, I think the number is very low.

If you've head injuries earlier in your life, even a simple concussion can affect your brain. Helmets don't have to save your skull to be helpful.

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