The Life and Training of BikingBrady

Post by:bikingbrady

Saturday, August 30th, 2008 at 9:53 am  |  10 Comments »


Helmet Advocacy is NOT Fear Mongering

Sometimes the things you like the most can also upset you the fastest. There is a blog that I truly enjoy reading from Copenhagen called Copenhagenize The Planet. I absolutely love most of their messages because it usually has to do with their outstanding bike culture (that makes me drool in jealousy) and a message of how bikes can co-exist very peacefully with cars.

How can this possibly upset me? There seems to be an increasing trend where they state that wearing a helmet doesn't do any good at all in an accident (especially with a car). I understand that most people ride casually over there, but accidents still happen. I only need to look back to last week when I was probably doing all of 10mph when I fell over solo and smacked my head off the pavement. I shudder to think what would have happened had I not had my helmet on.

Do I think you should wear a helmet? If you are my friend, then yes I do. I'd like to keep you around a few extra years and I like your chances of NOT having a head injury in case of a crash a whole lot better than if you don't. From the statistics on Bike Helmet Safety Institute site, between 1994-2006 individuals wearing helmets made up 6% of all fatalities on bicycles. Now, I'm not naive enough to say that some of those who were killed NOT wearing helmets wouldn't have been killed WHILE wearing a helmet, but to me they are some pretty telling numbers.

Just a year or two ago in Sioux Falls I remember a Sioux Falls O'Gorman track runner who came off a sidewalk and hit a car at a stop sign, rolled off, hit his head and never came out of his coma. I think back to that one particularly as I really feel that had he had a helmet, this wouldn't have been very severe at all, and I'm more than certain that it wouldn't have been fatal.

Anybody who knows me and has been following my blog knows that I will go on occasional rants about helmet use. I BELIEVE IN HELMETS! As for the Copenhagenize writers, don't wear your helmet. See if I care. But don't sit there and tell me they don't make a difference and that we are "fear mongering" by being advocates. Don't tell me that people will ride bike less if we tell people they should wear a helmet. Most people will do what they damn well please anyway.

I'll leave you with some serious FEAR MONGERING that I found on THIS site:

Wear a Helmet!

10 Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Excuses for Not Wearing a Helmet!

1. They're too heavy!
Not anymore. Today's bicycle helmets only weigh about a half a pound.

2. I don't need one if I don't ride fast.
Get this... Even if you were just sitting on your bike talking to friends and you fell and hit your head, your brain could be seriously damaged--- Ouch!

3. They're too expensive.
Some helmets cost as little as $20, which is a lot less than the thousands of dollars you'd pay for a visit to the emergency room!

4. A helmet will mess up my hair.
Okay, true. But a crash without a helmet can really mess up your head. Your choice: a bad hair day or a bad head life?

5. I'll look like a geek.
Wrong. You'll look like a real bicylists, and car drivers will probably respect you more and give you more room on the road because of it.

6. They're too hot.
Because they're so light and have lots of openings for air to pass through, helmets aren't any hotter than having your head exposed to the sun while riding.

7. I don't need one if I don't ride on busy roads.

Not true. Cars are involved in only 10% of bike-related injuries. Falls are a much bigger problem, and they can happen on any road or path.

8. I never fall off my bike.
Maybe not yet, but everybody falls sometime, and it only takes once to do permanent danage.

9. They're funny looking.
Helmets today come in lots of cool colors and designs. Find one you like so you'll wear it.

10. None of my friends wear one.
Maybe they don't yet know the reasons why a helmet is important. Show them this page and then purchase your helmets together as a group.

Filed under: Bicycle Advocacy, Bicycle Safety, Bike Trails, South Dakota Bicycle Coaltion, helmets  |  Digg! this story.  |  Leave a Comment


Helmet Advocacy is NOT Fear Mongering

August 30th, 2008 11:49 am

Brad Hefta-Gaub says:

This is such a tough subject for me…

I am a big believer in wearing helmets… but I also wish more people would ride bikes…. and I wonder if there is truth to the notion that people are turned off by cycling because it LOOKS intimidating…

I know that I was intimidated by the looks of most cyclists (spandex, helmets, etc) before I decided to get fit.

Is it the helmet? Or is it the spandex?

The Copenhangeners (is that a word?) do seem to promote the idea that riding your bike should feel as “welcoming” as walking. And the fact of our bike culture in the US does seem to segregate the act of “getting on your bike” from “walking out the door”… would promoting the idea that people can just get on their bike, and they don’t need to change their clothes or “put on a helmet” make a difference?

My instinct tells me that the helmet is a symbol and an excuse… but the form (and lack of function) of most bikes sold in the US is the real issue.

August 31st, 2008 12:34 pm

Kevin Brady says:

I think that the function of the bike might well be an issue. People who can only afford (or are willing to buy) Wal-Mart quality bikes don’t understand how we can do what we do.

Very few of the commuters are spandex wearers around here, so I don’t see that as a deterrent. I just think Americans on the whole are lazy and more worried about how they will be ‘perceived’ if they ride a bike instead of driving. We are a very vain country.

September 1st, 2008 8:42 am

Phil says:

I have a friend who just crashed on Friday and broke his collar bone. He was taking a corner at 25 mph, and he caught his pedal (we’ll save the fact that you should keep your inside pedal up through the corner for another time). Here is a quote from him:

“Helmet busted in 3 places, those babies sure do the job!”

September 2nd, 2008 12:39 am

Brad Hefta-Gaub says:

Yes Phil… but seriously, how many of us are taking corners at 25mph?

I don’t even do that very often…

September 2nd, 2008 11:52 am

CJ says:

It is simple when you look at it. Wearing a helmet will reduce the RISK at a very low cost at getting a serious head injury, regardless if you are going 25 or 10 mph. That is why you should wear a helmet.

Now, compare that to the risk to your health and the high cost of healthcare that might be prevented by cycling or doing another physical activity. That should be the bigger fear to people not how I look wearing a helmet, it’s a no brainer.

My father would ride without wearing a helmet. His excuse was I just ride around the neighborhood and don’t do the miles you do; so I don’t need a helmet. The question I asked him that made him change his mind was, “Do you really feel like taking the chance of crashing because something stupid someone else did and now have to relearn the alphabet?” He got the point and wears a helmet on every ride.

September 2nd, 2008 11:57 am

Kevin Brady says:

Yikes, I’m having trouble keeping up with my comments between the two blogs. I am happy if people get on a bike with or without a helmet. Do I want helmet use regulated? No. Do I want people to wear them on their on fruition? Yes. Do I think people will stop riding or decide not to ride because I tell them I think helmet use is a good idea? No. IF they use that as an excuse, they are already looking for an excuse.

September 2nd, 2008 5:26 pm

hardly says:

I was once in a bike accident and split my helmet in half. I figure it saved my life. I kept the helmet in my office for several years and bored a few people with stories of why helmet use is so very important.

As an issue, it’s actually very different than motorcyclists wearing a helmet because a bike helmet is not heavy and it does not cut off your hearing when you wear it.

If you get on, put it on!

September 3rd, 2008 12:46 pm

tje210 says:

my own personal testimonial - i was mountain biking and went off a jump. bike inverted, and after falling a few feet my head was the first thing to contact the ground (not pavement, just dirt). i was knocked out cold for 15 minutes, suffered a severe concussion and couldn’t think straight for 2 months. sucks that i had spring semester finals 2 days later! don’t ask me how i got through them . . . i really don’t remember.

bottom line - i was WEARING a helmet and that happened . . . pretty sure it saved my life.

September 5th, 2008 9:07 am

wcha says:

I am of the generation that when we were kids, we rode our bike and our horses without helmets, so I never really put a lot of stock into them…. Even when I started biking seriosly a few years ago, I only wore my helmet about 50% of the time. Then…. I crashed… a good crash, on a rural paved road, that really knocked me for a loop!!! After a rest on the side of the road, to get my vision straight and convince myself not to pass out, (my teenage, drama addicted daughter was with me), I finally limped/crawled home. My helmet had a 2 - 3 cm deep groove in it that ran at least 3 inches long! I can’t imagine what that would have been like for my child if I HAD NOT been wearing my helmet that day. Needless to say, I immediately bought a new helmet and I NEVER ride without it!!!

October 1st, 2008 3:04 am

Karl On Sea says:

This is far more complex than “I fell off my bike, and if I hadn’t been wearing a helmet I’d have been dead”. For every site that has a set of stats saying one thing, there’s another saying completely the opposite. My particular favourites are The British Medical Association (firmly pro-helmet) and the British Medical Journal (not so much - in fact bordering on anti-helmet). Go figure.

The issue I’d be concerned with most is the overall cost to society. It’s one of those important Vs urgent things - on the one hand, getting existing cyclists to wear a helmet seems urgent, as in the event of a fall (which could happen today, right now) it may save them from serious injury.

On the other hand, getting society as a whole to ride their bikes is important - and if we don’t get this done soon, likely to become urgent too. The predicted cost to society of increased obesity rates in the UK alone is £1bn by 2010, with an average reduced life expectancy of nine years in those affected (33% of men and 28% of women).

I believe that wearing a helmet really is an issue of personal choice. But the more we talk about helmets, the more the non-cycling majority will perceive that cycling as ‘dangerous’ - whether they actually believe that, or can just use it as a convenient excuse really doesn’t matter. The reality in terms of your chances of being involved in an accident where a helmet would help, compared with the risks associated with a sedentary lifestyle are completely the opposite. Not cycling at all (as one of the easiest forms of activity to include in everyday life) is far more dangerous than cycling without a helmet.

So let’s focus on the big picture - getting a third of the population cycling. And then worry about protecting them from the miniscule risks of head injuries.