Saturday, August 30, 2008

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.


Anonymous said...

Good post. Helmets are a required piece of cycling gear in my book.

Doug said...

Just got a new helmet for my son today.

Richard Keatinge said...

Interesting idea. The only trouble is that helmets actually don't seem to work - enforced helmet laws have made no difference to head injuries, see The figures you quoted are based on failing to record helmet use among crash victims, so it looks as if they're almost all not wearing helmets. See Personally I gave up helmet use years ago, and I never got my children to wear a helmet - apart from not working, the things have strangled children, see If you want to wear one despite all that, go ahead, but I would suggest care with what you do or suggest to others.

Anonymous said...

Lighten up Richard, no one is advocating helmet laws. And quoting Wikipedia as a source is, well, problematic at best. Wearing a helmet earlier this spring saved me from a trip to the emergency room in the very least, and to flat out tell me they don't work is complete BS in my experience. You don't want to wear one, fine. You don't care if your children wear one, fine. You can spout semi-scientific studies and anecdotal evidence until you turn blue in the face and it will not change my mind. You see, because of my helmet, I still have one that works very well thankyou!

bikingbrady said...

Richard, much like the Mayor was saying, I am NOT proposing laws, I'm just sayin'. And like I was sayin': IF you were a friend, I'd tell you to wear a helmet.

Nice "research" on the strangulation. None of these were bicycling accidents. They were non bicycle related injuries/deaths. Glad you aren't MY doctor.

jamesmommy05 said...

My husband and I have been going round and round about him wearing a helmet on his motorcycle. As a nurse and a mother I can say that helmets do save lives. I have seen the results of NOT wearing one. I make James wear one even on his little Hot Wheels trike thing!

The Designer's Prospective said...

I'm a firm beliver in helmet use. For instance last year when I was mt. biking, I crashed wearing a full face helmet. I got 11 stiches above my eye. If I wouldn't have been wearing a helmet, I'm sure I would have had broken bones as well as a concussion and probably no eye at all. Helmets do save lives and no, they do not look funny. If anyone thinks they look funny, try this, wear a helmet and smack your head on the pavement, then don't wear one... see which has a better result.

hellimat said...

Trying to prove "scientifically" whether or not helmets are beneficial is going to be very hard. How do you balance out all of the other factors - mis-reporting, driver behavior, increased cyclists on roads, etc etc.

Anecdotally, or just logically, if you fall down and hit your head, that'll hurt. If you fall down and hit your helmet, you buy a new helmet. Are helmets perfect? No. But wearing a helmet is still the best/easiest protection a person can get.

DIRK said...

WOW - This could be a never ending discussion.... Hey BB. Come up to Sioux Falls on Saturday.
FAB is setting up along the bike trail to raise awareness of helmet use.

Anonymous said...

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!!!