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Do Bike Helmet laws make bikers safer?

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Do Bike Helmet laws make bikers safer?

Postby rabble » Fri May 31, 2013 3:29 pm

A Canadian study raises questions.

Nothing conclusive, but it looks like raising awareness and upgrading the infrastructure is what's making things safer out there, not the helmets.

But upon closer inspection, according to Dennis and company, this positive effect failed to stand. On the contrary, the researchers concluded that head injuries were decreasing across the country at a rate that wasn't "appreciably altered" by the new helmet laws. Other rider health initiatives — namely, public safety campaigns and the introduction of better bike infrastructure — rendered the contribution of helmet laws "minimal":
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Re: Do Bike Helmet laws make bikers safer?

Postby Michael Patrick » Fri May 31, 2013 3:39 pm

Anecdote doesn't equal data, but...

I was hit by a car while riding a bike the day before my eighteenth birthday. I was listed as DOA on both pages of the police report (and then they scratched it out and marked the box for injured but not dead yet...). They called a priest to perform my Last Rites.

I had some pretty serious head injuries. I was bleeding out of both of my ears. Unconscious in the intensive care ward is not how I figured I'd spend my 18th birthday...

I wasn't wearing a helmet. Not many people did back then.

Maybe I still would have been injured if I had been wearing a helmet, but I'm convinced that my injuries would have been a lot less severe if I had.
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Re: Do Bike Helmet laws make bikers safer?

Postby Michael Patrick » Fri May 31, 2013 3:47 pm

The plural of anecdote equals data...

My older brother competes in triathlons. A couple of years ago he was out for a training ride, hit some gravel in a turn and wiped out big time. Broke his collar bone.

He also completely shattered his helmet when his head hit the pavement. Of course, that's exactly what the helmet was designed to do, absorb the shock so his noggin wouldn't. He'd have been a whole lot worse off if he hadn't been wearing a helmet.

After my accident everyone in my family wears helmets every time they ride.
Last edited by Michael Patrick on Fri May 31, 2013 3:48 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Do Bike Helmet laws make bikers safer?

Postby dave esmond » Fri May 31, 2013 3:48 pm

I always wear one.

But...

The newest issue of Bicycling magazine has a very interesting article on helmets. They provide some protection, but maybe not as much as many of us think they do depending on what kind of accident you have.

http://www.bicycling.com/senseless/
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Re: Do Bike Helmet laws make bikers safer?

Postby rabble » Fri May 31, 2013 3:48 pm

The study talks about that sort of thing. What I gather is, the conditions that caused your accident are not as common any more. (Well, not as common in Canada.)

Helmets do make the individual rider safer, no question.

But what's clearly good for the individual rider appears oddly neutral (or worse) for riders at large. Public education and infrastructure upgrades, as the aforementioned works shows, protect riders considerably even before helmets come into play.
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Re: Do Bike Helmet laws make bikers safer?

Postby Endo Rockstar » Fri May 31, 2013 4:20 pm

dave esmond wrote:I always wear one.

But...

The newest issue of Bicycling magazine has a very interesting article on helmets. They provide some protection, but maybe not as much as many of us think they do depending on what kind of accident you have.

http://www.bicycling.com/senseless/


that's a little disheartening, I don't think its a bad thing that a bike helmet's primary function should be trying to prevent the "death blow" head injury -- but I do think most people have had more experiences with the "bell ringer" style of head injury.

From my younger days I've run out of fingers to count my concussions (one could argue that I need the fingers to count at this point). All but a couple of them were while I was hearing helmets. Football, Motorcycles, Skiing, Kayaking, Skateboarding, and biking -- the helmets kept me from cracking my noodle open but I still ended up in the emergency room.

-Dan Motor
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Re: Do Bike Helmet laws make bikers safer?

Postby snoqueen » Fri May 31, 2013 5:31 pm

I have a friend from the Netherlands, where everybody rides a bike everywhere. She says no one wears a helmet, ever. She'd hardly seen one (except in races) before she got here.

Of course, they have a better-developed infrastructure with bike lanes all over, and their drivers are better trained to stop for both bikes and pedestrians.

So if their bikers are as safe or safer than ours, it might not have much to do with helmets at all.

No conclusions, just more anecdotal stuff. I wear one so people don't gripe at me, but since I mostly use bike paths and I'm not super fast, I doubt it makes any difference.
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Re: Do Bike Helmet laws make bikers safer?

Postby Stebben84 » Fri May 31, 2013 6:14 pm

dave esmond wrote:The newest issue of Bicycling magazine has a very interesting article on helmets.


That was a good article. I've actually never thought of my helmet as preventing a concussion(much like football player's helmets don't and they get the best of the best equipment) but as preventing me from getting serious brain damage or death. That said, changes in the industry are still not a bad thing.

I got hit on my bike a number of years ago and I remember it vividly(to a fault maybe) I distinctly remember hitting my head on the car and then on the ground when I fell and one of the first things I thought was how glad I was wearing a helmet. The back of my head hit the ground pretty hard and without a helmet, things may have turned out differently.
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Re: Do Bike Helmet laws make bikers safer?

Postby john_titor » Fri May 31, 2013 8:00 pm

I rode a bike for 20+ years without a helmet and had no problems.
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Re: Do Bike Helmet laws make bikers safer?

Postby Stebben84 » Fri May 31, 2013 9:40 pm

john_titor wrote:I rode a bike for 20+ years without a helmet and had no problems.


Did you get hit by a car? I rode a bike for 10 years and got hit by a car, and it wasn't my fault. You got lucky; so should we all just say fuck it because of your situation? If you got hit while you didn't wear a helmet, you might be mumbling right now.
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Re: Do Bike Helmet laws make bikers safer?

Postby Right Bower » Fri May 31, 2013 9:51 pm

john_titor wrote:I rode a bike for 20+ years without a helmet and had no problems.


Interesting, because I think the same thing about my seatbelt.

My helmet story is less exciting than being DOA: I crashed my mountain bike and had the bike land on top of me, specifically, on top of my head. My bell got rung up, and rung up good, even with the helmet on. Glad it was there.
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Re: Do Bike Helmet laws make bikers safer?

Postby john_titor » Fri May 31, 2013 9:58 pm

I got hit by a car twice when I was a kid. I got hit by another kid on a bike. I also wiped out a lot randomly. They all hurt, but I was fine. My point was that sometimes bad things happen, but most of the time they don't. Please wear a helmet if you want to.

p.s.
Stebben84 wrote:You got lucky; so should we all just say fuck it because of your situation? If you got hit while you didn't wear a helmet, you might be mumbling right now.

you seem more than usual grumpy.
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Re: Do Bike Helmet laws make bikers safer?

Postby fennel » Sat Jun 01, 2013 5:54 pm

I once T-boned a Delta 88 that boated out in front of me as I was descending a hll. The police estimated my speed at the limit, 30 mph. Yo, I flew over the trunk, continued onward for a good 20 feet, and landed on my ass hard enough to get a concussion – or perhaps I folded forward onto my legs. Not sure.

Witnesses were pretty sure I was a goner; it was a spectacular stroke of luck that I didn't hit my head either on impact or on the landing. After that, I needed no persuasion to wear a helmet.

I've noticed more folks wearing climbing helmets, which seem sturdier and better shaped for staying in place during an accident. Does anyone know if that's so? I have heard the trailing points on bike helmets decreases their ability to protect the noggin. Not a good idea to have one's head attached to a lever, I guess.
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Re: Do Bike Helmet laws make bikers safer?

Postby Galoot » Sun Jun 02, 2013 9:32 am

Two more anecdotes to add to the stories, both are about big guys, over 6 feet and 200 pounds.

The first was not on a bicycle, but on inline skates. One of the guys who used to go on the Friday Night Skate with us was a frequent skater on the Monona path. He never wore a helmet until he met some experienced speedskaters who told him lots of stories about falls they had taken, in spite of being excellent skaters. So he started wearing his helmet.

Only a week or two later, he was coming up to the Monona Terrace behind some pedestrians, and called out "on your left!" before he passed them. One idiot moved TO the left, and Tom hit him and went down hard, cracking his helmet in about 3 places. A chunk of the helmet on the left rear had completely broken free, held on only by the helmet straps. Tom didn't even have a concussion. it was pretty obvious from looking at the helmet that Tom would have been very badly hurt without the helmet.

The 2nd story is about my sister's late husband. While Mike did die while on a bicycle, it wasn't due to lack of a helmet, his heart gave out while going up a long ascent in Oregon.

But a month or so before that he was riding back from errands on his nice Ciocc road bike, which had after-market aero bars attached to the handlebars. One aero bar suddenly came loose and dropped into the front wheel, stopping it instantly. Mike went down *hard* onto the asphalt, shattering the front of his helmet. He also banged up his face a bit, but the helmet definitely saved his life that time.

I don't know what to think about all the various studies. My gut feeling is that helmet laws don't actually lead to more people using helmets for casual riding, and that anybody who would use a helmet for training or touring already would have been using one. Do any of the studies actually measure how many people are wearing helmets, vs. just citing helmet laws?
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Re: Do Bike Helmet laws make bikers safer?

Postby snoqueen » Sun Jun 02, 2013 11:29 am

God, you guys have some awful stories. Not easy reading.

The on-your-left/on-your-right thing is more of a hazard than fast riders realize. The safest thing to do when someone comes up and yells this is keep going in a very straight line. Not everybody is quick at identifying left from right as your story shows. In addition the fast rider's brain's navigation system is already locked in on the slower walker's path as perceived right now, so there's a good chance if the walker's vector does not change the rider's instinctive survival programming to avoid him is going to work as designed.

To base one's survival on other people's successful evasion moves is unwise in both a car and on a bike, especially given the level of inattention people give to their environment.
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