Why wearing a bike helmet makes sense to me

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10 Responses

  1. Dave says:

    For a fairly comprehensive round up of research on the effectiveness or otherwise of cycle helmets have a look at: http://cyclehelmets.org/

    My summary would be that there is precious little good research on the subject. Wear a helmet or not as you want – whatever makes you happier.

    Detailed boring argument follows :-)

    It is actually surprisingly hard to do good research on this sort of subject, and the Australian paper you mention is not very convincing. They have (fortunately) a very small sample of people with serious head injuries (0-3 per year), most of whom were presumably wearing helmets (as required by law in Oz). So, I’d guess, roughly 20 serious injuries over 10 years, most of whom were helmet wearers and a few, say around 5 in total, who were not. This is way too small a number to draw any meaningful conclusion from.
    Also, there is no obvious attempt to control for other factors such as age. As an example (which may or may not be true) teenage boys may be both less likely to obey the law on helmets and also less likely to obey other road laws. They will therefore tend to be involved in more crashes, and be for these crashes to be more serious. The reason they are more frequently in hospital is because they are reckless teenage boys, not because they were or were not wearing a helmet.

  2. Andy Watts says:

    The only valid research i have is my past expereance when i was side swipped by a car and his bonnet had a helmet coloured streak across it. With out a helmet it would by an Andy’s head colouered streak (ie red) across it instead.

    Wore a helmet ever since.

  3. Fiona says:

    This is a valid and thorough reply and I will be looking into the research you’ve pointed out. I wonder if any of the evidence would persuade me NOT to wear a helmet though!

  4. Fiona says:

    Scary story. And one similar to close shaves that at least five friends have recounted over the years. I’m with you on the helmet wearing..

  5. Dave says:

    Fiona,

    The research is pretty inconclusive. In my opinion it is:

    A) certainly not strong enough to convince you to wear a helmet if you don’t want to

    and

    B) certainly not strong enough to convince you to not wear one if you do want to

    Just keep on getting out there and enjoying your cycling :-)

  6. Tom says:

    Fi, I agree with you. The debate will continue amongst hard core cyclists about the pro’s and con’s of wearing a helmet but I know that if I was involved in an accident, I know which option I’d choose – to be wearing a helmet.

    I don’t think I cycle more dangerously when wearing a helmet. You’re far more likely to break your collar bone, wrist or ankle in a fall so I’m not going to take extra risks.

    I read some research that said in 100,000 hours of cycling, you won’t need your helmet but for a few seconds of that 100,000 hours, that’s when you’ll need it.

    It’s a bit like going on a building site without a hardhat. Having said all this, I rarely wear mine. I used mine recently in Portugal because I found it helped to shield me from the sun though.

    Anyone who doubts what a serious head injury can do to you, should look at this.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1289616/Labourer-survives-HALF-head-following-25-ft-fall-building-trained-work-on.html

  7. Fiona says:

    Great comments here.. I still can’t find a reason NOT to wear a helmet but then it’s entirely down to preference. It just seems that these days the majority do wear a helmet and it’s always very noticeable when someone doesn’t. Indeed my daughter always points out cyclists who don’t wear helmets because she thinks it’s ‘silly”. Her word not mine!

    I do agree with Dave though – let’s all get out and cycle more!

  8. Gareth Sear says:

    To be honest I can’t think of a reason why you wouldn’t wear a helmet unless there were elements of vanity there (and perhaps peer pressure?). A friend of mine is rapidly losing his nine lives in the name of helmets. Three times his life has probably been saved by wearing a helmet. Once when being taken off his bike by a HGV lorry, another time when taking a fall rock climbing and another time when ice climbing and a chunk of ice fell on him. Yes, he does do dangerous pursuits and cycling on roads is one of them. His (mis) adventures are enough to convince me to always wear a helmet.

  9. Risk compensation (as it’s known) is a very real and non-intuitive phenomenon.

    For instance, it makes sense to wear a seatbelt for saftey in a car. But making it a law to wear seatbelts has never been demonstrated to reduce fatalities.

    A study showed that “drivers drove an average of 8.5 cm closer, and came within 1 meter 23% more often, when a cyclist was wearing a helmet,” and “The closer a driver is to the cyclist, the greater chance of a collision.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Risk_compensation#Bicycle_helmets

    I still wear one except when
    a) it’s so cold I need a woolly hat.
    b) it’s so hot I need a sunhat.

    I have met cyclists who take off the helmet going up hill (slower, sweatier) and put it on for downhill…

  10. Fiona says:

    The risk compensation idea is an interesting point and one I have thought about. But, for me, the difference is: between saving one’s life and reducing the extent of injury. In my experience, too, drivers still drive too close even when i’m not wearing a helmet! There are other obstacles as well, such as pedestrians, animals etc. These obstacles if hit, or run into, are more likely to cause a cyclist injury rather than death because of the speed of your cycling and so a helmet would then come in handy to prevent a bad knock to the head. Other examples would be drivers opening their car doors into traffic and knocking a cyclist off. I know three friends who had this happen to them. In all cases the helmet prevented these people from suffering a far worse injury to their heads. I guess there are lots of variables and lots of opinion. I don’t find a helmet much hassle to wear. yes it does get hot sometimes and i may then leave the helmet off because it’s just too uncomfortable but for the most part it’s not much hassle to wear a helmet so i simply do! each to their own in terms of risk! Thanks for engaging in the thread…

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