Another bike helmet article

Bike helmet laws saving lives, say researchers - ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

pretty average article, but the comments are a fairly good read.

I can’t resist reading the comments on these articles with sick fascination. The vast majority of them are yawn inducing / enraging / not helpful in any way, but ocassionally you get lols like

“urban assault teams delivering their precious fat cargo to school”

Pretty worthless article / research though.

“Imagine how stupid it is to force someone to wear a helmet just because he/she is cycling a stretch of 2 km bicycle lane which has minimal human traffic.”
Obviously never ridden in a bike lane around the city!

I got hit in a bike lane about 1km from home and after flying over the boot of the car onto the road, I was damn glad I had a helmet on.

Interesting comments indeed. Most contributors seem to favour bike helmet laws. Those contributors don’t argued that:
b [/b] bike helmet laws discourage people from cycling (the “lack of use of Brisbane’s City Bikes” is offered as evidence of this);
b[/b] increased obesity and other health problems caused by reduced cycling participation are more significant than the injuries that helmets prevent;
b [/b] bike helmets are unnecessary for short and ‘low risk’ trips (e.g. helmets should not be compulsory on shared-use paths);
b[/b] bike helmet laws are an infringement of people’s civil liberties, and adults should be free to decide for themselves whether to wear a helmet (and, presumably, also free to take the consequences of that decision);
b [/b] the real bike safety issues are unsafe roads and motorists driving dangerously, and the helmet law debate is an unhelpful distraction from that issue; and/or
b [/b] the real bike safety issue are cyclists who don’t obey the road rules, and the helmet law debate is an unhelpful distraction from that issue.

One contributor took the last point further and said that cyclists should all be licensed and insured like motorists (i.e. we need more regulation, not less).

Interestingly, two arguments that didn’t appear in the article, or in the comments, were:

  1. (against bike helmet laws) — wearing bike helmets actually increases neck/spinal injuries because (as I understand this argument) a helmet-wearing cyclist’s neck is subject to more torque (twisting force) when the helmet grazes a hard surface, or takes a glancing blow, during an accident; and

  2. (in favour of bike helmet laws) — the ‘civil liberty’ argument ignores the fact that the whole of society suffers when a cyclist suffers from head injuries (or from more serious head injuries) because they weren’t wearing a bike helmet — including tax payers who pay for the cyclist’s medical expenses, rehabilitation (if that is possible) and social security benefits (if the cyclist doesn’t recover sufficiently); including everyone who pays higher health insurance premiums and other insurance premiums because of the cyclist’s medical/rehab costs; and including the psychological impact on family, friends and those who witnessed an accident which was far more damaging than it needed to be.

I’m a great believer in bike helmets - largely because I believe bike helmets have saved me from head injury twice. I’m also in favour of bike helmet laws - largely because I think that a cyclist who suffers a head injury because he’s chosen not to wear a helmet can’t morally expect other people to cover any of the cost of his choice, and yet I also believe society can’t really abandon that person.

These “debates” usually miss the point, which to me is about whether the government should limit your freedom of choice, not whether helmets are useful or not.

If it was truly all about safety and public benefit, then motorists would be required to wear helmets.

Wow. You actually managed to vary this common argument in a way that doesn’t make you sounds like a complete moron. I’m impressed.

It’s a nice change from the usual “I KNOW I’D BE DEAD IF I DIDN’T WEAR A HELMET BECAUSE A BIRD ONCE CRAPPED ON MY HELMET” dribble, from people who think that the slightest bump on the head will always result in instantaneous death.

This, however, I have difficulty reading as anything other than, "I’m happy for society to pay for head injuries sustained by pedestrians without expecting them to wear restrictive protective equipment, but wouldn’t grant cyclists the same treatment because I either hate all cyclists or just haven’t given this issue any thought beyond my own blind prejudice, ingrained by growing up in an area where helmets are mandatory.” :slight_smile:

Man, if there was a word count below our Avatars, El Kabong would be winning hands down!

Back to helmet debate #357

Should we cover the costs of treatment for people that smoke cigarettes or spend too much time in the sun and end up with cancer, when EVERYONE knows full well that these two ‘activities’ are a main cause of cancer?


My kind of thinking here

At the same time, I find stupid people pretty insufferable. I’m all for them not wearing helmets if it prevents them from procreating in any fashion, or better still prevents them from wasting precious oxygen by continuing to exist.
Kayzersoze | Melb - June 23, 2011, 3:21PM

Gold star Kayzer…


yeah, you can’t just single out cyclists who get injured. there’s a fuckload of things ppl do in everyday life that can cause injury in the end - playing just about any kind of sport, eating too much, drinking too much, accidents. this is why we have a healthcare system.
i’m sure some would say you didn’t deserve treatment when you were injured cycling cos you shouldn’t have been on the road in the 1st place… (if you were injured on the road that is)

Dave S - I write too much, so I’ll keep this short:

First, your post suggests that people only favour bike helmet if they have an exaggerated sense of vulnerability or fear of death (you say - “the usual “I KNOW I’D BE DEAD IF I DIDN’T WEAR A HELMET BECAUSE A BIRD ONCE CRAPPED ON MY HELMET” dribble”). Why? Do you have any research to justify that characterisation? If not, you seem to have assumed that’s so because it satisfies & reinforces your own blind prejudice.

Second, your post wrongly compares bike helmets with helmets for pedestrians on the false assumption that there’s an equal need for both. That is clearly a fallacy (due to different speeds, different interaction with motorists, etc, etc). Your argument, which relies on that fallacy, must fail.

Iwearmoccos - Luckily, we live in a compassionate society that doesn’t abandon people who suffer as a result of their own poor choices (in this case, refusing to wear a bike helmet). However, because society pays part of the price of those poor choices, it’s also reasonable for society to try to prevent people making those choices.

The JAMS - See above (the healthcare system is part of our compassionate society). Society already tries to prevent people from eating too much, drinking too much, driving without a seatbelt, etc. However, the risks posed by cycling (and “just about any kind of sport”) need to be balanced against the health benefits — which also benefit society. That’s part of what the whole bike helmet law debate is about.

That’s the question I struggle with really.

At what point is the “need” (or perceived need), enough justification for government intervention?

For example, I’m happy to accept that mandatory seatbelts in cars is a good thing on the basis that wearing a seatbelt is not generally inconvenient and lots of people would otherwise be killed or injured.

I haven’t heard any compelling argument for mandatory bicycle helmets, but I have heard some reasonable arguments against it. I guess I just don’t believe that cycling is dangerous enough that the law should force helmets on everyone.

im wary of entering this debate, but my personal experience with using my helmet to protect my head in falls/crashes (both a bike helmet and the old pro-tec brain bucket) vs not having a helmet on (skateboarding falls) indicates that hair/skin/caps have a higher co-efficient of friction (ie drag more) than a helmet. the blow might be softer with one of the above but any torque is likely to be higher as you skid/bounce across the ground.

i remember seeing some data/investigation with your argument for motorbike helmets, but in the case of a bike helmet the blow would be less (slower speeds), plus it focused more on how full-face helmets can more easily cause whiplash due to the twisting force from the front of the helmet hitting the ground. i had a friend who used to wear his Dh helmet to snowboard… until he went down one day and tweaked his neck thanks to glancing off his face and his helmet turning his head the ‘wrong’ way.

Err, no, it says nothing of the sort. I merely stated that it’s common for people who have cracked helmets to assume that they’d be dead if not for the helmet. (As if a piece of polystyrene designed to break is no weaker than the human head.) I never said anything about this being a prequisite to favouring helmet laws.

Second, your post wrongly compares bike helmets with helmets for pedestrians on the false assumption that there’s an equal need for both. That is clearly a fallacy (due to different speeds, different interaction with motorists, etc, etc).

10 times as many pedestrians die on the roads compared with cyclists. Seems to me like there’s much more of a need for them to wear helmets.

Awww, did you study logic in high school this morning? Maybe come back when you actually understand what you’re writing? (PROTIP: “Fallacy” doesn’t mean anything you happen to disagree with.)

A shitload more people get head injuries in motor vehicle crashes than will ever get head injuries from bicycle crashes. Yet they make it compulsory for cyclists and not motorists.

I’m all for wearing helmets, but reckon it should be a choice. Utility/short distance cycling use really suffers because of it.

There we go. End of thread.