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Thread: The Bike Helmet Debate Thread (formerly part of Bike Question)

  1. #1

    The Bike Helmet Debate Thread (formerly part of Bike Question)

    MOD Note: This thread split from Bike Question thread. Please keep the helmet debate here.
    -el Guapo


    Sorry, they don't.

    http://bicycleaustin.info/articles/helmet-efficacy.html

    I'm amazed that we now think it criminal to send out a kid without a helmet, when 90% of us rode bikes as kids, and 0% of us rode helmets. I never knew anybody who ever got a serious head injury of any kind.

    If helmets provided the protection people claim, the safety benefit would be detectible by now in the general population. It's not, and if you put aside the hysteria for a minute and look at the physical construction of a helmet, you can understand why - it's a small chunk of STYROFOAM. Motorcycle helmets, on the other hand, might actually work - but nobody would wear them, so that's why we ended up with these useless pieces of plumage.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian el Guapo's avatar
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    The article you source is a far cry from “helmets don’t work.” I guess we will just have to differ on this issue.

  3. #3
    Quote Originally posted by el Guapo
    The article you source is a far cry from “helmets don’t work.” I guess we will just have to differ on this issue.
    That's ridiculous.

    If helmets promise a reduction in head injuries of (85 or 90 or 98) percent, and the percentage of helmet usage in the population rises from nearly zero to nearly half, and yet the trendline for bicyclist head injuries is indistinguishable from that of pedestrians...

    what is the most logical conclusion here?

  4. #4
    Cyburbian jresta's avatar
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    I've been doored twice so far. Nothing serious but not something i'd like to repeat.
    we have narrow streets here and a passing car puts you clearly in the door zone.
    If it's a time of day when i expect a lot of people to be coming home from work i take the middle of the street and ride fast. It's usually the old people with the lead foot that tailgate you and beep relentlessly.

    biking is pretty big here so most drivers, however grudgingly, are starting to "share the road". I think that's how it happens. The bigger the cycling population the more comfortable drivers become with it.

    That still doesn't stop me from yelling "get a bike you lazy fat a**" to drivers who give me the mirror squeeze.
    Indeed you can usually tell when the concepts of democracy and citizenship are weakening. There is an increase in the role of charity and in the worship of volunteerism. These represent the élite citizen's imitation of noblesse oblige; that is, of pretending to be aristocrats or oligarchs, as opposed to being citizens.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by doinky
    That's ridiculous.

    If helmets promise a reduction in head injuries of (85 or 90 or 98) percent, and the percentage of helmet usage in the population rises from nearly zero to nearly half, and yet the trendline for bicyclist head injuries is indistinguishable from that of pedestrians...

    what is the most logical conclusion here?
    I own a helmet, and I use it most of the time, because I know what they can do. When I was living in Marquette Mi, a friend of mine was in a bad bike accident. He was in a coma for a while because he did not have a helmet. Several others, have walked away from the same accident.

    I agree with EG
    Invest in the things today, that provide the returns tomorrow.

  6. #6
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    Wear a helmet!

    Trust in doinky's statistical analysis or how about a real life experience. I was involve in a bike/vehicle collision, the driver made a left turn in front of me and I was traveling at around 20 miles per hour. After two perfectly excuted forward flips the first thing to come in contact with the asphalt was my head (protected by my helmet). A lady witness the event and ran over to me as crawled over to the side of the road and stated I thought for sure you were dead. The police showed up and after they took the accident report asked if the could have my helmet which was split in half for their bike safety rodeo they hold every year. Did I mention I broke my foot which was the second thing that hit the asphalt after my head?

  7. #7

    "my helmet saved mah life!"

    "real life experience" - you guys crack me up. How on earth do you have any idea that these helmets saved these people? Did they repeat the same exact accident later without a helmet and die? Because that's what it takes to get within shouting distance of proof, you know.

    If I wreck my bike while wearing a tophat, and it gets ripped to shreds while I fall and scrape my head, does the fact that I now have a ripped tophat and survived mean that the tophat saved my life?

    People, real-world results trumps anectdotes.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian jresta's avatar
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    i was late for work one day and was riding fast up a street with trolley tracks. I don't like crossing back and forth over them (i should have, it would've given me a better view). Anway, i was coming up to a light that was just turning yellow and i thought i had it. There was this guy sitting at the light in an SUV looking at me so i knew he wasn't going to take off until i was clear. Well, a car was coming up in the other lane, blocked from my view by the guys SUV, the guy in the car was anticipating the light turning green and didn't slow down at all as he approached the intersection. He came within inches of my front tire. I locked up my brakes and forgot to shift my weight to the back tire and my bike did an endo - only i somehow managed to get my feet between my arms and the handlebars and landed on my feet, still holding on to the bike.

    The guy in the SUV rolled up, put his window down, and as i composed myself he said "you got mad skills dawg, mad skills . . . damn!"

    I'm not so reckless anymore. I still don't wear a helmet in the city but if i take my bike into the suburbs i absolutely do.
    Indeed you can usually tell when the concepts of democracy and citizenship are weakening. There is an increase in the role of charity and in the worship of volunteerism. These represent the élite citizen's imitation of noblesse oblige; that is, of pretending to be aristocrats or oligarchs, as opposed to being citizens.

  9. #9

    In my adult riding

    In my decade or so of serious adult riding, including 10-15 mile commutes to/from the suburbs 1-5 days a week, the only place other than the mountain bike trails where I ever wrecked was at a stoplight in a small town (extreme outskirts of San Marcos, TX) on a very slick street. My chest and knees hit the street and were abraded.

    Had I worn a T-shirt that day, I'd be here proclaiming that if you don't wear a T-shirt while riding, you deserve to die. After all, the T-shirt saved my life (preventing me from getting massive chest injuries, of course).

    Instead, I had ridden shirtless, and got some raspberries on my chest, brushed myself off, and continued on my way to New Braunfels to go toobing.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian jordanb's avatar
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    Well I wear a helmet because it's required by law in Chicago, and if putting a peice of plastic and styrofoam on my head gives the CPD one less reason to harass me, that's a good thing in my book.

    As to if they help or not... It's really a cost/risk assessment thing. The cost of wearing a helmet is $15 for the helmet, plus having to have it on your head, which for me isn't a big deal because it's pretty light and comfortable. Actually, since I already own the helmet the marginal cost of wearing it is just whatever (slight) discomfort it causes. Since the cost of low, even if the marginal risk of getting injured without a helmet as opposed to with it is pretty low, it still makes sense to wear it.

  11. #11

    "Cost" of helmet

    1. Note my location. (cool is not a problem; hot is).
    2. For kids, requiring helmets means discouraging cycling. Even with the (discredited) 85% head-injury benefit, some countries determine that it's STILL not worth it to require helmets, given the increase in obesity that results from less cycling.
    3. Helmets are sometimes inconvenent; sometimes not. A law requiring it doesn't make a distinction. I wore mine mountain biking; I didn't wear it riding downtown to see live music (choices were lock it to the bike or carry it with me; neither one appealed).

    And finally...

    4. (possibly most important): Buying into the myth that cycling is very dangerous hurts cyclists (and your kids). When Suzy SUV sees you with your helmet, she's thinking "if cycling is so dangerous as to require a safety helmet, maybe little Johnny should just continue riding in my Suburban instead". Ironically, the kid would be safer riding his bike helmetless than strapped in an SUV.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian JNL's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by doinky
    If I wreck my bike while wearing a tophat, and it gets ripped to shreds while I fall and scrape my head, does the fact that I now have a ripped tophat and survived mean that the tophat saved my life?
    Not necessarily, but maybe it means you avoided having your head "ripped to shreds".

    Here, bicycle helmets are required by law and have been for some time. About 90% of cyclists comply and anyone caught not wearing one will receive an instant fine. They are just part of cycling and there is no stigma, embarassment or harassment related to wearing one. We have safety standards for helmets.

    Quote Originally posted by doinky
    if you put aside the hysteria for a minute and look at the physical construction of a helmet, you can understand why - it's a small chunk of STYROFOAM
    For your information, here's how they are supposed to work:
    (from http://www.helmets.org/henderso.htm)

    When a head is impacted, violent forces of acceleration are applied to the brain. These may be both linear and rotational. Resulting forces in the brain result in deformations throughout the brain tissue. Acceleration alone, in the absence of fracture, can result in functional injury to the brain.

    Injuries to the scalp, skull and brain may be inflicted by a variety of mechanisms, and to protect against these different mechanisms requires a variety of approaches. The two fundamental principles for helmet design are centred on the use of padding to absorb energy and on the distribution of impact loadings.

    The primary objective of head protection is the minimisation of brain tissue distortion on impact. A protective helmet usually consists of two parts: the outer shell and a padded layer for energy absorption. Most bicycle helmets are now made without a hard outer shell.

    It is the plastic foam liner of the helmet that is responsible for absorbing the energy of impact through its own destruction. It should have a well defined relatively constant crushing strength, and be essentially plastic in the nature of its crushing.

  13. #13

    "how helmets are supposed to work"

    The physics of a bicycle helmet simply cannot produce the claimed safety benefit.

    And the real-world evidence shows that, in fact, this is the case: bicycle helmets are not reducing the number or severity of head injuries in actual practice.

    Given the facts on the ground, the people asserting substantial safety benefit from the styrofoam hat would logically be expected to now labor under a greater burden of proof. We "took your word for it" once, and the results were abyssmal - the real-world safety benefit of a bicycle helmet does, in fact, appear to be equal to that of a formal top hat.

  14. #14
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    Sorry that I didn't conduct a scientific study after my accident to prove that my helmet was responsible for preventing a head injury. I wanted to try it again without my helmet but my bike was totaled and the guy who hit me was too shaken up. Unfortunately I was left with a poor excuse for proof called deductive reasoning. Hum, head strike ground with helmet, helmet splits in two, very groggy, kinda disoriented, hum if head strike ground without helmet maybe it split in two, or at the very least much more groggy and disoriented, huh helmet good. But at last I thinkg I have a solution. Someone could volunteer (not me) to have a five pound weight dropped from say a height of about five feet on their head, probably first with a bike helmet on so their still lucid enough to participate in the second round when it would be dropped on their helmet-less head. As an extra added incentive one could video tape the whole thing and send it off to Jackass and receive a little notoriety. Common sense tells me I rather be wearing a helmet. Just curious are the statistics regarding head injuries and helmet use controlled for the proper use of a helmet?

  15. #15

    Real-world trumps anectdotes, part two

    Quote Originally posted by PGPG
    Sorry that I didn't conduct a scientific study after my accident to prove that my helmet was responsible for preventing a head injury. I wanted to try it again without my helmet but my bike was totaled and the guy who hit me was too shaken up. Unfortunately I was left with a poor excuse for proof called deductive reasoning. Hum, head strike ground with helmet, helmet splits in two, very groggy, kinda disoriented, hum if head strike ground without helmet maybe it split in two, or at the very least much more groggy and disoriented, huh helmet good. But at last I thinkg I have a solution. Someone could volunteer (not me) to have a five pound weight dropped from say a height of about five feet on their head, probably first with a bike helmet on so their still lucid enough to participate in the second round when it would be dropped on their helmet-less head. As an extra added incentive one could video tape the whole thing and send it off to Jackass and receive a little notoriety. Common sense tells me I rather be wearing a helmet. Just curious are the statistics regarding head injuries and helmet use controlled for the proper use of a helmet?
    I notice the old 5-pound-weight canard is still popular. Son, I was hearing that ten years ago. It's ludicrous. That doesn't represent the bicycle accident you had in any way, shape, or form, nor does it represent any realistic scenario in the real world.

    Anyways, it doesn't matter. If 50% of the population is wearing a helmet, and even 20% of those people are wearing the helmet correctly, and your supposed safety benefit exists, we
    ought to be able to see the results in the real world . The fact that we don't shows as conclusively as possible that the promised safety benefits are not true.

    Your story is the modern equivalent of 1880s Jethro drinking the miracle elixir and his cold going away. After that, all the science in the world couldn't convince him that the miracle elixir didn't cure him.

  16. #16
    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by doinky
    2. For kids, requiring helmets means discouraging cycling. Even with the (discredited) 85% head-injury benefit, some countries determine that it's STILL not worth it to require helmets, given the increase in obesity that results from less cycling.
    What is it to require safety features and equipment for anything? Last year, PA ruled that you did not need a helmet to ride a motor cycle. Does that make them any less effective? Some countries do not require seatbelts in cars, does that make them any less effective. Every place has different safety regulations, but the overall cause and effect for all these cases do not change. In PA, do they have harder skulls then in MI? Not that I could tell. (at times they think that they do, but the human body is a delicate yet resilient machine) When it gets hurt it can sometimes repair it self. Have you ever known someone that has been injured and not wearing safety gear? Why do you think that baseball catchers wear a sports cup, will they die if they get hit? (You might for a bit, but no, you will not die.) It hurts even when you do have a cup on. But you know what, there is less risk of long term damage that could alter your life and future choices. I think that the Helmet Vs No Helmet controversy will go on forever. But I think that we should look at the impact that it could have on our lives. Personally, I believe that the benefit out weighs the risk regardless of a definite will it help or not.
    Invest in the things today, that provide the returns tomorrow.

  17. #17
    Cyburbian martini's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by michaelskis
    Personally, I believe that the benefit out weighs the risk regardless of a definite will it help or not.
    dingdingding! Granted, I haven't read the report from doinky in order to answer this, but c'mon, using stats to try and prove something? We all know that stats can easily be manilpulated to show what ever results you want them to. Numbers are not the truth. WIth the voracity that doinky is defending his position, you'd think that he's got a personal gain to come from this study.

    Personally, I've cracked at least three helmets(that I can remember), and each time I KNOW it saved me from a more serious head injury/death/comatoseness. Each of these accidents happen on a mountain bike though, not on the road. What this says about my riding skill, well, we'll just leave that one be, eh? I''l just keep on wearing mine, thank you. So what if its a placebo? Has a placebo ever hurt anyone?
    You're more boring than you know.

  18. #18
    Quote Originally posted by martini
    dingdingding! Granted, I haven't read the report from doinky in order to answer this, but c'mon, using stats to try and prove something? We all know that stats can easily be manilpulated to show what ever results you want them to. Numbers are not the truth. WIth the voracity that doinky is defending his position, you'd think that he's got a personal gain to come from this study.
    The 'manipulated stats' come from a study referenced by the NYT in a climate where every excuse possible was given to try to desperately cling to the theory that helmets are still a great safety device for cyclists.

    So, you haven't bothered to read the report; and yet you KNOW better.

    Well, with that, I leave you to wallow in the mire of your own ignorance.
    Last edited by Tranplanner; 07 May 2004 at 1:35 PM. Reason: personal attack deleted

  19. #19
    maudit anglais
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    [mod hat on] Let's keep the debate clean guys. Doinky, as much as you might disagree with another user's opinion, referring to them as an "asshat" is not appropriate. [/mod hat]

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    Son, please allow me to clarify my point. As the article you provided states "Almost no one suggests that riders should stop wearing helmets, which researchers have found can reduce the severity of brain injuries by as much as 88 percent." suggests helmets do work. My illustration was simply to prove the point that you discount the benefits of styrofoam and that it does provide some protection. I concede to the fact that my example does not imitate the accident I had but to suggest that my skull would have been in the same shape whether or not I was wearing a helmet is absurd. Following your logic just think of all those stupid people who pack fragile things in what else but styrofoam when they ship them. It is obviously a useless material with no protective qualities like absorbing and dissipating energy. News flash there is a distinction between the number of head injuries and the severity of head injuries. Like the article pointed out people ride bikes much more aggressively today than they did back in 1991, try looking there for an explanation regarding the increase in head injuries not at helmets.

  21. #21
    Corn Burning Fool giff57's avatar
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    I had to read the article to see what all of the fuss was about, and it doesn't help anyone's case. It outlines an anomaly in the data, that is all. One cannot make ANY conclusions about the effectiveness of helmets based on it. My stat prof liked to say "correlation does not equal causality" . Doinky is saying that because there is a inverse correlation between head injuries and helmet use, the conclusion is helmets do not work. I say correlation does not equal causality. There are many variables that could be at work.

    On a related note, I used to work with the motorcycle anti helmet folks. The State's argument was that not wearing helmets costs the state money for health care. When one looked at the statistics, the costs were greater in states that required helmets. It was determined that the helmets worked as intended, survivability was increased, but it cost more because the hospital stays were longer. It is much cheaper for unhelmeted folks, because more were DOA.
    “As soon as public service ceases to be the chief business of the citizens, and they would rather serve with their money than with their persons, the State is not far from its fall”
    Jean-Jacques Rousseau

  22. #22
    Cyburbian martini's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by doinky
    The 'manipulated stats' come from a study referenced by the NYT in a climate where every excuse possible was given to try to desperately cling to the theory that helmets are still a great safety device for cyclists.

    So, you haven't bothered to read the report; and yet you KNOW better.

    Well, with that, I leave you to wallow in the mire of your own ignorance.
    Fine. I read it. And now I want to see more than one study that comes from a source that we all know is reputed to have questionable sources in the past. I don't see where they went "out of thier way" to find a way around the result either. One questionable study does not a definitive conclusion make.

    Almost no one suggests that riders should stop wearing helmets, which researchers have found can reduce the severity of brain injuries by as much as 88 percent.
    Yep. Helmets are absolutely worthless.

    Still, many cycling advocates contend that it is not bicyclists but drivers who are more reckless. Distractions like cell phones have made drivers less attentive, they say, and congestion is making roads more dangerous for cyclists. They also believe that some drivers of sport utility vehicles and other trucks simply drive too close to cyclists.
    Hmmm....NOTHING will protect a cyclist from a 3000lb death hammer like another car. Maybe all cyclists should just stop riding?

    Yeah, I guess you see through the bike industry. After 15 years there, I had become deeply entrenched in the conspiracy to force the country to wear bicycle helmets for saftey. Yeah...the industry was and still is raking in the dough hand over fist because of our back door dealing with those 19 state legislatures. Thats why the whole bike industry is doing so well right now.

    Nice personal insult there too. And you're in a professional position?
    Last edited by martini; 07 May 2004 at 2:51 PM. Reason: bad grammar....
    You're more boring than you know.

  23. #23

    giff made mistaken conclusion

    giff, in fact, my conclusion is that helmets cannot be shown to work. I'll admit to sloppy language, shortening to "do not work". Note I did not use "can not work".

    If the population results show no benefit, it is thus incumbent on those claming the benefit to figure out why, instead of continuing to stick their fingers in their ears and claim a 80-90% head injury reduction.

    To moderator and martini:

    "WIth the voracity that doinky is defending his position, you'd think that he's got a personal gain to come from this study"

    I viewed this as a personal insult and responded in kind. I think it appropriate to not be the first one to drag a discussion into the mud; but I find it curious that nobody said anything to martini about this quote.
    Last edited by NHPlanner; 12 May 2004 at 7:02 PM.

  24. #24
    Cyburbian martini's avatar
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    I didn't call you an "asshat", that's why. I simply stated that it sounds like you either have something to gain from this report, or you wrote it. I don't think that's an insult.
    You're more boring than you know.

  25. #25
    Corn Burning Fool giff57's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by doinky
    If the population results show no benefit, it is thus incumbent on those claming the benefit to figure out why, instead of continuing to stick their fingers in their ears and claim a 80-90% head injury reduction.

    With this, I would agree. I feel it is the individual's right to decide if they want to risk splitting their melon. The government spends entirely too much money protecting folks from themselves.
    “As soon as public service ceases to be the chief business of the citizens, and they would rather serve with their money than with their persons, the State is not far from its fall”
    Jean-Jacques Rousseau

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