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Basem Wasef

Food for Thought: Cyclists Offer Alternate Take on Helmet Usage

By December 26, 2012

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Bicycle Helmet Laws

Whether or not you believe in wearing a lid on a motorcycle, you've probably got a pretty strong opinion about helmet laws-- and based on this New York Times article, it seems bicyclists also face similar issues.

After religiously wearing a lid for decades in the US, the author says that riding a bicycle in Paris sans helmet in Paris left her feeling "exhilarated, not fearful," and goes on to suggest that despite widespread stigmas about helmetless bicycling riding, the health benefits of riding without a lid might significantly outweigh the risks.

Of course, while motorcycles might help keep you feeling young, our motorized steeds lack the obvious health benefits enjoyed by those who rely on pedal power to get from A to B... and our horsepower advantage doesn't exactly do us any favors in the safety department, either. But can we learn something from some of the more libertarian ideals that pertain to helmet use?

Personally, you couldn't pay me to ride a motorcycle without a helmet; that's a risk I'm simply not willing to take. That said, I'd like to hear from you high stakes gamblers: do those of you who shun helmets make the choice because you feel the benefits (feeling wind in your hair) outweigh the risks (serious head injuries, death)? Or do you lean on the classic argument of choosing freedom over state-imposed laws?

Comment below, and/or share your thoughts in this Readers Respond Feature: Do You Ride With a Helmet?

Source: NY Times


Photo © Getty Images

December 26, 2012 at 11:11 am
(1) Greenman says:

I ride both motorized and non-motorized bikes and always wear the lids. I never had an accident that was planned, So I figure protecting the least replaceable/repairable part of my anatomy makes most sense.

December 26, 2012 at 1:01 pm
(2) Scottie says:

I have helmets galore – motorcycle, bicycle, ski. Modern medicine can fix most things, but the brain is still a mystery.

December 26, 2012 at 1:58 pm
(3) Greg Tutunjian says:

I ride both motorcycle and road bicycles with a helmet 100% of the time. I don’t see any sense of freedom exposing my head to impact injury without using common sense.

December 26, 2012 at 2:01 pm
(4) mark says:

got to agree, wearing a helmet is the only way to go and should be law for all bikers if only to protect the fools that dont want to plus here in Canada we have state medical so we all pay for someone who has a brain injury due to there stupidty.

December 26, 2012 at 2:48 pm
(5) Dave says:

The health benefits of brain damage? Yeah right. What a maroon.

December 26, 2012 at 11:31 pm
(6) rick f says:

I saw the article, when it came out and feel the same way today as i did then. I feel naked without a helmet. Just can’t ride without one. Today, on my mtn bike, a maroon in a diesel Dodge pick-up just had to stomp the revs up as he blasted by, inches to spare. Helmet wearer 4 life.

December 27, 2012 at 3:07 am
(7) Peter says:

Mark, How does the Canadian law argue their case that everyone pays for the ones that don’t wear a helmet when Sikhs don’t have to? Isn’t that favourtism?
If one is not able to wear a mandated helmet due to religion, and since motorcycling is a privilege and not a right, then surely motorcyling isn’t an option for them.

December 27, 2012 at 6:01 am
(8) preacher says:

come jan 17 I will have been riding 50 years…I always ride with a helmet . But I don’t think that should be law

December 27, 2012 at 9:26 am
(9) Pete says:

Suffice to say you touched a Canadian nerve on that one.
a) Excellent question
b) Good point
c) Has not been properly addresed by the federal or provincial Gov’t's. They have chosen, instead, to do their Ostritch imitation.

Helmets are bad enough…you should hear what happens when the topic of turbans and ceremonial knives come up when talking about the RCMP uniform…

December 27, 2012 at 9:42 pm
(10) three west says:

I’m with preacher, I now always wear my helmet, but am not sure sure I feel it should be a law. When I lived in town and took city streets to work I never wore a helmet. One of my favorite motorcycle memories ever is riding a river road with a buddy at 25 mph just talking and enjoying the ride. It IS a different experience without a helmet, but I can’t imagine riding without a full face helmet at highway speeds, even just for comfort.

December 29, 2012 at 9:28 am
(11) Stickerchick says:

Been riding 25 years and find it safer without a helmet, that’s right, SAFER. How could that be you say? Has she flipped her lid? Years ago studies were done that compared states with and without helmets and there was no evidence that helmets saved lives. In fact, in many states without helmets laws there were LESS accidents involving motorcycles. The reasons could not be proven but it is a fact that helmet fatique is a real thing. Not only does the helmet weigh on your head, there is also wind drag and venting issues. Helmets can affect your peripheral vision and make it difficult to turn your head to look for traffic properly. One other note, if you really think that a few pounds of plastic is going to make a difference at high speeds, take a good look at what happens to steel at the same speeds. When helmets are DOT tested, they are tested to 11kph, bet you didn’t know that! In the event of the accident already occuring, a helmet might help at low speedsm but at high speeds it is likely to cause whiplash, break into fragments that penetrate the skull. Enjoy the ride whatever you choose to wear!

December 29, 2012 at 1:24 pm
(12) Pete says:

Sure as hell…as inevitable as the sun rising…or maybe some jackass trolling for a few laughs.
This ‘Stickerchick’ one-watt has obviously fallen off and hit her head a few times and is preaching how helmets are dangerous. Too heavy, break into fragments, too hard to turn, obstruct vision, cause dandruff and split ends
My favorite? “Doesn’t work at high speeds” ! No kiddin! Is that a fact?
Let’s poll any of the people who race motorcycles for a living and see what sort of reply you get on that genius statement…after, of course, they stop rolling around the floor laughing.

December 30, 2012 at 10:23 am
(13) Scottie says:

I was just reading the editorial pages in the NY Times and I’ve concluded that, although totally different subjects, the NYT and Stickerchick must get their “facts” from the same sources.

December 31, 2012 at 11:08 am
(14) Czero says:

So when someone exercises their “freedom” by not wearing a helmet, can the emergency room surgeon exercise his or her “freedom” not to treat someone who is willfully stupid after they crack their head open? The libertarian crowd, anti-helmet and seat belt folks included, are constantly touting “personal responsibility” but all they are really doing is dumping responsibility onto someone else, i.e. those in the medical profession in this case.

December 31, 2012 at 11:51 am
(15) Pete says:

Czero…well said!
Anyone choosing not to wear a helmet, should be required to sign a waiver stating their personal medical insurance, and nothing but their personal insurance, will pay for care, feeding, and diaper changes – or funeral costs.
Should probably ‘cc’ their insurance company too. I bet we’ll start changes to coverage eligibility sooner than later.

January 2, 2013 at 1:40 am
(16) Zac says:

Just going to simply say this, was tossed off my motorcycle by ending up on sleet at 30 MPH, and was wearing a full faced helmet. The way my jacket was worn down to the plastic armor under and the helmet was scraped, only reason I don’t look like a specific Batman villain or worse is because of the helmet.

January 2, 2013 at 9:33 am
(17) LTR4ever says:

Helmet, seat belt and laws like these are just ways for goverment to control people and to make revenue. Same for insurance companys, anyway they can use an excuse to raise a persons premiums they will. Let the riders decide!

January 2, 2013 at 5:14 pm
(18) Pete says:

2 questions…
1 – How does the Gov’t make money by applying helmet and seat belt laws? Don’t forget…that would be make money AFTER they subtract the cost of actually enforcing them.
2 – Why would they possibly have the slightest interest in ‘controlling’ people to this level?

I love a conspiracy as much as the next person but this sounds very imaginative and more than a little paranoid to me…
I’d buy a cabin deep in the woods if I were you and barricade myself in.

January 17, 2013 at 1:48 pm
(19) John says:

If you don’t wear a helmet you’re playing Russian roulette. Sooner or later you’re going to wish you did!

April 13, 2013 at 11:43 pm
(20) Peter says:

No mandated device to protect people from themselves ever really works, even seatbelts, because if you increase the margin of safety all individuals adjust their behaviour to take up that increased margin.
This was seen in the state of Victoria, Australia, which brought in the worlds first seatbelt law in 1971.
Over the next 3 years there was a 30% drop in road deaths that was attributed to seatbelt law. The only problem was that the same decrease in deaths had happened the world over and was due to the oil crisis. Scarcely 1-2% could be due to seatbelt law.
The same happened with bike helmet law in the same state.
The authorities claimed a decrease of 29% in bicycle rider deaths but failed to see that the law had caused a 40% reduction in bike riders on the roads. To complicate things further, in a similar fashion to the confounding effect of the oil crisis, there were so many other changes to road law and drink driving that the pedestrian death rate had actually gone down by 31%.
Bike helmet laws didnt work at all.
The most dramatic indicator of a connection between safety devices and increased risk-taking behaviour comes from the Netherlands where the 0.5% of riders who do wear a helmet on a bike produce 13.3% of the hospitalisations.

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