Helmets - A Testimonial



Balderick

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Jan 5, 2005
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Don Shipp said:
Helmets change not only the pattern for death and injury for cyclists, but also the pattern for cycling throughout the population.
Compulsory helmet wear leads to fewer cycists, and therefore fewer cycling related deaths. But in the longer term the decline in bike use leads to a greater health burden.
That might be true in the short term, as those who previously did not wear helmets are required by law to do so, and give up cycling. But I am not sure it is correct where there has been a long term requirement that people wear helmets and I would have thought people gets used to that requirement. There are many variables that affect the number of cyclists - social trends (is it fashionable to cycle?), environmental concerns, health concerns and, at least in Australia at the moment, the price of fuel. Cycling seems to be very popular in the city that I live in, and talking to local bike shops they are selling more bikes than ever, and a lot of people cite increasing fuel costs as the reason.

Would more people ride bikes in NSW, Australia if they didn't have to wear a helmet? It would be an interesting thing to test, but any answer is oure speculation. My gut feeling is there might be a very very small increase, but most people would chose to wear a helmet even if the requirement to wear one were removed. My belief is that most people put on a seatbelt because it will make them safer, not because the law requires it.

I think it is quite a different issue in places like the UK where the wearing of helmets is not prescribed by law. There also seems to be this "it is my right not to wear a helmet" part of the UK cycling community, and that does not seem to be a factor in Australia (other than perhaps amongst young teenagers who see it as a rebellious thing to do).

I had a very good reason to be pleased i was wearing a helmet whilst riding to work this morning - bleeding magpie had a go, and kept going for quite some time despite my speed being about 45 kph. Needless to say, I;d have a few scratches on my head if I was sans helmet.
 

tomacropod

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Oct 19, 2005
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Balderick said:
That might be true in the short term, as those who previously did not wear helmets are required by law to do so, and give up cycling. But I am not sure it is correct where there has been a long term requirement that people wear helmets and I would have thought people gets used to that requirement. There are many variables that affect the number of cyclists - social trends (is it fashionable to cycle?), environmental concerns, health concerns and, at least in Australia at the moment, the price of fuel. Cycling seems to be very popular in the city that I live in, and talking to local bike shops they are selling more bikes than ever, and a lot of people cite increasing fuel costs as the reason.

Would more people ride bikes in NSW, Australia if they didn't have to wear a helmet? It would be an interesting thing to test, but any answer is oure speculation. My gut feeling is there might be a very very small increase, but most people would chose to wear a helmet even if the requirement to wear one were removed. My belief is that most people put on a seatbelt because it will make them safer, not because the law requires it.

I think it is quite a different issue in places like the UK where the wearing of helmets is not prescribed by law. There also seems to be this "it is my right not to wear a helmet" part of the UK cycling community, and that does not seem to be a factor in Australia (other than perhaps amongst young teenagers who see it as a rebellious thing to do).

I had a very good reason to be pleased i was wearing a helmet whilst riding to work this morning - bleeding magpie had a go, and kept going for quite some time despite my speed being about 45 kph. Needless to say, I;d have a few scratches on my head if I was sans helmet.
When I walk outside, my reflex is to check my pockets for my keys and my wallet. This is an automatic action which has over the years meant that I don't have to worry about locking myself out of the house as, simply, I always have my keys on me. It's one less thing to worry about.

When I get onto a bike, I put my helmet on as an automatic action. This means that I have one less thing to think of when out on the road or trail. I don't think about any fashion statement or any other possible arguments for not wearing one, I simply always wear it and as such a great many avoidable head injuries are just not something I have to worry about.

It is required by law to wear a helmet here, and it has been this way for as long as I or any of the people I ride with can remember, any initial decline in cyclist numbers has been a moot point for over a decade and it is now very rare to see people riding without a helmet. Like seatbelts and driving, it's simply part of the behaviour of riding a bike - I have heard any number of anecdotal stories about crashes where a helmet probably saved a rider's life or mobility, and have even witnessed a couple. It's all well and good to try and be different or to rebel against social rules but seriously, start shopping at Op shops or something...

The magpie reason is valid as well. There are 5 on my morning commute, all with different styles, and the same 5 on my evening commute. They evidently don't remember that in the morning I didn't attack them or their nest. sigh.

- Joel
 

Fietser

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Oct 17, 2005
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"Did you know that 95% of cyclists killed in the USA in 1999 were not wearing helmets."

What is the source for this statement please. I don't know what CDC stands for (I'm in Britain).

"Did you know that reduce the risk of serious head injury by as much as 85% and the risk of brain injury by as much as 88%? Or that helmets have been shown to reduce the risk of upper and mid-face injuries by as much as 65%?"

I presume this refers to Effectiveness of bicycle helmets in preventing head injury, Thompson, Rivara & Thompson. JAMA: 1996 Dec 25;276(24):1968-73. Whoever quoted this to you is being disingenious. The researchers themselves revised their prediction downwards to 69% for head injuries in 1996 after the paper was heavily criticised for problems with its methods. Interestingly raw data obtained from the researchers who wrote this paper also shows helmets apparently prevent 72% of non head injuries too...which raises serious credibility problems for the whole paper. For detailed commentary see http://www.cyclehelmets.org/mf.html#1027. It is also not supported by real World evidence.

Thanks for taking the trouble and time to look at this.
 

Fietser

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Oct 17, 2005
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"I had a very quick look at the site - quite informative but I question the motives of thoise behind the site. I am always a bit suspect of sites that push a particular argument and therefore deal with the information on that site with what I hope is a healthy degree of doubt."

Fine, thanks for looking. The site is helmet skeptical yes. The motivation behind it is concern that helmets are being promoted wrongly and that too much is being made for their protective effect. I am suspicious what motivation lies behind those who would claim cycle helmets should be worn by all. If you are a hassled government policy maker who must be seen to be doing something about 'the cycling problem', making everyone wear helmets looks like a good policy. It's popular among drivers, affects a small minority and gives the impression of something being done.

"I do not think we are in total disagreement. I do not believe cycle helmets offer the claimed 85% and 90% protection that some have claimed."

Yes. To anyone who gives this more than a moment of thought these sort of claims must be daft. I agree with you that helmets offer some protection.

"I agree it would be good to have a clear scientific study on the pros and cons of wearing helmets. There is not much evidence that I have seen, inclkuding on the site you referred me to, that stacks up from a scientific perspective."

The study that decided it for me was Dorothy Robinsons presented to the The International Bicycle Conference in Freemantle in 1996. http://agbu.une.edu.au/~drobinso/velo1/velo.html . It analysed the effect of the Australian cycle helmet laws from the early 90's using primary source data from the government and hospitals. It found no evidence that a rise in helmet wearing from about 30% pre law to about 80-% post law had cut the risk of head injury. It also shows a worrying decline in cycling overall. As riding helmeted or unhelmeted is likely to prolong your life any public health measure that puts off people cycling is disastrous, especially in a country as obese as Australia.

"However, current helmets are more comfortable and seem easier to adjust so they fit correctly."

They also provide less protection than they used to. In the past you could easily buy Snell B95 certified helmets but in Europe these are almost impossible to find now, the manufacturers work instead to the newer EN 1078 standard. The manufacturers have their costs and customer appeal to consider. Helmets are lighter, more comfortable and NOT AS GOOD as they used to be.
 

Fietser

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Oct 17, 2005
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"Cycling seems to be very popular in the city that I live in, and talking to local bike shops they are selling more bikes than ever, "

Good. I hope it returns to the pre law level soon. The last Australian census shows it has some way to go before this is acheived. The most cycling was taking place in 1991, (1.53% of trips made) just before the helmet law was enacted. The most recent census showed cycling constitutes 1.11% of trips. In New Zealand the most recent NZ Household survey showed cycling was still 22% less than pre law levels.

Census Year Brisbane Melbourne Perth Sydney All Australia
1976 0.71% 0.97% 0.92% 0.36% 1.11%
1981 1.05% 1.21% 1.16% 0.63% 1.47%
1986 1.16% 1.05% 1.37% 0.66% 1.63%
1991 1.53% 1.05% 1.68% 0.74% 1.63%
1996 1.16% 0.92% 1.11% 0.61% 1.21%
2001 1.11% 1.00% 1.12% 0.60% 1.15%

"Would more people ride bikes in NSW, Australia if they didn't have to wear a helmet? "

There exists a sort of answer to this. Northern Territories partially repealed the helmet law in 1994. It is the only part of Australia to have reversed the fall in cycling seen Australia wide in the early 1990's. In 2004 4.2% of trips were made by bike (national average 1.3%). NT's current helmet wearing rate is about 20% yet it has the lowest cycling death rate for anywhere in Australia. For me this provides more evidence that helmets provide negligible protection but do put people off cycling.

"I think it is quite a different issue in places like the UK where the wearing of helmets is not prescribed by law."

In UK about 20-25% of cyclists wear helmets. This figure seems to have plateaud out at this. Not one single cycling body in the UK nor the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents advocates making helmets compulsory.

"I had a very good reason to be pleased i was wearing a helmet whilst riding to work this morning - bleeding magpie had a go, and kept going for quite some time despite my speed being about 45 kph. Needless to say, I;d have a few scratches on my head if I was sans helmet."

I reckon this is a brilliant reason to wear a helmet. Our Magpies sound better behaved than yours.
 

LIKESBIKES716

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Oct 12, 2005
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Me Tarzan, You helmet Head! Dont know why I said that!
El Loto said:
Saturday 20th August 2005

I was on my way to work. Trying to get there as quick as my legs would allow. Pushing the biggest gear I could as I had left home a little later than I would have liked. Unfortunately for me I had an accident. I was hit side-on by a car. The impact shattered the windscreen and knocked me out cold. I came round in the ambulance half in a state of shock, half in a state of bewilderment. Why am I here? When am i going to wake up? When the paramedics were speaking to me I had no reason to believe it was a Saturday morning. The last thing I could remember was walking to class in school at 11am on Friday. As far as i was concerned, I was asleep.
"You've been in an accident. You were hit by a car while you were on your bike."
"No. No, i'm asleep"
As much as I wanted to pretend, this wasn't going to end in an instant. I was taken to hospital and straight into the Resus department. My head was secured and my neck was in a brace. I could move my arms and legs but they were in a stinging trance of pain. My head was aching, I had never experienced a sore head anywhere near it.
Gradually it came back to me. I could remember Friday evening, waking up on Saturday, leaving the house in a rush, seeing the car. It still hadn't hit home though.
After being taken for a neck X-Ray, I was allowed free of the neck brace and head support. Finally I could wriggle my extremely uncomfortable legs and look at some of my injuries. The knuckles on my right hand were skinned completely. They still have chunks missing from them. My right knee was bloodied and swollen, it was so painful to move. My left shin was badly grazed. I was informed that my left shoulder was skinned. I could feel the tender tissue against the hospital sheets. I was also told I had a laceration on my neck, which would have to be sutured.
My father and girlfriend were waiting outside. Eventually my father was allowed in and we both began crying. I could have had much more serious injuries, paralyzation, death. I was so lucky, extremely bloody lucky.
After going for a head X-Ray, it was found I had fractured my skull. Another lucky thing was, I had avoided any bruising or bleeding on my brain.
Later that evening my girlfriend was allowed to see me and along with my parents we all agreed one thing.

SHOULD HAVE WORN A HELMET

I have a helmet but I never wear it. I never saw the need. Never enjoyed it. Basically I was arrogant enough to say: "nothing will ever happen. I'm a competent cyclist"
Now I will never allow myself to leave the house without one. I'm hoping i'll be fit enough to get back out on the bike next weekend, with a helmet.

Now I don't want to sound like your mother, or even worse your mother-in-law, but next time you go out on your bike whether its to work, on a century ride or just round the corner, think about your head. You may say: "oh i've never crashed" but that doesn't mean you won't. I'm extremely lucky in that i'll be able to get back to normal but not everyone is as lucky as me. People will continue to die in accidents because they do not wear a helmet and it would cheer me up a load if some of you guys started wearing helmets. Remember we are one big family, and lets hope the family only gets bigger.
 

Flaningamma

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Oct 25, 2005
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My best friend was recently killed in a motorcycle accident. He always wore a helmet and armored jacket and gloves. He was wearing them when he was hit. 3 months later I can't get back on my motorcycle but did buy a road bike. I will always wear a helmet and always use a seatbelt. It's what cyclists do. If helmets became fashionable for walking I would wear one then too. Helmets are light, inexpensive, comfortable and functional. Best of all a smashed up helmet is the most beautiful sight in the world to the rider who has a face that doesn't make kids cry because the helmet took the punishment. I hope my helmet never gets a scratch on it but when it does I'll show it off proudly. There is no pride in a marred face with a perfect helmet sitting at home. For those who would say that helmets are pointless, I commend them on not wasting money on things like sunscreen, shoes, brakes, life jackets, seat belts, immunizations, uv blocking sunglasses, grip surfaces in bathtubs, tail lights, turn signals, sidewalk salt, potable water, riding shorts (who needs a prostate anyway?) and the thousands of other things that keep us more safe than we would be without them. WEAR A HELMET. I don't want any accident to rob me of the joy of riding with you one day.
 

Peka

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Aug 6, 2005
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Flaningamma said:
My best friend was recently killed in a motorcycle accident. He always wore a helmet and armored jacket and gloves. He was wearing them when he was hit.
Sorry for your loss :( As you can see in my avatar I ride a motorcycle too. A friend of mine recently had an argument with a car while on his motorcycle and is hospital recovering, with metal plates holding his hip socket together.

I guess another point that should be made is that helmets and other protective equipment are SECONDARY safety measures. Your primary safety measures are your attitude, awareness etc. and you should always remain alert while riding.
 

MMSR

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Dec 30, 2004
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Flaningamma said:
My best friend was recently killed in a motorcycle accident. He always wore a helmet and armored jacket and gloves. He was wearing them when he was hit. 3 months later I can't get back on my motorcycle but did buy a road bike. I will always wear a helmet and always use a seatbelt. It's what cyclists do. If helmets became fashionable for walking I would wear one then too. Helmets are light, inexpensive, comfortable and functional. Best of all a smashed up helmet is the most beautiful sight in the world to the rider who has a face that doesn't make kids cry because the helmet took the punishment. I hope my helmet never gets a scratch on it but when it does I'll show it off proudly. There is no pride in a marred face with a perfect helmet sitting at home. For those who would say that helmets are pointless, I commend them on not wasting money on things like sunscreen, shoes, brakes, life jackets, seat belts, immunizations, uv blocking sunglasses, grip surfaces in bathtubs, tail lights, turn signals, sidewalk salt, potable water, riding shorts (who needs a prostate anyway?) and the thousands of other things that keep us more safe than we would be without them. WEAR A HELMET. I don't want any accident to rob me of the joy of riding with you one day.
I completely agree. Regardless of the statistics people quote, I've written off two helmets doing stupid things and I'm absolutely convinced that had I not been wearing a helmet...Well...I don't even want to think what might have happened. I now wouldn't even consider riding without one, regardless of the distance I'm riding. Even if it's round the corner, the helmet is on.

I recently bought a bike from a friend, and when I went to pick it up I'd forgotten to take my helmet. I tried riding but after about 100 yards I had to get off and push it 2 miles home because I felt so uncomfortable riding without head protection.

My view is simple. As has been pointed out before, there is NO substitute for having the skills to handle your bike, but every now and then things go wrong. A helmet is there to protect you when all else fails (which happens occasionally), therefore for me, if I don't have a helmet, I don't ride. For the last few years I've worn a KB Jumper helmet (skate style hard shell), which is heavy, hot, and makes my head look like a mushroom, but it's strong as hell and I wouldn't even sit on my bike without wearing it.
 

dabac

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Sep 16, 2003
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Don Shipp said:
Do you believe in "Risk compensation"?
I don't buy that. And I find it hard to believe that ANYBODY who has ever crashed before does. Taking a fall HURTS, abrasions are painful for extended periods, not to mention fractures. Who on earth (except trial riders practising a move) would beforehand claim to be able to predict how bad a fall is going to be? It's the unforeseen that brings us down. How would the scenario look like in which I have enough advance warning to plan my crash, but not enough to avoid it? If I'm lucky I might be able to tuck my arms in, but that's about it.

The same line of reasoning was applied when seatbelts in cars were made mandatory, and it made just as little sense then: "Now when I'm all buckled up I won't mind smashing up the car in a small collision" - yeah, right. I've got other things to protect than simply my life, the reduced risk of fatal injury does not make me more accepting to the increased risk of a whole range of lesser injuries that a more reckless approach would cause.
 

Don Shipp

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May 20, 2005
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dabac said:
I don't buy that. And I find it hard to believe that ANYBODY who has ever crashed before does. Taking a fall HURTS, abrasions are painful for extended periods, not to mention fractures. Who on earth (except trial riders practising a move) would beforehand claim to be able to predict how bad a fall is going to be? It's the unforeseen that brings us down. How would the scenario look like in which I have enough advance warning to plan my crash, but not enough to avoid it? If I'm lucky I might be able to tuck my arms in, but that's about it.

The same line of reasoning was applied when seatbelts in cars were made mandatory, and it made just as little sense then: "Now when I'm all buckled up I won't mind smashing up the car in a small collision" - yeah, right. I've got other things to protect than simply my life, the reduced risk of fatal injury does not make me more accepting to the increased risk of a whole range of lesser injuries that a more reckless approach would cause.
I see cyclists wearing helmets doing the stupidist things, seemingly courting accidents, or else oblivious of the possibility of them.
Wearing a helmet makes you feel safer, and if you feel safer you will take more risks.
 

Future-pro

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Nov 7, 2004
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Well i had my first accident on the bike on the sunday a narrow country road with grass at the edges it had been raining so the grass was slippery. A lorry driver was driving too quickly for the road forcing me off the road onto the grass next thing i know im standing up. I was told that my bike slipped on the grass and my face went straight into the headlight of an oncoming car my whole face had to be reconstructed broke all my jaw and my cheekbones still swollen so i can't eat anything for 3 weeks anyway im glad i was wearing a helmet because it is without doubt i would have been killed instantly if i was not wearing a helmet. Oh yeh as well as my face ive got stiches all over my legs and road rash all up my arm. very painful still i managed to get myself some nice new gear got a giro atmos helmet so i guess there is a vague silver lining lol.
 

ck9

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Sep 3, 2005
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I wear a seatbelt in the mota,and a helmet on the bike,does'nt mean I take more risks,just I'm aware of all the Idiots out there,over who I have no control ... I was hit by a car that was coming out of a side road,did'nt see me,few bruses and a smashed helmet,could have been my skull....I know lifes a risk,but we can minimise them !!!!!!!!!!!!