Saturday, August 12, 2006

To Helmet or Not to Helmet

One of my friends and I agree to disagree about several things, wearing a bicycle helmet among them. She would rather ride on the sidewalk and keep her ears uncovered, pointing out that most Europeans ride without a helmet. Whereas for me, riding a bicycle without a helmet is tantamount to riding without clothes on. It would just feel so wrong.

I’m not sure when bike helmets first came out. But I might have avoided the nasty concussion I got at age 10 when I fell off my bike if I had had one. I think I bought my first helmet in the early 70s after I moved to DC.

Since that time I have always worn one. And my children have always worn one, even when they sat in kiddy seats on the back of my bike.

So why do I feel so strongly about this? I just visualize what would happen to a cantaloupe dropped onto a concrete surface from 4 feet above. Does this vision mean that I’m a fatalist? I say it means that I am a realist because I acknowledge that I can only do my part in avoiding accidents. There is always the chance that someone might hit me.

And what about putting bike helmets on young children – children who are barely 18" off the ground? I support this because it gets them in an early habit of wearing one. Furthermore, they can easily fall and strike their heads, by their fault or that of someone else.

To me a bike helmet doesn’t guarantee my safety, but it is a fairly cheap form of insurance that greatly diminishes the chance of head injury in the case of an accident. I’m a person who doesn’t leave such things to chance.

Do you ride a bicycle? How do you feel about helmets?


Blogger Jen Shore said...

I do, in fact, ride a bike, and yeah, I do wear a helmet. I'm seventeen and I'm only five feet tall, and the bike I ride is meant to be riden by someone who is gigantic compared to me, and it's kind of old, and the decision to wear a helmet was made after I put my feet down to stop at a stoplight (because the brakes, of course, weren't working, fabulous)and I couldn't quite reach and KERSPLAT!!!!! right in the middle of an intersection. The Ford Explorer swerved off the road, hit a fence and I felt didn't really think muchg of not wearing a helmet, until my mom got me one and I thought it was a good idea. Now I don't ever ever ever go without one, because I could have really gotten hurt. Except that i doubt the helmet would protect much against the crushing weight of an suv, so i don't really know what sense it made, but whatev.

oh yeah, and by the way, that quote you have in your 'about me; section, I'm gunna post that on my blog. It's called Paradox of the Absurd, and I'm going to source you on it, no worries.

12:00 AM  
Anonymous Rudi said...

Short answer: I wouldn't ride without one, not even for a few hundred feet. I feel naked without it.

I've seen too many cyclists get seriouly damaged from blunt-force trauma to the head becuase they didn't wear a bike helmet. Some of these riders were accomplished road and off-road racers, some were commuters going no more than 10 mile per hour.

And then there are those I know whose lifes were saved by their helmets. If not for the helmet, to a person they say they'd be in no shape to ride - either dead or brain damaged.

It's amazing the amount of prevention and protection that can be had from 10 to 15 ounces of expanded polystyrene, nylon, PTFE and fastex buckles. And that every CPSC-certified helmet - from the $20 Wal-Mart special to the $275 Giro Ionos Tour de France model - has the same level of protection, it's a cheap insurance policy.

It certainly beats the medical bills for brain trauma.

And if I had kids, I'd have 'em in helmets if the rode a bike, a tricycle, or rode in a trailer behind my bike. Again, it's good insurance, a nod to safety, and provides peace of mind.

12:24 AM  
Blogger Reya Mellicker said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

8:58 AM  
Blogger wharman said...

I'm scared to even ride a bike in the District. If I ever had to, I'm sure I'd insist on a helmet.

9:05 AM  
Blogger Richard said...

I haven't ridden a bike in about 15 years. I used to ride a lot and never wore a helmet (not mandatory at teh time).

I do remember a friend of mine wiping out once the loud crack his head gave as it hit the sidewalk. I was fortunate and never banged my head.

Safety is one of those things that if we don't have it around us, we consider it normal to expose ourselves to danger (thing of all the machines during industrialization that could easily catch and kill someone).

If my kids are riding their bike to the park (about 1 block away) I don't insist on a helmet (Sofia disagrees with me).

Related to safety, but not at all to bicycling, lawn darts are illegal in Canada because of several case of people being impaled by them. At the time, I am sure no one saw any danger in tossing heavy pointed objects into the air.

If I ever get back to cycling, it will be hard for me to wear a helmet because I have no habit of it as well, I hate headgear - so I never wear hats (except in winter when freezing my ears off is not an option).

11:34 AM  
Blogger Barbara said...

I can see that the most of you non-helmet-wearers are not 'fessing up publicly. Perhaps Richard (from Canada) confirms my friend's notion that it's only Americans who are so anal about bike helmets.

12:11 PM  
Blogger Matt said...

I have taken my bike throughout the U.S. and other parts of the world. I have worn my helmet on virtually every ride since I was 15. I have had some bad accidents, such as the rear tire blowout going full speed down a twisty mountain road outside of Santa Cruz, CA. I have had near misses with the side mirrors of Winnebagos on the Pacific Coast Highway. I have hit sand, gravel, trolley tracks, even fishhooks. I think that biking with a lightweight, comfortable helmet is, to use an ironic expression, a no-brainer.

5:55 PM  
Blogger Ghetufool said...

never seen a biker with a helmet, except in tv. honestly.

12:23 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

This latest report from India would continue to suggest that it is only Americans who have embraced bike helmets. How curious! Do those outside of the USA have harder heads than we do? Having been in India, I can tell you that the roads are definitely NOT safer than they are here.

12:45 PM  
Anonymous Cee said...

It's illegal to ride a bike without a helmet in Australia. I've seen kids occasionally doing it on the footpath, but not often.

6:04 PM  

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