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Old 03-24-06, 08:53 PM   #1
Falchoon
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Wasn't sure whether to start new thread for this or ad to other "sticky" helmet thread, decided to start new. Moderators please move if innappropriate.

http://www.smh.com.au/news/national/...083999509.html

Quote:
Experts collide over benefits of cycle helmets
By Ben Cubby
March 25, 2006

FORCING cyclists to wear helmets damages public health because they discourage many people from riding, an academic says.

Dorothy Robinson, a former senior statistician at the University of New England, found that while laws that make wearing helmets mandatory reduced the seriousness of some head injuries, the cost to public health and fitness outweighed their benefit.

But some researchers suggest Ms Robinson's conclusions "crumble" under scrutiny.

Writing in the British medical journal BMJ, Ms Robinson compares data between countries and regions that have made it illegal to ride without head protection.

"When we brought in helmet laws it discouraged people from cycling; there was a big drop," says Ms Robinson, a keen cyclist who has been struck by a car and wears a helmet.

"The overall effect on public health is bad, with less people getting fit by cycling since the laws came in, and more driving."

One study she used found the number of bicycle riders counted at 25 locations around Sydney fell by 48 per cent between 1991, when mandatory helmet laws were introduced in NSW, and 1996.

In surveys riders frequently said helmets were uncomfortable and expensive, she says.

Mandatory helmet laws were still "very contentious", said Peter Strang, executive director of the Bicycle Federation of Australia. It opposed the laws when they were introduced, but many of its constituent associations have since accepted them.

"[Ms Robinson] certainly makes some claims that I think deserve further research," he said.

A group of researchers - Brent Hagel, Alison Macpherson, Frederick Rivara and Barry Pless - also writing in BMJ, dismisses Ms Robinson's conclusions.

"For example, a fall in the number of bicyclists in the 1990s may simply reflect an increase in in-line skating or other recreational activities," they say.

They also say that there is no proven link between a decrease in cycling and falling fitness levels.

The Roads and Traffic Authority did not respond directly to Herald queries about mandatory helmet use. A correctly worn helmet "can reduce the risk of head and brain injury by up to 85 per cent in a crash", the authority said.

The NSW Minister for Sport and Recreation, Sandra Nori, was sceptical. "I haven't seen the research yet, but it doesn't appear to address the grave problem of head injuries caused by bike accidents."

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Old 03-25-06, 06:18 AM   #2
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Makes sense to me. I have found myself favoring a ball cap over a helmet more and more.

I can see where having to wear a helmet would cut down on the number of cyclists.
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Old 03-25-06, 06:34 AM   #3
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I dont think the article is anti-helmet.
Its not arguing the benefits of wearing one, only peoples choice in the matter.
Its pointing out anti-commonsense, to me.
In Pennsyslvania when they were debating the helmet laws for motorcycles
ABATE supporters and others were, without laffing at themselves, saying
helmets were more dangerous than not wearing them and gave a myriad of
reasons why they supposedly were. People have thier priorities and no
overbearing authoritarian agancy is going to change them, whatever they
might be or no matter how ludicris.
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Old 03-25-06, 07:44 AM   #4
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I don't like wearing a helmet and I have tried on several occassions, but find them uncomfortable and obtrusive. Fortunately, in twenty-five years of riding I have never had a serious crash where a helmet would have saved me from injury. But, if Ontario---as they are considering---were to legislate mandatory helmet use, I would comply---not without complaint, mind you, but only because I love cycling. I'd sacrifice comfort for the pure freedom and love of riding.

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Old 03-25-06, 08:07 AM   #5
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Helmets are of limited utility. This is a fact. They will cut down on the severity of impact under very limited circumstances. If you have an accident and happen to fall into that very limited circumstance, then yes it may reduce or eliminate a head injury. But, it's like driving an SUV for it's crash protection. Sure, the occupant of a Chevy Suburban will most likely come out better than the occupant of a VW Jetta in certain accident situations. But, the driver of the Jetta has a much better chance of avoiding the accident in the first place. A Jetta (or any car) will out-corner and out-brake a Suburban by a wide, wide margin. Helmets do nothing to help the cyclist avoid accidents. Personally, I think bike helmets cause a lot of wind noise. The wind noise masks traffic sounds that I want to hear.

I wear a helmet almost all the time mostly because it's expected and the club wants it's members to put on a good face for the public. But, helmets are a PIA in general. I suspect that more folks would take short bike trips for utilitarian purposes if helmets were not mandatory in locations where they are mandatory.
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Old 03-25-06, 08:27 AM   #6
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Regardless of what peoples opinions of helmets are,
mine is, I am not going to take any law or safety related
edict from another useless, overbearing authoritarian
agency seriously until they ban cigarettes and alcohol too.
Anything less is pure hypocracy.
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Old 03-25-06, 08:33 AM   #7
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I don't think the article is anti-helmets either as it states various arguments based on different studies. Nor I think is Ms Robinson, what she is questioning there is the legislation that has been imposed on people.

It's debatable, I am strong advocate of wearing one but am not too keen on seing a legislation for adults. Kids are a different matter, particularly small ones.

As an avid cyclist, she has a point but her studies are more based on intuition and feelings than facts. She is associating drop in cycling to helmet inforcement within a period where all physical excercise has dropped. Her observations are based on Australian stats, maybe someone from there can comment.
Helmets are not mandatory for adults here, so how do we explain the drop in the 90s?

As for helmet comfort, this is usually more of a fit and adjustment problem. Helmets nowadays come in different shapes and sizes (of heads, that is) that can be less intrusive than a ball cap.

Also the price argument in the study may be based on old numbers, a good helmet today doesn't cost more than $30-$40, sometime less.

Her arguments should be handled with care and fall short of any anti-helmet interpretations. They are just hypothetical and not factual.
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Old 03-25-06, 08:59 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by -=Łem in Pa=-
. . . "For example, a fall in the number of bicyclists in the 1990s may simply reflect an increase in in-line skating or other recreational activities," they say . . . .

An in-line skater died from a blow to the back of the head while skating, about 3 - 4 years ago: married, two children left behind. He normally wore a helmet. It was found on his bed; he forgot it that eventful day.
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Old 03-25-06, 09:18 AM   #9
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I agree that the article gives small taste of both sides of the issue as oppsed to "anti-helmet". I've just started riding recently and to be honest with you I don't even notice the helmet is on. The same way I don't particularly notice my shirt, shorts, pants, socks, shoes etc etc. It just feels like another piece of apparel, one that can save my life though.
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Old 03-25-06, 10:43 AM   #10
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In my state we have laws mandating the usage of various pieces of reflective equipment, especially for biking at night. To complement those laws, we have other laws mandating that any bike sold here come complete with those same reflectors.

We also have a very toothless and rarely enforced helmet law for children. It would make sense if the helmet law was complemented by a law requiring that all children's bikes be sold with a helmet. Even if the child receiving the bike already has a helmet, its a sure thing that he/she has a friend who doesn't have one. Or an adult parent who should be wearing one.
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Old 03-25-06, 11:48 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wagathon
An in-line skater died from a blow to the back of the head while skating, about 3 - 4 years ago: married, two children left behind. He normally wore a helmet. It was found on his bed; he forgot it that eventful day.
Too bad Ronald Reagan's dead, he would have loved this anecdote...

One hundred more people a day would be alive if they had just not gotten in their cars that morning, too.
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Old 03-25-06, 12:56 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by randya

One hundred more people a day would be alive if they had just not gotten in their cars that morning, too.
Good point.

Something like 45,000 people die each year in auto accidents in the US. Not sure how many would have survived if they had been wearing a motorcycle helmet, but lets just guess and say 2000 might have been saved had they been wearing a helmet. That's more than twice as many people who died in bicycle accidents from all causes. So why not mandatory helmet use in autos?
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Old 03-25-06, 01:55 PM   #13
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I would wear a helmet regardless of what the law states. What argument could possibly invalidate any attempt on my part to improve my chances of surviving a mishap?

I suspect that many cyclists'* professed dislike of helmets have more to do with their senses of fashion than with function.

(*I stated 'many', not 'all'. Save the flames, please.)
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Old 03-25-06, 02:18 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by -=Łem in Pa=-
Regardless of what peoples opinions of helmets are,
mine is, I am not going to take any law or safety related
edict from another useless, overbearing authoritarian
agency seriously until they ban cigarettes and alcohol too.
Anything less is pure hypocracy.
I can't see where smoking is a 'safety' issue. I mean, it's a health issue, sure, but it doesn't make anyone safer on the roads or anywhere else if they're not smoking. I can see your point with alcohol, however, considering the number of alcohol-related car accidents there are and the subsequent deaths and injuries. It seems to me that there are countless people who are able to consume alcohol without becoming a menace, however and there are plenty of places to smoke where it doesn't bother non-smokers. So, wouldn't it be better if the 'overbearing authoritarian agency' just banned cars? They're the real danger, after all. You never hear of cyclists killing each other in a crash, drunk or not, and they don't pollute the air or dirty the streets. You might have a few drunk people bumping into each other, but they'd be alive. And even if they smoked, the damage to the environment would be minimal at best in comparison to what cars do.
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Old 03-25-06, 02:33 PM   #15
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^^^^ Yes, to all the stuff you said.
Anything has a certain amount of danger. People should understand
the risks they are taking when they do whatever it is they do.
Im against rules of any type but it seems authoritarians
pick on certain groups of people to justify their own
existance. I only use alcohol has an example because realisiticly
and quatifiably it has hurt society more than anything else in the
world. My point is dont say you are going to do something
that is in the publics best interest when there are activities that
regulating more would benefit the public more. I use a helmet most
of the time but I dont want to see rules on it for those who consistantly
dont. Dont single out a small, weak minority when there are way more
pressing things to worry about. If the UOAA where truly concerned about
our wellbeing they would be sending a clear message to cars, utilizing thier
uniformed authoritarian figures and enforcers issuing monitary fines and
insurance uppage, that thier daily assualts on us are unacceptable.
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Old 03-25-06, 02:42 PM   #16
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I do agree about hte price/comfort aspect.

Many sub $40 helmets have absolutely horrific fit...the rear adjustment is underpadded, the helmet itself is often now shaped in a way that makes much sense, poor ventilation, etc.

That's the single biggest problem. It would be nice to see a helmet similar to my Louis Garneau OZ-ZY, but in a bargain version. Big vents, nice comfortable design, tape on the shell instead of in-molding it to save cost, less "aggressive" design, and maybe a visor....for $35. That would be a great deal.

As for wind noise, my old T-bone did make a good bit of noise, but that's in part due to having tons of tiny vents on it (over 30 of them)....big, large vents make less noise, but those again cost more, since they have to design the helmet around those vents to keep them strong enough to meet sfety standards.

The last side is fashion...most of the good helmets have too much of an alien look to them (usually the bike shop types), and others just look stupid (usually the x-mart types). The ones in the middle are usually only found online, and then you can't figure out if it fits well before buying (but again, neither can you wtih most x-mart helmets).
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Old 03-25-06, 04:45 PM   #17
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As an avid cyclist, she has a point but her studies are more based on intuition and feelings than facts.


Her conclusions, maybe so, but the safety and effectiveness of helmets and thier limited uses are hardly "intuitions and feelings"
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Old 03-25-06, 04:54 PM   #18
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Quote:
FORCING cyclists to wear helmets damages public health.
It's anti-helmet law. Not anti-helmet.

Big difference
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Old 03-25-06, 05:16 PM   #19
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Several thoughts:

1.) I always wear my helmet, but I've never really been sure it would do much to protect me in a crash. The only time I ever fell off my bike, I landed on my face, which wasn't covered by the helmet. (Fortunately, I didn't hit very hard--I had a skinned nose and some sand in my teeth, but that was it.)

2.) If I don't wear a helmet, how is that the government's business? As Thomas Jefferson put it, "The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others." But I'm not injuring any "others" by not wearing a helmet.

3.) As for style: I think helmets look kind of cool. When I ride to the grocery store, I like to carry my helmet inside with me, to make a statement: "Hey, look at me, I got here under my own power, unlike the rest of you couch potatoes in your SUV's!" Okay, okay--that's a pretty pathetic display of narcissism, I'll admit. But as a paunchy, middle-aged utility cyclist, I have to take what small dribblets of glory I can get.
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Old 03-25-06, 05:33 PM   #20
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Here's a blog on some helmet legislation that has been proposed in Saskatoon Saskatchewan.

http://gaswithcoffee.blogspot.com/
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Old 03-25-06, 05:46 PM   #21
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Suggest a change in mandtory helmet laws to read, partly, as follows:

. . . helmets for cycling are mandatory for all riders, *unless* they have signed an organ donor card . . .
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Old 03-25-06, 06:31 PM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mild Al
2.) If I don't wear a helmet, how is that the government's business?
If you live on a desert island, then its your own business. But if you partake of the benefits of living in a civilized society, then the government has every right to be interested in behaviors that may leave them with an invidual who will require long-term care or that may pose a burden to medical practioners and insurance programs.

This is why our government spends such an incredible amount of effort to stem the tide of illicit drug use, for instance.

Using the excuse that the government allows other dangerous behavior (such as cigaratte smoking and alcohol) is a cop-out. The US government tried to ban alcohol in the 1920s, but found it was counterproductive since alcohol has thousands of years of history behind it and can be produced cheaply. So instead they settled on taxing it and curbing the worst of the behaviors it produces.

Cigarettes had also had a long history behind them, making them difficult to legislate. But the government has done an incredible amount of work to educate and limit cigarettes. No one gets out of high school without knowing the dangers of smoking. Where I live, they've banned cigarettes from theatres, restaurant, and, most incredibly, bars.
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Old 03-25-06, 07:43 PM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zonatandem
Suggest a change in mandtory helmet laws to read, partly, as follows:

. . . helmets for cycling are mandatory for all riders, *unless* they have signed an organ donor card . . .
Everybody should sign organ donar cards. At least cyclists would be more likely to leave healthy organs, unlike the vast majority of head injury victims who don't get enough exercise to be healthy.

It also would be tapping only 1% of potential donors as 99% of head injuries occur to people not on bikes.

This is similar to the lame argument that the government has every right to be interested in behaviors that may leave them with an invidual who will require long-term care or that may pose a burden to medical practioners and insurance programs.

Everybody knows, cyclists benefit society. If everybody rode bikes, most head injuries would disappear and much of the attention paid to patients that have problems related to lifestyle (eg. too lazy to ride their bikes) would free upstress on the medical profession. But that won't happen because it's OK to hurt people as long as you're inside a car while your doing it (even if it is just a slow death to the drivers and passengers that's not very dramatic but bugs doctors because their problems could be so easily prevented by riding their bikes).

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Old 03-25-06, 08:00 PM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MarkS
If you live on a desert island, then its your own business. But if you partake of the benefits of living in a civilized society, then the government has every right to be interested in behaviors that may leave them with an invidual who will require long-term care or that may pose a burden to medical practioners and insurance programs.

This is why our government spends such an incredible amount of effort to stem the tide of illicit drug use, for instance.

Using the excuse that the government allows other dangerous behavior (such as cigaratte smoking and alcohol) is a cop-out. The US government tried to ban alcohol in the 1920s, but found it was counterproductive since alcohol has thousands of years of history behind it and can be produced cheaply. So instead they settled on taxing it and curbing the worst of the behaviors it produces.

Cigarettes had also had a long history behind them, making them difficult to legislate. But the government has done an incredible amount of work to educate and limit cigarettes. No one gets out of high school without knowing the dangers of smoking. Where I live, they've banned cigarettes from theatres, restaurant, and, most incredibly, bars.
Okay, I know what you mean. But how many dangerous behaviors should the government be allowed to regulate, just because I might use my insurance? In theory, it's dangerous (to some degree) to be overweight. So should the government be able to require me to go on a diet? If I have high blood pressure, and therefore might have a stroke which would leave me dependent on long-term care, should the goverment require me to take my blood pressure medication? Should they do bed-checks to regulate the spread of STD's? Where should we draw the line?

I am not some government-hating radical. I think governments have their place. But I don't really want the goverment meddling in my personal decisions. I'm 45 years old and perfectly capable of looking after myself.

And frankly, considering the waste, incompetence, and lack of fiscal restraint shown by the U.S. government during my lifetime (by both parties), I think maybe they should try fixing their own problems before they try to fix mine.

That said, I ALWAYS wear a helmet. Religiously.

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Old 03-25-06, 08:42 PM   #25
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I wouldn't object to others without helmets __IF__ there was a separate insurance pool for them. Similarily I wouldn't object to smokers, again __IF__ 1) they were in a separate insurance pool and 2) I didn't have to smell their reek. (Not sure if reek can be used as a noun but since I'm not in the English teachers insurance pool......)
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