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  1. #1
    Senior Member hotbike's Avatar
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    Another Bicycle Safety Article

    http://www.boston.com/yourtown/news/...kCurrentPage=0

    Quoted from Boston.com:
    By Jonathan Simmons, Guest Columnist

    I am thrilled with how bicycle friendly Brookline is becoming. The town keeps adding bike lanes and every day I see more and more cyclists out on the road. So I was startled and unhappy last fall at a Brookline Bicycle Advisory Committee meeting when I heard a teen from the high school cycling club say “I think only about 10-20% of the kids who ride their bikes to school wear a helmet.” I hoped he was wrong but feared he was right. I decided to do a headcount of my own.

    Before I posted myself in front of the high school, I needed permission from Dr. Robert Weintraub, headmaster at Brookline High. I e-mailed him and in less than an hour I had my answer: go for it! Turns out he’s also an avid cyclist who thinks a lot about bicycle safety.

    Next I had to get permission from my 16-year old son. I planned to do my polling in the cycling clothes I wear when I bike to work: a gaudy fluorescent yellow jacket and black tights. He reluctantly agreed, “as long as you wear a mask and don’t tell anyone you’re related to me.”

    That’s how I found myself the week after Thanksgiving in front of Brookline High School. It was cold out but that’s to be expected: we live in New England. Unfortunately, the low temperature meant there were fewer students biking. After two days I decided to shelve my project until spring.

    This April, when the warm weather finally arrived, I went back. Between last fall and this spring I spent four mornings in front of the school and counted 105 teenage bikers. Here’s the bad news: of the 83 boys I counted, less than half (42%) were wearing helmets. The girls did better: 14 out of 22 (64%) wore helmets. Still, even they had room for improvement.

    I was surprised to see that there were so few girls riding to school. This is consistent with national trends, but still, I had hoped it would be different in our fair town. And the boys? Those 48 guys without helmets make me nervous. And that doesn’t include the nine kids with headphones, the three kids who were "pulling a salmon" (going the wrong way on a one-way street), or the three bikers who rode their fixed gear bikes without brakes.

    Every kid I spoke with knew they were safer with a helmet. “So why don’t more kids wear them?” I asked. They told me:

    1. I’m careful and I know what I’m doing; I would never crash.

    2. I only ride on the sidewalk.

    3. I’m not going that far.

    None of that is logical, but then not wearing a helmet isn’t about logic. It’s about something else, I just couldn’t put my finger on it. Fortunately my neighbor’s daughter could and she was kind enough to explain it to me. “It’s just not cool.” That, I think, hits the nail on the head. Helmets are dorky and they make you look like the little kid you’re trying not to be.

    Almost all of the K-8 students who ride to school in my neighborhood wear a helmet. They have to: their parents are in charge. That all changes with adolescence, when kids start to be in charge of themselves. As old as I am, I can still remember that it matters to be cool and fit in. A lot. Way more than protecting yourself against something that you are sure will never happen.

    So what could get teens to wear a helmet? Some kids told me it’s hopeless. “If they haven’t learned by high school they’ll never learn.” Others were more optimistic. They suggested:

    1. “Use humor. That’s one way we’ll listen. Check out those cool videos on YouTube that make you want to wear a helmet.”

    2. “Definitely DO NOT LECTURE OR NAG. We won’t hear you, no matter how loud you talk.”

    3. “Maybe hand out prizes for anyone wearing a helmet. Especially food.” That makes sense: teenagers are always hungry, but if you’re a parent you already know this.

    4. A policeman and a 10th grader both told me “Pass laws so the police can make you wear a helmet.”

    That all sounds good, but now what? Here’s my plan -- but remember, it takes a village, so please join in by commenting.

    I’m going to talk with, not at, the kids I know. I will try not to lecture, as hard as that may be. And parents: please join in. Bicycle helmets are probably not up there with sex, drugs and college admissions. But this conversation is important.

    Most important are the teen cyclists who wear helmets. You guys, please take the lead. Your classmates are much more likely to listen to you than to those of us over 30. In the meantime, happy trails and keep the rubber side down.

    Jonathan Simmons is a Brookline psychologist and avid cyclist.
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/11629987@N02/sets/72157639939606343/

  2. #2
    Senior Member Seattle Forrest's Avatar
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    I applaud the author for actually collecting detailed data before getting up-in-arms over something.

    On the other hand, I have to disagree with this quote:

    None of that is logical, but then not wearing a helmet isn’t about logic.
    Logic says we need more info than "something bad might happen" to take a decision. The formula, it turns out, is "What are the odds this bad thing will happen to me, and how severe will the consequences be?" If you apply that formula to playing the lotto, for example, you'll see it's just as logical to set $1 on fire as to buy a ticket. But if you forget about the likelihood part, you wind up wearing a bullet proof vest just simply because you're in LA, and therefor might get shot. I know a lot of cyclists who always wear gloves, but not always a helmet, because cyclists are much, much more likely to scrape their palms than their scalp in an accident.

    What bothers me about that sentence, though, is that there's an almost universal human drive to identify something other people do that you don't like, and then attribute it to some (moral|intellectual|fitness related|etc) deficiency on the part of the person following the beat of his or her own drummer. I just think people are a little too eager to assume the other person is clueless...

  3. #3
    Senior Member Seattle Forrest's Avatar
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    Oops ... duplicate. Sorry.

  4. #4
    Senior Member mikeybikes's Avatar
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    Ugh.

    Bicycle safety should not be about helmets.

    It should be about promoting safe riding techniques, making roads and routes safer, etc.

    Injury prevention over injury mitigation.

    If wearing a helmet makes you feel safe, by all means, wear it. Do not use it as a substitute though for riding in a safe manner.
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  5. #5
    Cycle Year Round CB HI's Avatar
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    Halfway through the article I was thinking, who is this backwards nut case, some psychologist or similar.

    I was shocked to see that he actually admitted it at the end of the story.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by mikeshoup View Post
    Ugh.

    Bicycle safety should not be about helmets.
    If wearing a helmet makes you feel safe, by all means, wear it. Do not use it as a substitute though for riding in a safe manner.
    Yeah, I'm not comfortable with the single deciding factor in safety being the helmet. Makes as much sense as the seat belt being the deciding factor in a safe driving experience -- "Yeah, dude, I was texting you when I hit that curve... almost ran off the cliff! Good thing I had the seat belt on, so I was safe!"

    Single qualifier/disqualifier situations make me uneasy....

  7. #7
    Senior Member trackhub's Avatar
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    Yes, Brookline has added lots of bike lanes. I've used the lanes on Beacon street a lot, and most motorists seem to respect them. But, the "same old problem" persists: Many are just too close to the door zone.

    As for the "I only ride on the sidewalk, so I don't need a helmet logic", that is not a surprise at all.
    I was told that once, by an otherwise intelligent young woman who had a Master's degree in mechanical engineering.
    "The People will believe what the Media tells them they believe". George Orwell.

  8. #8
    Been Around Awhile I-Like-To-Bike's Avatar
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    This is NOT another "safety" article; rather it IS another irrational diatribe from an addled helmet-promoting zealot. The cycling environment would be much improved if such self proclaimed "avid cyclists" took up another passion, perhaps religious tract distribution.

  9. #9
    DON'T PANIC!
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    Quote Originally Posted by hotbike View Post
    2. I only ride on the sidewalk.
    I think this article is great. They already know the #1 most dangerous bike activity the kids engage in and it's not skipping on their helmets. They should attempt to correct that first and then they can work on other areas of safety.
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  10. #10
    Senior Member chandltp's Avatar
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    I didn't start wearing a helmet until I started riding again 3 years ago (so I guess I was 30). I did it because I didn't want to try to explain the double standard to my kids. Now I do it because I don't know where I'd put my helmet mounted lights at night. If I get hit by a car, I don't think my bicycle helmet will make a bit of difference. Maybe if I had a motorcycle helmet. Luckily I've never had a crash in my adult, and if I did, I have no idea if my head would hit the pavement or not.

    The helmet law for kids under 12 (Pennsylvania) seems to make sense. Their crashes are most likely low speed crashes and their heads are likely to hit the pavement. However, most of the time I see that the helmets are not worn properly and offer little or no protection.
    There are 10 types of people, those that understand binary and those that don't.

  11. #11
    -=Barry=- The Human Car's Avatar
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    There is something wrong with a "safety" article that lets riding on the sidewalk go unchecked, ah but not waring a helmet that is something to pay attention to.

    Here's to wishing everyone more safe crashing experiences.

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  12. #12
    L T X B O M P F A N S R apricissimus's Avatar
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    I left the following comment on the article:

    Quote Originally Posted by apricissimus
    A helmet is pretty insignificant when it comes to keeping you safe. You need to rely on what's inside your head, not what's on top of it. People harp on helmets as if that's all you need to be safe, and often ignore safe riding practices and acquiring the skills needed to ride a bike in traffic.

    Reality is that a piece of foam on your head will help you only a small percentage of cycling accidents. That might be enough to make it worth wearing one, but I think it also provides a false sense of security to a lot of people.

  13. #13
    Senior Member closetbiker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hotbike View Post
    http://www.boston.com/yourtown/news/...kCurrentPage=0

    Quoted from Boston.com:
    By Jonathan Simmons, Guest Columnist

    I am thrilled with how bicycle friendly Brookline is becoming.... So I was startled and unhappy last fall at a Brookline Bicycle Advisory Committee meeting when I heard a teen from the high school cycling club say “I think only about 10-20% of the kids who ride their bikes to school wear a helmet.” I hoped he was wrong but feared he was right. I decided to do a headcount of my own.

    ... I spent four mornings in front of the school and counted 105 teenage bikers. Here’s the bad news: of the 83 boys I counted, less than half (42%) were wearing helmets.


    ...Every kid I spoke with knew they were safer with a helmet.

    ... not wearing a helmet isn’t about logic. It’s about something else, I just couldn’t put my finger on it.

    Jonathan Simmons is a Brookline psychologist and avid cyclist.
    I could go on and on about what Jonathan wrote but I won't. Instead, I'll invite him to join the "Helmets Cramp my Style" thread, make just one comment, and ask him to read something.

    I think he's wrong. Not wearing a helmet may very well be, all about logic. I'd even suggest it's far more the case that wearing a helmet isn't about logic; it's about psychology. Something Johnathan should understand, if Johnathan understood something about helmets, but he doesn't. Maybe that's why he can't place his finger on why some people don't wear helmets, he's missing what's right in front of him because he assumes he understands helmets when he doesn't.

    Here's another article on helmet use from The Examiner.com that could provide Johnathan (and others) some insight. I hope he reads it.

    from Examiner.com:

    7 reasons there's more to bicycle safety than helmets

    Bicycle Transportation Examiner Adam Voiland

    City Paper, DC’s alternative weekly, recently published a cover story that chides cyclists for not wearing their helmets.



    In between grisly tales of riders’ heads being bumped, dragged, and otherwise mangled, the article reports that only about 36 percent of cyclists in New York City and about half of cyclists in DC wear helmets.


    The article has a derisive tone. No helmet, the story implies, and you’re as foolish as the balding man on the front cover riding with his helmet strapped to his jeans rather than his head.

    City Paper is right, of course. We’ve all heard the statistics before. Helmets reduce the risk of head injuries by 85 percent. Two-thirds of cyclists killed in accidents are not wearing helmets.


    Helmet skeptics say such statistics are exaggerated, and they’re probably right. Still, you don’t need an advanced degree to recognize that a helmeted head has a far better chance of surviving an accident intact than an unprotected one.

    There can, however, be too much of a good thing, and unfortunately that’s what’s happened with bicycles and helmets. At this point, in fact, the discourse on bicycle safety has become dangerously one-dimensional.

    Among much of the media and the government organizations that publish information about cycling, the helmet safety message has become something close to gospel. The narrative about bicycle safety in most cases boils down to this:

    Helmet = safe and responsible

    No helmet = unsafe and irresponsible


    That’s it. End of story. The problem: Bicycle safety is far more complicated than this simplistic message suggests. Worse, this helmet-centric public health message probably make the roads less safe for cyclists.

    Don’t get me wrong. Helmets are important. Cyclists should wear helmets. I wear a helmet, and I encourage other people to wear them too. But the one-dimensional message that helmet safety advocates push to the exclusion of other key factors is a problem. Here, then, are five things that helmet advocates aren’t talking about but should be:

    1) Helmets are a last resort. Helmets don’t prevent accidents; what they do is give riders a somewhat better chance of surviving one. There’s much more, however, that could and should be done in regards to cyclist (and driver) education and infrastructure improvement, for example, that would go a long ways to preventing accidents in the first place.

    2) One of the best ways to make the roads safer for cyclists is to get more cyclists on the road. There’s an inverse relationship between the number of cyclists on the road and the accident rate for cyclists. Research shows, for example, that when communities double the number of cyclist the accident rate per cyclist drops by about a third. This is presumably because motorists become more accustomed to sharing the road with cyclists. Some of the safest countries for cyclists--Denmark, for example--don’t promote helmet usage very aggressively and fear that such campaigns might discourage people from cycling, thus making roads less safe for cyclists.

    3) There are trade-offs to consider. We hear often that cycling is a dangerous activity because of the risk of traffic accidents. And, yes, there is a certain degree of risk associated with cycling. We hear far less, however, about the risks of not cycling as it relates to obesity, diabetes, and a host of other life-threatening health problems. Death from a heart attack might not be as dramatic as a gory traffic accident, but the loss of life is just as real. When you factor the health benefits in, some researchers estimate the benefits of cycling outweigh the risks by nearly twenty-fold.

    4) Alcohol is a major cause of accidents. In nearly a third of all fatal accidents involving cyclists either the cyclist or driver is intoxicated, research from the United States National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows. This suggests that one of the most powerful ways to make the roads safer for cyclists is to get serious about combating drunken cycling and driving.

    5) Expanding the diversity of cyclists will make biking a significantly safer form of transportation. One of the key reasons that cycling appears to be a dangerous form of transportation has to do with the demographics of the people who cycle. Currently, the vast majority of people who cycle as a form of transportation are males below the age of thirty. This particular demographic group, as most people can probably guess, leads the way in nearly every single type of accident regardless of whether it involves automobiles, guns, or bikes. The per capita accident rate among male cyclists is approximately eight times that of females, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Thus, increasing the number of women and older riders will significantly reduce the accident rate simply because these groups take far fewer unnecessary risks.

    6) Some perspective is in order. Though many people regard bicycling as a particularly dangerous form of transportation, few realize that walking is even worse One study conducted by a Rutgers University researcher, for example, shows that per kilometer traveled walking is more than 3 times more dangerous than cycling. Makes you wonder why there aren’t stronger public health pushes for walking helmets, say, or safer pedestrian crosswalks, doesn’t it?

    7) Pushing helmets can have unintended consequences. Some research, as detailed in this New York Times story, shows that drivers drive more aggressively when passing cyclists wearing helmets. In addition, there’s evidence that extra safety gear can give cyclists a false sense of security that elevates their risk-taking behavior--a phenomenon economists call the Peltzman effect.

    The bottom line: helmets are fine, but they’re anything but a panacea. In fact the emphasis on helmets likely reinforces the myth that cycling is an extremely dangerous activity, which in turn reduces the number of cyclists and makes the roads more dangerous for those cyclists who remain.

    Last edited by closetbiker; 04-23-10 at 09:14 PM.
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  14. #14
    Senior Member Dchiefransom's Avatar
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    I guess if he wants to convince people to wear helmets, then a trip to Europe is out of the question.
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