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View Poll Results: Helmet wearing habits?

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  • I've never worn a bike helmet

    178 10.66%
  • I used to wear a helmet, but have stopped

    94 5.63%
  • I've always worn a helmet

    648 38.80%
  • I didn't wear a helmet, but now do

    408 24.43%
  • I sometimes wear a helmet depending on the conditions

    342 20.48%
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  1. #6426
    Senior Member Brian Ratliff's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FBinNY View Post
    ...
    While some of us are actually interested in the issues involved, you seem to be more interested in a time wasting rhetorical exercise...
    I am deeply interested in the issues involved, which is why the rhetorical exercise (primarily by cutting through to the heart of rhetoric repeated across all 250+ pages of this thread). That you can't figure me out is not by accident. I keep my opinions to myself, but that doesn't mean my arguments carry any less weight.
    Last edited by Brian Ratliff; 12-10-13 at 06:47 PM.
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  2. #6427
    Quirky Grifter LesterOfPuppets's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brian Ratliff View Post
    The point I am making is that the decision to forgo a helmet does, averaged over a population, incur costs to society; that there are no Randian individuals; that the decision to wear a helmet or not is not, strictly speaking, a decision entirely devoid of social interest.
    Not wearing a helmet for lots of activities can incur costs. Why the fixation on helmets for cycling. Why include non-competitive solo cycling?

    I think training and education can save more than mandated helmet use, personally.

    Mandated helmet use is silly, providing infinitesimally little, if any, net good.
    Last edited by LesterOfPuppets; 12-10-13 at 06:51 PM.
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  3. #6428
    Senior Member Brian Ratliff's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LesterOfPuppets View Post
    Not wearing a helmet for lots of activities can incur costs. Why the fixation on helmets for non-competitive solo cycling?
    Well, it's a helmet thread in the advocacy and safety subforum of a bicycling forum website. There are other places to discuss the appropriate safety measures for other activities. What I do riding my bike doesn't, in general, influence my showering habits.
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  4. #6429
    Senior Member Brian Ratliff's Avatar
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    There is a saying my teammate uses in the context of bike racing equipment advantages (weight, aero, etc.), but which is applicable here:

    "If it matters a little, it matters."

    What he means by this is, everything that can be counted counts for something; every other consideration is a cost/benefit analysis.

    Now, cost/benefit analysis is important and all our policies are based on these types of analyses, but to compute this ratio, you first need to calculate the numerator and the denominator. Hence the discussion. I am focusing on the numerator. Too many people are saying there are no societal costs in forgoing a helmet. I think we've concluded that this calculus is wrong. It is a separate question altogether to compute the benefits (i.e. health benefits of increased ridership, etc.). Policy is balancing this ratio and is yet another question.
    Last edited by Brian Ratliff; 12-10-13 at 07:04 PM.
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  5. #6430
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brian Ratliff View Post
    I am deeply interested in the issues involved, which is why the rhetorical exercise .....
    Here's the difference. Some of have serious issues and beliefs regarding helmets, either their performance, or the issue of mandates. The mandate issue is serious business to some, who've had to testify for or against when mandate proposals were being introduced in various legislatures as they were here in Westchester County NY.

    So it's not theoretical, or a fun debate to some of us. It's real. If you don't want to be called a troll, you'll fly under true colors and either discuss things you believe in, or be up front that you want o engage in a theoretical debate on general principles vs the specific issue of bicycle helmet mandates.

    Common courtesy demands that at the least.
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  6. #6431
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brian Ratliff View Post
    There is a saying my teammate uses in the context of bike racing equipment advantages (weight, aero, etc.), but which is applicable here:

    "If it matters a little, it matters."

    What he means by this is, everything that can be counted counts for something; every other consideration is a cost/benefit analysis.

    Now, cost/benefit analysis is important and all our policies are based on these types of analyses, but to compute this ratio, you first need to calculate the numerator and the denominator. Hence the discussion. I am focusing on the numerator. Too many people are saying there are no societal costs in forgoing a helmet. I think we've concluded that this calculus is wrong. It is a separate question altogether to compute the benefits (i.e. health benefits of increased ridership, etc.). Policy is balancing this ratio and is yet another question.
    These societal costs are inconsequential.

    I'm still unsure of what point you're trying to make.

    Some people land on their head while crashing their bikes. I'll agree here.

    To extend that to helmet laws being sensible will take some sort of bridge for me. You're failing to build that bridge.
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  7. #6432
    Senior Member Brian Ratliff's Avatar
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    Basically, the pro-helmet crowd considers the cost of a helmet to be almost zero and the benefit tangible, which means the cost/benefit analysis favors a helmet. They compute the cost of the helmet by looking at helmet prices and the benefit by looking at potential medical costs deferred. This is a conservative calculation by definition. The price of a helmet is quantifiable and low by anyone's standards. The benefits can be put in fairly vivid terms.

    The pro-choice crowd argues the benefit of the helmet does't outweigh the cost. Here's where the rhetoric comes in. The benefit is tangible but difficult to compute. To make this cost/benefit in favor of choice requires either showing the benefit to be near zero (the cost is finite by anyone's standards), or you have to compute both the cost and the benefit rather precisely to calculate a precise ratio. This is a very difficult calculation to carry out.

    To cut through the calculation, the pro-choice crowd calculates a different ratio: assumed risk - personal benefit vs. society's cost. They can now argue that their personal benefit is their concern and nobody's business, and the cost/benefit ratio benefits the individual because the societal cost is near zero. They show that societal cost is near zero by asking the rhetorical question: How does my decision to forgo a helmet affect you?

    The answer to this question is intended to be rhetorically obvious; it doesn't affect you, riding in Florida, whether I, riding in Oregon, am wearing a helmet or not, right? My intent on this whole discussion is to really drill down into the question of societal cost.
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  8. #6433
    Senior Member Brian Ratliff's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FBinNY View Post
    Here's the difference. Some of have serious issues and beliefs regarding helmets, either their performance, or the issue of mandates. The mandate issue is serious business to some, who've had to testify for or against when mandate proposals were being introduced in various legislatures as they were here in Westchester County NY.

    So it's not theoretical, or a fun debate to some of us. It's real. If you don't want to be called a troll, you'll fly under true colors and either discuss things you believe in, or be up front that you want o engage in a theoretical debate on general principles vs the specific issue of bicycle helmet mandates.

    Common courtesy demands that at the least.
    What makes you think I am not serious? My logic is sound. It is simply not a policy position. This is bikeforums.net. I have an account, I have the right to say my part in the discussion at hand, I have the right not to reveal a policy position.
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  9. #6434
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    I prefer to look at cycling as a spectrum.

    It's rather blunt to assume that all cycling styles wil have the same crash per minute or mile ratio when conducting cost/benefits analyses.
    Last edited by LesterOfPuppets; 12-10-13 at 07:29 PM.
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  10. #6435
    Senior Member curbtender's Avatar
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    You go Brian...Makes sense to me.
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  11. #6436
    Senior Member Brian Ratliff's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LesterOfPuppets View Post
    These societal costs are inconsequential.

    I'm still unsure of what point you're trying to make.

    Some people land on their head while crashing their bikes. I'll agree here.

    To extend that to helmet laws being sensible will take some sort of bridge for me. You're failing to build that bridge.
    I am not trying to build that bridge. Or rather, I am trying to gather the pieces to build the bridge. Back your assertion that "these societal costs are inconsequential"! These costs can be counted, so they count. Define "inconsequential" (which is to say, define the cost/benefit equation), or at least define a path towards getting to that definition.

    We agree that sometimes a bike crash ends with landing on your head. I don't think it's too far a stretch to suggest that helmets mitigate the effect of landing on your head (there's a bunch of evidence posted recently in support of this point). I think we've agreed there is a societal cost to medical care involved with the aftereffects of landing on your head, helmet or not, and we likely agree that the costs are higher if you don't wear a helmet. Are we agreed on these points?

    That is the cost part of the equation. My point is merely to show that the rhetoric of "no cost to society" regarding the decision to forgo a helmet is FALSE. Once we are past this, then we can debate the benefit side of the equation, and then finally whether there is a place for a helmet law.
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  12. #6437
    Senior Member Brian Ratliff's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LesterOfPuppets View Post
    I prefer to look at cycling as a spectrum.

    It's rather blunt to assume that all cycling styles with have the same crash per minute or mile ratio when conducting cost/benefits analyses.
    Yes, but by and large, when you are conducting a cross-society cost/benefit analysis, you are dealing with statistics, which throw out "you" and "me" in favor of "mean" and "standard deviation". Are you and I representative of the average cycling population? I race bikes, bump shoulders, bunny hop obstacles, touch wheels, etc. I don't think I am an average rider. You've claimed 100k miles of transportational riding without serious incident. Is this average? I don't know, but I don't think you know either.
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  13. #6438
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brian Ratliff View Post
    That is the cost part of the equation. My point is merely to show that the rhetoric of "no cost to society" regarding the decision to forgo a helmet is FALSE. Once we are past this, then we can debate the benefit side of the equation, and then finally whether there is a place for a helmet law.
    OK thanks for the hairsplitting.

    I swear I'll stick to "infinitesimally small cost to society that is likely outweighed by benefits of having a healthier population due to cycling" from here on out.
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  14. #6439
    Senior Member Brian Ratliff's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FBinNY View Post
    ... Some of have serious issues and beliefs regarding helmets, either their performance, or the issue of mandates. The mandate issue is serious business to some, who've had to testify for or against when mandate proposals were being introduced in various legislatures as they were here in Westchester County NY.

    ...
    I'll expand on this. What I am talking about here is, at its core, the questions you will need answers to if you are going to convince a non-cycling, general audience away from a helmet mandate. I had a bit of this conversation with my mother several years ago with me taking the side of individual choice. The issue was immediately drawn to shared societal costs; insurance especially. The conservative option, for a vast majority of people, is to mandate helmets. The only obstacle that usually carries any weight with anyone other than a fellow cyclist is the administrative cost of enforcement.

    So you, in trying to define the cost/benefit analysis in favor of choice, will have to admit and quantify the costs and then convincingly show the benefits of free choice. Because, frankly, you have an uphill battle with convincing non-cyclists. The only thing in your favor is people tend not to embrace new legislation on principle in the US. You should relish the opportunity to test your arguments in an obscure forum under internet anonymity.
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  15. #6440
    Senior Member Brian Ratliff's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LesterOfPuppets View Post
    ...
    I swear I'll stick to "infinitesimally small cost to society that is likely outweighed by benefits of having a healthier population due to cycling" from here on out.
    Is it infinitesimally small? Really? Show your work. You already put a cost on it. A healthcare plan is, what, $350/mo under the new law? Wasn't this your price in exchange for paying for non-helmeted cycling head injuries out of pocket? This seems to indicate "infinitesimal" means "~$350/mo" to you.

    Side note: I thought this was a bit high, but at $350/mo, it'll take 24 years of riding to offset a $100k hospital visit (easily the price for an ambulance, ER, doctors, a few days in a bed, and recovery from a bad head injury). I'd say this is actually a fairly good estimate. I would expect catastrophic accidents happen at about this rate (100k miles is a bit more than 4000 miles/year for those 24 years) on average.
    Last edited by Brian Ratliff; 12-10-13 at 07:55 PM.
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  16. #6441
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    Brian has it right. If everyone wore a helmet then a larger percentage of accident victims would benefit. You just don't create velocities walking that you do when riding a bike.
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  17. #6442
    Senior Member Brian Ratliff's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brian Ratliff View Post
    ...
    Side note: I thought this was a bit high, but at $350/mo, it'll take 24 years of riding to offset a $100k hospital visit (easily the price for an ambulance, ER, doctors, a few days in a bed, and recovery from a bad head injury). I'd say this is actually a fairly good estimate. I would expect catastrophic accidents happen at about this rate (100k miles is a bit more than 4000 miles/year for those 24 years) on average.
    To expand...

    The cost of the same accident wearing a helmet might be about $4000 - the cost of a self-transported ER visit, a couple hours under observation, 20 minutes with a doctor and a CT scan (about the cost to insurance of my last velodrome crash). Over 24 years of riding, this comes to about $14/mo. Net cost to society might then be estimated at roughly $335/mo per individual for choosing to consistently go helmet-less.
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  18. #6443
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brian Ratliff View Post

    So you, in trying to define the cost/benefit analysis in favor of choice, will have to admit and quantify the costs and then convincingly show the benefits of free choice. Because, frankly, you have an uphill battle with convincing non-cyclists. The only thing in your favor is people tend not to embrace new legislation on principle in the US. You should relish the opportunity to test your arguments in an obscure forum under internet anonymity.
    You're the one that is trying to debate this on a basis of societal costs. I'm not. I'm arguing on the basis of social policy and arguing that the societal cost argument doesn't hold water. I argue that applying social cost arguments opens a door we simply don't want to open.

    BTW- When my county took up the proposal, I didn't bother with high minded arguments and stuck to issues of law. Though I opened with the helmet mandates discourage cycling data handed each legislator supporting data and reports, I quickly mover from there. My main point was that the county would be exceeding it's home rule authority since bicycles are regulated by the state, and the DMV. (One legislator said the county's counsel said they were OK on the home rule issue)

    So I also raised the point of legal enforceability since our county sees large numbers on nonresidents transiting by bike. Since there's no legal requirement to carry ID in NYS, the police would be hard pressed to know who the law applied to and who it didn't.

    Interestingly most so-called bicycle advocates who testified trotted out the usual helmet saved my life stories, which didn't help the cause. It's part of why I no longer trust the bicycle advocacy movement. Though there was testimony on the philosophical issue of choice form other (non advocate) riders.

    In the end my argument scored a few points, but not with the legislators who felt they could pass the bill at the next session.

    What killed it was the Chief of police of a local town, that large numbers of cyclists pass through every weekend. He wrote the legislature that he wasn't going to enforce the law unless the bill were amended to provide for the associated costs, and indemnify the town against any wrongful stop suit. He got a few other chief to sign on, and that was the end of that --- for now.
    Last edited by FBinNY; 12-10-13 at 08:33 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brian Ratliff View Post
    To expand...

    The cost of the same accident wearing a helmet might be about $4000 - the cost of a self-transported ER visit, a couple hours under observation, 20 minutes with a doctor and a CT scan (about the cost to insurance of my last velodrome crash). Over 24 years of riding, this comes to about $14/mo. Net cost to society might then be estimated at roughly $335/mo per individual for choosing to consistently go helmet-less.
    Your analysis assumes that helmets always mitigate accidents to a high degree, but that's not in line with the data. The benefit of helmets is with certain types of impacts, and a narrow band of energy within a wide spectrum. Many will die helmet or not, while others won't be injured severely either way. So it's more reasonable to assume that the cost savings will be significantly lower.

    Also don't forget that a large percentage of bicycle injuries are other than to the head, so the total costs can be significant. As I said earlier, the cost based analysis can be used not only to support a helmet mandate, but to rethink whether bicycles should be kept off "motor" roads entirely. Face it, we don't have lots of friends in many jurisdictions, and suggesting that bicycling is dangerous and that folks who ride bicycles impose unnecessary costs on society won't do us any good.
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  20. #6445
    Senior Member Brian Ratliff's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FBinNY View Post
    You're the one that is trying to debate this on a basis of societal costs. I'm not. I'm arguing on the basis of social policy and arguing that the societal cost argument doesn't hold water. I argue that applying social cost arguments opens a door we simply don't want to open.
    To put a fine point on it, I am not debating a policy position. You seem to believe I am. I am trying to calculate the cost to society, and to get the likes of you to admit that there is some cost to society for "free choice".

    BTW- When my county took up the proposal, I didn't bother with high minded arguments and stuck to issues of law. Though I opened with the helmet mandates discourage cycling data handed each legislator supporting data and reports, I quickly mover from there. My main point was that the county would be exceeding it's home rule authority since bicycles are regulated by the state, and the DMV. (One legislator said the county's counsel said they were OK on the home rule issue)

    So I also raised the point of legal enforceability since our county sees large numbers on nonresidents transiting by bike. Since there's no legal requirement to carry ID in NYS, the police would be hard pressed to know who the law applied to and who it didn't.

    Interestingly most so-called bicycle advocates who testified trotted out the usual helmet saved my life stories, which didn't help the cause. It's part of why I no longer trust the bicycle advocacy movement. Though there was testimony on the philosophical issue of choice form other (non advocate) riders.

    In the end my argument scored a few points, but not with the legislators who felt they could pass the bill at the next session.

    What killed it was the Chief of police of a local town, that large numbers of cyclists pass through every weekend. He wrote the legislature that he wasn't going to enforce the law unless the bill were amended to provide for the associated costs, and indemnify the town against any wrongful stop suit. He got a few other chief to sign on, and that was the end of that --- for now.
    Interesting story. Seems you basically lost. Might be the lesson to learn is to first convince your allies before you start dredging up obscure issues such as "home rule authority", especially since there are counties in the US which have implemented mandatory helmet laws successfully (King County in Washington State is one I have experience with, having lived there for a time) meaning there is precident. It seems to be generally visitors are expected to abide by the county's laws, even if not residents, but I am not a lawyer and won't pretend to play one on TV.

    If I were you, I would swallow my pride and direct my efforts on convincing my fellow cycling advocates that this mandatory helmet law is not in their best interest and develop a strategy for when this comes up next time.
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  21. #6446
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    My son dicided to not wear a helmet... Why? because it didn't protect him in his last "accident" He was riding down a hill fairly fast, somebody in a truck turned in front of him, and stopped. They had a pipe sticking out of the back of the truck about 4' and he got it in the forehead... So, The helmet didn't seem like it did anything and he said it was useless... Really I said? What about when your head bounced off the pavement when you were unconceouce after the pipe hitting you in the forhead maybe it save the back or your scull from the pavement? I think it protected him from that, but he says no, that didn't happen... Really? I suspect he was unconscious before he hit the ground...
    He uses statistics as a drunken man uses lamp-posts...for support rather than illumination. I do like my beer, so sometimes I do end up leaning on the lamp-post...

  22. #6447
    Senior Member Brian Ratliff's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FBinNY View Post
    Your analysis assumes that helmets always mitigate accidents to a high degree, but that's not in line with the data. The benefit of helmets is with certain types of impacts, and a narrow band of energy within a wide spectrum. Many will die helmet or not, while others won't be injured severely either way. So it's more reasonable to assume that the cost savings will be significantly lower.

    Also don't forget that a large percentage of bicycle injuries are other than to the head, so the total costs can be significant. As I said earlier, the cost based analysis can be used not only to support a helmet mandate, but to rethink whether bicycles should be kept off "motor" roads entirely. Face it, we don't have lots of friends in many jurisdictions, and suggesting that bicycling is dangerous and that folks who ride bicycles impose unnecessary costs on society won't do us any good.
    I've lived most of this, a few times. I have a bit of personal experience. If you crash and hit the ground with your head, your helmet will perform superbly. If you hit an obstacle, or if a car runs over your head, all bets are off. But I would put money that most crashes involve hitting your head on flat ground, and the helmet works extremely well for this. My analysis presupposes an accident of this type every 24 years at a pace of 4k miles/year or about every 100k miles. Do you take issue with this rate? If so, what would an appropriate rate be? Mine just comes from rules of thumb regarding my experience and anecdotal evidence; an admittedly weak form of estimation.

    We can debate the efficacy of helmets another time. There have been a lot of keystrokes regarding this, and besides, we have a solid handful of studies from 2012/13 posted just a bit ago that all point to the efficacy of helmets in accidents.

    Non-head injuries are a bit outside the scope of this discussion, non? Why do you people always try to scoot around the cost analysis for a head injury by introducing bathtubs, driving and non-head injuries?

    And I'd work on finding airtight arguments rather than worrying about whether revealing a certain analysis will strengthen or weaken your preferred policy positions. If you don't analyse a scenario, someone else, maybe someone unkind to your policy position, certainly will. Probably better that you analyse it first.
    Cat 2 Track, Cat 3 Road.
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  23. #6448
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brian Ratliff View Post
    To put a fine point on it, I am not debating a policy position. You seem to believe I am. I am trying to calculate the cost to society, and to get the likes of you to admit that there is some cost to society for "free choice".
    .
    I guess you don't actually read, just keep trotting out the same stuff.

    Nobody (or at least I'm not) is saying there's no cost to society when folks exercise free choice. In fact we're saying just the opposite, that ALL decisions impose costs to society, so the question is how to decide where and how to draw regulatory lines, and whether the cost based analysis is an appropriate way to do so. You wan to treat this issue in a vacuum, while I and others are trying to put it into some kind of context.

    Quote Originally Posted by Brian Ratliff View Post
    Interesting story. Seems you basically lost. ..,.
    I guess I wasn't clear, or you don't read. I (we) won.

    The legislature was basically split, with some needing reasons to vote against what seemed like a motherhood and apple pie issue. While proponents wanted to ignore the home rule issue others didn't but needed cover. In any case, even though I addressed the enforcement question to the legislators, it was the police chief who heard it and saw the implications in the real world. I planted the seed, he watered it and grew it. His letter, reinforcing my issue is what killed the bill.
    Last edited by FBinNY; 12-10-13 at 09:12 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brian Ratliff View Post
    I've lived most of this, a few times. I have a bit of personal experience. If you crash and hit the ground with your head, your helmet will perform superbly. If you hit an obstacle, or if a car runs over your head, all bets are off. But I would put money that most crashes involve hitting your head on flat ground, and the helmet works extremely well for this. My analysis presupposes an accident of this type every 24 years at a pace of 4k miles/year or about every 100k miles. Do you take issue with this rate? If so, what would an appropriate rate be? Mine just comes from rules of thumb regarding my experience and anecdotal evidence; an admittedly weak form of estimation.
    Either your estimate is too pessimistic or I'm enjoying life well out on the bell curve. 500,000 miles and no head-strikes. Knock on wood (raps knuckle against head).

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    Quote Originally Posted by Brian Ratliff View Post



    Non-head injuries are a bit outside the scope of this discussion, non? Why do you people always try to scoot around the cost analysis for a head injury by introducing bathtubs, driving and non-head injuries?

    .
    Because real world discussions of real world issues call for context. You want to discuss this in a vacuum. Also, you keep flitting around. Are we debating the idea of applying cost based logic to possible helmet legislation, or are debating the actual numbers, or what.

    If you want to debate actual numbers, you have to use real data, ie the total numbers and severity of bicycle head injuries, comparing the spectrum for helmet wearers vs. non-helmet wearers, not some random assumption of what the incidence might be for any rider per 100k miles.

    Even with real data, it has to be analyzed to separate our the various types of riding involved, since not every category has the same crash rate. If you want real data, helmets themselves may be the best source because the impact energy can be calculated from the amount of crush.

    In any case, if you're looking for ways to justify arguing against helmet bills, I at least have experience marshaling what it took to kill one.
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    WARNING, I'm from New York. Thin skinned people should maintain safe distance.

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