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Helmets, Rapha, and the "freedom of choice" argument

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Helmets, Rapha, and the "freedom of choice" argument

Old 11-05-09, 07:17 AM
  #51  
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Originally Posted by bigtea View Post
I'm an unapologetic advocate of helmets. My words to any cyclist riding without a helmet: "No helmet, no brains".

Topping it off are those arrogant Rapha ads with models in tweed beanies dressed up to look like a "rugged" Ivy League MBA's spending some of their TARP subsidized bonus on a weekend ride in Norway. I'm reminded of Wayne McLaren, the now infamous Marlboro Man, who died of lung cancer. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wayne_McLaren. I doubt that many of you can remember when cigarette smoking was considered glamorous and that image of a "rugged" cowboy was the epitome of masculinity.
Why is idiots like this insist on having strong opinions on subjects they obviously know nothing about?

What's my problem with the ads or cyclists riding without helmets? Or more generally what is my problem with the "free choice" argument? The free choice argument: 1) ignores common sense,
Wouldn't "common sense" require an appeal to actual evidence rather than analogy? Of course in the real world the evidence says that cycling helmets have zero effect in serious accidents...

2) suggests that helmets are not necessary for safety,
They're not. Deaths from cycling are incredibly rare and 90% result from collisions with cars - in which helmets are useless.

3) transfers the long term liability of an accident from an irresponsible individual to generous society,
The same is true of your parent's child rearing, I'm afraid. Helmets don't help in serious accidents - if a few grams of foam worked that well then motorcyclists could wear foam beanies too, instead of heavy and expensive kevlar reinforced monsters.

and 4) offers a horrible example for children.
Think of the children!

Notice how posts like the above NEVER quote actual facts or statistics - the argument is invariably based on metaphor and assumption. These people simply insist that the universe be friendly to lazy idiots like themselves - a universe which would require to perform research, gather facts and think horrifies the lazy baskets...

For the non-lazy and non-idiotic:

https://www.cyclehelmets.org/1012.html

There is no direct evidence that the wearing of cycle helmets has led to fewer deaths amongst cyclists. Most research into cycle helmets has not included cyclist fatalities.

The premise that helmets save lives is by extrapolation from research that has suggested that helmets might reduce injuries to the head. As most fatalities involve head injury (this applies to all major external causes of violent death, not especially cycling), the reasoning is that by reducing injuries to the head, cycle helmets can lead to fewer cyclist deaths.

Whole population statistics for cycling fatalities do not support the above hypothesis.

Long-term analyses of fatalities in Canada [8], New Zealand [9] and USA [10] [11] show no helmet benefit; indeed, one study [11] suggests helmeted cyclists are more likely to be killed. Although fatality rates have generally declined, cyclists have fared no better than pedestrians. In Great Britain, too, there has been no discernible improvement in fatality trends relative to pedestrians as helmets have become more common [12] [13] .

In New South Wales, Australia in the three years following the introduction of its helmet law, 80% of cyclists killed and 80% of those seriously injured wore helmets at the time [3] [4]. These proportions are almost identical to wearing rates in street surveys (85% and 83% for adults in 1992 and 1993 respectively; 76% and 74% for children [3] [5]), suggesting that helmets had little effect on the likelihood of fatal or serious injury.

In Western Australia where bicycle helmets have been mandatory for all ages since July 1992, the annual cyclist death toll from 1987 to 1991 (pre-law) averaged 7.6 fatalities per year. From 1993 to 1997 (post-law) it was 6.4 fatalities per year, representing a 16% reduction [6]. Government cycling surveys show cycling declined in Western Australia by approximately 30% during the 1990s following mandatory helmet law enforcement [7]. Thus the increase in helmet wearing as a result of the law did not reduce fatalities relative to cycle use and may have led to an increase.

...Most fatalities involve multiple injuries and head injury is not the sole cause of death. The experience of a solicitor specialising in cyclist injuries [14] supports the view that deaths solely due to head injury are unusual. Furthermore, fatal head injuries typically involve rotational forces, which cycle helmets do not mitigate and may even make more likely [2].

Cyclist deaths were also investigated in Auckland, New Zealand [15]. 16 of 19 non-helmeted cyclists died from mulitple injuries, so helmets would not have changed the outcome. Only one cyclist died of head injuries in a bike-only crash, the most likely situation for a helmet to help. That cyclist died despite wearing a helmet and a fall at moderate speed. The researchers concluded: "This study indicates that the compulsory wearing of suitable safety helmets by cyclists is unlikely to lead to a great reduction in fatal injuries, despite their enthusiastic advocacy".
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Old 11-05-09, 07:34 AM
  #52  
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That's an interesting summary. I suspect helmets make people feel better about doing something moderately dangerous and a bit exotic. Nobody I know wears a helmet in the shower, although I suspect showering is more dangerous (bare feet, slick surface, hard things to hit).

In my particular case, I strongly suspect substantial risk compensation. I'm probably a much safer cyclist when I don't wear a helmet. The magic plastic helps me overcome my reluctance to ride like a manic on public roads.

I do feel underprotected. I can't see a highly viable solution to this, at least for road cycling with high energy output and resulting need to dump excess heat. I'm on a motorcycle twice a day at least on my commute, always with all the gear, so I suspect that contours my expectation for abrasion and impact protection (armored clothes, protective boots, full face helmet).

In a related vein, bicyclists often look at my motorcycle and comment how dangerous motorcycling is. While I'm riding that in armor and they're riding two abreast around corners on narrow country roads. Funny world.
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Old 11-05-09, 07:42 AM
  #53  
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Originally Posted by mandovoodoo View Post
In a related vein, bicyclists often look at my motorcycle and comment how dangerous motorcycling is. While I'm riding that in armor and they're riding two abreast around corners on narrow country roads. Funny world.
Again, any evidence that this is problematic? I have NEVER heard of a cyclist getting hit/killed due to riding two abreast on a country road. You hear this same argument from the guys in the road forum who also seem to believe that helmets are THE way to safety on a bicycle. A close number two is riding as close to the edge of the road as possible. At least they have anecdotes about the helmets doing something.
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Old 11-05-09, 07:47 AM
  #54  
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Originally Posted by n8tron View Post
this must really piss you off then huh...

should they stop airing the tour de france?
I've got zero interest in racing, but a friend is a TdF fanatic and I couldn't avoid watching some of it while at their place a couple of years ago.

From what I saw, they only go helmetless on mountain ascents where they're not going very fast, and they don't have to contend with cars on the road other than team cars and camera motorbikes. They put helmets on before descents.
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Old 11-05-09, 08:01 AM
  #55  
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my thought is: if you feel you need to wear a helmet and want to wear one, then wear one. if you don't want to wear one, then don't. free to choose.

anyone wearing/not wearing a helmet is welcome to ride with me.
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Old 11-05-09, 08:50 AM
  #56  
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As I've said before, a cat on the head is way better than a helmet.
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Old 11-05-09, 09:08 AM
  #57  
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I am an unapologetic advocate of sepia-toned advertising campaigns glorifying the spirit of a raucous bicycling epic draped in fashionable, overpriced outerwear.

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Old 11-05-09, 10:20 AM
  #58  
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I think that TdF riders are only allowed to remove their helmet on the final ascent of a mountain top finish.

I don't need to wear a helmet in my car as I have full surround airbags. I am also well protected by the actual cage of the car.

If helmets were so useless why are they required in racing in Europe? Even amateur racing. Something to do with the clueless insurance companies no doubt?

All collisions with cars are fatal? I suspect that most collsions are not fatal just minor injuries. Exactly the sort of circumstance that a helmet will help prevent more serious injury.

Last edited by ukmtk; 11-05-09 at 10:45 AM.
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Old 11-05-09, 10:52 AM
  #59  
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Originally Posted by mandovoodoo View Post
That's an interesting summary. I suspect helmets make people feel better about doing something moderately dangerous and a bit exotic. Nobody I know wears a helmet in the shower, although I suspect showering is more dangerous (bare feet, slick surface, hard things to hit).
Statistically you're correct. Stairs also. Especially for seniors - they're vastly more at risk than a younger person riding through NYC traffic.

In my particular case, I strongly suspect substantial risk compensation. I'm probably a much safer cyclist when I don't wear a helmet. The magic plastic helps me overcome my reluctance to ride like a manic on public roads.
That's bad.

I do feel underprotected. I can't see a highly viable solution to this, at least for road cycling with high energy output and resulting need to dump excess heat. I'm on a motorcycle twice a day at least on my commute, always with all the gear, so I suspect that contours my expectation for abrasion and impact protection (armored clothes, protective boots, full face helmet).

In a related vein, bicyclists often look at my motorcycle and comment how dangerous motorcycling is. While I'm riding that in armor and they're riding two abreast around corners on narrow country roads. Funny world.
I've seen people wearing helmets and cycling while using a mobile. Most people don't know how to emergency stop correctly - including most serious roadies. And the number of people who the different risk levels for being near certain types of traffic is vanishingly small - anyone who cares enough about safety to wear a helmet but who rides next to a bus or truck at a junction is acting like an idiot - their risk per second just went up around hundred-fold. The other people who are definitely, but definitely people who say the helmet issue is simple. It's anything but.
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Old 11-05-09, 10:59 AM
  #60  
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[QUOTE=ukmtk;9988460]I think that TdF riders are only allowed to remove their helmet on the final ascent of a mountain top finish.
[/quote

So?

I don't need to wear a helmet in my car as I have full surround airbags. I am also well protected by the actual cage of the car.
Wrong. You're at more risk of death per second in a car - even with airbags etc - than you are on a bicycle. Stop being lazy and check the actual stats before spamming the world with your uninformed blather. And the sort of helmet you could wear in a car - a motorcycle helmet - is actually useful in a collision.

If helmets were so useless why are they required in racing in Europe?
For PR and legal reasons.

All collisions with cars are fatal?
Learn to read already. I said that 90% of cycling deaths are from collisions with cars. That doesn't imply that all collisions with cars are fatal.

I suspect that most collsions are not fatal just minor injuries. Exactly the sort of circumstance that a helmet will help prevent more serious injury.
Again, learn to read: the real life helmet expert whose testimony is accepted in court said:

If worn correctly, a cycle helmet may afford some protection against minor, largely superficial, injuries to the head.

A helmet is unlikely to offer protection against more serious or life-threatening injuries.

You are more likely to hit your head in a crash if you wear a helmet.

You may be more likely to crash in the first place, particularly if a helmet makes
you feel better protected.

A helmet may increase the very small risk of the most serious brain injuries that lead to death and chronic intellectual disability.

The likelihood of serious head injury when cycling is extremely small, and hugely outweighed by the health benefits of cycling.
It's not very hard to understand, really - at least if you have an adult reading age - a helmet will do a good job of protecting against a minor injury, but it is unlikely to turn a serious injury into a minor one. Count on a helmet to protect against road rash and headaches, not to save your life.
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Old 11-05-09, 11:13 AM
  #61  
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Originally Posted by ukmtk View Post
I think that TdF riders are only allowed to remove their helmet on the final ascent of a mountain top finish.
Not anymore.

If helmets were so useless why are they required in racing in Europe? Even amateur racing. Something to do with the clueless insurance companies no doubt?
Actually yes, plus as above poster mentioned PR. Also there is a difference between riding around by yourself or in a small group and with 30-100 riders closely packed together going all out and taking stupid risks. Throw in variable handling skills, and potential for crashes are much higher. Now most crashes result just in road rash, damaged or broken equipment and bunch of pissed of riders. Even more serious ones are more to do with broken bones, neck injuries and lacerations to the rest of the body, then head injuries. In race situation I would wear one even if it wasn't required. Two reasons. One I have a somewhat irrational fear of big chain ring hitting my nugging. Two I can deal with road rash at home. Most lacerations to the head, even though they are superficial, will require stitches. I rather not spent 3-4 hours seating in the "emergency" room on a weekend.

UD

Last edited by UmneyDurak; 11-05-09 at 11:25 AM.
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Old 11-05-09, 11:16 AM
  #62  
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Originally Posted by UmneyDurak View Post
Not anymore.


Actually yes, plus as above poster mentioned PR.
Add to this the fact that Giro pays the UCI quite a bit of money.
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Old 11-05-09, 01:52 PM
  #63  
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As I have stated in other posts my helmet has saved me from at least one cracked skull/concussion. I was clipped by a motorist opening their car door, went flying and landed on my back. My head hit the tarmac quite hard. I suspect if I had not been wearing a helmet I would have had a cracked skull or concussion at the very least.

That's called personal experience rather than statistics that can be argued either way. No doubt there are many experts who will claim that helmets make a huge difference.

Being a mathematical physicist trained at one the most prestigious universities in the world I expect that my reading age is better than average. And back when I got straight A's it was not quite as common as it is today in the UK.
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Old 11-05-09, 01:59 PM
  #64  
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Originally Posted by ukmtk View Post
As I have stated in other posts my helmet has saved me from at least one cracked skull/concussion. I was clipped by a motorist opening their car door, went flying and landed on my back. My head hit the tarmac quite hard. I suspect if I had not been wearing a helmet I would have had a cracked skull or concussion at the very least.

That's called personal experience rather than statistics that can be argued either way. No doubt there are many experts who will claim that helmets make a huge difference.
I highlighted relevant parts. It was your personal experience, you don't know what could have happened without a helmet, it can be argued that without a heavier object on your head you would have impacted differently, etc.

So from this experience what have you learned?
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Old 11-05-09, 02:28 PM
  #65  
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Originally Posted by mandovoodoo View Post
That's an interesting summary. I suspect helmets make people feel better about doing something moderately dangerous and a bit exotic. Nobody I know wears a helmet in the shower, although I suspect showering is more dangerous (bare feet, slick surface, hard things to hit).
You need to read bikeforums.net much closer. Many cyclist here have not only admitted, but even recommended wearing their cycle helmets in the shower. It seems to be a popular method for preventing them from stinking.
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Old 11-05-09, 02:48 PM
  #66  
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Originally Posted by ukmtk View Post
As I have stated in other posts my helmet has saved me from at least one cracked skull/concussion. I was clipped by a motorist opening their car door, went flying and landed on my back. My head hit the tarmac quite hard. I suspect if I had not been wearing a helmet I would have had a cracked skull or concussion at the very least.

That's called personal experience rather than statistics that can be argued either way. No doubt there are many experts who will claim that helmets make a huge difference.

Being a mathematical physicist trained at one the most prestigious universities in the world I expect that my reading age is better than average. And back when I got straight A's it was not quite as common as it is today in the UK.
Yup, personal experience can mean pretty much nothing (to everybody else) or pretty much everything (to the individual who experienced it).

One fact is, you don't know what would have happened if you didn't wear your helmet.

Another way to look at the advantage of helmets is see what has happened when people have worn helmets and what has happened when people have not worn helmets.

The facts are, head injuries have not decreased since people started wearing helmets.

Now this may seem odd, because at the very least, it would seem helmets would certainly help in certain cases, but it doesn't take into account the behavior of those who wear helmets and it's clear that wearing a helmet cannot prevent an accident/collision.

The facts are, it is not clear that wearing a helmet bestows benefits to the wearer. Some say yes, some say no.

As it is, it should be a matter of choice and each choice should be respected.

Last edited by closetbiker; 11-05-09 at 03:41 PM.
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Old 11-05-09, 03:11 PM
  #67  
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Originally Posted by ukmtk View Post
I think that TdF riders are only allowed to remove their helmet on the final ascent of a mountain top finish.
...

If helmets were so useless why are they required in racing in Europe? Even amateur racing. Something to do with the clueless insurance companies no doubt?
Not to pick on you in particular, there have been various comments about helmets and how racers are required to wear them.

If you think that the pro racers are sold on the efficacy of helmets then check out Andy Schleck. He's satisfying the rules by wearing a helmet, but with the way he's got the strap, he might as well be wearing a cloth cycling cap.

(edit) Not a fan of Andy? How about Lance? Mark Cavendish?(/edit)

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Last edited by Speedo; 11-05-09 at 03:30 PM.
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Old 11-05-09, 03:13 PM
  #68  
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Originally Posted by Wogsterca View Post
Okay, I started riding a bicycle in 1968, there were no bicycle helmets then, practically everyone I knew, rode a bicycle, so probably 100 kids, each putting 10,000 miles per year on a bicycle, over a 12 year period, easily 12,000,000 miles. Guess how many died or suffered a serious head injury, in those days before the invention of helmets? There were crashes, I was involved in a few, but not one head injury more serious then a little road rash, among the entire group. This idea that if you don't wear a helmet at all times and in all places, that you will crash and die of a serious head injury, is marketing male bovine manure perpetuated by the helmet makers so that they have cyclists living in fear and so that they sell more helmets. If they can convince government to make those helmets mandatory, they sell even more.

These days I usually wear one, not because I think I need it, but because it's a ready identifier to cagers that I am on a bicycle, when they can't see the bicycle, so they expect me to be capable of moving faster then a pedestrian.
well put.
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Old 11-05-09, 04:16 PM
  #69  
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Originally Posted by closetbiker View Post
Yup, personal experience can mean pretty much nothing (to everybody else) or pretty much everything (to the individual who experienced it).

One fact is, you don't know what would have happened if you didn't wear your helmet.

Another way to look at the advantage of helmets is see what has happened when people have worn helmets and what has happened when people have not worn helmets.

The facts are, head injuries have not decreased since people started wearing helmets.

Now this may seem odd, because at the very least, it would seem helmets would certainly help in certain cases, but it doesn't take into account the behavior of those who wear helmets and it's clear that wearing a helmet cannot prevent an accident/collision.

The facts are, it is not clear that wearing a helmet bestows benefits to the wearer. Some say yes, some say no.

As it is, it should be a matter of choice and each choice should be respected.
Do you have some figures for head injury rate adjusted by something? If head injuries were staying the same overall (5,000 this year, 5,000 ten years ago) then that would mean that either:
1. They're constant and so is cycling, even though the population is up.
2. They're dropping, and more people are cycling.
3. They're rising, and less people are cycling.

Get my drift? Do you have something that's made adjustments for this sort of thing?

PS - I refuse to read the *other* helmet thread. I value my sanity.
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Old 11-05-09, 04:36 PM
  #70  
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basically, in areas that have instituted helmet laws, ridership has dropped to a much larger degree than head injuries. (eg, ridership dropping by 30%, head injuries dropping by 15%)

Overall, in areas that have not had a law implemented, helmet use has increased, but head injuries have increased at a greater rate than the use of helmets

There are several studies that have shown this.

In my particular province where a law was passed with the expressed goal to save lives, ridership decreased by 28% and deaths jumped by 50% (if I remember right - I'm at work and don't have my files handy - still, I think you can get the gist of the situation)
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Old 11-05-09, 05:24 PM
  #71  
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Originally Posted by ukmtk View Post
As I have stated in other posts my helmet has saved me from at least one cracked skull/concussion. I was clipped by a motorist opening their car door, went flying and landed on my back. My head hit the tarmac quite hard. I suspect if I had not been wearing a helmet I would have had a cracked skull or concussion at the very least.
You suspect this, yes. It probably saved you from a bad headache - possibly at the risk of increasing serious brain damage. Assuming that because you didn't get the brain damage (one hopes) that the pay-off in reduced aspirin consumption was worthwhile is a classic gamblers' fallacy.

That's called personal experience rather than statistics that can be argued either way. No doubt there are many experts who will claim that helmets make a huge difference.
Qualified relevant experts - no. For example:

https://www.cyclehelmets.org/papers/c2023.pdf

in at least one case now, a
High Court has decided that the
balance of probability was, in
the matter before the Court, that
a cycle helmet would not have
prevented the injuries sustained
when the accident involved
simply falling from a cycle onto
a fl at surface, with barely any

forward momentum.
In this same case, the QC under
whose instruction I was privileged
to work tried repeatedly to
persuade the neurosurgeons
acting for either side, and the
technical expert opposing me,
to state that one must be more
safe wearing a helmet than would
be the case if one were not. All
three refused to do so, claiming
that they had seen severe brain
damage and fatal injury both with
and without cycle helmets being
worn. Cycle helmets, in their view,
were too complex a subject for
such a sweeping claim.
Back to whatshisname:

Being a mathematical physicist
...As opposed to the type of physicist who can't add up, presumably...

trained at one the most prestigious universities in the world I expect that my reading age is better than average. And back when I got straight A's it was not quite as common as it is today in the UK.
If you have any sort of science degree from any university you should know better to argue by analogies that assume your case. Not that that was the silliest thing you did. I'd reserve that for you insisting that because bike racers wear helmets they MUST be vital for safety - otherwise racers wouldn't wear them... And then arguing that helmets can't be equally necessary in a car (ignoring the much higher death per time rate)... even though, of course, car racers DO wear them.

Last edited by meanwhile; 11-05-09 at 05:42 PM.
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Old 11-05-09, 05:33 PM
  #72  
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Originally Posted by crhilton View Post
Do you have some figures for head injury rate adjusted by something? If head injuries were staying the same overall (5,000 this year, 5,000 ten years ago) then that would mean that either:
1. They're constant and so is cycling, even though the population is up.
2. They're dropping, and more people are cycling.
3. They're rising, and less people are cycling.

Get my drift? Do you have something that's made adjustments for this sort of thing?

PS - I refuse to read the *other* helmet thread. I value my sanity.
See eg https://www.vehicularcyclist.com/fatals.html and https://www.vehicularcyclist.com/kunich.html

The smart way of controlling this data is to compare fatal cyclist accidents against pedestrian-car accidents - otherwise you risk attributing changes due to altered driver behaviour to helmet efficacy. If helmets were effective in serious accidents you would expect to see cyclist fatalities tend down relative to ped deaths, as helmets are increasingly used. They don't - anywhere, as far as I've been able to find out. Eg for the US:



You can find even more at the definitive site of The Bicycle Helmet Research Foundation at www.cyclehelmets.org/ For the trend data you want you should look at https://www.cyclehelmets.org/1010.html.

(Note to Mr I Have A Prestigious Physics Degree - so do I! But the point of getting the degree was supposed to be learn to use facts and logic - not to say "I have a degree!" and expect opponents to bow down before you...)

Last edited by meanwhile; 11-05-09 at 05:39 PM.
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Old 11-05-09, 08:16 PM
  #73  
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FWIW, I was in an accident while not wearing a helmet two months ago. I smashed my head into a car door at about 30km/h. Ten stitches in my head, no concussion, no skull damage. If I had been wearing a helmet, it would have cracked in half, as they are designed to break at an impact speed of 20km/h.

Now, consider the following: If I had in fact been wearing a helmet, and said helmet had indeed cracked in half - which, given the circumstances, it almost definitely would have - would there not be droves of people using me as their anecdotal evidence for pro-helmet advocacy? Generally, when people see a split open helmet, they assume that it saved the person's life, and that the person would have been dead or severely injured had they not been wearing a helmet. As we can clearly see, this is simply not true in my case.

How's that for anecdotal evidence?
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Old 11-05-09, 08:22 PM
  #74  
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I just hate to start really evaluating this type of thing. Increase in rotational damage risk. Decrease in brain decel injury. Increase in visibility to others. Decrease in ability to hear at speed. Increase in loading on the head. Maybe increase in fatigue. Risk compensation. Increase in hostility against those bikers. And so on. Do the better cyclists wear helmets, rider faster, suffer worse injuries? All the cyclists are lumped perhaps, including BMX and off road cyclists.

I got degrees, too, including a Ph.D. and a J.D. And I wouldn't really want to wade into the statistical mess unless someone was footing the bill.
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Old 11-05-09, 08:33 PM
  #75  
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Originally Posted by bigtea View Post
I'm an unapologetic advocate of helmets. My words to any cyclist riding without a helmet: "No helmet, no brains"....
Have you ever wondered what are the psychological forces that drive people to caring so much about what other riders wear? They care enough to insult those who don't wear helmets. Their outward claims are usually fairly vague. Sometimes they talk about having to pay the costs for injured riders. They never have any data. So why do they care?

They ignore the studies that show the risk of not wearing a helmet is so low, that mandatory helmet laws causing a decrease in ridership actually have a net detriment to the overall health of the citizenry.

So why do they care? I have a theory. They wear the stupid things, they know they look stupid. They suspect the non helmet wearers are right, that it is statistically ridiculous to wear a helmet when you don't wear one as a pedestrian or driver of a car.

So, there they are, having gone along like sheep with the majority of the riders in their area, wearing the silly helmets, but knowing better... knowing they look like silly paranoid sheep. So what is left to them?

Make everyone else wear a helmet, either by law or ridicule, so they don't look so silly ... they think.
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