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The helmet thread

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The helmet thread

Old 12-04-11, 11:20 AM
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Originally Posted by mconlonx
...Where you don't have an issue with individual decisions to wear a helmet or not, more as an issue on a meta- level, I can't help but think this has way more to do with group psychology, i.e. politics, than it does with individuals.
When I point out a campaign directed at the public, I'm acknowledging the political aspect
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Old 12-04-11, 12:49 PM
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Originally Posted by closetbiker
When you started your post with a "Bzzt", that usually gives the impression a mistake is made, particularly when you done the same thing in the past (you did, right?)

How is this is a different point of view, if politics and psychological influence on groups of people making decisions for others run hand in hand?
I think your macro way of looking at this is wrong. Thus the "Bzzt." You did make a mistake, claiming it's psychological, when individual psychology is only part of it and the group psychology or politics of the situation is more pertinent.

You're working from the individual, up with psychology; I'm championing a view from the mob, down, thus politics. Or at least that's my take.
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Old 12-04-11, 12:57 PM
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Originally Posted by closetbiker
When I point out a campaign directed at the public, I'm acknowledging the political aspect
OK, sweet, we're on the same page, then. I think, when acting at the public level, that considering individual psychology or arguing such is counter to what you should be considering at the bigger level...
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Old 12-04-11, 01:54 PM
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Transferred from another thread:

Originally Posted by RazrSkutr
Meanwhile, what conclusions did you draw from the relative fatalities of helmeted and non-helmeted populations from the NYS-DMV data to which you so kindly provided a link?
I don't think there's enough data to draw hard conclusions. Plenty of data to raise more questions than answers. The main question for me being why is there such a consistently high rate of fatal injury to non-helmeted riders in comparison to helmeted riders. In other words, rate of helmet use is observed to be about 29.8% of riders, but fatality and serious injury rates to helmeted riders is 3% and 13% respectively. Why?

Last edited by buzzman; 12-04-11 at 01:57 PM.
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Old 12-04-11, 04:11 PM
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Originally Posted by buzzman
Transferred from another thread:

I don't think there's enough data to draw hard conclusions. Plenty of data to raise more questions than answers. The main question for me being why is there such a consistently high rate of fatal injury to non-helmeted riders in comparison to helmeted riders. In other words, rate of helmet use is observed to be about 29.8% of riders, but fatality and serious injury rates to helmeted riders is 3% and 13% respectively. Why?
I'd rephrase this as: I don't think there's enough data to draw conclusions at all.

You supplied two links in the other thread.

1. One was to some New York State DMV data

2. The other was to a Hunter College study which argued for helmet compulsion across Manhattan.

Above you apparently talking about #2, Hunter College (which on p.6 cites an observation of 29.8% helmet wearing), whereas I was questioning you about #1, NYS-DMV -- more on this latter after I attempt to address your first point.

To reply to your Hunter College comments. It's not possible to tell anything at all from this study. It doesn't supply raw data, so it's impossible to calculate several important statistical properties (e.g. power, which would be linked to the size of the data set). It doesn't tells us the strength of the association between such categories as HelmetUse and Fatality. It's just not any use really in the form to which you linked.

Added to that, any study that doesn't take into account _exposure_ is pretty worthless: that's why there's a debate over incidents-per-hour versus incidents-per-mile versus incidents-per-distance. If Helmet Free riders tend to cover longer distances for longer times than Magic Hatters in Manhattan, then obviously they have a greater chance of encountering an incident.

As regards #1 the NYS-DMV data, it's interesting to look at Table 10, pg.6 and consider your 29.8% (let's call it 1/3) number for the expected number of helmeted riders. If accident rates occur to riders irrespective of wearing or not wearing a helmet, then we would expect about 30% of the accidents in each category to occur to helmeted riders and 70% to occur to the non-helmeted. After discarding the unknowns:

For killed we get 22% versus 78% for a total of 9 datapoints (a tiny number), roughly within the expectation that there is no deviation from the null-hypothesis that the treatment (helmet wearing) makes no difference.

For serious injury 26% versus 74% for a total of 170 datapoints.

For uninjured 28% versus 72% repeats the pattern for 50 datapoints.

I should do what I asked you to do and try to find some sort of measure of how much of the differences can be explained by random variation, sampling error etc (probably a huge amount with so little data), but basically I don't think that the two links you've posted would convince many statisticians that it was demonstrated that helmets make a huge difference.

Last edited by RazrSkutr; 12-04-11 at 08:44 PM. Reason: s/70/78/
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Old 12-05-11, 02:52 AM
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Originally Posted by RazrSkutr
I... basically I don't think that the two links you've posted would convince many statisticians that it was demonstrated that helmets make a huge difference.
Had that been my intention in posting those links I suppose you'd have made a point.

I posted the Hunter College Study because you had questions about the correlation between cyclist behavior and accident rates. I felt it might be useful. I alluded to the risk compensation theory as it has been applied to cyclists a number of times in this thread and drew attention, as a side note, to the fact that I felt the observed behaviors of helmeted cyclists did not support the application of that theory to helmeted cyclists' behavior.

The DMV study was in response to posts about the safety of cyclists versus the drivers of cars. I used that data to shed light on that topic and made no mention of helmets.

BTW, just wondering how and where in the Hunter College Study you drew this conclusion:

Originally Posted by RazrSkutr
Hunter College study which argued for helmet compulsion across Manhattan.

Last edited by buzzman; 12-05-11 at 03:00 AM.
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Old 12-05-11, 06:46 AM
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Originally Posted by buzzman
I posted the Hunter College Study because you had questions about the correlation between cyclist behavior and accident rates. I felt it might be useful.
But presumably you're posting it in a helmet thread because you feel that it demonstrates something about helmets? My original query was actually for a detailed breakdown of whether cyclists were behaving like pedestrians. I wasn't interested in helmets.

This study unfortunately has essentially no ability to tell us anything due to the lack of essential data.
Originally Posted by buzzman
I alluded to the risk compensation theory as it has been applied to cyclists a number of times in this thread and drew attention, as a side note, to the fact that I felt the observed behaviors of helmeted cyclists did not support the application of that theory to helmeted cyclists' behavior.
And do you feel that this Hunter College study demonstrates that point?

Originally Posted by buzzman
The DMV study was in response to posts about the safety of cyclists versus the drivers of cars. I used that data to shed light on that topic and made no mention of helmets.
Agreed, but you seemed to find the NYS-DMV data believable and so as you redirected the posts towards the subject of helmets (not something I was interested in in the other thread) I thought you might like to think about what that (to you) acceptable data said about helmet effectiveness (take a look at the non-serious and moderate categories too).
Originally Posted by buzzman
BTW, just wondering how and where in the Hunter College Study you drew this conclusion:
See p.10 of the link you posted:
That the vast majority of cyclists in the mid-Manhattan area (where
both vehicular and pedestrian traffic is one of the densest in the
country) are not wearing helmets argues strongly that the existing
helmet law should be more rigorously enforced. Furthermore,
consideration might be given to extending this law to all cyclists.
If you were to apply your objections to TransAlt's study (and I think your objections may be valid) then the Hunter College one also falls: 1) it's conducted by volunteers; 2) it appears to take a political position in favor of one side of the helmet compulsion debate. More seriously I'd add 3) it doesn't present its data in an easily comprehendable manner.
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Old 12-05-11, 07:48 AM
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Originally Posted by RazrSkutr
... any study that doesn't take into account _exposure_ is pretty worthless: .
so true.

I recently picked up an old set of documents from a group that managed to get our helmet law passed and in it was a position statement from the Canadian Academy of Sports Medicine that said bicycling results in more head injuries than motorcycling (based on 1 study in 1 province in Australia)

That this claim could be taken seriously amazed me, so I looked into it, found out it was an exposure issue, talked to the authors of the study and they admitted, it was an exposure issue. There were simply far more cyclists than motorcyclists at the time of the study and if exposure was taken into account, the injury rate showed motorcycling was far more likely to result in injury than bicycling.

But enough people bought the story to help get our law passed.
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Old 12-05-11, 01:12 PM
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Originally Posted by Six jours
If aiming your own words back at you offends you, then maybe you should think about how you've been using your words.
I have not engaged in ad hominems or rudely demanded someone answer a question.
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Old 12-05-11, 01:23 PM
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Originally Posted by closetbiker
so true.

I recently picked up an old set of documents from a group that managed to get our helmet law passed and in it was a position statement from the Canadian Academy of Sports Medicine that said bicycling results in more head injuries than motorcycling (based on 1 study in 1 province in Australia)

That this claim could be taken seriously amazed me, so I looked into it, found out it was an exposure issue, talked to the authors of the study and they admitted, it was an exposure issue. There were simply far more cyclists than motorcyclists at the time of the study and if exposure was taken into account, the injury rate showed motorcycling was far more likely to result in injury than bicycling.

But enough people bought the story to help get our law passed.
Is there any sort of organized effort to get the law rescinded?
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Old 12-05-11, 01:34 PM
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Originally Posted by Six-Shooter
Is there any sort of organized effort to get the law rescinded?
The government won't even consider an exemption to the law for users of our proposed bike share system.

The Vancouver Area Cycling Coalition officially opposes the law but has not attempted to rescind it.

There is a (and have been) constitutional challenge(s) of the law by individuals but so far, no challenges have had prepared and proper legal representation.

Last edited by closetbiker; 12-05-11 at 07:28 PM.
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Old 12-05-11, 07:21 PM
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Originally Posted by RazrSkutr
If you were to apply your objections to TransAlt's study (and I think your objections may be valid) then the Hunter College one also falls: 1) it's conducted by volunteers; 2) it appears to take a political position in favor of one side of the helmet compulsion debate. More seriously I'd add 3) it doesn't present its data in an easily comprehendable manner.
I completely agree.

Again, I posted the study because it concerned bicyclist behavior and you had expressed questions regarding that. I also said when I posted it that you might not like the study because it ran counter to conclusions you have expressed regarding helmet use and cyclist behavior. I moved my post to this thread because this thread is where helmets are discussed and I did not want to be responsible for closing a thread by going off topic.

I did not post it in here to prove a point, or because I was particularly impressed with this study in any way. I thought it raised interesting questions and found the observations of cyclist behavior to be in concurrence with my own personal observations of said behaviors. I did not mean to make any judgements nor draw any conclusions from those observations only to point out that they raise interesting questions. I do not claim to have all the answers. I was also responding to your request for any conclusions that I might have drawn from the links I provided and, as I've already said, not enough information for me to draw any hard conclusions. At best I would say there is evidence of some trends. And those trends, as you point out, may be in the margin of statistical error.
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Old 12-05-11, 07:35 PM
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i wear a helmet because i need whats left of my brain (drinking and drug use burned a few more cells than i care to admit lol) its riders preference i guess. if you think you don't need one than its whatever. but i grew up in an area where there was a strict helmet law and it kind of stuck with me through the years.
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Old 12-06-11, 07:40 AM
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It still remains that I simply do not understand why all the anti helmet trolls keep posting and posting and posting their point that people do not need to wear helmets.

After hundreds if not thousands of anti helmet posts we get your point. But most of us discount your beliefs and position. Enough already!!!

Yet I have never read why you think all these posts are necessary. Why the hell do you care what other people want to do. Why do you think you need to interfere in other peoples lives and dictate what they should do or not do? No one, I repeat NO ONE has appointed you guys the ultimate authority.
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Old 12-06-11, 07:52 AM
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^^ well stated
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Old 12-06-11, 09:54 AM
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Originally Posted by rydabent
It still remains that I simply do not understand why all the anti helmet trolls keep posting and posting and posting their point that people do not need to wear helmets.

After hundreds if not thousands of anti helmet posts we get your point. But most of us discount your beliefs and position. Enough already!!!

Yet I have never read why you think all these posts are necessary. Why the hell do you care what other people want to do. Why do you think you need to interfere in other peoples lives and dictate what they should do or not do? No one, I repeat NO ONE has appointed you guys the ultimate authority.
I believe it's because the pro-helmet brigade comes here and keeps posting, "I fell and a helmet saved my life!" stories that the bare-headers feel compelled to disagree with. Which then resolves over the next 2-3 pages. Bare-headers probably wish they didn't have to keep coming here to shoot down the false premises from pro-helmet arguers who have not done basic research or even bothered to check out a portion--let alone everything--of what's been written regarding the issue here on BF.
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Old 12-06-11, 09:54 AM
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Originally Posted by rydabent
It still remains that I simply do not understand why all the anti helmet trolls keep posting and posting and posting their point that people do not need to wear helmets.
1.) People like you keep asking.
2.) As a counter-argument to 'If you fall off without a helmet you will die' and similar nonsense.
3.) As a counter-argument to 'cycling is too dangerous to not wear a helmet'
4.) Because mostly, we believe that over-promotion of helmets portrays cycling as dangerous, discouraging people from cycling and hence actually making cycling more dangerous due to fewer cyclists on the road.
5.) To help people make an informed decision about whether they need a helmet or not.
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Old 12-06-11, 10:45 AM
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There's the point of being accused of being against the use of helmets when that's not the case.

There is also another point which many believe: that it is better to not ride a bicycle at all than to ride one without a helmet.
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Old 12-06-11, 02:42 PM
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Originally Posted by Monster Pete
4.) Because mostly, we believe that over-promotion of helmets portrays cycling as dangerous, discouraging people from cycling and hence actually making cycling more dangerous due to fewer cyclists on the road.
I've seen this argument elsewhere and wonder about it. Cycling is, to some degree, dangerous. You can suffer anything from minor scrapes to serious physical injury or death while engaged in it. What type of cycling, where, how likely you are to get hurt and in what way, etc. are all variables and questions that seem to need much more study. Yet it would be disingenuous and irresponsible to portray it as inherently safe: "Do whatever: you'll never fall and get hurt!"

Are masses of people in fact turned away from cycling by a) the idea that cycling is dangerous and/or b) the idea of wearing a helmet? Is there really greater safety in numbers? It looks like the studies suggesting that these things might be the case are quite limited.

Do you really want more cyclists on the road? Some of the worst "drivers" I've encountered (or nearly been hit by while cycling myself) have been cyclists not paying attention, running lights and stop signs, crossing roads and medians at night with no lights, weaving unpredictably, etc. You might get a greater "safety in numbers effect" vis-a-vis how motorists interact with you, but a lot of cyclists are just as woefully irresponsible, absent-minded, and downright dangerous to others as many motorists are. More wouldn't necessarily be an unalloyed good.

Last edited by Six-Shooter; 12-06-11 at 02:49 PM.
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Old 12-06-11, 05:21 PM
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Originally Posted by Six-Shooter
I've seen this argument elsewhere and wonder about it. Cycling is, to some degree, dangerous. You can suffer anything from minor scrapes to serious physical injury or death while engaged in it. What type of cycling, where, how likely you are to get hurt and in what way, etc. are all variables and questions that seem to need much more study. Yet it would be disingenuous and irresponsible to portray it as inherently safe: "Do whatever: you'll never fall and get hurt!"

Are masses of people in fact turned away from cycling by a) the idea that cycling is dangerous and/or b) the idea of wearing a helmet? Is there really greater safety in numbers? It looks like the studies suggesting that these things might be the case are quite limited.

Do you really want more cyclists on the road? Some of the worst "drivers" I've encountered (or nearly been hit by while cycling myself) have been cyclists not paying attention, running lights and stop signs, crossing roads and medians at night with no lights, weaving unpredictably, etc. You might get a greater "safety in numbers effect" vis-a-vis how motorists interact with you, but a lot of cyclists are just as woefully irresponsible, absent-minded, and downright dangerous to others as many motorists are. More wouldn't necessarily be an unalloyed good.
Of course, there is an inherent level of danger in cycling, particularly if the cyclist is downright stupid and doesn't ride in a safe manner, and you make a good point about the type of cycling in question. Helmets are far more suited to things like mountain biking or riding in snow and ice, where the chances of a simple fall at low speed are much more likely, and it is this sort of accident that helmets are designed for. Young children and novice cyclists are also more at risk of falling, so would benefit from wearing a suitable helmet.

Danger is all relative though. A similar risk of injury exists in many other activities that no one considers wearing a helmet for. Climbing a ladder is one example- the ladder could slide or you could otherwise fall and land on your head. It would perhaps be better to say that helmet promotion as a 'cure all' portrays cycling on the road as more dangerous than it is. It also leads to the perception that a bicycle helmet will protect you in the event of colliding with a motor vehicle or a high-speed crash; after all, you 'have to wear one when riding on the road', which it most likely won't. The forces involved simply overwhelm them.

I think more cyclists can increase safety, but only if they know what they're doing. If everyone who drove a car got on a bike instead, a lot of them (who haven't ridden a bike since they were kids, and then only in the park) wouldn't have a clue about the best way to ride on the road, braking technique, how to use gears correctly etc, and there would be general chaos. Contrast this with the Netherlands, where cycling is simply something you do to get from A to B, and everyone knows what they're doing from a young age. It might also be noted that there, virtually no one wears a helmet.
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Old 12-06-11, 05:25 PM
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Originally Posted by mconlonx
I believe it's because the pro-helmet brigade comes here and keeps posting, "I fell and a helmet saved my life!" stories that the bare-headers feel compelled to disagree with. Which then resolves over the next 2-3 pages. Bare-headers probably wish they didn't have to keep coming here to shoot down the false premises from pro-helmet arguers who have not done basic research or even bothered to check out a portion--let alone everything--of what's been written regarding the issue here on BF.
+1. This too.
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Old 12-06-11, 11:57 PM
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Originally Posted by Monster Pete
... Danger is all relative though. A similar risk of injury exists in many other activities that no one considers wearing a helmet for. Climbing a ladder is one example- the ladder could slide or you could otherwise fall and land on your head...
Excellent point!

Danger is relative. So the day I start getting up every morning and climbing a ladder for 40 minutes to get to work and then, at the end of the day, climb it for another 40 minutes, often in the dark and the rain and do that for 41 years, I'll definitely think about wearing a helmet when I climb that ladder!
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Old 12-07-11, 12:32 AM
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Originally Posted by buzzman
Excellent point!

Danger is relative. So the day I start getting up every morning and climbing a ladder for 40 minutes to get to work and then, at the end of the day, climb it for another 40 minutes, often in the dark and the rain and do that for 41 years, I'll definitely think about wearing a helmet when I climb that ladder!
Wait, I get it! This is an analogy! So... you drive a car to work? Is that what you're saying? And you wear a motoring helmet, because you also use a helmet whenever you climb a ladder?

I have to climb a ladder at work fairly regularly, but helmets aren't even available. Oddly enough, in the 10 years that I've been working there, we've never had an incident where someone has fallen off of a ladder (but have had a few incidents where someone has fallen from a standing position on a slick floor). Do you think that we should provide helmets for workers? It'd be strange, us being a restaurant and all.
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Old 12-07-11, 02:10 AM
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Originally Posted by rydabent
It still remains that I simply do not understand why all the anti helmet trolls keep posting and posting and posting their point that people do not need to wear helmets.

After hundreds if not thousands of anti helmet posts we get your point. But most of us discount your beliefs and position. Enough already!!!

Yet I have never read why you think all these posts are necessary. Why the hell do you care what other people want to do. Why do you think you need to interfere in other peoples lives and dictate what they should do or not do? No one, I repeat NO ONE has appointed you guys the ultimate authority.
It still remains that I simply do not understand why all the pro-helmet and MHL trolls keep posting and posting and posting their point that people must wear helmets or they will die.

After hundreds if not thousands of pro-helmet and MHL posts we get your point. But most of us discount your beliefs and position. Enough already!!!

Yet I have never read why you think all these posts are necessary. Why the hell do you care what other people want to do. Why do you think you need to interfere in other peoples lives and dictate what they should do or not do? No one, I repeat NO ONE has appointed you guys the ultimate authority.
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Old 12-07-11, 07:19 AM
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Originally Posted by Monster Pete
Danger is all relative though.
Not merely is danger relative to the individual and activity and situation, but so are the perceptions of that danger by the individual and by outsiders, and so is the perception of what, if anything, should/does make it safer. To some degree, this argument is akin to people arguing about favorite colors:

You like red?! You're wrong! Leave me alone with your "red"!
But I like red.
No, you just think you do because it makes you feel good.

It would make more sense to me if the locus of controversy were centered in government enforcement of helmet-wearing. While not an earth-shattering issue in itself, such laws are indicative of a style of government (paternalistic, intrusive) that many people have a deep problem with. But I don't see much of anything here about that or about practical measures to counter or repeal such laws.

I think people opposed to helmet-wearing or helmet laws would get more traction by positioning it as a freedom of choice/freedom from government issue; otherwise, as people have noted, helmet wearers can feel like "anti-helmet" folks are out to convert them. Ironic

I think more cyclists can increase safety, but only if they know what they're doing.
A big "if" unfortunately. "Cyclist" doesn't merely mean an avid hobbyist or athlete like one finds on this board, but also the drunk 40-year old riding a rusty child's BMX bike through traffic at night with no lights or reflectors.
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