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Helmets on group rides?

Old 05-17-15, 11:38 AM
  #1  
jade408
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Helmets on group rides?

I went on a city architecture bike tour yesterday. It was 10 miles, with lots of stops. It was so paced mostly on bike lanes and quiet streets with a brief stint on a busy 2 lane road where cars are travelling 35 and no bike infrastructure.

The ride organizers requested all attendees wear helmets. One guy was an ardent anti-helmet person. Another guy, a consummate midle aged man in lycra, totally geared out in bike shorts, jersey, dual helmet lights, reflective vest and clipless pedals argued with the helmet-less guy.

He mentioned his acidents where he was saved by the helmet. The other guy mentioned his accidents where a helmet made no difference.

Then the roadie guy said, you should wear a helmet so I do not have to pay your medical bills. And that argument i thought was ridiculous. We pay extra insurance for loads of prentable stuff. We all pay for accidents caused by drunk or reckless drivers. Lifetime smokers. We do not get to pick and choose which things influence our insurance costs. I also do not think helmet-less urban riders have much impact on insurance costs.

Poor road design does. I'd rather solve that!
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Old 05-17-15, 12:17 PM
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Originally Posted by jade408 View Post
I went on a city architecture bike tour yesterday. It was 10 miles, with lots of stops. It was so paced mostly on bike lanes and quiet streets with a brief stint on a busy 2 lane road where cars are travelling 35 and no bike infrastructure.

The ride organizers requested all attendees wear helmets. One guy was an ardent anti-helmet person. Another guy, a consummate midle aged man in lycra, totally geared out in bike shorts, jersey, dual helmet lights, reflective vest and clipless pedals argued with the helmet-less guy.

He mentioned his acidents where he was saved by the helmet. The other guy mentioned his accidents where a helmet made no difference.

Then the roadie guy said, you should wear a helmet so I do not have to pay your medical bills. And that argument i thought was ridiculous. We pay extra insurance for loads of prentable stuff. We all pay for accidents caused by drunk or reckless drivers. Lifetime smokers. We do not get to pick and choose which things influence our insurance costs. I also do not think helmet-less urban riders have much impact on insurance costs.

Poor road design does. I'd rather solve that!
Wear the damn helmet. Saved a friends life a few months back. Got a severe concussion, but doc said "dead" but for the helmet. Alas some people rather die than look "dorky" etc.

QT
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Old 05-17-15, 12:23 PM
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I work at a trauma center. Our trauma surgeons do presentations on traumatic injuries and if anyone sees the pictures I've seen of people on bikes that were not wearing them it would certainly cause them to reconsider...unless grey matter on asphalt doesn't bother them any. It was rather influential for me.
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Old 05-17-15, 12:29 PM
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it would be hard to make a good argument that wearing a helmet doesn't prevent injury, whether riding a bike, skiing, or just walking down the street.

OTOH, these days, the vast majority of people that receive fatal injuries when riding a bike are wearing a helmet...
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Old 05-17-15, 12:36 PM
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Originally Posted by hueyhoolihan View Post
it would be hard to make a good argument that wearing a helmet doesn't prevent injury, whether riding a bike, skiing, or just walking down the street.

OTOH, these days, the vast majority of people that receive fatal injuries when riding a bike are wearing a helmet...
It's not a guarantee that's for sure. Helmets won't prevent a broken neck, which can certainly be fatal or land a person as a quad and ventilator dependent. There are some things worse than dying.
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Old 05-17-15, 12:52 PM
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It's simple, if you don't want to wear a helmet don't ride with a group that requires helmets. Good luck finding a group like that.
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Old 05-17-15, 01:13 PM
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Originally Posted by gregf83 View Post
Good luck finding a group like that.
Even living in China, the groups that had city charters were all required to wear helmets while on group rides.
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Old 05-17-15, 01:35 PM
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You can argue that in reality, often helmetless crashes save the taxpayer money. Trauma care and long term recovery often cost far more than a simple burial. And survivors of head injuries often are a net loss to society financially over the rest of their lifetimes.

A viewpoint written by someone who lived through one of those crashes because of the helmet. I hope I have offset my financial cost to society at least a little with some added life value.

Ben
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Old 05-17-15, 02:05 PM
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I do the Bike Party in my town every Friday night, Is a social bike ride about 50 people of different level of experience it goes for about 10 miles too I alway wear my helmet

Look at the pictures on our facebook page https://www.facebook.com/groups/lansingbikeparty/
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Old 05-17-15, 02:08 PM
  #10  
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Originally Posted by 79pmooney View Post
You can argue that in reality, often helmetless crashes save the taxpayer money. Trauma care and long term recovery often cost far more than a simple burial. And survivors of head injuries often are a net loss to society financially over the rest of their lifetimes.

A viewpoint written by someone who lived through one of those crashes because of the helmet. I hope I have offset my financial cost to society at least a little with some added life value.

Ben
A counter argument could be made that helmet wearers may walk away with overall rather minor injuries in crashes where, had they not had the helmet, they may have suffered non-fatal head trauma, rendering them the aforementioned financial net loss to society.
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Old 05-17-15, 02:17 PM
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Helmets may in fact cause accidents as the people who wear them might take bigger risks than if they didn't have a helmet. This is called risk compensation. It is well-documented.

This isn't to say you shouldn't use a helmet. If you want to use one, great. If not, great.

https://www.straightdope.com/columns/...tball-injuries

Last edited by Deontologist; 05-17-15 at 02:26 PM.
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Old 05-17-15, 02:19 PM
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Originally Posted by Deontologist View Post
Helmets may in fact cause accidents as the people who wear them might take bigger risks than if they didn't have a helmet.
Nonsense.
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Old 05-17-15, 02:19 PM
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Originally Posted by gregf83 View Post
Nonsense.
I edited my post to address your point. It's called risk compensation.

I removed the mountain climbing example of risk compensation because I couldn't find the source of the data. I did however include a link with plenty of examples of risk compensation.

Last edited by Deontologist; 05-17-15 at 02:26 PM.
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Old 05-17-15, 02:28 PM
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Originally Posted by Deontologist View Post
Helmets may in fact cause accidents as the people who wear them might take bigger risks than if they didn't have a helmet. This is called risk compensation. It is well-documented.

For example, no one died climbing Mt. Everest until rather recently (about 50 years ago). Why? Before, there were no rescue aircraft. If you were going to climb Mt. Everest, you knew damn well that you could.
That sounds like more nonsense. There were very few attempts at everest 50+ yrs ago and plenty of people died prior to the first successful ascent. Helicopters aren't of much use in a storm at 29,000 ft. Another red herring.
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Old 05-17-15, 02:30 PM
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Originally Posted by BugDude View Post
It's not a guarantee that's for sure. Helmets won't prevent a broken neck, which can certainly be fatal or land a person as a quad and ventilator dependent. There are some things worse than dying.
But it can reduce the likelihood and/or severity of traumatic brain injury, which can be just as devastating. I've worked in inpatient rehab and seen TBI victims struggle to regain even a fraction of their prior function. The lucky ones with insurance spend weeks or months in rehab, with widely variable results. The unlucky ones without insurance end up with custodial care in nursing homes on the public dime.
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Old 05-17-15, 02:30 PM
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Originally Posted by gregf83 View Post
That sounds like more nonsense. There were very few attempts at everest 50+ yrs ago and plenty of people died prior to the first successful ascent. Helicopters aren't of much use in a storm at 29,000 ft. Another red herring.
You're right, I chose a bad example. I removed it because I couldn't find the source of the information. I thought I had read about helicopters and Mt. Everest in the context of risk compensation some time ago, but I must have remembered incorrectly. Either way, you have a point - my example was poorly chosen.

I did find a better example for you though .

By way of example, it has been observed that motorists drove faster when wearing seatbelts and closer to the vehicle in front when the vehicles were fitted with anti-lock brakes.


The studies are linked to on the Wikipedia article on Risk Compensation (reference 13-15).

I know you like to think that helmets are going to protect you but that simply isn't true. They might have a net protective effect, but there is also the possibility that helmets might encourage some to take bigger risks - thereby eating into the net protective effect that a helmet might have.



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Old 05-17-15, 02:36 PM
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Originally Posted by Deontologist View Post
You're right, I chose a bad example. I removed it because I couldn't find the source of the information. I thought I had read about helicopters and Mt. Everest in the context of risk compensation some time ago, but I must have remembered incorrectly. Either way, you have a point - my example was poorly chosen.

I did find a better example for you though .

By way of example, it has been observed that motorists drove faster when wearing seatbelts and closer to the vehicle in front when the vehicles were fitted with anti-lock brakes.



I think it's time to stop digging. Are you now suggesting we'd be better off without seatbelts and anti-lock brakes? Obviously you can drive a safer car faster, that doesn't mean it's not safer.
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Old 05-17-15, 02:50 PM
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I think this is pretty straightforward. If you are on a group ride that requires the use of a helmet, wear a damned helmet. If you don't like wearing a helmet, ride alone.
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Old 05-17-15, 02:52 PM
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Originally Posted by Deontologist View Post
Helmets may in fact cause accidents as the people who wear them might take bigger risks than if they didn't have a helmet. This is called risk compensation. It is well-documented.

This isn't to say you shouldn't use a helmet. If you want to use one, great. If not, great.

The Straight Dope: Do pads and helmets increase rather than prevent football injuries?
From your article:
Risk compensation may not apply to all sports, though:
  • Before masks and pierce-resistant jackets, fencing was infamous for blindings, other serious injuries, and death, even when using blunted foils. After protective gear became mandatory, injury and death rates plummeted, and the sport has seen only seven fatalities in international competition since 1937.
  • Studies have found hockey players wearing only upper-face protection get injured more than those wearing full face masks, and are also more likely to engage in illegal behavior.
  • Helmet-wearing bicyclists not only suffer fewer serious injuries but also use hand signals more and obey the rules of the road.
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Old 05-17-15, 02:55 PM
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Originally Posted by MRT2 View Post
From your article:
Risk compensation may not apply to all sports, though:
  • Before masks and pierce-resistant jackets, fencing was infamous for blindings, other serious injuries, and death, even when using blunted foils. After protective gear became mandatory, injury and death rates plummeted, and the sport has seen only seven fatalities in international competition since 1937.
  • Studies have found hockey players wearing only upper-face protection get injured more than those wearing full face masks, and are also more likely to engage in illegal behavior.
  • Helmet-wearing bicyclists not only suffer fewer serious injuries but also use hand signals more and obey the rules of the road.
I agree that risk compensation may not apply to all sports. However, there is nothing saying that it definitely doesn't apply to cycling.

Also, note the bolded passage. It seems that helmet-wearing cyclists may have fewer injuries simply because they obey the rules of the road (i.e. they don't run stop signs like LOTS of cyclists do). It doesn't say anything about whether helmets helped the cyclists escape injury or not.

----

I'm not anti-helmet. I'm just cognizant of human psychology. I recently was wearing my helmet and was involved in an accident. I was going pretty fast and hit a nice big bump in the asphalt due to a tree root growing under the asphalt. Hitting the bump at my speed was enough for me to lose control and fly over the bars. My face hit the asphalt. My helmet also kissed the asphalt; I can still see the blood on my helmet and exactly where it ate asphalt. The helmet almost definitely saved my forehead from eating asphalt and likely prevented a concussion. I like my helmet. I liked it enough to order an identical model for about 100 dollars. I never consciously go cycling without my helmet, and I scoff at other cyclists who don't wear helmets.

I am also however aware of the possibility that had I not been wearing my helmet I could have avoided the accident altogether. I might have been traveling slower - and perhaps slow enough to avoid losing control of the bike after hitting a bump in the road. I really like my helmet because of how light and well-ventilated it is - it disappears on my head. In fact there have been at least two times when I left home without my helmet and didn't realize it until mid-ride because I usually don't notice my helmet anyway (it's that light and well-ventilated).

Once I did notice that my helmet was missing, however, I would usually take extra precautions. I would scan the road more for cars and travel slower - because I've worked in the ER before and I've seen my fair share of trauma. Obviously I scan the road in the first place - helmet or not - but without my helmet I told myself to take extra precautions.

It's not that hard of a concept to understand. Would you go skydiving without a parachute? No. So there's 0 risk of you getting injured through skydiving - you simply aren't going to go. Who in their right mind would jump out of an aircraft without a parachute?

Would you go skydiving with a parachute? Maybe. Now there is a >0 risk of you getting injured through skydiving. Sure, you have a parachute. But no one said the parachute would work 100% of the time. Granted, this is an extreme example. But it illustrates the concept of risk compensation.

We see that there is a good chance of avoiding injury. So we take bigger risks. In turn, our bigger risk-taking ironically puts us at risk for harm.
Overall, I'd still say that the net effect is GOOD in my posited scenario - you have a much bigger chance of survival when skydiving with a parachute than skydiving without a parachute. Nonetheless you would have had a 100% chance of survival had you just stayed home instead of going skydiving with a parachute.

That's all I have to say about this matter. If you don't understand risk compensation, then I can't help you. If you don't think it applies to cycling, that's your opinion.

Last edited by Deontologist; 05-17-15 at 03:11 PM.
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Old 05-17-15, 03:09 PM
  #21  
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Originally Posted by MRT2 View Post
I think this is pretty straightforward. If you are on a group ride that requires the use of a helmet, wear a damned helmet. If you don't like wearing a helmet, ride alone.
Agreed. Play by the rules of the group you are joining.

Our local club requires helmets on group rides. It's an insurance thing. And it's a PR thing. We'd never live it down if someone went on a group ride and was badly injured or died due to lack of the one piece of safety gear that society generally considers mandatory.
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Old 05-17-15, 03:13 PM
  #22  
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Originally Posted by Deontologist View Post
I agree that risk compensation may not apply to all sports. However, there is nothing saying that it definitely doesn't apply to cycling.

Also, note the bolded passage. It seems that helmet-wearing cyclists may have fewer injuries simply because they obey the rules of the road (i.e. they don't run stop signs like LOTS of cyclists do). It doesn't say anything about whether helmets helped the cyclists escape injury or not.

----

I'm not anti-helmet. I'm just cognizant of human psychology. I recently was wearing my helmet and was involved in an accident. I was going pretty fast and hit a nice big bump in the asphalt due to a tree root growing under the asphalt. Hitting the bump at my speed was enough for me to lose control and fly over the bars. My face hit the asphalt. My helmet also kissed the asphalt; I can still see the blood on my helmet and exactly where it ate asphalt. The helmet almost definitely saved my forehead from eating asphalt and likely prevented a concussion. I like my helmet. I liked it enough to order an identical model for about 100 dollars. I never consciously go cycling without my helmet, and I scoff at other cyclists who don't wear helmets.

I am also however aware of the possibility that had I not been wearing my helmet I could have avoided the accident altogether. I might have been traveling slower - and perhaps slow enough to avoid losing control of the bike after hitting a bump in the road. I really like my helmet because of how light and well-ventilated it is - it disappears on my head. In fact there have been at least two times when I left home without my helmet and didn't realize it until mid-ride because I usually don't notice my helmet anyway (it's that light and well-ventilated).

Once I did notice that my helmet was missing, however, I would usually take extra precautions. I would scan the road more for cars and travel slower - because I've worked in the ER before and I've seen my fair share of trauma. Obviously I scan the road in the first place - helmet or not - but without my helmet I told myself to take extra precautions.

It's not that hard of a concept to understand. Would you go skydiving without a parachute? No. So there's 0 risk of you getting injured through skydiving - you simply aren't going to go. Who in their right mind would jump out of an aircraft without a parachute?

Would you go skydiving with a parachute? Maybe. Now there is a >0 risk of you getting injured through skydiving. Sure, you have a parachute. But no one said the parachute would work 100% of the time. Granted, this is an extreme example. But it illustrates the concept of risk compensation.

We see that there is a good chance of avoiding injury. So we take bigger risks. In turn, our bigger risk-taking ironically puts us at risk for harm.
Overall, I'd still say that the net effect is GOOD in my posited scenario - you have a much bigger chance of survival when skydiving with a parachute than skydiving without a parachute. Nonetheless you would have had a 100% chance of survival had you just stayed home instead of going skydiving with a parachute.

That's all I have to say about this matter. If you don't understand risk compensation, then I can't help you. If you don't think it applies to cycling, that's your opinion.
I think you are barking up the wrong tree with helmets. But I will tell you where, IMO, I have seen this phenomenon. Group rides. I have seen cyclists take more risks on group rides, myself included, that they might not take riding alone.
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Old 05-17-15, 03:19 PM
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Originally Posted by MRT2 View Post
I think you are barking up the wrong tree with helmets. But I will tell you where, IMO, I have seen this phenomenon. Group rides. I have seen cyclists take more risks on group rides, myself included, that they might not take riding alone.
Bigger risks such as what? If they take bigger risks because they feel safer in groups then that's risk compensation.
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Old 05-17-15, 03:31 PM
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I chose to wear (or not) based on the ride, speed, location, and expectations.

I will not participate in a workout based club group ride without a helmet. Speeds are too high, proximity is too close, and too darned many people acting like they are going to win something for finishing first regardless of the rest of the riders. For social rides in the city at low speed I typically do not wear a helmet.

All of the rides I attend ASK people to wear a helmet. However, since I don't pay to participate in the social rides who also have no set leader or store sponsor, etc it seems to me that even within the eyes of the law (no helmet requirement as an adult) that the request is unenforceable. Who is really going to MAKE you wear one in that instance, or any of them really?
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Old 05-17-15, 03:34 PM
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Originally Posted by Deontologist View Post
Bigger risks such as what? If they take bigger risks because they feel safer in groups then that's risk compensation.
Crossing busy streets, running stop signs or red lights, aggressively taking lanes, riding two abreast. I have seen it happen, even did it myself. Part of it is feeling safer in groups. Part of it may just be group dynamics.
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