Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Your Going To Hell...

Sticker from International Safety Union for Cyclists. A spoof site

If you don't wear a helmet. At least that is what every US cycling organization would have you believe. The proselytizing for the utilization of the bicycle helmet by these organizations and certain individuals is as fanatical as anything you're likely to hear from any religious fundamentalist.

Let's take a look at the above photo from Alan Snel's blog in Tampa. In the post he is not happy that the hospital of the above billboard chose to not have the riders helmeted.

In the post Alan writes; "Here's a hospital, which theoretically is concerned about people's health, using bicyclists in an ad and they are not wearing helmets."

I on the other hand couldn't disagree more. Lets take a closer look at the image.

While Alan sees only the negative of this image. I see the many positives it voices. I see the exact image we should be using to sell people on bikes. We have two people on real utilitarian bikes complete with racks, fenders, chain guards and lights. We also have two people riding a bike in regular street clothes in an upright casual manner.

I also think that the statement about the hospital not being concerned with peoples heath is a bit of a misstatement. This picture promotes cycling as a fun and casual effort and therefore is promoting the reduction of Stress, Heart Disease, High Blood Pressure and Obesity just to name a few of the benefits of riding a bike.

If we are to get more people to ride a bike to work, school or even the store instead of driving their car. We have to remove the barriers and make cycling as convenient as driving. Riding a bike to the store in a slow and casual manor does not, and should not require the gearing up as if one is about take on the tour de france.

Each and every individual needs to weight their own risk to injury. As an avid mountain biker I wouldn't even consider throwing a leg over my bike without a helmet before hitting a trail. I know how high the risks are during that recreational sport. The same should go for road cyclists that ride at higher speeds.

But when I'm getting on Old Blue (my vintage Schwinn Collegiate) to run to the grocery store or out to meet friends for dinner. I have made the decision to leave the helmet at home. And you know what I have noticed from the first time I rode helmet-less several months ago and that continues to this very day? I learned that I get way more respect on the roads from passing motorists. I no longer have cars riding my ass honking their horns. I no longer have cars zooming by within inches by me. I no longer have bubba hanging out the window throwing whatever he has handy in his truck at me when he passes. Now that I have de-helmeted cars and trucks give me respect and courtesy when I am sharing the road with them. And the fact that I am treated better on the road makes me feel safer than any helmet ever will.

Let's leave the preaching to the various religious sects and let each individual decide for themselves whether to strap a helmet on or not.


Abhishek said...

but helmets save lives ;)

Nate said...

See the new book TRAFFIC: WHY WE DRIVE THE WAY WE DO AND WHAT IT SAYS ABOUT US (Tom Vanderbilt) for a scientific elaboration of the helmet issue. Hint: not all the research information is in favor of them.

david said...

if you fall to the ground while stationary, your head will impact at the speed of 30mph. it does not matter what kind of riding you do, a helmet will offer last resort protection to your most valuable asset. this is not to say that people should rely on helmets to keep them safe. they should rely on their senses and the rules of the road. but suggesting that you get more respect on the road for riding sans helmet is not only untrue, but also irresponsible. i always wear my helmet, as it is a single to drivers that i take my safety seriously and so should they. so-called "antihelmet" science ignores the simple fact that your helmet is much more likely to prevent injury than cause it. i've seen the numbers and i'll take the odds. but i'm not telling anyone else what to do. don't wear a helmet if you don't want to, but don't pretend you are actually safer not wearing on.

Bike Jax said...

If you "fall to the ground while stationary." You are probably better off not attempting to mount a bike. Best to work getting that walking thing down first.

Let me ask you question. Are you calling me liar? It certainly sounds as if you are with statements like, "suggesting that you get more respect on the road for riding sans helmet is not only untrue, but also irresponsible"

I was unaware that you have been riding along with me for the past several months. How rude of you to never bother to say hi or introduce yourself as we traveled those oh so many miles together.

Might I also suggest you reread the post as I clear stated "Each and every individual needs to weight their own risk to injury"

Apparently this phenomenon of getting more respect from cars by not wearing a helmet is not some rare occurrence that I am only privy too. A reader emailed me this link to a video for viewing.

I'm sure nothing I have to say will convince you otherwise concerning my experience while not to wear helmet. Thanks for reading Bike Jax anyway.

david said...

i'm sorry if you were insulted. my intention was to support a person's decision to wear a helmet. i meant no disrespect.

as far as falling without moving, i was nearly rear-ended yesterday while stopped at a red light. you don't have to be moving to get hit by a car. you don't have to be doing anything dangerous or for your helmet to protect your head from injury.

first, let's agree on a definition for "respect." i'll say in this context, respect is being treated as a lawful user of the road. that's the kind of respect i'm interested in, anyway. if you agree, then i'd like to know how you arrived at the conclusion that you get more respect without a helmet, and why you think this makes you safer.

in my experience, for what it's worth, it matters more how i act on the road than what i wear. if i ride in a safe and predictable way while obeying the rules of the road, i get respect. if i act like an outlaw, on the other hand, i get treated like one.

you can choose not to wear a helmet. you can justify the decision to yourself however you want. but i still say it is irresponsible and untrue to suggest that not wearing a helmet is safer (or generates more "respect") than wearing one.

the most powerful effect your helmet has is to greatly reduce the likelihood of severe head injury.

Abhishek said...


I am the co-conspirator with Matt in not wearing a helmet. I deal with a lot of people during the morning rush hour, afternoon lunch hour and evening rush hour on difficult roads.

Not wearing a helmet projects a slightly human face to the oncoming motorist. Moreover, of any of them hit me at 40 mph when i am traveling at 12 mph, the 28 mph speed difference can cause an impact that a helmet is incapable to protect me against. Helmets are tested to withstand a particular amount of vertical impact which is never how people fall.

I also have noticed more 'respect' from motorists while riding with no helmet on a city bike than while riding with helmet and gloves on a mountain bike. I mean respect in terms of the space they leave while overtaking me. The few a$$holes continue to give me a hard time but I feel safer overall.