To Encourage Biking, Cities Forget about Helmets

NYTimes.com:
In the United States the notion that bike helmets promote health and safety by preventing head injuries is taken as pretty near God’s truth. Un-helmeted cyclists are regarded as irresponsible, like people who smoke. Cities are aggressive in helmet promotion.

But many European health experts have taken a very different view: Yes, there are studies that show that if you fall off a bicycle at a certain speed and hit your head, a helmet can reduce your risk of serious head injury. But such falls off bikes are rare — exceedingly so in mature urban cycling systems.

On the other hand, many researchers say, if you force or pressure people to wear helmets, you discourage them from riding bicycles.

Really interesting article about bike riding. I think the key difference is the one of perception but maybe not as the article describes. I think it’s the perception that riding bike is insanely dangerous – in North America.

Anyone who has ridden a bicycle or motorcycle in any North American city “knows” how dangerous it. People in cars simply often don’t look for or see people on two wheels.

But in Europe, bike, scooter and motorcycle riding is completely “normal” – drivers and riders co-exist and look for and maybe even out for each other.

2 thoughts on “To Encourage Biking, Cities Forget about Helmets”

  1. I love bike riding, and would do so often were it not for the 4-year old and the 6-month old. I give them a wide berth, and can’t stand seeing cars using bike lanes as turning lanes.

    What I despise is bike riders. Not sure how it is where you are, but around Buffalo, they universally ignore every rule of the road. They ignore stop signs and red lights, never signal a turn, and generally do whatever they want to do. I had to slam on my brakes a week ago, going from 30 mph to a dead stop in the space of 2 car lengths to keep from vaporizing a moron running a red light. I nearly had a heart attack the other day when I saw a bike actually stop for a stop sign.

    I’m all for watching out for bikes and giving them space. But if they want to be part of traffic, they need to obey the rules of traffic.

    Wil Wheaton’s first rule of driving: “Everyone on the road is a complete idiot and they are actively trying to kill you.”

    Jack Burton’s (“Big Trouble in Little China”) philosophy of driving: “I never drive faster than I can see.”

    1. “I love bike riding, and would do so often were it not for the 4-year old and the 6-month old.”

      Understandable – Im always surprised to see people around here out riding with small children.

      “What I despise is bike riders. Not sure how it is where you are, but around Buffalo, they universally ignore every rule of the road.”

      That’s an education/policing issue. Here in Portland, OR, they recently had a concerted effort by the police to ticket cyclists breaking those laws. Cyclists often demand the “respect of the road” but many aren’t willing follow the rules of it.

      “Wil Wheaton’s first rule of driving…”

      That ain’t Wheaton’s. Motorcyclists have been saying that for years. 🙂

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