Bike Share programs flourish when helmets are not required

Health Benefits increase when more people ride bikes

The article looks at bike share programs and what makes them successful. Contrary to popular belief, weather or terrain are not as important as the attitude that getting on a bike is more important than anything else. Anything else includes riding without a helmet.

One common denominator of successful bike programs around the world — from Paris to Barcelona to Guangzhou — is that almost no one wears a helmet, and there is no pressure to do so.

The article does not deny that wearing a helmet prevents head injuries. The article, like numerous studies have shown is that head injuries are exceedingly rare in cycling.

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.

The balance is the risk of a head injury to the risk of other issues: “means more obesity, heart disease and diabetes.” Not cycling also leads to more pollution in our cities. Mathematical modeling shows the risk of not cycling outweighs the risks of cycling without a helmet 20 to 1.

Statistically, if we wear helmets for cycling, maybe we should wear helmets when we climb ladders or get into a bath, because there are lots more injuries during those activities.” The European Cyclists’ Federation says that bicyclists in its domain have the same risk of serious injury as pedestrians per mile traveled. [Emphasize added]

So if you want to reduce the risk of a head injury you should wear a helmet while walking; which is how cycling helmets were designed anyway. Cycling helmets only protect from being dropped on your head, or as a pedestrian from something dropping on your head. Not from falls that occur where you hit your head from the front, back or side. (See Helmets: why cycling, skiing, skateboarding helmets don’t work.)

Although not scientific, this is fairly clear that helmets may inhibit bike riding with bike share programs.

A two-year-old bike-sharing program in Melbourne, Australia — where helmet use in mandatory — has only about 150 rides a day, despite the fact that Melbourne is flat, with broad roads and a temperate climate. On the other hand, helmet-lax Dublin — cold, cobbled and hilly — has more than 5,000 daily rides in its young bike-sharing scheme.

Why should you understand this? Because public perception about helmets is important in promoting and encouraging the program. If you complain to government officials about bike share programs not requiring helmets, you will pay for that complaint with your wallet. Heart attacks and the problems of obesity will cost more than the rare head injury.

Instead of requiring helmets, we need to make cycling safer.

Instead of promoting helmet use, European cycling advocates say, cities should be setting up safer bike lanes to slow traffic or divert it entirely from downtown areas.

This is my favorite quote from the article.

Before you hit the comment button and tell me that you know someone whose life was probably saved by a bike helmet, I know someone, too. I also know someone who believes his life was saved by getting a blood test for prostate specific antigen, detecting prostate cancer.

Before you comment about your friend whose life was saved, which I have no doubt, remember I’ll respond with the above quote.

See To Encourage Biking, Cities Lose the Helmets

To read more about this issue see:

A father of a deceased skier pushing for a helmet law in New Jersey.

A helmet manufacture understands the issues(Uvex, Mouthguards)

A new idea that makes sense in helmets: the Bern Hard Hat               

Bicycling Magazine, May 2012: Safe for Any Speed

California bill to require helmets on skiers and boarders under age 18 dies lacking governor’s signature.  

Does being safe make us stupid? Studies say yes.

Great article on why helmet laws are stupid           

Great editorial questioning why we need laws to “protect” us from ourselves.

Helmet death ignited by misconception and famous personalities      

Helmets do not increase risk of a neck injury when skiing                    

Helmets: why cycling, skiing, skateboarding helmets don’t work         

I could not make my son wear a helmet so I’m going to make you wear one 

I once thought you had to take an IQ test to run to be a state legislator. You could run only if you flunk the test                                                                           

I once thought you had to take an IQ test to run to be a state legislator. You could run only if you flunk the test.                                                                          

If you provide a bike in CT you don’t have to provide a helmet             

Law requires helmets, injuries down fatalities up?

Mixed emotions, but a lot of I told you so.               

More information over the debate about ski helmets: Ski Helmets ineffective crashes were the wear is going faster than 12 miles per hour                         

National Sporting Goods Association reports that Helmet use at US Ski Areas increased during the 2009-10 ski season                                                     

OSHA Officially recommending helmets for ski area employees         

Other Voice on the Helmet Debate                          

Recent UK poll shows that 10% of cyclists would quite biking if there was a compulsory helmet law.  

Skiing/Boarding Helmets and what is the correct message                   

Study shows that head injuries are on the rise on the slopes even though more people are wearing helmets                                                                         

Survey of UK physicians shows them against mandatory bicycle helmet laws.

The helmet issue is so contentious people will say the stupidest things


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