Do you really want to sell helmets this way? Does this article promote the industry?

Or does this article just create liability issues?

I recently read an article in a trade magazine about selling cycling helmets. As usual, it caught my attention, but for different reasons. This article was directed at retailers as an educational tool on how to sell helmets. However, the article was at best misleading and would probably get the retailer in trouble in the future. Besides, it created a sales program focused on the negative side of cycling rather than the benefits.

Here are the quotes that I found amusing, actually laughable if they were not so wrong.

As a bike storeowner,thisrgivessyouvbothoanbincredibleropportunityr–uandya–powerfuloresponsibilityi–itotupsell yourlbikeucustomerssandeconvinceothemctotpurchaseuachelmet andmperhapspsavepa life.a life.

It’s your responsibility to inform your customers of the invaluable protection a helmet provides, the importance of wearing a safe helmet that fits well, as well as the dangers and statistics of cycling-related head injuries.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), 91% of bicyclists killed in 2009 weren’t wearing helmets. The IIHS has estimated that wearing a helmet can reduce head injuries by 85%.

In the United States the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) regulates helmet law.

…-keep a helmet in shambles from a crash on display and include a testimony about the life it saved…

[emphasize added]

Seriously? This was written let alone allowed into print?

However, it was the hocus pocus of a graph in the article that caught my eye.

Bicyclist deaths by helmet se, 1994-2009

No Helmet Use

Helmet Use




















And so on through 2009.

The title implies the deaths occurred because cyclists did not wear a helmet. If you take two unrelated numbers and compare them, you can accomplish anything. For proof of this do a web search for “moon landings,” “Kennedy assignation,” and “World trade center,” for an interesting journey through made-up  statistics to prove this point. Here they point out who died without a helmet compared to who died wearing a helmet and imply that everyone who died without a helmet died of a head injury.

Absolute fabrication of statistics to scare people!

Helmets prevent head injuries; helmets don’t save lives. If you are involved in an accident severe enough that a head injury will kill you, other parts of your body will be injured severely enough to kill you.

So let’s tackle these misstatements in the article.

As a bike storeowner, this gives you both an incredible opportunity – and a powerful responsibility – to upsell your bike customers and convince them to purchase a helmet and perhaps save a life.

As a retailer you have NO legal responsibility to your customers as far as educating them. You DO have a legal responsibility to educate them correctly if you do educate them. Whether or not you have a moral or ethical responsibility is something you must deal with and a risk you must accept. That risk evaluation also includes losing money by not selling accessories like helmets. However, it is shameful for this article to try to place a burden on a retailer for not selling a helmet.

Helmets do not save lives; helmets may prevent head injuries.

It’s your responsibility to inform your customers of the invaluable protection a helmet provides, the importance of wearing a safe helmet that fits well, as well as the dangers and statistics of cycling-related head injuries.

What is a “safe helmet?”

If you are going to use statistics to prove your point, then you better understand what you are saying. You cannot take two “stats” and compare them to prove a point when the numbers are derived from different sources or different factors. (A perfect example of this is the chart that went with the article).

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), 91% of bicyclists killed in 2009 weren’t wearing helmets. The IIHS has estimated that wearing a helmet can reduce head injuries by 85%.

Just because a large percentage of people died who were not wearing a helmet does not mean you can then say those people died of a head injury. That is like saying 97% of the people in the US who eat ice cream do not get cancer. Only three percent of the population gets cancer anyway.  However, that statistic is 100% correct and 100% meaningless, just like the statistics in the article. (However, you can use this statistic to eat more ice cream if you want.)

In the United States, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) regulates helmet law.

This is the second time I’ve seen this in the past couple of months. NO! The CPSC is tasked with eliminating dangerous products. If a helmet is not doing what you say it is supposed to do AND there is the possibility of injury, then the CPSC can become involved. There are no federal helmet laws. The CPSC is a federal agency. There are some state helmet laws and some federal regulations concerning helmets. Those regulations are all based on a product meeting the tests of either a testing organization (ASTM, ANSI, etc.) or private non-profit organizations that test helmets (Snell).

…-keep a helmet in shambles from a crash on display and include a testimony about the life it saved…

These numbers also lead one to believe the people died because the cyclist was wrong and not wearing a helmet. However, that is not true either. Cyclists die when vehicles hit them. If the speed of impact is greater than 30 to 40 mph, the cyclists have almost a zero chance of surviving the impact. (See Zone 30 and Pedestrian and Bicyclist Intersection Safety Indices.) Distracted drivers, drivers not paying attention, drivers who don’t care kill cyclist with or without a helmet. See Sharing the Road With Bicycles for more examples.

Do Something

Why is this important? Because consumers do trust and believe retailers as the article points out. If you provide consumers with information which they rely upon in making a purchase which is incorrect and results in an injury you are liable. The manufacturer is going to walk away from this lawsuit without paying a dime. This is a lawsuit the retailer alone must fight.

The retailer made a misstatement that the consumer relied upon to the consumer’s detriment.

This helmet will save your life. The cyclists die of a head injury, and the retailer is writing a check.

You have to educate the consumer; however, when you do that you need to know what is correct. You cannot give the consumer incorrect information. You need to tell the consumer helmets prevent head injuries. No one knows, and there is zero proof that helmets save lives. In fact, the opposite is true. Looking at injury and fatality reports, helmets do nothing to save lives.

What is bad about this article is the fact the article was written by a helmet manufacture and published by an industry magazine. The magazine failed its readers because it published an article without checking the facts in the article. The manufacture that wrote the article is selling helmets based on made-up  statistics and facts to promote fear.

Cheap journalism is bad journalism.

On top of that are we helping cycling? If you are trying to sell a helmet to someone based on fear, are we helping the sport? Or are we telling parents that cycling is too dangerous for their kid? Is that how you want to sell cycling; this is a dangerous sport, so spend another $100 with me?

Studies show that using fear or laws to scare people into using helmet’s results in less people cycling. See Cyclists Without Helmets Deserve to Die, Doctors Argue Against Mandatory Bike Helmet Laws or Liberty or death; don’t tread on me.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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My Letter posted in Bicycle Retailer and Industry News as a Guest Editorial


February 1, 2012

Marc Sani

Bicycle Retailer and Industry News

25431 Cabot Road, Suite 204

Laguna Hills, CA  92653

Via Email:

Re: Termination of Andy Tompkins

Dear Marc:

I received the email from Andy Tompkins like many announcing his termination from Nielsen and Interbike. I felt sorry for Andy and more so for the industry. When I read your guest editorial in the January 1, 2012 issue of BRAIN, I had a big smile on my face as well as the tug in my heart.

I understand budgets and the need to create a bottom line that meets with management and shareholder expectations. Andy brought many things to the table that cannot be immediately calculated or identified on a spreadsheet. I suspect he did not survive this long in the industry without meeting the bottom line expectations as well.

Andy stood out among a group of talented people at Nielsen. He had an enviable ability to listen to every compliment, complaint or “suggestion,” no matter how it was delivered and leave the person feeling like their time had not been wasted. In the trade show industry that many are saying is dying, Andy and his team kept Interbike coming back, getting better and growing. The excitement that you feel when you attend a tradeshow when retailers want to find out what is new each year still existed at Interbike even though many other venues had popped up to steal Interbike’ s luster.

Your piece pointed out many of those skills and issues that Andy brought to his job each morning. Your piece also will provide a basis to evaluate and see where the trade show industry, Interbike and Andy are going.

The bike industry needs Interbike. Not for the big manufactures for the name brands but for the retailers who leave the big booths and walk around the walls. The new exhibitors bring the excitement, the ideas and what will eventually be the next big thing to the show. They do not have the opportunity to show their products to a nationwide audience anywhere but Interbike. For those new and upcoming manufactures Interbike is the only opportunity. For retailers, those new manufacturers are the next opportunity.

Andy Tompkins provided that opportunity, big or small, for manufacture or retailer and he will be missed. Your article did a great job of make sure the cycling industry knows it.


James H. Moss, JD

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