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Friday, June 8, 2012

A Compulsory Helmet Law Won’t Make NYC Cyclists Safer [Streetsblog]


The great thing about arguments favoring compulsory bike helmet laws is that they tend to stay on topic instead of degenerating into fruitless bickering over cyclists’ interactions with pedestrians, bike riders’ claim to the streets, and other tired subjects.
In Berlin, cycling rates have skyrocketed while injury rates have plummeted, all without a helmet law. Photo: Überselektor/Flickr
The bad things about such arguments are many. Here are three:
  1. They ignore the possibility that some non-helmet wearers will cycle less or will refrain from taking up cycling in the first place rather than use a helmet or risk being cited for riding bareheaded.
  2. They ignore safety-in-numbers, or, in this case, its inverse, by which having fewer cyclists on the road tends to raise per-cyclist crash rates with motor vehicles, as cyclists’ diminished presence on the road leads drivers to treat them as aberrations rather than as part of traffic.
  3. They overstate helmets’ protective value in reducing injury severity in the event of crashes.

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