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Monday, March 11, 2013

The Bike Helmet Paradox [The Atlantic]

bike helmets aervauihiuerhav615.png
(Jonathan Hayward / AP)
Admonishing a teenager for smoking is commonplace. Reprimanding people for taking antibiotics when they don't really need them is the next big thing. And giving people a hard time about biking without a helmet is still entirely in vogue. It's because we care. But as we learned from the original food pyramid, sometimes good intentions pave the road to adult-onset diabetes. 
People are still questioning whether bicycle helmets, compulsory or voluntary, reduce injuries. Do we ride more aggressively when we wear them, because we feel invincible, putting our whole bodies in more dangerous situations? Drivers are more cautious around riders without helmets. While good evidence says helmets do their job in reducing head injuries, we're best to -- as in all things -- think outside of our heads.
Helmet laws are associated with a number of less intuitive behaviors. The case against them is increasingly compelling -- surfaced again last week in a report from the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER). Analogously, the argument tests a culture where we helmet-shame people into either wearing a helmet or not riding. It's not a libertarian crusade; it's a public health question. And it's not as straightforward as Officer Friendly taught:

[Keep reading at The Atlantic]

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