Search This Blog

Sunday, May 4, 2014

WHY IT MAKES SENSE TO BIKE WITHOUT A HELMET

A critical mass of cyclists improves the safety for everyone. (Source)

As I was cycling home the other night I came across a few of my fellow students from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. Several of them asked me: Where is your bike helmet?

I get this question a lot. I have made a careful and conscientious choice to not wear a helmet when I'm cycling in urban areas because I strongly believe that it will help improve the overall safety of cycling in the long run.

It's an unintuitive position to take. People have tried to reason with me that because I've spent so much money and time developing my brain, and the cost of an injury would be so devastating, it's clearly more important to wear a helmet. But if we start looking into the research, there's a strong argument to be made that wearing a bike helmet may actually increase your risk of injury, and increase the risk of injury of all the cyclists around you.

WHY DOESN'T EVERYBODY WEAR A HELMET?

Let's first get one thing out of the way: if you get into a serious accident, wearing a helmet will probably save your life. According to a 1989 study in the New England Journal of Medicine, riders with helmets had an 85% reduction in their risk of head injury and an 88% reduction in their risk of brain injury. That's an overwhelming number that's backed up study after study. Nearly every study of hospital admission rates, helmeted cyclists are far less likely to receive serious head and brain injuries. These studies confirm what we feel when we're out for a spin on our bikes: We are exposed. Vulnerable. Needing of some level of protection.

Sharing (or wrestling) road space from a never-ending stream of one-tonne metal vehicles can be very intimidating. As a cyclist you are completely exposed. Cars and trucks are constantly zipping around you and there is no metal cage around you to protect yourself. So a helmet provides a level of protection from this danger. It makes you feel safer.

But a broader look at the statistics show that cyclists' fear of head trauma is irrational if we compare it to some other risks. Head injuries aren't just dangerous when you're biking—head injuries are dangerous when you're doing pretty much anything else. There's ample evidence showing that there's nothing particularly special about cycling when it comes to serious head injuries.

[Read the rest at Howie Chong]

0 comments:

Post a Comment