Author Topic: Helmets


« on: June 07, 2008 »
A bicycle helmet is a grand thing if it keeps you from dying or hurting yourself.[1] It's less of a good thing if it gives you false confidence which leads to riskier behaviour, also known as risk compensation. It's positively a nuisance if it prompts you to go online to inform other cyclists who may have given the matter some thought that wearing one is a no-brainer.

The main arguments for wearing a helmet are these:
  • You could hit your head. Your brain is in there.[2]
  • Your loved ones may not give you peace until you put one on, as they're worried you could hit your head.
  • Some ride organisers require it for insurance purposes or just because they do.
The main arguments against wearing a helmet are these:
  • It may be uncomfortable or hot.[3]
  • As it effectively gives you a bigger head, it could cause you to hit it when you otherwise might not, there being more of a target for the ground (think of how often your hands or arms are effective crumple zones) or a branch.
  • The surface dynamics of it combined with your fall could contribute to a twisted neck, which can be more serious than a concussion.
All well and good if everybody is free to make up their own mind: choose the more compelling arguments. Widen the scope to include society outside your next of kin and it becomes a matter of Malthusian interest, given that some studies have shown that mandatory helmet use can negatively impact public health because enough people are put off by wearing one that they'll choose not to ride, and cycling is good exercise.

Add to the mix a media seemingly incapable of refraining from reporting helmet status in traffic accidents,[4] and the general public mood is judgemental if largely uninformed.[5]

If you wear a helmet, take care not only that it fits properly but that you put it on correctly. Tilting it at a rakish angle will negate much of its benefit, as will failing to tighten the straps. It should always be replaced after impact or arrest by the fashion police.

See also


1 - The squeamish shouldn't click; and this on the noggin of a committed non-wearer.

2 -
3 - Even without optional lights and camera.
4 - Some velo linguists oppose use of 'accident', preferring 'incident' or other words.
5 - Handy autofill for any number of issues.