At the risk of being inflammatory - anyone who listens to this asshole is a fucking idiot. Anyone who rides a bike in the city without a helmet is a walking organ farm, and I hope to reap the benefits of your livers and kidneys when I reach a ripe old age because I WEAR A HELMET WHEN RIDING A BIKE.
I just wish someone could explain that whole stupid trend of bikes without brakes, and why they are/could conceivably be road legal.
@1, he's been saying this stuff for years. He's a hero to me for blogging heavily about how to look DAMN good riding around a city. If his helmet-conspiracy stuff's a little whackadoodle, still it's bracing.
Monday 10:30 am.

Walking on 3rd get to Bartell's.

Two cyclists coming down Union, on track bikes.

One holding a white latte cup in his left hand while riding.

Ah, Seattle.
1.If you want to regularly commute on a bike in this town in the dark and rain without lights, reflectors, bright clothing, and most importantly a helmet, you are, in my opinion, an idiot.

2.If you regularly commute on a bike in this town and have a different opinion, fine, I respect your opinion and your choices.

3.If you don't regularly commute on a bike in this town and have a different opinion, please see 1. above.
@2, If you're talking about fixed gear bikes, they just have a different breaking mechanism, and most riders still have a front break. Not everyone.
Oh yeah? Seat belts were invented and marketed by Amtrak.
@6 I may be just thick never having used them, but I thought that the "brakes" were your feet? That's the bit where I can't understand how they can be possibly legal. It's some Flintstones nonsense.
@8, Keep talking about shit you know nothing about, it makes you sound smart.
@1 You missed his point completely. You should watch it again and take into consideration his suggestions for communities and not individuals.
At the risk of sounding inflammatory: I hate hate hate any person who rides a bike. They all deserve to fucking die in a fire and I hope that they rot in hell for all eternity.
I don't really know what to feel about this. His claim that helmets kills bikes but I would imagine only the most flakey people are going to be scared away.

I wear my helmet for the exact reason he mentioned "to protect the head in solo non-life threatening accidents under 20 k/hr" I know it's not helping when I get crushed by a old man in a Buick as he runs a stop sign but rather when my clumsy ass flops over at a stop sign and cracks my dome on the curb. The only thing protecting me against the Buick is luck and my ability to handle my bike.
@8, That's only in really rare circumstances, generally where someone has a freewheel (it can spin independently of the pedal movement.) Fixed gears are a little different. With a fixie the movement of the back wheel is fixed with the movement of the pedals, so locking the pedals locks the back wheel, sort of like stomp breaks on kids bikes.
Several things are being said here but he's talking about a bike-aware society with smaller size cars likely traveling at slower speeds than you see in Seattle. That's important to keep in mind.

One claim: You push helmets, fewer people ride bikes and, on average, more death (at least where he is) because the health benefits, on average, outweigh squish.
That might be true (no consolation if you are the squishee).

Another claim: Helmets aren't tested in a realistic way.

He didn't mention this but it is my understanding that drivers take bigger chances with helmeted bike riders (e.g. driving closer) than non-helmeted BUT that pre-supposes the bicyclist is noticed at all. More likely in some places than others.

Personally I think he has some ideas worth looking into but in the meantime I am keeping my helmet firmly on my head.

Lars Ulrich
Go ahead. Don't wear a helmet. It should reduce the number of Massholes (unfortunately, also thinning the ranks of the considerate riders with them).
Wow, what an information-soft presentation. For a guy who talks so much about risk, he never actually mentions a probability. For a guy who talks so much about scare tactics and the culture of fear, he sure does employ a lot of scare tactics, like citing absolute numbers as a measurement of risk, instead of probability, or his little "a World Trade Center every day" sound bite.
@14 - There was a study where a correlation was found, after they introduced helmet laws in Australia. But a correlation does not, nor has ever, equaled causation.

It's real simple:

City with many bikeriders + drivers aware of bikeriders + helmets = very few fatalities

City with many bikeriders + drivers aware of bikeriders + no helmets = more fatalities

City with few bikeriders + drivers unaware of bikeriders + no helmets = many fatalities

City with few bikeriders + drivers unaware of bikeriders + helmets = many fatalities.

So, yes, helmets can really only do so much. But they do something. And to argue against that something for some dumbass political point is blood on your hands.

When you get this mythical (read: European/Asian) bike-aware society, then you may have something to say about helmets. But since that society does not exist in the US, for god's sake, remember your skull is basically just a giant egg. Please keep it in a fucking carton unless you want it cracked.
Remember to wear gloves with retractable claws on them, if you're practicing to be a superhero.

And, yes, those biking shorts do make you look like a duck.
I'm very interested in what research he has looked at and how he evaluated the validity of the research.…
About 10 years ago I was speeding up on my bike and the chain fell off and I flew over the handlebars. I hit the road so hard that I got the wind knocked out of me, couldn't breathe for about 30 seconds, and almost passed out. I picked up my helmet and the side of it was crushed, although my head was not. So fuck this guy for saying that helmets are not tested on the side. And that fact that cyclists who wear helmets are more often in accidents probably has to do with the fact that cyclists who ride a lot tend to wear helmets. When you ride over 5,000 miles per year, you tend to ride fast and you tend to crash. And when you crash, you want to be wearing a helmet.
@20, thanks for posting. Research is always better than anecdotes.
I just wanted to say that I think it's remarkable that this thread features a David, a John, and a Mike. I tried to register my less common first name two hours after Slog began registering commenters and was still too late. You dudes are old school. Impressed.
I feel pretty wishy-washy on this. My absolutely first choice (far above all other choices) is that people ride bicycles with helmets. However, I am very much aware that for many, many, many people, the choice is not between riding a bicycle with a helmet and riding a bicycle without a helmet; it is between riding a bicycle without a helmet and not riding a bicycle. And if people choose not to ride a bicycle, there is no guarantee that they'll pick up an equivalent amount of exercise elsewhere, and as the man in the video said, that costs lives.

Furthermore, this is hardly the only area where exercise opportunities shrink in the name of safety. Don't run on concrete, you'll hurt your knees. Don't go outside at night (women), you'll get raped and killed. Don't go anywhere that might be secluded (women) or you might get raped and killed. Don't run outside, you might get hit by a car. The only things that people don't seem to criticize is going to some indoor, funded area like a gym or a swimming pool, which can be difficult, expensive, and boring to pull off. So instead we get fatter and fatter and die from heart attacks.
From the last cyclist-themed thread here I'd say that some of the bike riders in Seattle could have used a helmet a long time ago.
Bravo, @21!

As someone who would have suffered brain damage or death when I hit a rut in the road and hit the road (no cars involved!) without wearing the helmet I was, I call this guy a shit head.

Yes, let's calm cars and redesign communities. But he's a moron to suggest that a clearly known method of reducing harm in actual accidents should be removed.
Helmets are a good idea in preventing injury or death—I wouldn't argue otherwise, but he's partially right in that requiring helmets does discourage casual bicycle use, a generally safe and healthy activity. If 100% of bicyclists wore helmets, it would undoubtedly reduce the number of lives lost; but at the same time, an overall uptick in helmet use over the last 20 years hasn't corresponded to a reduction in bike-related head injuries.
@7: great comment.
Well, maybe bicycling in lovely Copenhagen, or Amsterdam, or Oslo is easy and safe without a helmet. In a town with comfy, almost sleepy streets, where fewer people drive and more people take the bus or walk. Where cities are designed at a scale for walking. Where, somehow, inclusivity and acceptance is a widespread cultural norm. Then yeah, don't wear a helmet.

But in the USA where cars are bigger and generally move faster on wider streets. Where the streets are quite scary to novice bicycle riders. Where cars are treated as a god-given right, and people are assholes (or at least oblivious) towards anyone who thinks differently from them (especially when doing something that might, just might, be interpreted as criticism of one's own lifestyle), then I say yeah:
Wear a helmet. And a yellow jacket. And lights.

I will say that Seattle drivers are quite bicycle-aware, and I appreciate them very, very much. Some people complain here, but I think bicycling in Seattle is a dream. It's great. Thank you, you considerate drivers you!

Bicycling in Michigan, the birthplace of cars, people are both idiots and assholes. And they hate bicycles. Bicycles are toys, for children. They are not a viable transportation option. The roads there are not conducive to bicycling and you have to be a very bold, confident bicyclist to survive there.

Also, most towns/cities in the USA are sprawly messes that virtually require a car to get around. Fuck you sprawl! Stupid dumb urban design FAIL.
If helmets are a plot by the auto industry to get people into their cars, then clearly seat belts must be a plot by the bicycle industry to scare people onto bikes.
That said, I LOVE riding without a helmet... with the wind in my hair, the sense of speed and freedom. Down Denny hill, all green lights, on two pints of beer and an espresso... It's great.

What I DON'T like riding without is my mirror.
Mirrors allow me to get out of situations where I might otherwise need my helmet...
Anyone who doesn't want to ride his bike because he doesn't want to wear his helmet doesn't deserve his brain.
@32 - I'd find that insulting, but it's hard to do so when I have appallingly low self-confidence. Which is why I don't want to wear helmets, and therefore don't ride bikes. So maybe you're right, and I don't deserve my brain. Maybe I should just off myself so my brain can go to someone more deserving? I don't think brain transplants are possible yet, but maybe it could be used for research or something.
I'm pro-choice here. Let riders choose to wear either a helmet or a dunce cap. One or the other.
Personal anecdote here: I always ride with a helmet because back when I was a kid, about 12 or so, I was living in a rural area rising my bike on a dirt road and hit a rock. The predictable thing happened, I went flying and hit my head. Helmet was cracked, my head wasn't. I was able to walk home and show my rather horrified mom my helmet.

I'm under no illusions that my helmet would give me any protection being hit full on by a car. However having had a few close calls with cars where I've had to swerve out of the way sharply (the type of thing that could easily make me lose control and crash) I'm not about to stop wearing my helmet.
@8- A fixed gear bicycle does not coast, the pedals always move when the rear wheel does. If you pedal backwards, you go backwards. You can slow down or stop by pushing against the spinning of the pedals. Reall, they're for track races, with the banked walls and such. Racing bikes don't have any brakes, and some people trying to be cool and legit don't run brakes when street riding. You can actually go faster if you have regular brakes. Your front wheel is the main source of braking power, and going brakeless means you just HAVE to be more careful. Or get smooshed.

Coaster brakes (like on kids' bikes) are different, you can coast, but when you pedal backwards you engage a brake inside the rear hub.

Some BMX skate park riders don't use brake because the cabling gets in their way and they can't afford a detangler. They'll have a freewheel, which means they can coast. This is a little crazy, and a lot crazy to pedal around anywhere with traffic.

And anyway, helmets aren't a problem, all the other stuff is. Having and using a helmet is a tiny barrier to cross to ridership.
@29- Yes, Seattle is a nice place to ride. I love the wider streets. I wish the drivers would be more consistent sometimes (unexpected yielding is dangerous, folks.) but they're generally well mannered.
As far as discouraging biking goes, I'd argue more against the Lycra outfits than the helmets. Who wants to look that ridiculous?

It amazes me that people with less than a 10 mile commute bother with all of that nonsense.
@38- Because they're getting all sweaty so they need to change clothes anyway, so why not wear their biking clothes while biking?

Because padded bike shorts are more comfortable for 1 mile or 100 miles.

Because they've got sexy rock-hard athlete bodies and like everyone to see them because they're narcissists.

Or all three.

Anyway, I wear cargo shorts over my bike shorts because I like having lots of pockets all the time.
@14 In my experience, your assumption that "drivers take far more risks with cyclists wearing helmets", is complete bullshit... Any cyclist is the same to a driver, because it won't make a damn bit of difference if a cyclist has a helmet when they're under our tires.
(And to clarify, I'm saying that helmets should be a priority to cyclists- since there is a chance they could work in an accident with or without a car involved... drivers on the other hand, could care less if you wear a helmet- as long as you are not inconveniencing us on out way to work.)
First of all, I love my helmet. I always wear it when I ride and have since I was 14 when they were first marketed as a bike helmet in the 80's, before that nobody wore a helmet unless they were a racer or developmentally disabled. As a construction worker I wear plastic yellow helmet all day and feel unsafe if I don't have one on, am I really safer? I don't know, the point is I feel safer and thus act more confidently and professionally when I ride a bike or handle live electrical cables.
One day I forgot my helmet and rode to and from work in a baseball cap. No fewer than three other people (one bicyclist, two pedestrians), who I didn't know, told me I wasn't wearing a helmet and that Seattle has a law requiring one. What the hell? Does my wearing a helmet really affect them that much? I have left my "bucket" in the break area and went back to work without it, prompting my fellow workers to remind me to put one on. Again, am I making them unsafe by not wearing protective clothing? Do they really care about me that much?
A helmet represents a concern for safety. It's like wearing spandex when you ride to advertise you can really go as fast and far as Lance Armstrong. When other people see a bicyclist they want a visible badge showing the world they are safe and skilled, just like you expect a construction worker to have a ridiculous plastic hat on when they are working. I would like to live in a world where biking is not so dangerous that I have to be armored in faux gladiator costumes to be taken seriously, but that might take a while.
@Mike #17 Dead on. I was extremely interested in hearing what he had to say. At the end I thought "that's it? he didn't present a single fucking piece of evidence." What a cocktease.
He probably doesn't want to mess up that painstakingly tousled hair.

Enjoy your generalized seizures.
I personally know someone who was saved from a serious brain injury because he was wearing a helmet. Half of his face was ripped off when he was hit by an SUV and slammed into a telephone pole. My step-sister was riding her bike back in the late 70s/early 80s (she is much older than I am) and she hit a rock and went right over the handlebars and got a head injury because back then no one wore helmets. The cost of medical care for someone with a traumatic brain injury can run hundreds of thousands of dollars (if not more) over a lifetime. A $40 helmet may not prevent you from getting a traumatic brain injury (depending on the accident), but I'd rather wear a helmet every time I ride a bike than ride around with no chance at all to protect my head and brain. Vanity is a stupid reason not to wear a helmet and not to ride a bike. All this being said, we live in country where people are free to be as stupid and vain as they want to be. If you don't wear a helmet and are hit by a car and your head is smashed in, well, that's what you get for being stupid and vain.
@31: Thank you. THANK YOU. Almost nobody uses mirrors in Toronto. There are those who do, but overwhelmingly cyclists on the road rely on drivers just giving way or glancing over their shoulder (at most ... if they even check). It scares me. Please use mirrors! They will make your ride so much safer and more informed! I would never ever drive without mirrors, and hell, sometimes I think it'd make walking better too.

When I drive, I'm nervous around cyclists not because they're wearing helmets or not, but because in my head, I'm imagining all the awful things that could go wrong (hit a rock, a pothole, some freak accident malfunction with the bike) and the cyclist will go flying and I'll be unable to stop in time. I can't wait until they have lanes with physical barriers so we can all be a little more blase about something that should be safe and everyday.

Please wait...

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