The Stranger's Staff Argues Over Whether You Should Wear a Bike Helmet

And a Few Doctors and Other Experts Join the Debate


If you ride without a helmet, I hope you get hit with the $103 fine until you give in and buy a helmet. Although, 447 tickets in one year isn't exactly a strong enforcement if 30% aren't wearing them.…

I also support increased enforcement of vehicles not displaying the front license plate as an "easy pickings" revenue generator.
I believe there are two entirely separate issues once again conflated in this article:

1. Are helmets beneficial

2. Should helmets be mandatory

The evidence suggests that helmets are somewhat effective, though not as effective as their most ardent supporters claim. Dr. Walker's comments on traffic are off-base, however, because helmets are not designed to protect cyclists from traffic -- you'd need a motorcycle helmet to do that. Bicycle helmets are designed only to absorb the impact of the rider's own weight falling to the ground from bicycling height. And they're reasonably good at that, but very ineffective in traffic collisions.

BUT, just because helmets are somewhat effective doesn't mean a mandatory helmet law is a good policy. In fact, the math is fairly convincing that mandatory helmet laws cost more lives, and more public health expenditures, than they save. Cycling is already a relatively safe activity, and it has substantial health benefits. Even a fairly small reduction in bicyling activity outweighs the benefits of universal helmet use. See, for example, the actuarial analysis of Piet de Jong, at Macquarie University - Department of Applied Finance and Actuarial Studies, as published in Risk Analysis.…

Serious bicycle-related head injuries are vivid but rare. Heart disease, diabetes, and other diseases of a sedentary lifestyle are boring but pandemic.

Basing policy on vivid anecdotes instead of rational analysis of statistics is a classic failure of pandering politicians, and it's been the law in Seattle/King County for far too long.
People would probably still wear helmets if there was no law dictating it but more people would ride bikes which is better for everyone.
So long as society doesn't have to bear the burden of paying your head injury related hospital bill you shouldn't have to wear a helmet.
I avoid riding my bike in this city, but when I lived in Iowa City I rode a lot - helmet-free. There are asshole drivers there too, but in a city of 75k, it feels a little safer. Anyway, I don't think bikes need to 'act' like cars either - when there's a light and nobody coming, it's stoopid when bicyclists wait, just so they can have respect from car drivers. And that's my random ranting for the day.
@5, if nobody's coming at a red light late at night, is it stupid for me to wait at the light in my car ?
@2 exactly. This takes the boring, individual question (the answer, of course, is "who cares" and "depends on your risk tolerance" and ignores the far more interesting/important pubic policy question.
@5,6 Considering how many drivers I see running red lights every day, we can probably toss this fantasy of "respect from car drivers" for cyclists out the window.

Have you seen how drivers treat each other? Drivers get honked at by other asshole drivers for lawfully stopping for pedestrians, how do we expect these assholes to respect cyclists?
Eli Sanders is a smart person. You can be a great rider but if you ride a lot, you will go down at some point, no matter how careful you think you are. And it's better to have your head protected when that happens. And I really have no words for the people who think they shouldn't have to wear helmets because really the burden for their safety should be on someone else. When you're out on a bike w/ no cage around you, you really have no protection except for what you can put onto yourself.

I do have a nutcase helmet, it is awful, I wear a (more) tacky cycling helmet.
If you ride without a helmet and get into an accident make sure you take yourself all the way out and not just sustain a brain injury that may take years, if ever, to recover from. If you have no insurance please don't make the rest of us pay for your hubris.
As long as we don't have to pay for your care, you should be free to eat cheeseburgers.

As long as we don't have to pay for your care, you should be free to drink alcohol.

As long as we don't have to pay for your care, you should be free to watch TV 3 hours a night.

As long as we don't have to pay for your care, you should be free to drive a car.

What do those all have in common?

They're *far* more likely to result in us paying for your medical care than riding a bicycle without a helmet.
I'm kind of curious.... if a cyclist like Eli goes over the handlebars into a parked car (and causes dents, scratches, etc), does he contact Car2Go to report himself or hit and run ?
Eli Sanders seems to be the only person here whose opinion is shaped by actually riding a significant amount. It doesn't take much experience to know that the biggest risk from cars is not from the amount of space the drivers leave you but from them not seeing you at all. I've had cars coming towards me make left turns across my path. I've had cars going the same direction as me make right turns in front of me as they have passed-- in broad daylight. And no matter how much skill and awareness you ride with, it's always going to be about luck. I've ridden over a grate in the street and was unaware that it was damaged until the slats in the grate opened up and my entire front tire dropped in-- I was lying flat on my back in front of my bike in the middle of traffic in less than a second. I don't understand people who want to argue that in a more ideal setting (more riders, better bike amenities) it would be safer-- so they are not going to wear helmets now. That's not the world we live in. Personally, I don't really care if you wear a helmet or not, but you're kidding yourself if you think you are doing it because it's safer.
Helmets don't work. They increase the chances of an accident because drivers area less safe around helmet-wearers. If you support helmets for bikers but not drivers, you're an idiot. Traumatic head injury is 10 times higher for drivers. I think it's even higher for pedestrians.
@14 You sound like a well-adjusted individual and make salient arguments for the helmet-mandatory crowd.
I Bike. I've been hit twice. Once at 3rd & Marion. And the 2nd on Broadway in front of Seattle Central. Trust me, Helmets MATTER!

If you choose to not where a Helmet. Prepare to be a Turnip, or a Corpse.

PS: Do a person in need a Favor. Make sure your License says that you're a Organ Donor.
"If your answer to the dangers of traffic is a helmet, you're asking the wrong question. It's not a question of whether a helmet would make a difference if you are hit by a car or truck: That vehicle should never have hit you in the first place. We shouldn't spend our energy trying to make a collision possibly a little bit less bad when we could put our efforts into preventing that collision from happening at all."

Hmm, let's see, does this argument hold up relative to other vehicle safety measures?

"If your answer to the dangers of car accidents is seat belts, you're asking the wrong question. It's not a question of whether a seat belt would make a difference if you are hit by a car or truck: That vehicle should never have hit you in the first place. We shouldn't spend our energy trying to make a collision possibly a little bit less bad when we could put our efforts into preventing that collision from happening at all."

Thanks for the insight on traffic safety, doctor. The next time someone asks me to buckle up in a car, I'll suggest that if they don't want me to die, they shouldn't get in an accident, and see if that suggestion makes them less likely to get in a fatal accident. Wonderful advice!
What is the upside of not wearing a helmet? Does it make you look "cool"? Sort of like smoking? Or lowering your car?
Wear a helmet. Anyone can fall down and go boom, without outside influence by a car or road conditions. Wear a helmet. Or be a vegetable. Wear a helmet.
Btw Stranger this article belongs under "opinion" or "editorial" not news.
Do bikes ever collide with each other?
"If you fund and build the Bicycle Master Plan, then I'll reconsider the pros and cons of helmets, and when I do, I'll be making a free and informed choice—democracy"

Ansel has an odd understanding of what democracy means.
I'm a committed cyclist. 2014 will be my lowest-mileage year since taking up the hobby (due to a new baby) and I'm going to clock in just shy of 4,000 miles.

I wear a helmet. However, I think it's extremely important to note that a helmet doesn't really make cycling all that much safer. It doesn't magically make a risky maneuver any less risky. It doesn't make that car moving 45mph any less dangerous. Keep in mind that a helmet needs to provide protection of only 7mph direct impact to be approved for use. You will be seriously injured in the worst crashes -- the guy who was paralyzed by a crack in the Montlake Bridge was wearing a helmet. Most of the recent cyclists fatalities in the state were wearing helmets.

The worst thing you can do is don a helmet and act like you're safer. This makes you less safe since the only thing that really makes you safer on a bicycle is increased awareness and vigilance on a bike. Become sufficiently vigilant and your sudden endos might become a little less common. That car that "came out of nowhere" might actually be noticed and accounted for before you end up sprawled on the hood. Of course, you will still have crashes -- most recently a tourist jaywalked from behind a parked truck, leaving me less than a second to react. Boom(I didn't hit my head, BTW).

Responsible adults should be able to choose whether or not they want to wear safety equipment like a helmet (children, who are terrible cyclists who rarely crash at speeds over a few mph should of course be required to wear helmets). The "but it's selfish for cyclists to expect society to pay for that choice" argument is a stupid red herring. People make that exact kind of choice every day (overeating, sedentary living, speeding in their car, jaywalking, drug use, skydiving, hiking, whatever). Why is it different for cyclists?


Yes, but usually only in big rides full of inexperienced cyclists. I've seen four such crashes during the Seattle-to-Portland ride.
I have gotten in 3 bike on bike collisions, one resulted in a concussion despite a helmet(hit a curb edge on).

Best thing I ever did to make my commute safer was the shift it earlier to miss the majority of bike & car traffic.

I wear a helmet, but its mostly just as a headlamp mounting platform.
@ 27, the very experienced pros who ride in the Tour de France crash all the time.
Helmets and helmet laws are really separate issues.

Only one person I know in Seattle was hit by a car while cycling. Unfortunately she was killed. Wearing a helmet doesn't help much if you're flattened by a car. However, it seems like everyone I know who cycles here has taken at least one or two very nasty spills that didn't involve being hit by a car. Wet leaves, potholes, avoiding being doored (car-related, I know), going downhill too fast on wet pavement, etc.

I would never ride here without a helmet, regardless of the merits of helmet laws. Too many hills, potholes, leaves, and it rains a lot. Team Eli.
How about mandatory bodily injury insurance coverage for all cyclists on public roads, just like cars.

If you get in an accident, are wearing a helmet, and have insurance, you're 100% covered.

If you are not wearing a helmet, you are covered by whatever % the actuaries determine is appropriate.

No insurance? Better set something up on gofundme, or have a friend handle it until you learn to type with a stick between your teeth.
There is a number of dumb assumptions made within this debate that are often made whenever a debate like this comes up:

- speeding motorists or motorists getting too close to bicyclists are the cause of most car/bike collisions. To the contrary I'm reasonably certain that most bad car/bike collisions are caused by inattentive motorists turning into the path of bicyclists. I don't know if there are stats that prove this but anecdotally this seems perfectly obvious.

- most bicycle accidents are car/bike collisions. This is almost certainly ludicrous. Most bicycle accidents are almost certainly spills involving no one other than the bicyclist.

- European cities, such as Berlin are comparable to American cities when discussing bicycle safety measures. What is always overlooked here is that at least in northern European cities bicyclists are treated much more like pedestrians than motorists. This is the opposite of how they are treated in the US. It would be interesting to see the stats on pedestrian/bicyclist collisions in say Berlin. It is definitely treacherous being a pedestrian there if you are not super attentive to often very poorly marked bike lanes. The bike lanes are almost always part of the sidewalk, not part of the street, so it is not surprising at all that there are far fewer bicycle/car collisions in European cities.
AND _FUCK_ everyone who PUSHES (or is even apathetic towards) such laws!!!

I'm against all laws that attempt to force personal choices on adults.

As an adult, it should be YOUR RIGHT to take your life in your own hands.
The GOVERNMENT should have NO RIGHT to say what you can or CANNOT do with your own body and life.

For example: Seatbelt laws.
FUCK THAT, if someone wants to be irresponsible, and get killed in an accident, that's THEIR choice.
Also, those with a stick up their ass about seatbelts.. EXPLAIN WHY PUBLIC GOVERNMENT BUSSES DON'T REQUIRE USE OF THEM, LET ALONE EVEN HAVE THEM!?!

Note, I say ADULTS. Children and dependents are another story.
Also, I wear a seatbelt when driving, and a helmet when riding. Being against the imposition of such victimless laws is not an indicator of personal behavior.
@33: It's true, us filthy Statists are trying to keep people from ending up as addled as you.
@17: Sup, Thrilla?
Yes you should wear a helmet.
No big shock here, but Anzel Herz is distorting the truth again -- lying really -- when he tries to tell you the 1989 study was refuted or that the "Feds repudiated" it. It wasn't and they haven't. It's strongest conclusions were toned down a little. The CDC and CPSC don't promote that study as they once did.

So helmet's don't really reduce injury by 85%. What Ansel is lying about is that they do still protect to an overwhelming degree: 75%. It was 85, now it's 75. But guys like Ansel Herz are true believers. Belief is more powerful than facts for them.

Oh, and Dr. Ian Walker. He's a bike activist, and like most bike activists he thinks if nobody wears helmets we will turn into Amsterdam. Given his prejudice, he should have conducted an experiment that would make it impossible for his personal bias to influence the data.

Instead, he used himself as the sole test subject. He used a machine to measure the distance from cars, sure, but what are the two things that determine how far away a car is from the bike. One is the movement of the car.

The other is the movement of the bike. The movement of Dr. Ian Walker determined how far away a car passed him when wearing a helmet or when not. Could Walker have subconsciously -- or deliberately -- swerved closer to cars when wearing a helmet? To prove what he already believed?

You know the answer. It's the whole reason we have double blind studies, and controls.

And then he comes here and asserts that bicyclists never fall down except when hit by cars. Dr. Ian Walker, ladies and gentlemen. I rest my case.

The zero-sum logic is laughable. It's the same reasoning used by libertarian gun kooks who refuse to support any regulations that affect "law abiding" gun owners: all the onus should be on somebody else. Can't we do both?

There's no reason why bicycle riders can't take personal responsibility for their own safety while we also hold drivers accountable and build safe infrastructure. It's not one or the other. Ian Walker complains about dividing our "energies" between these two things. Energy? Like The Force? Or what? I put on a bike helmet in the morning, and that consumes some much-needed "energy" for building a bike lane? That's a loony thought, isn't it?

The suggestion that helmets make people ride less is proven false by the existence of Seattle, one of the top 3 or 5 most bike-riding cities in the US. If helmet laws discourage bicycling, then why bicycling so prevalent here?
@37 Yes this 'study' is laughable in a number of ways. Do we have any evidence whatsoever that the distance between cars and bikes has anything to do with the prevalence of car/bike collisions? This reminds me of the dimwitted obsession with reducing speed limits to near zero. Complete obliviousness to how most car/bike collisions actually happen.

Some data:

"Although intersections represent a relatively small portion of a cyclist's travel route, they are where a cyclist is most at risk of getting hit by a car or otherwise involved in a car accident. Only 11% of bicycle accidents involve a collision with a car; but of these, 45% take place in intersections. (Contrary to popular fears, the majority of bicycle accidents -- 59% -- involve only the cyclist, who loses control of the bike and crashes.)"…
@33: So in a car on a stretch of highway with no other cars on it, I should be allowed to drive as fast as I want right? As long as a cop doesn't observe a car within 500 feet of mine, I can't hurt anyone else.

Coming up on a stop sign with a clear view of all directions, I should be able to drive through it without stopping if nobody else is coming.

I should also be allowed to buy a car with no emissions controls, no airbags, and a plexiglas windshield. But all of those are illegal.
Wear a helmet. I'd give my bike crash antecdote but the four hours prior to it and the five hours after it have never come back to me. The ER Doctor looking at the X-ray of my occipital condyle fracture said, "I don't have to ask if you were wearing a helmet cause if you weren't we wouldn't be able to talk."
Here's a super brief true story (dateline 2001): bicycling to work on Burke-Gilman (a safer bike commute cannot be had, right?) hit a root around Lake Forest Park, threw me over the handle bars, landed on head and side, clavicle is still in three parts, my helmet core was broken into four parts. I'm completely confident that had my helmet not absorbed the shock of the pavement that I'd be mush for brains right now. The only thing we may be sure of is that Ansel Herz is so adroitly athletic that he'd avoided that killer root in the morning dark. Can the rest of you say the same with certainty?
Eli once again proves to be the voice of reason.
As a former motorcyclist who sees plenty of parallels between that famously-dangerous two-wheeled form of transportation and riding a bicycle in a city with notoriously bad drivers, wet roads, and insufficient planning for cyclists, I see crashes with cars, light rail tracks, pedestrians, wet roads, and anything else, as simply a matter of time, and when you do eventually get in that wreck, and you will, you will either die, or wish you were dead.

Or maybe, because of your vanity, your unprotected brain got extra rattled in your accident and now you don't have enough sense left to realize you should wish you were dead, and you inflict a lifetime of suffering on your friends and family. You. Selfish. Drooling. Monster.
and wear one when you ski/snowboard, stupid young invincibles. if nothing else, they're warm.
if you ride in traffic, wear a helmet. i spaced out once for a few seconds and swerved over just a bit and hit a car and fell over and would've busted my head open but for the helmet.

dear ansel herz, dr. dumdum walker, charles mudede and kathleen richards: thank you for outing yourselves as dumdums. i can now read your articles knowing hubris, vanity, and lack of common sense envelop your ideas, that your thoughts are those clown cloud clods one sees from time to time, and your writing is comedy.
In Amsterdam almost no one wears a helmet but they have more bikes than cars, so I guess it is a majority thing.
A few million years of 'development' have provided us with a number of well proven systems for keeping safe, and also surviving what life throws at us.

First on safety - the #1 piece of safety kit is .. your eyes .. rapidly connecting to your brain to make key decisions but also a communication channel to other road users. The #2 piece is your ears (so dump those earpieces) and use ears to cover the 240 degrees that is not in your immediate direct sight. Of course you should also keep the brain on full operational status.

Body-wise we evolved as a species that could fall over and run into trees/rocks etc. With a top running speed of around 20mph it is no great surprise that we survive 20mph impacts with cars - healthy humans are 'designed' to survive such bumps.

Research done in the 1940's established the very robust detail of the human cranium, with its shock-absorbing multi-plate construction at barely 30% of its impact capacity in a 20mph flat impact - compared to a cycle helmet at 260% of its impact capacity at that speed. The ability of the skull to deform and spring back and its covering with a self repairing sacrificial layer of flesh & hair also deals with the key detail of brain trauma that helmets may well exacerbate - namely the acceleration of the brain in the cranial cavity, where rotational and 'jerk' damage are far more serious than intrusive injury.

It may be telling to review the levels of C1-C5 spinal column damage relative to wearing/not wearing helmets, along with the rotational internal damage, and facial injuries, enhanced by the extended front of the helmet forcing the lower jaw and other frontal areas into the tarmac.

If the concern over head injuries is that great I'd also suggest making all car occupants wear helmets, as the rate of head injuries for this group in car crashes is far greater than that for cyclists

In over 50 years of cycling I've not used a helmet, and on at least 2 occasions this as saved me from very serious injury, notable when I wrote off the car that hit me by cartwheeling down the side, demolishing the A pillar with my buttocks as the road passed by 6 inches below my head (I was watching it happen) With a helmet on the potential for a serious C1/C2 injury would have been huge.

So I'll ride on without - falling off perhaps 2-3 times per year, and with the practice of this learning how to fall off and avoid the major novice injuries of broken wrists, arms, clavicles as they tense up and hit the road in the wrong way. In a big impact I'd recommend getting foetal, ideally with the toughest muscles and bones facing the impact as shock absorbers, and the head protected in the centre of a curled up body, arms across the back of the head. You can't get foetal with a huge styrofoam lid on your head...
Also, how is it fair to compare cities like Amsterdam and Seattle when the Seattle topography alone makes it more dangerous? Amsterdam is relatively flat (is there a road that even has a 10% grade?) and Seattle is hilly/mountainous (12-22% grades are not uncommon). Or is grading Queen Anne and Capitol Hill and filling in the downtown core part of the Master Plan?
@46: it's a speed thing.

the Dutch are riding around on 3-speed city bikes in a pancake-flat urban environment. their bikes weigh a ton. they're not going >20 mph, ever.

if they had to ride down Harvard Ave. north of Roanoke (or any such hill in heavy 'Merican traffic) they'd shit themselves.
I agree that mandatory helmet laws may not be great public policy (and that more needs to be done to make roads safe for cyclists), but the fact that bicycling-related laws and infrastructure are far from ideal seems like a ridiculous reason to not wear a helmet. There are much better ways to be a bike advocate than to (perhaps only marginally, but still...) increase your risk of brain injury.

Accidents happen, even when riding slowly on bike paths or deserted streets. Helmets aren't inconvenient (and they make a nice place to affix head lamps/reflectors); it seems like a no-brainer, even if the benefit is somewhat limited, that they're worth wearing.

Public education (rather than punitive fines) would seem to me to be the best way to encourage helmet usage. Seems to have worked well for skiing/snowboarding - ~12 years ago, ski helmets were uncommon, now they're fairly ubiquitous.
It's clear Eli Saunders is the only grown up left at The Stranger.

@46, @49

There are lots and lots of serious bike accidents in Amsterdam every day. The difference? The Dutch have a functioning healthcare system that won't impoverish you if you get hit in an accident.

So. Yeah. People bike slower in the Netherlands. Cars drive slower. Sure.

But also IF you get in an accident—and there's a good chance you will if you ride all the time—you get good care and recover better.

Here? Not so much.
@23 I still blanche at your fat face and your twisted opinions about what goes on is Seattle. If I saw you riding a bike on 2nd Ave. (you wouldn't be hard to miss, the fattest ass on the road) I would be hard pressed to not give you a little nudge of my car door and my middle finger to let you know how a lot of people in Seattle think about your views. If I called you a moron I would be using your own words which you used beyond what you should have.
@23 if you are the nibs himself please don't wear a helmet. If there were an "unfortunate" accident the community would be the better for it. If you are not himself posting and I assume that you must be a relative or some sort of close (shudder) genetic mixture of hate and stupidity, then I feel very sorry for your connection with this person. He is not right in the head.
I wear a helmet, not because I fear fast cars but because I like to ride my bicycle fast.
Recent study in Australia on head trauma
Recent study in Australia where they looked at head injusries in 8000 patients. 226 were related to cycling. Over 7300 were related to car accidents. Would be far better for people in cars to wear helmets.

A few people are suggesting 'nudging' cyclists with their cars. Seriously? That is attempted murder.
A helmet is designed to do one thing: Soften the force of a blow when your head slams into a hard object. That is the reason to wear it. Everything else being argued about is utter bullshit. I cycle hundreds of miles a week- in the city and in the country. I wear helmets. I suggest others do as well. I ran across a friend cycling one day without a helmet. I asked him to imagine his ex-wife explaining to his two lovely daughter why daddy is now a drooling moron. I have not seen him without a helmet since, and he thanked me.
Here's one name everyone should remember regarding two wheeled related head injuries- Gary Busey. Think about that while you worry about helmet hair!
From wikipedia- "On December 4, 1988, Busey was severely injured in a motorcycle accident in which he was not wearing a helmet. His skull was fractured, and doctors feared he suffered permanent brain damage.[16] During the filming of the second season of Celebrity Rehab in 2008, Busey was referred to psychiatrist Dr. Charles Sophy. Sophy suspected that Busey's brain injury has had a greater effect on him than realized. He described it as essentially weakening his mental "filters" and causing him to speak and act impulsively. "
I bike lots. I've taken my spells and always wear a helmut (feels naked without). The only time my helmut prevented harm was when an SUV turned in front of me and I took a header over the bars right into his fender. I rode away after.

In few words: no helmut = stupid.
Details... details...
Busey, 44, of Malibu, was driving west on Washington Boulevard near Robertson Boulevard at 11:40 a.m. when his Harley-Davidson motorcycle fell to the ground, Culver City Police Sgt. Karin Reagan said.

"He was thrown off, and the back of his head struck the curb," Reagan said. "He was not wearing a helmet."

Busey opposed mandatory helmet laws for motorcyclists and appeared at a packed benefit last month at North Hollywood's Palomino Club to raise money to hire lobbyists in Sacramento to fight such a bill.

The event's sponsor, the California Motorcyclist Assn., argues that untrained and unlicensed riders are a greater danger than riders without helmets.

Reagan said Busey had just left a motorcycle shop about half a block away on Washington when the accident occurred, and there was no indication that he was speeding. A preliminary investigation indicated that no other vehicles or pedestrians were involved, she said.

Traveling at normal speed on a two-way surface street. No other vehicles or pedestrians involved. Tipped over, bonked his skull on a curb.

You don't have to be doing anything special to fall off a bike, and you don't have to be doing anything special to get brain damage falling off a bike.
I'm too lazy to read all of the comments so someone may have already said this. The percentage of helmets helping may be 20% or it may be 90%, the fact that no one knows for sure is irrelevant. The fact of the matter is that it isn't zero, and they certainly don't make anything WORSE when you get hit or wreck, etc, so I completely don't understand the argument against them at all. ALL THEY CAN DO IS HELP.
The Dutch don't wear helmets. As is well established the Dutch are the tallest, smartest and most tolerant beings on the planet, and certainly much more advanced than you.

So don't wear a helmet.
I live in the state in Australia that founded the first helmet law in 1991.

Its more clear with time that the benefits safety-wise of helmet law were only due to attrition of bicycle users.

The law was put in by the Transport Accident Commission, the Royal Auto Club of Victoria, Vicroads and the Department of Justice.

Two of those are motor insurers.

They got their result because the number of cyclists on the road was dramatically reduced.

It has nothing to do with the protective benefits of wearing a helmet.
When I swim in the ocean, I make sure to bring buckets of chum with me to seed the waters with the smell of blood. When I'm attacked by a shark, I can smugly reflect on how it's the shark's choice to bite a swimmer surrounded in dead fish and blood, and that I bear no responsibility for my death and/or dismemberment because I am morally innocent of all wrongdoing. Not swimming in bloody water is an implicit endorsement of the evil sharks.

No education, no literature, no art, no culture will change the fact that nearly half of the people in this world would gladly murder you as easily if they were making a sandwich. Most of the drivers that kill bikers see your death as an inconvenience to them. You live your life surrounded by people that have no empathy. The only thing that stops them from hitting you on your bike when your in their way is consequence. Of those people that can't comprehend the concept of giving a fuck about a stranger, many simply can't be bothered to pay attention to where they are driving their ton of explosion-fueled steel at speeds we are in no way evolved to react to due to the fact they have insurance, and death to anyone but them is irrelevant.

There is no moral stance. There is no heroic satisfaction in being a vegetable while the soccer-mom in the Suburban that destroyed your brain raises six psychopath kids to reproducing age. Nearly half of the people on the road hold the same value to human life as a shark swimming in a delicious cloud of blood does. No amount of fancy-pants book-reading or moral superiority will change the fact that a shitty driver turned you into a fucking vegetable. There's the rest of your lifetime that would have worked to make a better world, lost. Protect yourself from sharks. Wear a fucking helmet.

Pretty damn astonishing how many commentators hope for someones death if they don't wear a helmet. If you go read some progun forums you find that mostly its the antigun people who are the ones threatening murder. Often with a gun. Such a strange mindset. Not one anti helmet law person has wished ill on a pro helmet law person. Yet the pros claim to be focused on safety and don't even get why their comments are so foul.
This argument isn't about helmets, it's about freedom of choice, but we have to legislate for the lowest common denominator. We all know it's illegal to speed, so why have mandatory speed limits? Let us have the freedom of choice to select our own speed because we are all super drivers & will never have car wreck.

We all carry electronic gadgets with a processor. How many of us wrap it in a shell to protect it from breaking if we drop it? So why not do the same for your own central processing unit? It's really a no brainer.
I read a number of arguments for the benefits of helmets and one opposed to laws mandating helmets. I read NO case for compulsion and NO suggestion that anybody was trying to discourage others from freely choosing a helmet if desired.

Why is it so hard for people to see that the removal of the mandatory helmet law stops NOBODY choosing to wear a helmet. Just look at any city around the world where people have a choice and you'll see some helmets and some bare heads.

If helmet laws reduce the number of cyclists it follows that there's a good chance that that reduction, in itself, will reduce the number of serious head injuries simply because there are fewer heads to injure.

Helmet laws are also a great way to totally destroy any inner city bike share scheme thereby perpetuating traffic congestion in those areas.

The pro- arguments all seem to be basically "I crashed and hit my head but didn't suffer brain damage BECAUSE I was wearing a helmet so everyone else must be required to wear a helmet". This argument firstly offers absolutely NO evidence of a causal link between the lack of injury and the helmet - we have no idea how serious the injuries might or might not have been without the helmet and nobody's going to volunteer to participate in an objective experiment which reruns the crash bareheaded. Secondly, there's no consideration given to the number of equally important trips which have not ended up with a bumped head.
Why are motor vehicle operators seen as at less risk of head injuries than bicyclists?

Many motor vehicle collisions happen a much greater speeds than cycling collisions. If ordinary cyclists are subject to the same personal protection safety equipment of racing and sport cyclists, then surely motor vehicle occupants should be required to wear the same protective gear that racing and sports car drivers and occupants have to wear.

In most Anglo-sphere countries Australia, Canada, USA and the UK, cycling is seen mainly as a sport and not an every day activity, a form of transport.

In Australia the mainstream seem to see bicycling as either for non-conformist eco-warriors nut jobs or an elitist, executive, Anglo, male activity. Bicyclists are either tree huggers with dreadlocks or lycra-louts.

In most other parts of the western world, cycling is just another form of transport, specially mainland Europe. In those countries you cycle in ordinary street clothing. The majority of people do not wear helmets.

When the pro helmet lobby writes about the advantages of helmets, where are the papers that suggest that the Scandinavian countries, in particular, have any higher head injury rates than countries that are known for their high use of helmets? Are there any studies to support the value of helmets?

Yes, in continental Europe there is a very large sport cycling community and because they work on the outer envelope of physics they wear protective safety equipment, for when the inevitable happens.

Lets just compare this to the metal cages on wheels we share our roads with. Head injuries happen in collisions, so with that logic why aren’t all car occupants required to have 6 point harnesses, crash helmets and fire proof driving suits. Australian bicyclists are expected to dress how Lance Armstrong would’ve suited up for the Tour de France. Yet occupants of cars aren’t required to be dressed up and trussed up in a car like the Ken Block, Richard Petty or Danica Patrick. So why do cyclists have to conform to a much higher standard of safety equipment than our brothers and sisters who occupy motor vehicles?
"Oh, and Dr. Ian Walker. He's a bike activist, and like most bike activists he thinks if nobody wears helmets we will turn into Amsterdam. Given his prejudice, he should have conducted an experiment that would make it impossible for his personal bias to influence the data."

Haha very well said!

Stats from any country including the Netherlands will tell you that more head injuries are caused by people just falling off their bikes than being hit by cars yet the likes of Dr Walker fail to mention that in their studies. I can't stand this whole victim mentality that pro-cyclists try and build around themselves and the kind of pop statistics and catchy sound bites they try and use!
The fact is there is no credible evidence to support the idea that helmets put people of riding bikes.
Here is a good site about the facts and myths of cycle helmets.…

Also I think you need to consider whether laws might not be necessary for adults but could be necessary for children as they are far more vulnerable to head injuries.
I have had a brutal head injury while on my bicycle, and I'm still not sold on wearing a helmet. A car slammed into me in an intersection and left me for dead. (This is how drivers can and will behave in situations where they may be called out)

The doctor came to see me the next day and gave me the damage report - a scar that travels from my ear to my eyebrow, a bruise in my brain the size of my fist, a skull fracture, and several fractures in my neck. I felt like shit, I thought it was my fault that I was in this mess.

The doctor told me that if I had been wearing a helmet, because the impact was on my upper cranium, twisting my neck around, the additional impact of the helmet could have likely killed or paralyzed me. I was in disbelief. Later a trauma specialist came by and said the same thing.

I have learned 3 things since my brain injury -

1. A helmet will not save your life. What it will do is help keep you from getting dents in your head when you fall or someone curbs you. Helmets don't even get ratings for high impact crashes like being hit by a car. Your neck is the most sensitive part of your body in an impact like that, and there is just no way to protect your neck.

2. It is best to be visible and predictable. Have lights at night. People in cars see cars, because they have bright lights and it's what people expect to see on the road. A bike darting across the road in the middle of the night is not what people even think to see when they drive home.

3. Be vigilant and communicate. Let a car know that they are sharing the road with you before they cut you off or pull into your lane. You deserve a slice of the road just like every other tom, dick and jane. Cycling is a very independent activity. The ideal that you can even ride with your biking buddy side by side on the street or even on the burke gilman is a joke. But one thing that the cycling community does need to do together is identify threatening intersections and communicate that with the drivers who frequent that area, maybe by signage, whatever, and also with the city. Having some active forum that also involves everyday drivers is really going to be the most productive.

I honestly think that wearing a helmet should be a personal choice. It's not comfortable on your ride, it can harm your neck, and it's not good to give drivers the idea that riding along side cars that they are driving is in anyway shape or form - safe.