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July 21, 2006

Is Helmet Use Promoted to Detriment of Safety Courses?

I have never claimed to be an expert on everything cycling.

Sadly I don't have the time to steep myself in becoming one, though I try to find time to explore websites I find.

Heck, lately I've not even been able to get out for long rides ( Right now the heat wave, here in the OC, has prevented me. )

By finding websites of use to cyclists, and by posting about various issues, it has been my hope to get visitors to check out the sites, and stories, and to get people more knowledgeable than I, and even with differing opinions, to chime in with comments, and essays, on various subjects.

I pride myself in the collection of resources I've gathered, and hope that more people discover their usefullness every day.

It has been 2 years since I added a link to my Special Invite in the sidebar.

I think, at least with the commenting part, and the event tips, I've been a little bit successful as I can always count on several regulars to add considerably to the discussion of the topics written about here, and I occasionally get word of various events.

It is no secret that, while I think education is important with regards to making better cyclists, and even motorists, I am also a strong supporter of Helmet use ( From personal experience, I know that wearing a helment can prevent serious injury, and even save your life. ), and respect the opinions of those who promote it ( See links in sidebar ).

I also respect the folks encouraging Safety Education.

Some of those folks take exception to studies, and organizations, that say that "The use of helmets is the single most effective way to reduce head injuries and fatalities resulting from bicycle crashes."

I would love to add to my collection of Cycling Safety Education sites ( 10 related sites are listed ), but in the meantime let me share an e-mail I got from regular commenter, and fellow BikeBlogger, Fritz, of Cyclelicious, and Longmont Bicycling Resource.

What he has to say gets to the heart of the debate over helmets, and to trying to find ways to educate people about other important ways to stay safe while cycling.

Fritz writes:

Okay, let's look at these numbers Kiril. You wrote "Children 15 and younger accounted for 21 percent of the 725 killed." That's 152 children who died on a bicycle in 2004. And then you wrote, "Universal bicycle helmet use by children ages 4-15 would prevent 135-155 deaths annually."

If 152 children died, how do you prevent up to 155 of those deaths????? And then people wonder why folks like me who actually read the studies call them out as total BS.

You quote Dr. Rick Blum, who says, "The use of helmets is the single most effective way to reduce head injuries and fatalities resulting from bicycle crashes." Helmets are indeed effective, but Blum is spouting pure hyperbole: the single most effective way to reduce head injuries and fatalities is NOT helmets, but it's good riding safety education for children AND the adults who drive around them. A big part of the problem is adults driving 40 mph through residential areas and school zones. If these morons would understand that kids are part of the residential environment and just slow down, a big part of the problem would go away.

Helmets are fine, but overemphasizing this minimally effective countermeasure over the real issues is like putting a bandaid on a amputated limb.

This isn't just some hypothetical splitting hairs issue, either -- real dollars are involved. Colorado was one of the first states to distribute federal Safe Routes to School dollars for bicycle safety. I reviewed $6.5 million in grant requests from various agencies; only $2.3 million was available to distribute. Somewhere around $1 million was requested for helmet education and promotion (which acts mostly to make children and parents afraid to ride their bikes), when what we really wanted was to promote cycling to school.

One of the recipients for 2006 is the city of Longmont for a very strong bicycle promotion and education program there in conjunction with the school system. Helmets are part of it and the kids are required to have helmets to participate, but the way it's done doesn't detract from the main purpose of that program.

There is a lot of debate, and discussion, all over the cycling community, on a host of issues such as this one.

If you have the time you owe it to yourself to check out any cycling message board, or e-mail list, that catches your attention when checking out various sites in my sideboard, and you will see just how involved, technical, and even very heated, the discussions can become.

Just beware: Your e-mail in-box could quickly be overloaded. ;-D

That's why I have not subscribed to any lists in years. ;-D

Thanks, Fritz, for the above contribution. ;-D

July 21, 2006 in Voices From The Open Road | Permalink


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You're welcome :-)

Posted by: Fritz | Jul 21, 2006 7:05:36 PM

"the single most effective way to reduce head injuries and fatalities is NOT helmets, but it's good riding safety education for children AND the adults who drive around them"
Unfortunately, good riding safety education alone can not protect cyclists from oblivious motor vehicle drivers, but helmet use can protect a cyclist from serious head injury. I see the point Fritz is attempting to make, but the argument is rather silly. Helmet use is a "no-brainer." For those of us who have been the victims of ignorant motor vehicle operators (or any number of freak accidents beyond our control), that silly piece of plastic protecting our skulls was vastly more important than any other safety or riding skills could have ever been.

To suggest that promotion of helmet safety is simply aimed at making people afraid to ride their bikes is ludicrous. Helmet use should clearly be the single most critical part of any rider safety course. Street smarts have not made it possible for me to be here writing this right now (although they may have helped me avoid a few scrapes). Helmet use has proven, time and again, that in the most serious accidents riding skills are often irrelevant.

Posted by: Drew | Jul 30, 2006 1:02:51 PM

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