Greater Greater Washington

Bicycling


Maryland helmet law would make cyclists less safe

On Tuesday morning, the Environmental Matters Committee of the Maryland House of Delegates will hold a hearing on House Bill 339, to require that every person operating a bicycle in Maryland wear a helmet. This bill is bad policy.


Photo by Richard Masoner / Cyclelicious on Flickr.

Mandatory helmet laws cause fewer people to bicycle, and when fewer people bicycle, cycling becomes less safe. So much less safe, in fact, that decreased ridership increases the individual cyclist's risk of injury more than wearing a helmet decreases risk of injury.

This does not mean that bicyclists should not wear helmets. We encourage bicyclists to wear helmets. However, there are several reasons why people who are deeply committed to bicyclist safety oppose mandatory helmet laws.

Mandatory helmet laws decrease ridership.

Numerous studies of places that have enacted helmet laws have shown this to be true. The most commonly-cited studyDorothy Robinson's "No Clear Evidence from Countries that have Enforced the Wearing of Helmets"examined data from New Zealand, from Nova Scotia, Canada, and from several states in Australia. In each place, the mandatory helmet law significantly decreased ridership, from 20% to 44% with an average of 37.5%.

(One can debate whether Maryland can expect a decrease of this magnitude. There is no local data available, so this analysis uses the average of 37.5%. But even if the decrease is only 20%, the lowest Robinson observed, even half of that, the result is the same.)

Lower ridership makes bicycling less safe.

We are defining "safety" as the likelihood of a bike-auto crash. By saying that decreased ridership makes bicycling less safe, we mean that a decreased rate of bicycling within a population is correlated with increased crash rates, and vice versa.

The leading article on this topicPeter Jacobsen's "Safety in Numbers: More Walkers and Bicyclists, Safer Walking and Bicycling"reviews data on biking, walking, and injury rates in 68 California cities, 47 Danish towns, 14 European countries, and the United Kingdom.

Across the independent sets of data from these many jurisdictions, Jacobsen finds a consistent, inverse, curvilinear relationship between bicycling and injury rates, determining that "the total number of pedestrians or bicyclists struck by motorists varies with the 0.4 power of the amount of walking or bicycling respectively." Expressed simply, more people biking leads to fewer per capita crashes while fewer people biking leads to more per capita crashes.

Jacobsen also derives a formula for how this affects the individual cyclist: "Taking into account the amount of walking and bicycling, the probability that a motorist will strike an individual person walking or bicycling declines with roughly -0.6 power of the number of persons walking or bicycling." In other words, as more people bicycle, the per capita risk to each bicyclist of a crash decreases; if fewer people bicycle, the per capita risk to each bicyclist increases.

Helmets do not make cyclists as much safer as commonly thought.

For the individual, of course, the story is different. Wearing a helmet is likely safer than not wearing one. This is true for bicyclists; it is also true for people who are skydiving, rock climbing, sitting under an oak tree, or taking a bath. Individually, we make our decisions based on our own risk tolerances and values, and many of us choose to wear helmets and encourage our loved ones to do so.

But at the broader level, where we ought to analyze legislation and public policy, how much safer will a helmet make a person in a bike crash that leads to a head impact? This is a topic of debate and uncertainty, but as research methods improve we move further from some of the magical thinking that took hold due to early estimatesderived from emergency room data rather than population datathat suggested helmet effectiveness rates of 85% and above.

Generally, those estimates came from retrospective studies that looked at people with head injuries in emergency rooms and compared the numbers who lived and died, and whether they were wearing helmets when they were hit. When more recent studies have attempted to compile these data into meta-analyses with more informative sample sizes, their results do not approach the long-accepted 85% level. Some show a smaller effect; others, none at all. In fact, in population-level studies focusing on hospitalization rather than emergency room visits, helmets have no discernible, statistically significant effect on hospitalization rates. (Jacobsen 2012)

Recent studies that have focused on overall health, rather than simply crash mortality rates, have shown that the individual and public health benefits grossly outweigh the costs, by a factor of 20:1. (De Jong 2012)

The mandatory helmet law in Maryland will increase danger for Maryland cyclists.

Assuming that the helmet law will decrease cycling by the 37.5% average in Maryland, the total Maryland cycling population, post helmet law, would shrink to only 62.5% of the current cycling population. Assuming also that Jacobsen's safety-in-numbers effect holds true in Marylandas it has consistently throughout California and across Europethe number of motorists colliding with people bicycling will increase by roughly 17.1% per capita (1-0.6250.4=0.171)

For the individual, these assumptions mean that the likelihood of injury from a crash with a motor vehicle would increase by roughly 33% (0.625-0.6=1.326)regardless of whether the individual wears a helmet. The increased risk comes solely because mandatory helmet laws take people off bicycles, and fewer people on bicycles makes the remaining bicyclists less safe. Substantially.

Maryland does not keep much data on bicycling, but one piece of data that we do have is that in 2010, there were 734 reported bicycle crashes in Maryland. Looking only at this dataand assuming ridership decreases by 37.5% from the helmet law in Marylandwe might expect only 459 crashes instead of 734.

However, this expectation is wrong. Due to the decreasing "safety in numbers," we would instead expect to see 537 crashes, or 78 additional crashes directly attributable to the mandatory helmet law. So even though the total number of crashes might decrease, that is not because the law has made cyclists safer; it is because substantially fewer people are riding bikes, and those that still ride are measurably less safe, because of the law.

Discouraging cycling runs counter to other Maryland priorities.

The state of Maryland has launched, or is poised to launch, two programs dedicated to encouraging cycling. The mandatory helmet law would undermine the success and safety of both.

First, knowing the overall benefits of biking to public health and well-being, transportation, economic development, and other public priorities, the state of Maryland initiated a campaign to get more people riding bikes. Maryland's Department of Transportation introduces the campaign on their website with:

Governor O'Malley's Cycle Maryland initiative is an effort to encourage more Marylanders to get out and ride, and to make bicycling a true transportation alternative. Cycling is a great way to connect to your community, support a cleaner environment, encourage a healthier lifestyle, reduce household transportation costs and enjoy Maryland's magnificent landscape.

With the mandatory helmet law reducing ridership, Maryland will be left with more people to figure out how to move, and will have to treat more people for health problems associated with sedentary lifestyles.

Second, Maryland has contributed funds to expand the popular and successful Capital Bikeshare program to Montgomery County. Due to the nature of bikesharing, users are less likely to wear helmets, more likely to be casual rather than experienced users, and more likely to be operating in urban environments with motor vehicles. So perhaps the legislators proposing this mandatory helmet bill mean to ensure the safety of those riders, before bikesharing arrives in the state?

However, again, consider the data: Capital Bikeshare users have logged over 3.4 million trips, with an approximately 38% lower helmet usage rate than the general population. (Kraemer 2012) There have been zero fatalities and only one head injury. That is roughly one crash for every 88,000 miles ridden! Yet by driving potential cyclists away, a mandatory helmet policy would undermine the likelihood of success of the program in Montgomery County, Baltimore, and other areas statewide.

That safety record speaks for itself and shows that biking is not an inherently dangerous activity. Mandatory bicycle helmet laws falsely portray it as such, and in doing so create a false sense of danger that limits ridership and undermines the many positive impacts of mass cycling for Maryland.

"Contributory negligence" makes the law extra harmful.

And finally, some believe that this law is acceptable and benevolent and will not have these impacts because there is no fine for violation. But this law has other, even more dire consequences for violators.

Maryland, like the District and Virginia, is a "contributory negligence" jurisdiction. That means if the victim of a crash contributed in any way to her own injury, she can claim no civil recovery for her damages. In Maryland, violation of a law is negligence per se.

Thus, it is possible that a cyclist who rides the bus to work on a rainy morning but chooses to take a bikeshare bike home when the weather clears, and suffers permanent brain injury when a drunk driver veers into a bike lane and strikes her, could be denied any civil recovery as a result of not wearing a helmet.

Is this the transportation future we want in Maryland? Is this the sort of public policy we hope to encourage?

Conclusion

In Maryland, we can anticipate a mandatory helmet law to reduce bicycle ridership by 37.5% (along with its accompanying public health, environmental, and economic benefits), per capita crashes to increase by 17%, and the per capita risk of a crash to increase by 33% for every person riding a bike in the state of Maryland, regardless of whether he or she wears a helmet.

In a broader sense, these laws are a form of victim blamingtelling bicyclists that it is our responsibility to avoid the risk of injury by padding ourselves, rather than the state's to design a transportation network capable of moving non-motorists with a decent level of safety and efficiency.

WABA opposes a mandatory helmet law in Maryland because it is bad policy based on accepted, tested, and peer-reviewed datanot just some libertarian philosophy or desire of cyclists to "feel the wind in our hair."

Fundamentally, we do believe that the legislators proposing this mandatory helmet law hope to do what is best for bicyclist safety, but they have significantly erred in determining what will, in fact, be best. They have the power to impose new risks on each of us who rides a bike, even when we wear helmets. We hope they will consider this information seriously and decide that a mandatory helmet law is a bad policy for the state of Maryland.

References:

De Jong, Piet. 2012. The Health Impact of Mandatory Bicycle Helmet Laws. Risk Analysis. 5 (32): 782-790.

Jacobsen, Peter L. 2003. Safety in Numbers: More Walkers and Bicyclists, Safer Walking and Bicycling. Injury Prevention 9 (3): 205-209.

Jacobsen, Peter L. and Harry Rutter. "Cycling Safety" City Cycling. Ed. John Pucher, Ed. Ralph Buehler. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2012. 141-156.

Kraemer, John D., Jason S. Roffenbender, and Laura Anderko. 2012. Helmet Wearing Among Users of a Public Bicycle-Sharing Program in the District of Columbia and Comparable Riders on Personal Bicycles. American Journal of Public Health 102 (8): e23-e25.

Robinson, Dorothy L. 1996. No Clear Evidence from Countries that Have Enforced the Wearing of Helmets. British Medical Journal 332 (7543): 722-725.

Contact your legislators

This petition is now closed. Thank you for participating!

Shane Farthing is Executive Director of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association. Formerly the head of the Office of Green Economy in the DC Department of the Environment, Shane has been involved in the environmental planning and development of many projects currently changing the face of the District. Shane has graduate degrees in law and public policy from GWU and a Bachelorís in Religious Studies from Virginia Commonwealth University. 

Comments

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Very eloquently and numerically sound put.

by Jasper on Feb 11, 2013 10:04 am • linkreport

Bravo.

I like this paragraph:

For the individual, of course, the story is different. Wearing a helmet is likely safer than not wearing one. This is true for bicyclists; it is also true for people who are skydiving, rock climbing, sitting under an oak tree, or taking a bath. Individually, we make our decisions based on our own risk tolerances and values, and many of us choose to wear helmets and encourage our loved ones to do so.

by Ward 1 Guy on Feb 11, 2013 10:14 am • linkreport

"Wearing a helmet is likely safer than not wearing one."

"is likely?" This sentence alone discredits the rest of teh author's points.

by David on Feb 11, 2013 10:52 am • linkreport

Thank you for this. I've been trying to explain this perspective in my letters to legislators, but this is more complete and eloquent.

Based on the Washington Post story, it seems like the original sponsor of this bill really didn't have any perspective at all on the safety in numbers effect and the hugely beneficial impact of bike sharing on driver awareness and (sometimes) willingness to share roads. She seemed to think cycling was mostly for sport and recreation, which is a very outdated perspective in my opinion.

I can only say that based on informal observations from the College Park area at least (my wife owns a local bike shop), most bike purchases these days are intended for commuting and utility riding, not sport.

Maryland should concentrate on linking existing bike trails and lanes into a coherent transportation network (relatively easy), and retrofitting our suburban arterials into complete streets (hard and expensive, but necessary).

The slums of the future will surround ugly suburban traffic sewers and overbuilt parking lots.

by Greenbelt on Feb 11, 2013 11:08 am • linkreport

David, that isn't how it works. First of all, the statement is pretty reasonable. Most people would agree with it. Second of all, saying one thing that is wrong (which is not the case here) does not discredit everything else they say. If you would like to discredit the article, have at it. But such a claim as you've made suggests that you actually can't.

by David C on Feb 11, 2013 11:17 am • linkreport

"Wearing a helmet is likely safer than not wearing one."
"is likely?" This sentence alone discredits the rest of the author's points.

If you look at the current science this is a pretty fair assessment, perhaps even overly fair. There is almost no hard evidence of a dramatic safety benefit to helmets. There is some evidence of a moderate benefit. If people throw about big numbers -- "85% decrease in head injuries!" -- you know they don't know what they're talking about.

I thought Shane did a great job, systematically and factually making his case.

by contrarian on Feb 11, 2013 11:23 am • linkreport

Isn't this the same logic that the motorcycle anti-helmet people use? Since the motorcycle helmet law is what most legislators and their know, you're going to have to overcome a lot of entrenched "knowledge" to explain why a helment law for bicyclists should be different.

by Some Ideas on Feb 11, 2013 11:38 am • linkreport

There are few absolutes in the world. The author presents an understanding of statistics and relative safety. The commenter that discounts statistical reasoning due to a knee-jerk reaction over one word presents a lack of understanding.

by Jed on Feb 11, 2013 11:40 am • linkreport

In contrast to the other commenters I didn't find this persuasive. Despite your efforts, my impression was "we don't want to wear a helmet". The major exception was your point on contributory negligence, which was excellent. I do give you much credit for trying to approach the question intelligently and with data! Your observations on Bikeshare are also good points.

The basic premise --- helmets = fewer cyclists = more risk for those that remain --- assumes that there are not other policy changes. It seems, to me, to be an argument for improving the proposed law. Alternatively stated, hinging your argument on this correlation neglects many other factors and details.

Would you apply the same argument to motorcycles? Doubtless the correlation is directionally correct (there is some small number of fewer motorcyclists because of MD's mandatory helmet law; this decreases awareness of motorcycles by some tiny amount, increasing risk for the remaining pool). Probably not --- I'd say that the risk of serious injury is so high, and that this effect is small. Therefore mandatory helmet laws for motorcycles make sense. So the devil's in the details --- where is the greatest public benefit? I wonder what the data on motorcycle helmets say?

I'd suggest that the data in Fig. 1-4 in Jacobsen's 2003 article are very noisy. So the fit lines are directionally correct, but of limited utility in precise predictions. So when you calculate a 17.1% / per capita increase in collisions without including an error bar (not your fault since the original author didn’t provide that info – shame on him; fitting an exponent gives sensitive predictions), I have to question the claimed increase. It could reasonably be less than 10%. And that’s based on the 37.5% average. As you say, it could be less. If it’s a 25% decrease and the exponent’s off a little bit, it’s smaller yet. Maybe 5%. It could also be larger. The important thing is to communicate what we do and don’t know honestly if we want to make good policy.

Complicating this further, that Jacobsen formula lumps pedestrians and bicyclists together, a mistake for a debate about helmets; and it’s just for collisions with cars. Helmets help with head on pavement even if there’s no collision. You represent that this is combined pedestrian / bike fact initially, but gloss over that later when concluding that there could be (eg) 78 more directly attributable crashes. I can’t see that Jacobsen’s formula supports that conclusion.

Positing that "safety" is the likelihood of a bike-car crash seems odd, although I think you’re doing it for consistency with the cited papers (fair enough). To me it means something more like probability of getting hurt riding a bike per mile traveled times the magnitude of the injury.

I don’t disagree with any of your broader conclusions --- this is a red herring that distracts from fixing our transpo system. But it seems to me that instead of “accepted, tested, and peer reviewed data”, we have facts and figures that have been stretched beyond their regime of validity. To disagree with Jasper, I don’t think this is numerically sound.

Common sense: Helmets reduce the magnitude of some injuries (even if not those that require hospitalization). They’re cheap. The cost-benefit is large. Should they be mandated? Dunno. Tough on bikeshare for sure. But that’s a fair question to which you’ve contributed something meaningful.

by John on Feb 11, 2013 11:47 am • linkreport

@john

1. There is no equivalent of bikeshare for motor cyclists, or of the quick spin around the block, so I am not sure that the impact of mandatory helmets on riding is the same.

2. Im not sure the safey in numbers effect is the same, since motorcyclists move at the same speed as cars, and are not legally required to stay to the right.

3. Plus the benefit is larger and better demonstrated.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Feb 11, 2013 11:52 am • linkreport

My letter to the Committee:

Dear Environmental Matters Committee:
As a resident of urban downtown Silver Spring, I look forward to using the upcoming Capital Bikeshare service that the state so graciously contributed to. The success of bikesharing depends on impulse usage as much as planned trips. While I'm out and about on foot, there's a large chance that I didn't plan ahead to take a bicycle on an impulse to visit a business or friend. If I didn't bring my helmet, I would become a lawbreaker by just making such an impulse trip under the proposed law. I'd just not make the trip. One less ride from the bikeshare system. More dollars invested in the bikeshare system that will go to waste. Further, fewer dollars spent at the business that I intended to patronize.

I would also avoid purchasing a Capital Bikeshare membership altogether since I'd be breaking the law if I just happened to ride it without a helmet. Further, I'd be liable if a drunk driver hit me on the bicycle, regardless of the fact that the driver was the one operating heavy machinery while intoxicated. Such a subtle change in the calculus of bike ridership makes it an altogether unpalpable exercise. The proposal would have the unintended consequence of discouraging bicycling in Maryland, especially in our urban areas.

I implore you to table the mandatory bicycle helmet law as proposed.

Sincerely,

Cavan Wilk

by Cavan on Feb 11, 2013 12:00 pm • linkreport

@ Walker. Fair points, although you open up the question: How much of the decrease in ridership (under mandatory helmets) is due to decreases in bikeshare type programs? I had assumed (since it's a 2003 paper, and I have a vague impression that these programs have been growing over the past decade) that it was mostly about people riding their own bikes. Could be wrong.

On motorcycles -- you're definitely right on point 2 (and buried in all my words I had agreed with point 3). But my goal in the motorcycle discussion is to point out that the details matter. We have good reasons for thinking this conclusion doesn't apply to motorcycles, despite the same directional decrease in ridership.

So to make the case against bike helmets we need to show some combination of:
1. The decrease in ridership is predictable
2. The "group safety" effect is significant
3. The benefits of helmets are small.

There's uncertainty with each of these, which makes the overall conclusion uncertain. The OP did a good job of marshaling the argument. I just don't think that the sources cited are conclusive.

God, I feel like someone arguing against global warming. Uncertainty! :)

by John on Feb 11, 2013 12:02 pm • linkreport

4. If there are fewer motorcyclists, who cares? There are no public health benefits that come with an increasing the number of motorcycle riders. (Though one could argue there are benefits from increased efficiencies in moving people around.)

by oboe on Feb 11, 2013 12:02 pm • linkreport

RE: Motorcycle Comparison

Is it not obvious that bicycle use has a whole wealth of external health benefits that motorcycling does not have? If a few people decide to not ride/own motorcycles due to mandatory helmet requirements there is no great loss to society; if people don't ride bikes because of it there are big societal health implications. And as John says, the risk of serious injury on a motorcycle is much higher than on a bicycle so the need to mandate helmets for bicycles is lessened.

@John
Common sense: Helmets reduce the magnitude of some injuries (even if not those that require hospitalization). They’re cheap. The cost-benefit is large. Should they be mandated? Dunno.

You've outlined a lot of the "common sense" behind helmets and then just punted on the actual question at hand, while criticizing the author for attempting to answer that question. That's not adding to the discussion. And you nitpick the calculations and say the data has been "stretched beyond... validity" when I would say that it seems to me that "common sense" dictates that if the research says that mandatory helmets decrease bicycling (it does to some extent) and that research also says that fewer bicyclists means an increase in the incidence rate of crashes (it does), then this policy will lead to an increase in the crash/injury rate no matter the magnitude of that increase. Not to mention the fact that if Maryland wants to increase bicycling (it does) that this policy is counter to that goal.

by MLD on Feb 11, 2013 12:04 pm • linkreport

So even if we agree that if its a big "maybe" on a helmet mandate that would indicate that now is not the time to implement said mandate?

by drumz on Feb 11, 2013 12:10 pm • linkreport

I'd like to add that the barrier to entry for motorcycle riding is far higher (greater cost to buy, a test for a license, insurance, etc.) than it is for bike riding.

by thump on Feb 11, 2013 12:16 pm • linkreport

It's also not clear that comparing the effects of a helmet on a motorcycle going 80MPH on the freeway to that of one on a bike going 4MPH on a side street leads to a meaningful conclusion. It might make sense to require helmets for more dangerous forms of cycling, but we don't have any real science to identify what those are, and enforcement seems complicated and unlikely.

It's not enough to say "it's safer"; this sort of public policy needs to be justified on a total cost/benefit basis. It would be safer if helmets were mandatory for pedestrians and automobile passengers as well, but there's so far no move to require helmets for those groups. I imagine that taxi companies would be furious about such a provision. But if you won't accept mandatory helmets in cars on when walking, what data suggests that they should be required only when cycling?

by Mike on Feb 11, 2013 12:49 pm • linkreport

My point from earlier RE: motorcycle vs. bicycle helments was to look at this from the perspective of legislators and their staff. The esoteric conversion here is excellent and can form the supporting information, but it will not help a legislator form an opinion in favor of your point of view...it is just too complex with too many rabbit holes. You need to explain this in terms legislators can understand and allow them to have a meaningful WIN during their term in office (or to put in their reelection campaign).

Can you explain to them how they will survive reelection by voting down a helmet law? When the opposition will use the, "voted against saving lives" mantra.

by Some Ideas on Feb 11, 2013 1:09 pm • linkreport

I just don't find this argument compelling and while I can't seriously disagree w/the results of the various fact-finding missions, the assumptions (will result in x number of crashes) leave a lot to be desired.

It seems that any potential reason for bikers deciding to forego using one at all is because of the safety requirement and THAT just doesn't sit well w/me. Essentially, "since they're making me take additional safety precautions I don't like, I'm going to refuse to ride altogether."

Just doesn't sound right or logical.

by HogWash on Feb 11, 2013 1:09 pm • linkreport

"since they're making me take additional safety precautions I don't like, I'm going to refuse to ride altogether."

I doubt its about ideological petulance, but about personal cost benefit analysis. "I found the old bike in the basement, and I want to take it out for a quick spin, but I don't know where the helmet is, so I'll just watch TV instead"

by AWalkerInTheCity on Feb 11, 2013 1:13 pm • linkreport

@HogWash
Just doesn't sound right or logical.

The reduction in riders comes from a combination of reduced trips due to:
1. Can't afford a helmet
2. Don't know where to get one
3. Don't have one that fits at the moment (outgrew/borrowing a bike)
4. Don't want to ride any more because if helmets are required then biking must be too dangerous
5. Don't like to wear helmets

So there are a lot of potential reasons beyond "refusing to ride" because of safety requirements.

It seems that any potential reason for bikers deciding to forego using one at all is because of the safety requirement and THAT just doesn't sit well w/me.

So people should always take every safety precaution possible when doing any activity with a potential for injury? Do you wear a helmet when driving? Or when walking? Because that would be safer.

by MLD on Feb 11, 2013 1:21 pm • linkreport

@ MLD. The point is that the article cited does not show fewer bicyclists mean an increase in crashes. The Jacobsen article says that fewer walkers and bicyclists means a greater likelihood that they will be struck by a car. Lumping pedestrians in there means --- even neglecting precision concerns --- that you can't conclude that fewer cyclists mean more crashes for cyclists. There are other studies that indicate this holds for cyclists independently. But the OP made a case based on combined data.

As to the general accusation of "nitpicking": Yep. I'm nitpicking. Quantitative science is nitpicking. The original article invokes a number of formula in making his conclusions. That's why the original article is so long. How on earth is in not fair to question the details of the original article?

And yep, I punted. That's because I didn't think the information presented was enough to support a conclusion either way. Punting is what you should do then. If lawmakers punted on this law because there wasn't a sufficient justification ... problem solved. And they'd have done the right thing.

And I'd say I did it in a way that contributed to the discussion, but maybe everyone else disagrees with that.

If I had to decide, I'd do it on the basis of something other than these studies. I'd say that this proposal would decrease cycling and (as you say), this is counter to one of our goals. The evidence on helmets isn't as clear as you might think, so don't require them without better justification.

This is a different argument than the original (although it's buried in there). I think pushing data-driven arguments that aren't sufficiently rigorous isn't helpful. It can come across as attempting to muddy the issues.

@ Mike - Good points.

by John on Feb 11, 2013 1:22 pm • linkreport

I've worked for legislators and governors and congress people. I recognize the effort that is going toward refuting the value of the legislative proposal. Have to caution that based on my experience at least, i don't think the resistance has either a clear enough messge or that it will be deemed compelling. In the end a legie asks if people should wear helmets. Just about any responsible advocate is going to say "yes, they should wear helmets... but we oppose requiring helmets because..." You can give all the reasons above but they are likely to stop listing where i put "..." FWIW. I read an article that Seattle is going to try an tackle helmet availability in launching a new bike share system. Maybe some energy should go toward that here?

by Tom M on Feb 11, 2013 1:24 pm • linkreport

we would instead expect to see 537 crashes, or 78 additional crashes directly attributable to the mandatory helmet law.

Actually, one could not say this with much certainty because additional crashes would be merely correlated with the enforcement of a mandatory helmet law, but not necessarily "attributable" thereto.

Also, the blog piece tends to use data most favorable to the author's own position on bicycle helmets (i.e. cherry picking). Truth is that there is a LOT of evidence to affirm the claim that bicycle helmets improve safety. And I say this as someone who does not regularly wear a helmet.

by Scoot on Feb 11, 2013 1:26 pm • linkreport

So there are a lot of potential reasons beyond "refusing to ride" because of safety requirements.

Sure there are and excluding "cost," none of those you mentioned are compelling, especially the one about people not "liking" to use helmets....as if.

So people should always take every safety precaution possible when doing any activity with a potential for injury?

I don't think we ever "fully" do that. But WRT riding a bike, using a helmet doesn't seem too burdensome nor too much to require.

by HogWash on Feb 11, 2013 1:27 pm • linkreport

I don't think we ever "fully" do that. But WRT riding a bike, using a helmet doesn't seem too burdensome nor too much to require.

Couldn't one say that about using a helmet while driving a car or walking down the street? Since it's not too burdensome, maybe we should require it.

by Scoot on Feb 11, 2013 1:32 pm • linkreport

Aside from motorcycling as an activity having no health benefits, the efficacy of motorcycling helmets is proven to a far greater degree than the helmets marketed for wearing while bicycling. That's why it is illegal to wear a bicycle helmet when riding a motorcycle. So if the policy goal of mandating helmet usage is to make cyclists more safer, then it would follow that mandating DOT-approved motorcycle helmets would be even more safer than bicycle helmets. But of course in reality a motorcycle helmet restricts movement to such a degree that it is unsafe to wear when bicycling. So the products available commercially as bicycling helmets are little more than styrofoam hats that offer protection from linear deceleration up to only 8mph. There is also evidence of increased rotational neck injuries from wearing bicycle helmets, as well as increased risk of strangulation from the neck strap.

But as it has already been pointed out, the biggest risk imposed on society by mandatory helmet laws is reduced rates of bicycling leading to increased rates of obesity, heart disease and other health problems.

by Stuart on Feb 11, 2013 1:34 pm • linkreport

Sure there are and excluding "cost," none of those you mentioned are compelling, especially the one about people not "liking" to use helmets....as if.

Why are you the judge of which reasons are compelling and which are not?

Also, why are you excluding costs? And why are you defining costs only in monetary terms?

If I'm required to wear a helmet when I ride, that means I have to carry around my helmet with me when I'm not on my bike. That's a cost.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/30/sunday-review/to-encourage-biking-cities-forget-about-helmets.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

The end result of all of this: none of your statements make the case for why we should require helmets.

by Alex B. on Feb 11, 2013 1:49 pm • linkreport

Couldn't one say that about using a helmet while driving a car or walking down the street? Since it's not too burdensome, maybe we should require it.

Sure. And while we're ridiculous comparisons, let's require pedestrians to use plastic wrap in order to shield themselves from...well...whatever you can think of.

by HogWash on Feb 11, 2013 1:52 pm • linkreport

I don't think we ever "fully" do that. But WRT riding a bike, using a helmet doesn't seem too burdensome nor too much to require.

I don't think it's burdensome to use a helmet either (I usually do use one) but I do think it's too much to legally require as most research I have read says that that would have a negative impact on both safety and health population-wise. There is a difference in safety outcomes between "world where all bicyclists wear helmets" and "world where it is mandated that all bicyclists wear helmets" and it seems like you are imagining this creates the former rather than the latter.

Just because we can legislate something and it's not much of a burden doesn't mean it's a good idea. Perhaps we should legislate that everyone carry a pen and a piece of paper at all times? Doesn't seem like much of a burden, people have these things all over, and as a bonus people would be able to quickly write down details of a crime or incident if they witness one!

by MLD on Feb 11, 2013 1:54 pm • linkreport

Sure. And while we're ridiculous comparisons, let's require pedestrians to use plastic wrap in order to shield themselves from...well...whatever you can think of.

Is there any reason why requiring a helmet for driving or walking is more ridiculous than requiring one for biking?

by MLD on Feb 11, 2013 1:56 pm • linkreport

Why are you the judge of which reasons are compelling and which are not?

I am the judge of my opinion..which happens to be the same thing you're allowed to have here. I don't believe I've seen anyone ask you, "why are you the judge" when you voice your own opinions.

If I'm required to wear a helmet when I ride, that means I have to carry around my helmet with me when I'm not on my bike. That's a cost.

Yes, and I also have to carry my bad around w/me when I'm not in a car, or bus, or train. Odds are my bad is heavier than your helmet.

by HogWash on Feb 11, 2013 1:56 pm • linkreport

I am the judge of my opinion

You sure are. But the question here is one of public policy, therefore the opinions we are expressing are (by definition) opinions on that policy that will then apply to others.

Yes, and I also have to carry my bad around w/me when I'm not in a car, or bus, or train. Odds are my bad is heavier than your helmet.

I assume you mean 'bag,' not 'bad.'

This reasoning does not apply. Your bag is not required by law for you to operate your car, ride a bus, or ride a train.

by Alex B. on Feb 11, 2013 2:00 pm • linkreport

The basic premise --- helmets = fewer cyclists = more risk for those that remain --- assumes that there are not other policy changes

I don't see why that is an assumption here? The only way that other policy changes matter is if said policy - with bike helmet requirement - has a better total value than that policy change without the requirement. And I can't imagine a policy change for which that is true.

by David C on Feb 11, 2013 2:00 pm • linkreport

@John, David C

I was also confused about this line of reasoning - is there any situation where (mandatory helmets + Policy X) produces a better outcome than just Policy X by itself?

by MLD on Feb 11, 2013 2:04 pm • linkreport

Common sense: Helmets reduce the magnitude of some injuries

Why is "common sense" a suitable limit for creating a law like this, but science that isn't 100% identical, but certainly relevant, isn't sufficient?

Need I make a list of times when "common sense" was terribly wrong?

by David C on Feb 11, 2013 2:06 pm • linkreport

Can you explain to them how they will survive reelection by voting down a helmet law?

Simple. No one will care. Who votes for a legislator based on their willingness to pass a mandatory helmet law?

by David C on Feb 11, 2013 2:07 pm • linkreport

Sure there are and excluding "cost," none of those you mentioned are compelling, especially the one about people not "liking" to use helmets....as if

Why are personal desires irrelevant? The government has the power to compel people to do things they don't like to do, but don't you think this power should be used as rarely as possible? And I think you're failing to consider the full list of costs mentioned. What about the person who wants to take CaBi, didn't plan for it and doesn't have a helmet? That's not compelling to you?

....using a helmet doesn't seem too burdensome nor too much to require....let's require pedestrians to use plastic wrap in order to shield themselves

Good point. Why shouldn't we require plastic wrap on pedestrians?

by David C on Feb 11, 2013 2:11 pm • linkreport

Unbelievable. Not only is the author fighting one of the most common sense laws, but the argument against it, "they'll be less people like me riding bikes," couldn't possibly be any weaker.

"Wearing a helmet is LIKELY safer than not wearing one."

Likely??? Clearly you like to live dangerously, hopefully most other cyclists don't think along the same lines (although that's probably not the case the way I see most of them fly through stops signs and red lights). I really hope you don't have children who cycle so you take off their training wheels and tell them "don't worry about the helmet, it's not like you're on a motorcycle."

I guess we should just go ahead and get rid of seatbelt laws too?! (Even though the urban environment is significantly more dangerous for cyclists than motorists) I have nothing against cycling, cyclists, or sharing the road, but I can't stand the elitist, "the streets belong to me and I should operate above any type of road/cycling law/regulation" attitude that many cyclists have.

by K Street on Feb 11, 2013 2:28 pm • linkreport

K street

I ride a helmet when I ride. I also put on sun block.

As far as I can tell, the arguments for me wearing the helmet, and putting on the sublock, are the same. Except the case for sunblock is stronger.

yet no one calls for a requirement to wear sunblock while biking - of course in that instance, it would make equal sense to mandate it for all outdoor activities.

Which would not serve the purpose of getting those "elitist" cyclists off the road.

I do think that at least some of the support for mandatory bike helmet laws comes from people who WANT there to be fewer cyclists on the road.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Feb 11, 2013 2:36 pm • linkreport

@Scoot et al. A synthesis of all published studies shows that helmets prevent 30-40% of head injuries, but with the increase in neck injuries, the net reduction in injuries is 10-20%. There is also a downward trend in these figures.

The difference between 85% and 30% effectiveness is that in the former case, your risk of injury is 6 times as great without a helmet, whereas in the latter case it is 40% greater. A resonable person on a given day might decide to take that 40% greater risk because they don't have a helmet handy--outlawing that is less reasonable than if the risk was 6 times as great.

In the last two years, there have been 12 cyclists deaths in Maryland, of whom 3 were adults not wearing helmets.

by JimT on Feb 11, 2013 2:53 pm • linkreport

K Street,
So when presented with facts that serve to illuminate why the "common sense" behind a helmet law doesn't actually match up to reality you automatically choose to fall back on the "all cyclists are law-breakers" trope?

And the urban environment is more dangerous for cyclists because of motorists.

by drumz on Feb 11, 2013 2:56 pm • linkreport

And the urban environment is more dangerous for cyclists because of motorists.

next step

the external airbag

by AWalkerInTheCity on Feb 11, 2013 2:59 pm • linkreport

Isn't that in a Pixar movie?

by Some Ideas on Feb 11, 2013 3:07 pm • linkreport

Likely???

Yes. Likely. Do you think it is unlikely?

Clearly you like to live dangerously, hopefully most other cyclists don't think along the same lines

The author clearly states that they support wearing helmets.

although that's probably not the case the way I see most of them fly through stops signs and red lights)

Well, luckily we don't have to rely on your observations and deduction. We know that more than half of all cyclists wear helmets (and by most counts ~70%).

I really hope you don't have children who cycle so you take off their training wheels and tell them "don't worry about the helmet, it's not like you're on a motorcycle."

Won't someone think about the children! [Children are already required to wear helmets].

I guess we should just go ahead and get rid of seatbelt laws too?!

Seatbelt laws are different. A seatbelt keeps a driver in front of the steering wheel where they can regain control of the car and mitigate the crash. And it keeps passengers from becoming projectiles that can kill others.

(Even though the urban environment is significantly more dangerous for cyclists than motorists)

Is it?

I have nothing against cycling, cyclists, or sharing the road, but I can't stand the elitist, "the streets belong to me and I should operate above any type of road/cycling law/regulation" attitude that many cyclists have.

I grew up in the South, and I often heard people say "I got nothing against black people, just the lazy ones who commit crimes." This sounds a lot like that. What percentage of cyclists are the bad kind? And why would WABA care what the law was if they thought they were above the law. If the law doesn't apply to you, why would you care what it was?

by David C on Feb 11, 2013 3:07 pm • linkreport

But the question here is one of public policy, therefore the opinions we are expressing are (by definition) opinions on that policy that will then apply to others.

I'm not sure how is asking "who made me judge" and my response, an opinion that will apply to others. But ok.

I assume you mean 'bag,' not 'bad.'

Considering the context, that's a reasonable assumption.

Your bag is not required by law for you to operate your car, ride a bus, or ride a train.

Neither is a helmet required for pedestrians. Hasn't stopped people from making the analogy.

And I think you're failing to consider the full list of costs mentioned. What about the person who wants to take CaBi, didn't plan for it and doesn't have a helmet? That's not compelling to you?

Add that as another possible exclusion.

Good point. Why shouldn't we require plastic wrap on pedestrians?

self-deletion is appropriate here

I do think that at least some of the support for mandatory bike helmet laws comes from people who WANT there to be fewer cyclists on the road.

That's not hard to imagine. It's why we never have universal agreement on any topic. People want fewer cyclists..and others want fewer drivers...to each his/her own.

by HogWash on Feb 11, 2013 3:09 pm • linkreport

Except I'm not afraid to say that we'd be better with fewer motorists at any given time (including myself). I don't create an argument that mandates motorists where a five point harness and full face helmet (that they must provide themselves after manufacture) say "its for your safety, it's obvious, why even bother researching!"

by drumz on Feb 11, 2013 3:14 pm • linkreport

"I'm not sure how is asking "who made me judge" and my response, an opinion that will apply to others"

We are discussing a law that would make helmets MANDATORY - Ergo, any opinion we express, may lead policy makers to do things that will be MANDATORY on others. When you ask about what reasons to ride without a helmet are compelling, in this CONTEXT it implies to most of us that you feel the absence of reasons you find compelling justifies ADVOCATING for a policy of the state mandating how others behave. You may not have meant to imply that. I suppose all of us are say things liable to being misunderstood from time to time.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Feb 11, 2013 3:15 pm • linkreport

I got nothing against black people, just the lazy ones who commit crimes."

We've gone from discussing helmets to injecting racial stereotypes. Have mercy on my soul. I guess anything is fair game nowadays.

by HogWash on Feb 11, 2013 3:15 pm • linkreport

" People want fewer cyclists..and others want fewer drivers...to each his/her own."

i have never called for a mandated safety feature be added to cars or changes in auto operating practices justified by safety, with a hidden agenda of reducing the number of drivers.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Feb 11, 2013 3:16 pm • linkreport

I grew up in the South, and I often heard people say "I got nothing against black people, just the lazy ones who commit crimes." This sounds a lot like that.

Yup.

It also reminded me of something I read the other day in response to another tired meme. http://6thfloor.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/03/09/i-was-a-teenage-cyclist-or-how-anti-bike-lane-arguments-echo-the-tea-party/

by thump on Feb 11, 2013 3:18 pm • linkreport

I got nothing against black people, just the lazy ones who commit crimes."
We've gone from discussing helmets to injecting racial stereotypes. Have mercy on my soul. I guess anything is fair game nowadays.

He was using an analogy which is creatively edited above. Now, do you think that the analogy doesn't apply or not?

Actually, don't. Just answer why the government should mandate helmets if the government also wants to see the number of cyclists increase.

by drumz on Feb 11, 2013 3:20 pm • linkreport

i have never called for a mandated safety feature be added to cars or changes in auto operating practices justified by safety, with a hidden agenda of reducing the number of drivers.

Well, it's your OPINION that some of those advocating for helmets actually want to reduce the number of drivers. Considering such, I'm not sure if your opinion about the motivations of others is somehow tied to a policy that will affect others. I also don't believe you will find many here espousing the belief that your opinion (wrt motivations) needs to be considered w/in the context of said policy...since it is unfounded.

by HogWash on Feb 11, 2013 3:27 pm • linkreport

@Scoot et al. A synthesis of all published studies shows that helmets prevent 30-40% of head injuries, but with the increase in neck injuries, the net reduction in injuries is 10-20%. There is also a downward trend in these figures.

Actually, there is no single report that synthesizes "all published studies". Due to a variety of different methodologies and modalities that individual published studies employ, there exist some meta-analyses that attempt to summarize the results of a small number (usually 3 to 20) studies but no single meta-analysis that synthesizes every published study.

by Scoot on Feb 11, 2013 3:27 pm • linkreport

@thump, thx that was fun. btw is Chris your neighbor out your backdoor?

by Tina on Feb 11, 2013 3:34 pm • linkreport

@Scoot. OK, I mean efforts that synthesize the case-control studies, which is the type of study that provided the basis 20 years ago for the saying that helmets reduce head injuries 85%. The other type of study generally finds a lower health benefit from helmets.

by JimT on Feb 11, 2013 3:36 pm • linkreport

To the folks who are pro mandatory bike helmets:

Are you also in favor of mandatory helmets for drivers? Mandatory helmets of the kind race car drivers use would almost certainly prevent far more deaths than a mandatory cycle helmet law. Here are the stats on head trauma and driving:

In the western world, the most common cause of death after trauma is severe brain injury. The incidence of death from head injury is approximately 7 per 100,000 [14], and the severely brain-injured also have the highest mean length of stay and mean hospital costs [15]. In the European Brain Injury Consortium (EBIC) study, 52% of head injuries were related to motor vehicle accidents.

So, if 52% of head injuries are related to driving and a presumably far smaller share of head injuries are related to biking, why all the focus on bike helmet laws? I'll also point out that the majority of cyclists already wear helmets while almost no drivers wear helmets. Seems like the far bigger opportunity to improve safety is to require drivers to use helmets.

by Falls Church on Feb 11, 2013 3:47 pm • linkreport

hog

I can't follow that last one. Can you rephrase it to be simpler?

by AWalkerInTheCity on Feb 11, 2013 3:50 pm • linkreport

@JimT. There is not even one single meta-analysis that synthesizes all the case-control studies.

Some researchers have already done a lot of the leg work in examining the correlation between compulsory helmet laws and injury rate - yet this blog piece appears to take a rather obfuscated approach to data analysis -- and invokes the highly contentious debate on the efficacy of helmets -- when it could have just perform an arguably simpler meta-analysis for actual studies of compulsory helmet laws.

by Scoot on Feb 11, 2013 4:03 pm • linkreport

The group safety effect applies strongly to bicylists and is well-documented.

From what we can tell, it does NOT apply to motorcyclists. I leave it to others to explain why.

by Nathanael on Feb 11, 2013 4:14 pm • linkreport

@Tina-Thanks for what? I'm confused.

Yes, Chris is my back-door neighbor. Are you in the neighborhood too? We should ride sometime. I leave around 8:20-8:30 and leave work at 6 from Farragut North.

by thump on Feb 11, 2013 4:25 pm • linkreport

@thump-thanks for link to funny article on how anti bike lane arguments echo the tea party.
I just sent Chris an email and asked him to fwd it to you...

by Tina on Feb 11, 2013 5:25 pm • linkreport

Are you also in favor of mandatory helmets for drivers?

Don't be ridiculous! That would apply to normal people like me! But mandating bicycle helmets for those daredevil scofflaws who interfere with my morning commute is just common sense!

Also, whoever is comparing mandatory bike helmets to mandatory helmets for pedestrians or drivers is way off base. Sure that might make walking or driving safer, but walking and driving are already safe! That's why everybody walks and drives! Cycling is very dangerous because I don't do it!

by oboe on Feb 11, 2013 6:13 pm • linkreport

Can we call for a moratorium on the phrase "common sense", by the way? It's not for nothing that Einstein called common sense "the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen." You certainly don't elevate your argument when you fall back on appeals to it.

by oboe on Feb 11, 2013 6:13 pm • linkreport

This pretty much sums up the conversation here:

H: It seems that any potential reason for bikers deciding to forego using one at all is because of the safety requirement and THAT just doesn't sit well w/me.

M: So people should always take every safety precaution possible when doing any activity with a potential for injury? Do you wear a helmet when driving? Or when walking? Because that would be safer.

H: I don't think we ever "fully" do that. But WRT riding a bike, using a helmet doesn't seem too burdensome nor too much to require.

M: Couldn't one say that about using a helmet while driving a car or walking down the street? Since it's not too burdensome, maybe we should require it.

H: Sure. And while we're ridiculous comparisons, let's require pedestrians to use plastic wrap in order to shield themselves from...well...whatever you can think of.

M: Is there any reason why requiring a helmet for driving or walking is more ridiculous than requiring one for biking?

***DEATHLY SILENCE***

by oboe on Feb 11, 2013 6:20 pm • linkreport

An important point missing from WABA's opposition is the likelihood that helmet rules are often used as a reason for pretext stops. Kids riding to school in P.G. county will probably be hassled more than the Beautiful Godzilla's headed to an art showing in Hampden.

by Richard Masoner on Feb 11, 2013 7:02 pm • linkreport

I actually read the Robinson article and the comments. The stuff on potential dangers of helmets is provocative, but its evident from the discussion that the measurement for this stuff pro and con is terribel. In fact, if I had to do an overview of statistics for a survey course again, the discussion would be something to book mark. It's apparent that the way in which bike-related injuries is captured by law enforcement is flawed and obviously unreliable. Medical chart review in ERs is no better and probably worse. The sample sizes are small and a lot of the outcomes are rare events like head injuries and there are potential third variable effects in all the studies discussed. The efforts tie cause and effect leave out covariates like how far people ride (e.g., are the people who stop riding infrequent or short distance riders, are they urban or rural, etc).

I've not been to Australia buthave been to NZ. More people live in small towns or rural areas than in the US and certainly more than in the DC area. Auckland has a congested rush hour and sprawl, and single family homes are the favored objective for people, but it's still more densely laid out than subsurban DC or much of the city outside of the rowhouse and midrise apartment corridors. NZ is acr crazy--I met numerous people who collected old cars and vintage car magazines turn up at Starbucks type places as much as the newspaper. They have more European and Japanese makes than we do sold there, as well as the Australian cars from Ford & GM (which include Ranchero/El Camino vehicles that ahven''t been built here in decades). There is a decent intercity bus system but its mostly used as a lifeline and by tourists. Culture and context are venything and the willingness of Kiwis to quit biking may be different than for other cultures.

My take home is that the existing research looks weak and if you want to know the real effect of helmet laws , you need to be willing to fund a decent study with good sampling, decent samole siuzes, and reliable measures of outcome. There's no mention of how helmet laws were supported--did governments let people know where to buy helmets, did they provide financial incentives to buy them (there's often an incentive from an insurer or some others ource to buy child seats for cars, as an example). A policy that's implemented without supports like those is doomed to fail. It's one thing to, e.g., require seat belt usage w/o much follow-up when you've had cars equipped with belts for 15-20 years. Bike helmets are novel and need a different approach.

by Rich on Feb 11, 2013 8:54 pm • linkreport

Why would you require drivers to wear helmets? The corrolary is that cars are required to have air bags because those protect drivers if they get into an accident. Having airbags in my car makes it more expensive, but for my safety and those around me, I'm required to have it.

And as others noted, the studies seem to only count motorist-bicyclist collisions. How many bicyclists get into accidents on trails, or riding off a sidewalk? I've seen that happen plenty of times out in the Virginia suburbs. A helmet would probably help those people too. People are talking about the Maryland bill as if it only applies to the inner DC suburbs...there's a lot more to the state, and the laws should be written in the best interest of the WHOLE STATE.

I find this article irresponsible, because even though it argues against mandatory helmets rather than just wearing helmets, but it actually reads more like an argument against anyone wearing helmets.

by Restonite on Feb 11, 2013 9:58 pm • linkreport

Why would you require drivers to wear helmets?

Not just drivers - motorists. And the reason is that even with seatbelts and airbags many motorists suffer head injuries in crashes. It's just common sense that they'd be safer with helmets.

And also flame retardant jumpsuits.

by David C on Feb 11, 2013 10:09 pm • linkreport

Why would you require drivers to wear helmets?

Because it would significantly increase safety since 52% of serious head injuries are caused by motor vehicle accidents. Air bags, anti-lock brakes, and seat belts are all great but there are still tens of thousands of serious head injuries caused of car accidents that could be significantly mitigated through the use of driving helmets.

by Falls Church on Feb 11, 2013 11:11 pm • linkreport

You could also add that the decrease in ridership will rob people of the health benefits of exercise. The increase in disease and deaths caused by lack of exercise will be greater than the savings from increased helmet wearing - see P de Jong, summarised at http://www.cyclehelmets.org/1249.html

by Nik Dow on Feb 11, 2013 11:17 pm • linkreport

Restonite,

Well motorist/cyclist crashes are the most common. Moreover a helmet mandate wouldn't really discourage some doing 30 miles on the w&od.

If your goal is to reduce head injuries then the solution seems to be getting lots of people onto bikes. A helmet mandate does the opposite. Yes it's counter intuitive but thy seems to e the case regardless. That's what the article says and many if us believe.

by Drumz on Feb 11, 2013 11:52 pm • linkreport

What a ludicrous assertion. Put the headgear on.

by AlexA on Feb 12, 2013 7:33 am • linkreport

There are several mandatory safety features in motor vehicles already. Likewise, seatbelt usage is mandatory. At the very least can there be some agreement that mandatory helmets is good from a liability standpoint?

by selxic on Feb 12, 2013 8:05 am • linkreport

There are several mandatory safety features in motor vehicles already. Likewise, seatbelt usage is mandatory.

And part of the difference is that those things are built into cars, you don't have to take your seat belt along with you to use a zipcar or if you borrow your friend's car. Pedestrians don't have any safety features currently, should we mandate that people walking wear helmets everywhere?

Again, any appeal to just "common sense" or "x activity has these things, so y activity should too" ignores any sort of data about how relatively dangerous two activities are. People here are just repeating their own biases - bicyclists "should" be mandated to wear helmets because we've all been taught to wear a helmet and bicycling is dangerous (it's not).

At the very least can there be some agreement that mandatory helmets is good from a liability standpoint?
How so?

by MLD on Feb 12, 2013 8:31 am • linkreport

GGW is becoming embarrassing. Failing to wear a helmet when bicycling is akin to failing to fasten that seat belt in a car. We all know how vulnerable we bicyclists are, with nothing but air between us and that hard, hard pavement. And you don't have to be a bicycle speedster to be at risk, because the problem is the head-first fall to the pavement, not the speed of the collision.

by Jack on Feb 12, 2013 8:48 am • linkreport

@Jack
Like many others you should consider the difference between "people should wear helmets" and "we should legislate that all people wear helmets." There are different effects between the two.

WABA and most of the rest of us think it is a good idea for people to wear helmets while bicycling. Is there anything here that says that people shouldn't wear helmets?

by MLD on Feb 12, 2013 8:51 am • linkreport

While I'm delighted to see the safety-nazis at WABA being hoisted on their own petard, the helmet ban isn't quite analogous to seat belt laws.

Rather, it like the early 80s seatbelts which automatically tried to set themselves, or the more modern dinging noise you get with new cars that prevent you from riding without a beltway.

I'd have no problem with a law that said every new bike had to come with a helmet, or CABI had to give you a helmet on membership.

But trying to enforce this law is going to be stupid. Almost as stupid as ticketing every car that speeds.

But the obsessive focus on "safety" and demanding legal changes by cycling activists leads to the eventual conclusion that mandatory helmet laws make sense. They don't. Biking is safe enough without helmet laws, special liability rules for bike accidents and three foot passing zones. What we need is better facilities and more bike parking in key areas, and a renewed focus on bike theft.

by charlie on Feb 12, 2013 9:10 am • linkreport

Failing to wear a helmet when bicycling is akin to failing to fasten that seat belt in a car.

It is nothing akin to that.

Wearing a seatbelt imposes very low costs on the driver/passenger. The equipment is standard on every car. It is built into the vehicle, it is not a separate safety device one must bring with you. It is one-size-fits-all equipment.

None of those things are true for a bike helmet. Bike helmets are not (and cannot be) standardized or be one-size-fits-all (and as a person with a rather large dome, let me tell you that one-size-fits-all hats are a joke. Never had a problem with a seatbelt, though). They cannot be built into the vehicle.

Requiring the use of helmets imposes far greater costs than requiring the use of seatbelts - and the safety gains from it are dubious.

Why not require drivers to have a five-point harness, full roll cage in their car, a full-faced helmet, and a HANS device? That would increase safety in the event of a collision, no?

by Alex B. on Feb 12, 2013 9:28 am • linkreport

@AlexB, let's be honest. Cars do have tons of mandated safety equipment. Most of it is invisible but some of the design elements have negative. (Euro-imposed nose collisions raise the beltlines of car and reduce visibility). I'd fully agree the difference is the hassle factor for the driver.

by charlie on Feb 12, 2013 9:33 am • linkreport

@AlexB, let's be honest. Cars do have tons of mandated safety equipment. Most of it is invisible but some of the design elements have negative. (Euro-imposed nose collisions raise the beltlines of car and reduce visibility). I'd fully agree the difference is the hassle factor for the driver.

And this has what to do with bicycles?

by MLD on Feb 12, 2013 9:35 am • linkreport

And this has what to do with bicycles?

Exactly.

What car safety requirements are the equivalent hassle for the driver of requiring a bike rider to wear a helmet at all times?

by Alex B. on Feb 12, 2013 9:40 am • linkreport

Cars are also more instrinsically dangerous. You can be trapped in one. And they move faster.

So everyone, please stop trying to make cars and bike analagous. They clearly aren't even if you think they are.

by drumz on Feb 12, 2013 9:42 am • linkreport

"What car safety requirements are the equivalent hassle for the driver of requiring a bike rider to wear a helmet at all times?"

As I said earlier, the mandatory auto-retract seat belt of the 1980s. It was withdrawn b/c people ended up using it less. The auto-dinging on new cars. The airbags which ended up killing a lot of babies and small women. Not to mention the epidemic of airbags taking people's fingers off.

So yes, there are driver-level hassles, and they are almost all bad ideas as well. (the airbags just needed a switch to turn off)

by charlie on Feb 12, 2013 9:46 am • linkreport

None of those are remotely similar to a helmet law.

The auto-retract seat belts were withdrawn because the mandate was counter-productive at increasing safety (which, by the way, is exactly what a helmet law would do).

The dinging in new cars is completely different. If someone were proposing that all new bikes be required to ding when in motion with a recording that said 'hey, you should be wearing a helmet!' but would magically shut off if the person was already wearing said helment, that would be one thing. But that's not what we're talking about.

The airbag stuff has nothing to do with user hassle, it has to do with actual safety performance in the event of a crash.

by Alex B. on Feb 12, 2013 9:51 am • linkreport

Is it not a fact that wearing a helmet decreases the likelihood of severe head trauma? Yes, it is. So why all the red herrings? Drivers don't do this...pedestrians don't do this. This is EXACTLY the same approach taken by those seeking to prove the point that cyclists are somehow a problem. That is, "well, cars can't run through red lights so they should start getting ticketed" then the counterargument ends up as "well sure, cyclists might run through lights but [insert favorite argument here] drivers ride in bike lanes." And the circular reasoning continues.

Yes, discussing what drivers/pedestrians do is irrelevant to whether cyclists should be required to wear helmets. We KNOW that helmets are useful. We do NOT know whether requiring pedestrians to wear them is useful. We do NOT know whether requiring drivers to wear them is useful. Is there serious evidence that requiring helmets decreases safety? Not exactly.

Yet, the red herrings continue.....

by HogWash on Feb 12, 2013 9:51 am • linkreport

What car safety requirements are the equivalent hassle for the driver of requiring a bike rider to wear a helmet at all times?

This is essentially the entire argument. Though there's universal agreement that wearing a helmet decreases risk, they're also a hassle. The focus is on preference..not safety.

by HogWash on Feb 12, 2013 9:54 am • linkreport

Shorter Hogwash: If you ignore the costs and just look at the benefits, then look at the benefits!

by Alex B. on Feb 12, 2013 9:57 am • linkreport

"Is there serious evidence that requiring helmets decreases safety?"

at least as strong as evidence that requiring helmets increases safety.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Feb 12, 2013 9:58 am • linkreport

"So why all the red herrings?"

the discussion of seat belts is initiated by people calling for the helmet mandate. If its a red herring, you should ask them to stop bringing it up. Once its brought up, naturally those who oppose the mandate will respond.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Feb 12, 2013 10:00 am • linkreport

Is it not a fact that wearing a helmet decreases the likelihood of severe head trauma? Yes, it is.

There is plenty of research that says that wearing a helmet is more safe than not wearing a helmet. Are people here advocating that bicyclists should specifically not wear helmets? No.

Is there serious evidence that requiring helmets decreases safety? Not exactly.

Wrong - that evidence is presented here and the argument has been made over and over. sorry you don't find these kind of facts "compelling" but they are facts.

It is a fact that if you mandate that everyone wear helmets the other negative safety effects of that (mostly fewer people riding bikes) outweigh the safety benefit of the helmets people are now wearing.

The red herrings only come up because people are dodging around the actual facts presented and making dumb red-herring comparisons like "it's not much of a burden so let's do it."

by MLD on Feb 12, 2013 10:00 am • linkreport

more mathematical version of hogwash

total net safety improvement from bike helmet law =

lives saved due to wearing helmets minus lives lost due to fewer people biking

People not biking due to helmet law are petulant twits (despite reasons advanced here) and do not count.

Ergo, net lives saved is positive. Period.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Feb 12, 2013 10:03 am • linkreport

This is essentially the entire argument. Though there's universal agreement that wearing a helmet decreases risk, they're also a hassle. The focus is on preference..not safety.

I suggest you start at the top and read the actual article; that is not the argument presented. The argument is not "people would rather not wear helmets so it's a bad idea."

If you don't care to do that, let me sum up:
1. Helmets do improve safety.
2. But if you legally mandate that everyone wear helmets there are other effects
3. These other effects have negative safety consequences that are greater than the safety improvement from helmets.
4. Therefore legally mandating helmets will not improve safety, so this is a bad idea.

by MLD on Feb 12, 2013 10:04 am • linkreport

" But if you legally mandate that everyone wear helmets there are other effects
3. These other effects have negative safety consequences that are greater than the safety improvement from helmets."

but people SHOULD wear helmets and not find it a reason to not cycle, and if they did what they should do, then there would be no decrease in cycling, and no negative health or safety consequences (there might be costs in dollars or convenience, but we can ignore those, though we do not when setting the speed limit say)

Its a should based argument - like people SHOULD bid up apts east of the river, so theres no benefit to relaxing the height limit - people SHOULD take transit regardless of convenience, ergo adding direct routes to increase rideship is wrong - people SHOULD not have bus stigma, ergo ridership premiums to rail should be ignored - people SHOULD walk places even if the surroundings are unattractive, therefore increases in actual walking due to "walkability" can be ignored.

Theres a huge meme out there, that uses moralistic arguments to argue against the use of actual empirical facts in Cost benefit (of course on the other side the are folks who want NO accommodation to autos because we SHOULD all bike walk and use transit - thats equally silly - thankfully thats never been the POV of this blog, or most pro urbanist commentors here)

by AWalkerInTheCity on Feb 12, 2013 10:12 am • linkreport

I have read the studies and accept the reasoning that for the public health helmet laws for bicycling are detrimental in the long term. I wrote a letter to my MD reps with this statement (@Shane Farthing, thanks for organizing the ability to that so easily).

However I also feel the argument against an intruding state is worthwhile and valuable. I bicycle regularly and nearly always wear a helmet -always for long rides/commuting. Occasionally for short trips in my own neighborhood I go helmet free. That is my choice. I am an adult. Riding is ALWAYS better for my personal health with or w/o a helmet, than driving -- period.

*start rant* If I occasionally want to go helmet free for a half mile in my own 'hood to get to a friends house -F***k you state of Maryland for wanting to prosecuted me for doing that. You bunch of busy bodies- why don't you get off your fat asses and exercise your pre-diabetic self instead of worrying about how I keep my glucose under control? F**king control freaks. You're no doubt the same assholes that endanger me with the way you drive when I'm walking, biking or driving next to you -you're the one holding a phone in one hand while making a left turn. I see you everyday. Check your own bad habits that increase crash injury and leave my good habits alone.

I read an article a few years ago that rated states for laws restricting personal freedom from same-sex marriage, alcohol purchase, abortion access, guns, etc. Maryland got the worst score in the nation b/c, in the authors' analysis, MD had all the restrictive laws that both conservatives and liberals generally like to impose on others. This helmet law is another one. I can't figure out if its a conservative or liberal one, or if its niether but acts to unite them in their bias against people who ride bikes and advocate for more riding infrastructure. Whichever, its ill-advised & based on bias and mis-information (the public health impact) and a desire to control the behavior of others engaged in an activity the law makers themselves do not do nor understand and worse have feelings of hostility towards those who do. *end rant*

by freedom rider on Feb 12, 2013 10:40 am • linkreport

I've got no problem with cyclists not wearing helmets as long as they are willing to accept the responsibility for that.

If you get run over and suffer brain injury without a helmet, it's up to you pay for it, and you can't sue someone for it.

If we really wanted to improve bike safety we'd require mandatory license plates for bikes so we could start ticketing those that run red lights routinely but are never caught because the red light cameras can't give them a ticket.

That'd also cut down a lot on the animosity that some drivers have toward the cycling community.

You can't have it both ways. You can't be an equal partner on the road and then refuse to take on the responsibility of participating in the rules of the road, including license plates so that you can nab the dangerous cyclists.

And, no, cops won't do it for us. Not in DC. Where it's a small miracle if you can get a cop to get of their car even for a major crime. Particularly not since we now rely on red light cameras so much.

Yes, such measures would cut down on cycling.

But if we are looking at cycling as a long term equal partner in sharing the roads, accountability is a must.

by Hillman on Feb 12, 2013 10:53 am • linkreport

I thought I was going to get through this thread without anyone calling anyone else a N*zi. Oh well.

I'm curious about how this law is going to be enforced. Maryland has a new three foot passing law, but I've seen no effect on driver or police behavior.

There are long-standing laws that require cyclists to stop for signs and lights. I've never heard of any ticketing for violation of these laws in Maryland.

I have heard of a cyclist being ticketed for taking a lane that was his to take (on University Blvd, which has "bikes may use full lane" signs), and also being cited for not having a bell, the validity of which I can't say one way or the other (does PG county have a mandatory bell law?)

Add a helmet law to the mix, and what do you get?

by Scott on Feb 12, 2013 11:05 am • linkreport

You can't have it both ways. You can't be an equal partner on the road and then refuse to take on the responsibility of participating in the rules of the road, including license plates so that you can nab the dangerous cyclists.

Bikes and cars are NOT equal! We need regulations different from cars because biking is NOT equal to driving. Its different. If you rode a bike you would know that because its is so obvious its painful to have to tell someone who doesn't see it.

Ideally as a biker, I do NOT want to share the road with any drivers of cars. I want separated bike-only tracks. These are the safest place for bikes re: crash injury risk, followed by bike lanes.

by Tina on Feb 12, 2013 11:09 am • linkreport

If you get run over and suffer brain injury without a helmet, it's up to you pay for it, and you can't sue someone for it.
Even if the cyclist is riding through a green lighted intersection and is hit by someone running a red light?

by drumz on Feb 12, 2013 11:18 am • linkreport

Drumz:

Yes. Even then.

Unless you can get medical experts to separate out the amount of injury you would have had if you had a helmet on, versus what you ended up with.

Then I'm happy for my insurance to pay my part that I caused, minus all the damage added by not wearing a helmet.

There is one major safety equipment piece for cyclists.

If you chose to not wear it, there are consequences for that convenience. Or there should be.

by Hillman on Feb 12, 2013 11:34 am • linkreport

Tina:

I do ride a bike.

Granted, it's not for commuting.

But it's pretty frequent.

But I don't follow your comment. Are you suggesting that cyclists shouldn't have to be subject to mechanisms that would allow dangerous cyclists to be ticketed?

And like it or not you won't have a completely separate bike only system. That's just not really feasible in DC. You can have a lot more bike lanes, yes. But a system where you can go everywhere you want in DC on bike and not encounter a car? Not really workable.

by Hillman on Feb 12, 2013 11:37 am • linkreport

hillman

Can I get everyone who does not bicyle to pay for the costs of treating cardio vascular disease if they get it?

until that happens, I do not want changes in insurance coverage that would in any way discourage more cycling.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Feb 12, 2013 11:38 am • linkreport

"Are you suggesting that cyclists shouldn't have to be subject to mechanisms that would allow dangerous cyclists to be ticketed?"

dangerous cyclists can already be ticketed (and are). Licensing is not practical, which is why jurisdictions that had it have dropped it. Its generally brought up in any discussion of safety by people who want to discourage cycling.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Feb 12, 2013 11:39 am • linkreport

Well I could be hit by a car and shatter my elbow but my head could be fine. But it was me hitting the pavement that broke my elbow not the car per se. Why wasn't I being responsible and wearing elbow pads?

Not one cent for any cyclists not wearing elbow pads!

by drumz on Feb 12, 2013 11:52 am • linkreport

at least as strong as evidence that requiring helmets increases safety.

The fact that we have to look to the UK in order determine whether requiring them decreases safety argues against using it as "strong" evidence that there is a parallel between the two.

People not biking due to helmet law are petulant twits

Your words..not mine...but it makes sense.

I suggest you start at the top and read the actual article; that is not the argument presented. The argument is not "people would rather not wear helmets so it's a bad idea."

Thanks but I'm commenting on the article I read. The argument made HERE is that people wouldn't want to wear them (it's inconvenient) so it's a bad idea.

Wrong - that evidence is presented here and the argument has been made over and over. sorry you don't find these kind of facts "compelling" but they are facts.

Uhm, the "evidence" is that people will stop riding as much. Thus, making it less safe. Sorry you don't find the EVIDENCE that wearing helmets makes you safer but it is a FACT.

If its a red herring, you should ask them to stop bringing it up. Once its brought up, naturally those who oppose the mandate will respond.

Why is it necessary to ask any specific group to do anything when the red herring statement applies to all? I know, I know. You (as you said) are only doing it because the other side does it too.

by HogWash on Feb 12, 2013 11:57 am • linkreport

Its generally brought up in any discussion of safety by people who want to discourage cycling.

Isn't this priceless? Hillman introduced the idea of licensing here, admitted that he's also a cyclist, then had to listen to the "inference" that he wants to discourage cycling.

by HogWash on Feb 12, 2013 12:01 pm • linkreport

Are you suggesting that cyclists shouldn't have to be subject to mechanisms that would allow dangerous cyclists to be ticketed?

Wow, talk about begging the question. You are assuming that people who are not in favor of mandatory licensing would not be in favor of any mechanism that would allow dangerous cyclists to be ticketed. Of course, that is just silly.

I've got no problem with cyclists not wearing helmets as long as they are willing to accept the responsibility for that. If you get run over and suffer brain injury without a helmet, it's up to you pay for it, and you can't sue someone for it.

I've got no problem with motorists not wearing seat belts as long as they are willing to accept the responsibility for their actions. Of course, they should be liable for any and all injuries sustained when they don't wear a seat belt -- and they can't sue someone for it, regardless of who is at fault.

by Scoot on Feb 12, 2013 12:11 pm • linkreport

"Isn't this priceless? Hillman introduced the idea of licensing here, admitted that he's also a cyclist, then had to listen to the "inference" that he wants to discourage cycling."

I drive. Does that prove I do not want to discourage driving?

by AWalkerInTheCity on Feb 12, 2013 12:17 pm • linkreport

Thanks but I'm commenting on the article I read. The argument made HERE is that people wouldn't want to wear them (it's inconvenient) so it's a bad idea.

You are the only person on this entire page who has used the word "inconvenient." I posted exactly what the article lays out and you choose to ignore that and instead concentrate on an argument nobody has made. The argument made is that people will ride less (for a whole host of reasons other than they "won't want" to wear a helmet) and that makes it less safe.

Sorry you don't find the EVIDENCE that wearing helmets makes you safer but it is a FACT.

I said that and the article said that. It's point #1 - wearing a helmet is safer. But that is not the same argument as "making it mandatory to wear a helmet will make things safer" which is the justification for the law. I don't feel like this is hard to understand.

Care to actually address the following points?
1. Helmets do improve safety.
2. But if you legally mandate that everyone wear helmets there are other effects
3. These other effects have negative safety consequences that are greater than the safety improvement from helmets.
4. Therefore legally mandating helmets will not improve safety, so this is a bad idea.

by MLD on Feb 12, 2013 12:19 pm • linkreport

"Why is it necessary to ask any specific group to do anything when the red herring statement applies to all? "

because its necessary to respond to a red herring, to show it IS a red herring.

If person A says "we should not pass new gun control, because of, you know, smoking regs" and person B says "smoking regs and gun control have nothing to do with each other" and person C says "person B, why are you discussing a red herring issue" while ignoring person A, its a reasonable inference that person C is biased against person B and his position.

Either that, or person C simply has not been following the full discussion.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Feb 12, 2013 12:20 pm • linkreport

"The fact that we have to look to the UK in order determine whether requiring them decreases safety argues against using it as "strong" evidence that there is a parallel between the two."

find me a US study that shows that mandatory helmet requirements increases safety.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Feb 12, 2013 12:21 pm • linkreport

But I don't follow your comment. Are you suggesting that cyclists shouldn't have to be subject to mechanisms that would allow dangerous cyclists to be ticketed?</>

No. I'm saying bikes and cars should have different regulations b/c they are not the same activity. There are circumstances when bikers and drivers should be held to the same standard, such as, "pedestrians-regardless of the dumbass thing they are doing-always have the right of way".

There are circumstances that don't make sense to apply to bikers and drivers the same, because the activities are so different from one another, such as the Idaho stop.

by Tina on Feb 12, 2013 12:44 pm • linkreport

whoops

by Tina on Feb 12, 2013 12:46 pm • linkreport

"Mandatory helmet laws cause fewer people to bicycle, "
---

Somehow, I'm missing the logic in that argument.
Are they saying a helmet law will cause people to boycott cycling?

I don't see that happening, at least not among those who currently ride. Perhaps, a few people who don't already ride might be discouraged to take it up but it's hard to imagine that a helmet law would cause those who are already avid cyclists to say "the hell with it" and stop riding.

It just doesn't make sense.

by ceefer66 on Feb 12, 2013 12:57 pm • linkreport

it would cause people at the margin to bike less - some new people might not take it up, avid cyclers might forego a CaBi ride here and there.

Its kind of like how gas taxes and tolls cause people to drive less - not because of boycotts, but just because it impacts the time and cost of a particular mode for a particular trip.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Feb 12, 2013 1:03 pm • linkreport

I really hope the "no other considerations should ever trump safety" folks are not among those who complain about TSA.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Feb 12, 2013 1:04 pm • linkreport

I don't see that happening, at least not among those who currently ride. Perhaps, a few people who don't already ride might be discouraged to take it up but it's hard to imagine that a helmet law would cause those who are already avid cyclists to say "the hell with it" and stop riding.

IOW, yes, it might discourage new cyclists from riding, but it's hard to imagine it would discourage avid cyclists from riding--unless they don't have their helmet with them.

Hard to see how that possibly constitutes "fewer people riding".

by oboe on Feb 12, 2013 1:06 pm • linkreport

One truism that applies to 21st century America: liberal or conservative, people sure do love to control other people's behavior. Particularly when it comes to laws that won't apply to oneself.

Hey idiot roller-bladers! Just wear the damned goggles because *I* say so!

Whew. That felt really good.

by oboe on Feb 12, 2013 1:08 pm • linkreport

Failing to wear a helmet when bicycling is akin to failing to fasten that seat belt in a car.

No. It isn't. In addition to the point about convenience made above, seatbelts are different. A seatbelt keeps a driver in front of the steering wheel where they can regain control of the car and mitigate the crash. And it keeps passengers from becoming projectiles that can kill others. Seatbelts make you AND OTHERS AROUND you safer. Helmets make you AND ONLY YOU safer. That's a critical difference.

by David C on Feb 12, 2013 1:09 pm • linkreport

It's people at the margin who are affected. I posted earlier:
The reduction in riders comes from a combination of reduced trips due to:
1. Can't afford a helmet
2. Don't know where to get one
3. Don't have one that fits at the moment
4. At a friend's borrowing a bike and don't have a helmet/one that fits
5. Spontaneous unplanned trip on bikeshare - whoops don't have it with me!
6. Don't like to wear helmets
7. Don't want to ride because if helmets are required then biking must be too dangerous

This isn't just made up - it's real and has been observed. Nitpicking the individual reasons as "ridiculous" is just distracting from the facts, which Shane posted and cited: mandatory helmet laws decrease ridership.

by MLD on Feb 12, 2013 1:10 pm • linkreport

1. Can't afford a helmet
2. Don't know where to get one
3. Don't have one that fits at the moment
4. At a friend's borrowing a bike and don't have a helmet/one that fits
5. Spontaneous unplanned trip on bikeshare - whoops don't have it with me!
6. Don't like to wear helmets
7. Don't want to ride because if helmets are required then biking must be too dangerous

1)Likely untrue
2)Likely untrue
3)Get a new one
4)Consider an alternative plan
5)We have a problem here
6)Too bad
7)Nonsensical

by HogWash on Feb 12, 2013 1:30 pm • linkreport

"mandatory helmet laws cause fewer people to bicycle"

Somehow, I'm missing the logic in that argument.
Are they saying a helmet law will cause people to boycott cycling?

How exactly did you glean the word "boycott" (i.e., abstain as an expression of protest) from that statement?

by Scoot on Feb 12, 2013 1:34 pm • linkreport

1)Likely untrue

possibly true for some poor folks.

2)Likely untrue

Possibly true for some immigrants

3)Get a new one

meanwhile some bike trips are not made

4)Consider an alternative plan

Which generally does not involve biking, hence fewer trips

5)We have a problem here

Yes, that mandatory helmet laws make bike sharing very difficult to implement

6)Too bad

Which has what to do with the fact that if they dont bike, it reduces the safety in numbers effect, making someone like me who DOES wear a helmet, less safe?

7)Nonsensical

I dont think so.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Feb 12, 2013 1:39 pm • linkreport

"Nitpicking the individual reasons as "ridiculous" is just distracting from the facts, "

:)

by AWalkerInTheCity on Feb 12, 2013 1:40 pm • linkreport

Good grief!

by MLD on Feb 12, 2013 1:46 pm • linkreport

So here's where we're at,

A: helmet laws don't make cycling safer
B: of course wearing a helmet is safer than not wearing one
A: that's not what is being argued, we are arguing whether a helmet law make cycling safer, which there is evidence that it doesn't
B: it doesn't matter what the evidence says, you must wear a helmet
A: ...

by drumz on Feb 12, 2013 1:46 pm • linkreport

B: of course wearing a helmet is safer than not wearing one

....is there evidence that wearing a helmet, on an individual level, statistically significantly reduces injury risk? I haven't seen that...would like to see it if some study (with validity and power) reported that result.

by Tina on Feb 12, 2013 2:10 pm • linkreport


While I'm delighted to see the safety-nazis at WABA being hoisted on their own petard.

How so? [And really, nazis?] Has WABA ever demanded that anyone else do something that only protects them? Has WABA asked for a new safety law that AAA doesn't support?

Rather, it like the early 80s seatbelts which automatically tried to set themselves, or the more modern dinging noise you get with new cars that prevent you from riding without a belt

Only if helmets automatically attach to your head, or your bike alerts you to the fact that you aren't wearing a helmet. Otherwise, it's not analogous at all.

Almost as stupid as ticketing every car that speeds

Except that drivers agree that speeding is unsafe - even AAA.

Biking is safe enough without helmet laws, special liability rules for bike accidents and three foot passing zones.

I think it's wrong to equate these things. Biking is safe enough that it is a reasonable activity to participate in, and it is safe enough that we should try to encourage people to do it more, but it could be safe. Which is why helmet education (and design/study) are good government activities. And a 3 foot law is good because it should encourage people to not place others at risk. But a helmet law fails to make things safer (and only keeps you from increasing your OWN risk).

The liability law isn't really about safety, but about justice, which is an entirely different issue. Unless you think there are drivers who are in adequately motivated to not injure cyclists.

by David C on Feb 12, 2013 2:13 pm • linkreport

whoops again. close that ital.

by Tina on Feb 12, 2013 2:14 pm • linkreport

Tina,
But its common sense!

(I am not being serious).

by drumz on Feb 12, 2013 2:16 pm • linkreport

Scott:

Absent license plates how exactly do you think cyclists running red lights can be targeted by red light cameras?

Same question for cyclists that leave the scene of an accident...

by Hillman on Feb 12, 2013 2:17 pm • linkreport

Tina:

So you would support license plates for cyclists?

If not, why not?

by Hillman on Feb 12, 2013 2:18 pm • linkreport

They've tried it before. The costs to administer said program were much higher than any benefit. Moreover cyclists face much more danger from cars than themselves or other cyclists. I can't think of any city that has registered its cyclist with any amount of success yet regulations regarding how cars are operated started popping up very soon after they were introduced and work fairly well.

by drumz on Feb 12, 2013 2:28 pm • linkreport

@Hillman, I think you're trying to bait me so I'm not taking it.

by Tina on Feb 12, 2013 2:31 pm • linkreport

Plus one reason to register cars is for insurance/criminal investigation purposes. When you can haul away 1000's of dollars worth of goods on a truck its useful to have a registration for a truck. Or if you have a fancy car. Similarly, if you have an expensive bike (which is still probably 10 times less than a basic car) guess what, you can register it in case it gets stolen.

by drumz on Feb 12, 2013 2:37 pm • linkreport

and finally, making registration mandatory would have a similar effect as a helmet law. It would decrease cycling which is the opposite of what Maryland says they are trying to do.

And its not like the government has been doing all it can over the past few decades to discourage driving in equal measure.

by drumz on Feb 12, 2013 2:39 pm • linkreport

@Hogwash

Is it not a fact that wearing a helmet decreases the likelihood of severe head trauma? Yes, it is.

Fact may be too strong a word, but the question is somewhat irrelevant, since the question is whether a helmet law decreases the likelihood of severe head trauma, and so far all of the evidence presented has shown that it does not and that it might instead increase severe head trauma.

If find it telling that you fail to answer the question posed above "Is there any reason why requiring a helmet for driving or walking is more ridiculous than requiring one for biking?"

Drivers don't do this...pedestrians don't do this. This is EXACTLY the same approach taken by those seeking to prove the point that cyclists are somehow a problem. That is, "well, cars can't run through red lights so they should start getting ticketed" then the counterargument ends up as "well sure, cyclists might run through lights but [insert favorite argument here] drivers ride in bike lanes." And the circular reasoning continues.

This makes absolutely no sense.

Yes, discussing what drivers/pedestrians do is irrelevant to whether cyclists should be required to wear helmets.

No it isn't. Part of the question here is what is the scope of government. If government can/should mandate any action that improves public health and safety then it can/should mandate sunscreen, teeth flossing, condom use, motoring helmets, pedestrian arm pads etc... Do you think government should do that or do you feel like each of those things would be an overreach? If this isn't overreach, why wouldn't pedestrian helmets be overreach?

We KNOW that helmets are useful. We do NOT know whether requiring pedestrians to wear them is useful.

But if we can prove it, then you'd support mandatory pedestrian helmets? Why wouldn't they be useful? What is different about falling down while walking and while biking? Does walking make the ground softer? As you put it "Sorry you don't find the EVIDENCE that wearing helmets makes you safer but it is a FACT."

We do NOT know whether requiring drivers to wear them is useful.

Wrong. "In about 44 percent of cases of occupant head injury, a protective headband, such as the one illustrated, would have provided some benefit. One estimate has put the potential benefit of such a device (in terms of reduced societal Harm) as high as $380 million"

Is there serious evidence that requiring helmets decreases safety? Not exactly.

No. Exactly.

The focus is on preference..not safety.

Why is preference irrelevant? Shouldn't the government try to defer to what people prefer?

The fact that we have to look to the UK in order determine whether requiring them decreases safety argues against using it as "strong" evidence that there is a parallel between the two.

1. Why would a helmet law in the US have a different end result than one in the UK? You can't just say things are different and thus invalid. You have to show how things are different and how that makes it invalid. Otherwise, I could show you a study from Vermont and you could say "Well, that's Vermont, this is Maryland". Or I could show you a study from Maryland and you could say "Well that was 2007 and this is 2013." You're making very lazy arguments here.

by David C on Feb 12, 2013 2:45 pm • linkreport

Whoops.

2. Perhaps you can find some evidence that mandatory helmet laws improve safety? Right now we have some evidence on the other side, even if that is of little value is still outweighs the evidence on the other side about the utility of mandatory helmet laws, of which there is none.

by David C on Feb 12, 2013 2:46 pm • linkreport

Absent license plates how exactly do you think cyclists running red lights can be targeted by red light cameras?

Begging the question again. Who says cyclists need to be targeted by red light cameras? You assume there are no better ways to improve public safety than putting a camera at every intersection.

In the Netherlands, cyclists have been legally empowered to run red lights in many junctions for decades now, and not for nothing, the Netherlands is among the safest places to ride a bicycle (and drive a car, and walk) in the world. To wit, its government does not compel bicycle registration. Our American cities are 40 years behind the curve from the most progressive (and safest) jurisdictions and instead of actually looking at things that work, we are spinning our wheels on things that don't work.

Same question for cyclists that leave the scene of an accident...

Cyclists fleeing the scene of an accident? Is that even a thing? Why is that when I google "cyclist flees scene of an accident" all I get is results about drivers fleeing the scene of accidents?

by Scoot on Feb 12, 2013 3:21 pm • linkreport

I've got no problem with cyclists not wearing helmets as long as they are willing to accept the responsibility for that. If you get run over and suffer brain injury without a helmet, it's up to you pay for it, and you can't sue someone for it.

But people make decisions everyday that increase their risk and we don't waive other's liability for it. Not wearing a seatbelt doesn't mean you can't sue a drunk driver. Not wearing a reflective vest doesn't mean a pedestrian can't sue a driver who hits them at night. Etc...There is a concept in law called the eggshell plaintiff - which says that you take the victim as you find them. It's your bad luck if you knock down an 80 year old and they die when an 18 year old would have lived. Same thing applies here - unless you want to overturn hundreds of years of common law.

If we really wanted to improve bike safety we'd require mandatory license plates for bikes so we could start ticketing those that run red lights routinely but are never caught because the red light cameras can't give them a ticket.

No. That's not at all what we'd do. Besides the logistical nightmare that would present it wouldn't do much for safety since very few crashes involve cyclists running red lights. If we wanted to improve bike safety we'd set aside more road space for cyclists and we'd slow traffic to 20mph.

That'd also cut down a lot on the animosity that some drivers have toward the cycling community.

Not really. Since most of the animosity is about cyclist getting in the way. Not about breaking the law.

You can't be an equal partner on the road and then refuse to take on the responsibility of participating in the rules of the road, including license plates so that you can nab the dangerous cyclists.

License plates for cyclists aren't the rule of the road, so your whole point is nonsensical.

Yes, such measures would cut down on cycling.

So we've identified part of the cost.

But if we are looking at cycling as a long term equal partner in sharing the roads, accountability is a must.

Cyclists are accountable. Just as drivers were accountable before camera enforcement came along. In fact even more so, since cyclists will suffer more in a fender bender.

There is one major safety equipment piece for cyclists.

Actually, there are 8. In order of importance:

1. Sober, informed, confident cyclist
2. Well-maintained bike
3. Lights and reflectors(at night)
4. Suncreen (in the day)
5. Helmet
6. Protective eyewear
7. Gloves
8. A bell or horn

If you chose to not wear it, there are consequences for that convenience. Yes, to the degree that the helmet is effective your injuries in a crash could be worse.

Absent license plates how exactly do you think cyclists running red lights can be targeted by red light cameras?

They can't. Why should they be?

by David C on Feb 12, 2013 3:31 pm • linkreport

Do you think government should do that or do you feel like each of those things would be an overreach? If this isn't overreach, why wouldn't pedestrian helmets be overreach?

Because that would affect ME! Don't you understand? We're trying to get these brain-dead cyclists to show even a ounce of concern for their lives. Not inconvenience normal people like you and me who are just going about their everyday lives!

by oboe on Feb 12, 2013 4:36 pm • linkreport

Do you have a study for Vermont, David C?

by selxic on Feb 12, 2013 5:45 pm • linkreport

"Failing to wear a helmet when bicycling is akin to failing to fasten that seat belt in a car."
*****
No, it is akin to failing to wear a helmet in a car. Or when walking your dog. Or when jogging. Or when standing on a chair. All of those activities represent an elevated risk of head injury.

by Stuart on Feb 12, 2013 6:24 pm • linkreport

"If you get run over and suffer brain injury without a helmet, it's up to you pay for it, and you can't sue someone for it."
*****
There are no bicycle helmets designed to offer protection in collisions with vehicles. People need to understand that there are enough compromises for weight, airflow, and peripheral vision designed into bicycle helmets to render them almost pointless. I say almost because they will prevent scrapes, cuts, and bruises to the scalp. But they do not offer protection in the types of traumatic events so often described by proponents. It's a styrofoam hat shrink wrapped in plastic, not a ballistic helmet. Just put a bicycle helmet in front of your car and drive over it if you want to see the level of protection it affords the human brain from autos.

by Stuart on Feb 12, 2013 6:55 pm • linkreport

Hillman,

"If you get run over and suffer brain injury without a helmet, it's up to you pay for it, and you can't sue someone for it."

Can you explain why this should apply to bicyclists but not motorists? Both the mandatory seatbelt laws and motorcycle helmet laws are clear that failure to comply are NOT contributory negligence, and motorists are still allowed to sue for full damages if they are injured, even if they do not use seatbelts or helmets.

Since seatbelts and motorcycle helmets are far more effective than bicycle helmets, I would think motorists should be the ones that should be penalized as much as bicyclists for not using available effective protection.

"If we really wanted to improve bike safety we'd require mandatory license plates for bikes so we could start ticketing those that run red lights routinely but are never caught because the red light cameras can't give them a ticket."

Bicyclists can be ticketed; red lights are hardly the only way to enforce traffic laws. My impression is that police ignore bicyclists until a motorist hits them. Since they don't cite motorists for violating bicyclists' right of way, they also don't cite violations by cyclists.

"That'd also cut down a lot on the animosity that some drivers have toward the cycling community."

Not in my experience. I've found many drivers quite hostile when I wait at red lights, or want to make left turns from left turn lanes.

"You can't have it both ways. You can't be an equal partner on the road and then refuse to take on the responsibility of participating in the rules of the road, including license plates so that you can nab the dangerous cyclists."

I've seen far more cases of motorists running cyclists off the road than the reverse. It's a lot easier to be dangerous with a car than with a bike. I do obey traffic laws; I'd be delighted if police respected my right to do so (e.g. go straight on green when motorists want to go right or straight on red).

by Angelo Dolce on Feb 13, 2013 2:20 am • linkreport

Angelo:

You have a point.

I modified my original statement about injury to say that if the motorist is at fault they should pay their portion, but that contributory negligence should be a defense they can use if the cyclist refuses to wear a helmet.

As for ticketing, DC cops simply do not ticket cyclists. It's very rare.

And we are going to a system where the only ticketing will be by camera, in the vast majority of cases.

by Hillman on Feb 13, 2013 7:18 am • linkreport

"Cyclists are accountable. Just as drivers were accountable before camera enforcement came along. In fact even more so, since cyclists will suffer more in a fender bender."

Simply not true.

Without a way to track or identify the cyclist (like a license plate) they can easily leave the scene of an accident, go through red light cameras with impunity, etc.

by Hillman on Feb 13, 2013 7:20 am • linkreport

Maybe show your legislators these papers:

http://www.tps.org.uk/files/bursaries/james_gleave_submission.pdf

Cycle Helmets:
The impacts of compulsory cycle helmet legislation on cyclist fatalities and
premature deaths in the UK
Bursary Paper produced for the Transport Planning Society
December 2012

Concluding paragraph:
This paper sought to assess the impacts of compulsory cycle helmet legislation
should it be applied in the UK. It provides estimates that compelling cyclists
to wear helmets by law is likely to both reduce cycling levels, and lead to more
premature deaths than the legislation would save. Transport professionals now
have a much wider health and safety remit than simply reducing the number of
road crash casualties. If transport professionals wish to save the lives of
cyclists, our focus should be on other measures that will encourage more people
to cycle by making the bike a safer and more attractive transport option.

by Nik Dow on Feb 13, 2013 8:09 am • linkreport

Here's another useful paper:

http://www.nber.org/papers/w18773.pdf

EFFECTS OF BICYCLE HELMET LAWS ON CHILDREN'S INJURIES
Pinka Chatterji
Sara Markowitz
Working Paper 18773
http://www.nber.org/papers/w18773
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
February 2013

ABSTRACT
Cycling is popular among children, but results in thousands of injuries
annually. In recent years, many states and localities have enacted bicycle
helmet laws. We examine direct and indirect effects of these laws on injuries.
Using hospital-level panel data and triple difference models, we find helmet
laws are associated with reductions in bicycle-related head injuries among
children. However, laws also are associated with decreases in non-head cycling injuries, as well as increases in head injuries from other wheeled sports. Thus, the observed reduction in bicycle-related head injuries may be due to reductions in bicycle riding induced by the laws.

by Nik Dow on Feb 13, 2013 8:10 am • linkreport

Here's the European Union report on road safety, with a section on bicycle helmets:

http://www.freestylecyclists.org/freestyle.nsf/files/information/$file/EUreport.pdf

by Nik Dow on Feb 13, 2013 8:17 am • linkreport

Without a way to track or identify the cyclist (like a license plate) they can easily leave the scene of an accident.

You keep bringing this up, but despite requests, you have not offered any evidence that this actually happens enough to warrant a costly and extensive licensing system. That's because you know it rarely, if ever, happens. You'd rather see laws passed that discourage cycling than actually make cycling safer.

As for ticketing, DC cops simply do not ticket cyclists. It's very rare.

Take a walk up Georgia Ave in Petworth and observe drivers texting while driving, changing lanes in an intersection, passing too close to a cyclist, blocking an intersection, turning into a bike lane without merging, speeding, driving drunk, not wearing a seat belt , making illegal U turns, making illegal left and right turns, passing improperly, failing to yield for pedestrians in a crosswalk, idling in a crosswalk, tailgating, passing in a work zone, failing to yield the right of way... and the list goes on. How many of these drivers will ever be ticketed for these offenses? Very few. This city values the revenue from red light cameras and parking infractions, but otherwise lets drivers do whatever they want.

by Scoot on Feb 13, 2013 10:40 am • linkreport

As for ticketing, DC cops simply do not ticket cyclists. It's very rare.

Check out history of sting operations on NHA between U & W NW, and other MPD operations targeting people on bikes. This statement is not founded on anything other than lack of knowledge and biased perception.

by Tina on Feb 13, 2013 11:11 am • linkreport

This statement is not founded on anything other than lack of knowledge and biased perception.

Actually I would agree with "Hillman" that it is very rare for DC cops to ticket cyclists, relative to the number of cyclists on the streets. But it is also very rare for DC cops to ticket drivers for violations other than speeding and illegal parking.

In FY2009 the District cited about 140,000 moving citations for drivers and in FY2010 gave out 3,000 tickets to cyclists. Based on my back of the envelope calculations of the number of drivers and cyclists in the city, that's about 1 ticket for every 3.6 cyclists and 1 ticket for every 4.2 drivers. (Estimated 10,000-12,000 cyclists and 500,000-650,000 drivers [residents+commuters]).

by Scoot on Feb 13, 2013 12:01 pm • linkreport

Without a way to track or identify the cyclist (like a license plate) they can easily leave the scene of an accident, go through red light cameras with impunity, etc.

So can drivers in almost every single case. Biycle hit and runs are exceedingly rare. Drivers in hit and runs being tracked by their plates are exceedingly rare. Add the two together and you've got a Sasquatch sighting.

What you're really talking about is that it's unfair that cyclists can run red lights and not get tickets enforced by cameras. But even then, the red light cameras are not often at intersections that cyclists use or where they run lights. And since I support the Idaho Stop, I can't say I support a cumbersome process to enforce red lights for cyclists.

How exactly would these bicycle plates work? What size would they be? Where would they attach to the bike? Can you show me some place that does this and how it worked?

by David C on Feb 13, 2013 1:14 pm • linkreport

@Scoot, thanks for the data. Its a matter of opinion but I wouldn't call 1 ticket/3.6 cyclists "rare". Certainly these data suggest ticketing car drivers is rarer than ticketing cyclists.

by Tina on Feb 13, 2013 1:42 pm • linkreport

@Tina,

It's actually 1 ticket per year for every 3.6 cyclists. Say 10,000 bike trips are taken day, or about 3.5 million per year, then there is less than 1% chance of getting a ticket on any given ride. But just based on my back of the envelope calculation, the chance of getting cited for a moving violation while driving a car is even lower.

by Scoot on Feb 13, 2013 2:19 pm • linkreport

@Scoot-yes, the other ratio would be impossibly high.
take away point: -its more rare for car drivers to receive tickets than bicycle riders.

by Tina on Feb 13, 2013 2:48 pm • linkreport

"Is it not a fact that wearing a helmet decreases the likelihood of severe head trauma? Yes, it is. So why all the red herrings?"

Bicycle helmets are tested for frontal crash 20km/h speeds. They are not effective in faster speeds nor other types of crashes. Take the helmet meant for extreme riding and compare it with the regular one - see the difference?

Extreme helmet does protect against severe head trauma, regular one most likely not by much.

Regular helmet safety benefits are incredibly overstated.

by test on Feb 13, 2013 3:15 pm • linkreport

@Tina,

Well, Hillman's posts imply that drivers shoulder the burden of obeying moving laws, while cyclists get off scot-free. I think the take-away is that this opinion is out of step with reality.

by Scoot on Feb 13, 2013 5:35 pm • linkreport

@Scoot, yes, that is more accurate. thank you for that articulation.

by Tina on Feb 13, 2013 6:49 pm • linkreport

@scoot:

it is also very rare for DC cops to ticket drivers for violations other than speeding and illegal parking.

I don't think I've ever even met anyone who's received a ticket from a cop for speeding in DC. Obviously there's photo enforcement, but MPD pretty much doesn't do traffic stops. And I believe DPW handles parking enforcement.

by oboe on Feb 13, 2013 8:17 pm • linkreport

@oboe

There are still about 150,000 moving violation citations given out every year, but it's difficult to determine exactly what laws are being broken, where most of the violations are occurring, etc, because MPD does not make that information readily available.

by Scoot on Feb 14, 2013 9:33 am • linkreport

I hope someone tells the Tour de France that all their cyclists are in danger BECAUSE of their helmets.

"I'm glad that when I fell of my bike and slammed my head on the pavement that I wasn't wearing a helmet because helmets are so dangerous!" -- Said no sane person ever

by Cider on Feb 14, 2013 7:20 pm • linkreport

re Tour de France, death rate went up after helmets became compulsory. At their speeds, helmets are way beyond design speed, and cause neck injuries.

by Nik Dow on Feb 14, 2013 7:52 pm • linkreport

and the relevance of TdF to utility riding or orginary citizens going about their business, not bicycle racing?

by Nik Dow on Feb 14, 2013 7:53 pm • linkreport

And WABA is not arguing that helmets aren't useful.

For me there is a 2 part test to determine if a certain safety feature should be mandated for use - and not many things pass it.

1. a. Efficacy - At the very least, experts should agree that the feature is effective at improving safety. [Helmets pass this as do seatbelts, lights, sunscreen, condoms etc...

b. Cost of mandate exceeds benefit - What does it cost for everyone to comply? What externalities does the mandate carry? What is the value of the benefit? Requiring everyone to wear a bullet proof vest at all times might save some lives - but at incredible cost. For a mandatory helmet law there is strong evidence that it reduces cycling, which reduces overall safety, health benefits, environmental benefits and such. It's unclear that the benefits outweight the costs and there is reason to believe the inverse will be true. This is what WABA is arguing. [Seatbelt laws probably pass this test as do laws requiring lights, and maybe motorcycle helmet laws do too. It's at best unknown if bike helmet or sunscreen mandates do]

2. Liberty - Should the government require you to do something that, in the end, is to your benefit and your benefit only? If your answer is no, then helmet laws are a bad idea. If your answer is yes, then sunscreen laws are a good idea. Seatbelts are different, because they can allow a driver to retake control of the car and mitigate the impact of a crash; and keep motorists from becoming projectiles that will kill other passengers or even make the crash worse by interfering with the driver. So a seatbelt mandate protects the wearer, but more importantly, everyone around them. [Seatbelts and lights pass this test, but helmets and sunscreen do not]

A safety law should pass both these tests, and helmet laws clearly do not. Even if you believe they are 100% effective, it doesn't change that.

by washcycle on Feb 14, 2013 8:23 pm • linkreport

@washcycle -I would add the comparison to motorcycle helmet laws (MCHLs). That is the comparison made by McIntosh (MD state Del. who introduced the legislation), who said MCHLs did not depress numbers of people doing that activity, so why should it happen with bicycles, and so what if it does anyway b/c those people are better off not doing the activity if they are not wearing a helmet (paraphrase).

I don't know the cost-benefit externalities of MCHLs, but I do know that bicycle riding provides health benefits and positive externalities that are not gained from motorcycle riding. The evidence shows us that, if the health benefit of bicycling is y and the injury risk to bicycling w/o a helmet is x, y is bigger than x, so there is a net health benefit to bicycling even w/o a helmet. On top of that are the positive externalities of pedalling for transportation compared to using a motor vehicle.

by Tina on Feb 15, 2013 11:17 am • linkreport

"Mandatory bicycle helmet laws may save a few brains but they kill a lot more hearts".

by Tina on Feb 15, 2013 11:30 am • linkreport

Tina,

I'd say mandatory motorcyle helmet laws probably pass the first test, but fail the second test. So, my response is usually "I don't support MCHL's either and BHLs make even less sense."

by washcycle on Feb 15, 2013 12:21 pm • linkreport

"Seatbelt laws are different. A seatbelt keeps a driver in front of the steering wheel where they can regain control of the car and mitigate the crash. And it keeps passengers from becoming projectiles that can kill others."

In the numerous challenges to seatbelt laws, states have asserted this, but never presented any supporting evidence. In any event, it's rendered utter garbage by the effect on one's awareness and control of an airbag deployment.

In all these comments, everyone is hung up on assessing the risk of no helmets without any consideration for WHOSE risk it is. Whose head is it anyway? You can legally smoke, and commit suicide by any number of methods - this law is an affront to every principle upon which this nation was founded.

by bw1 on Feb 15, 2013 6:01 pm • linkreport

The best comment I ever read on helmet laws:

Helmet laws interfere with natural selection.

by bw1 on Feb 15, 2013 6:03 pm • linkreport

bw1.

Science to the rescue.

by David C on Feb 15, 2013 6:59 pm • linkreport

There are still about 150,000 moving violation citations given out every year, but it's difficult to determine exactly what laws are being broken, where most of the violations are occurring, etc, because MPD does not make that information readily available.

I'd be interested to know how many of these were issued at the scene of an accident. The only moving violation I or anyone I know has received from an MPD officer have been after an accident. Usually something like "failure to yield".

by oboe on Feb 16, 2013 3:13 pm • linkreport

As someone who actually works on writing transportation law, I find this entry far from convincing.

Its the same sob story that every person and/or industry uses to fight regulations they view as being inconvenient, costly, etc. There's always some contrarian "study" that says just what they want it to say. It also almost always defies all critical thought.

The question that is important isnt anything that is addressed in this article. The critical question is, "if you get into an accident on a bike are you more safe with a helmet?" and there's no way to say you are less safe wearing a helmet in an accident. After the accident is all said and done the helmet may not have done anything, but you are certainly more safe with it on in the midst of an accident.

I have driven tens of thousands of miles with my seat belt on... its never actually been necessary, but I'm more safe with it on, even if it isnt used.

TBI and concussions are nothing to be cavalier about. Preventing them by basic safety precautions saves society money.

by Helmet Fan on Feb 17, 2013 11:24 am • linkreport

The question that is important isnt anything that is addressed in this article. The critical question is, "if you get into an accident on a bike are you more safe with a helmet?"

Which is why you support mandatory motoring helmets and flame retardant jump suits for drivers and mandatory pedestrian helmets and sunscreen for pedestrians right?

Or is it possible that other questions are relevant. Questions like "What will this law do to overall safety?" This article presents evidence that the answer may be "it reduces safety" which would make it a bad law. You don't even bother to refute it. You just use some sort of anti-science argument that "We can't really know anything, because scientists never agree, so we should just use common sense which is never wrong."

For like the millionth time, this isn't about helmets. It is about the efficacy of helmet laws. Here is evidence that helmet laws make us less safe. Do you have any that shows otherwise?

And then, of course, there is about the rights of adults to make their own decisions about risk in a free society. What value do you place on that. Because I can't wait to pass a law requiring you to always use a condom.

I really hope you're exaggerating your role in writing transportation law.

by David C on Feb 17, 2013 11:41 am • linkreport

The question that is important isnt anything that is addressed in this article. The critical question is, "if you get into an accident on a bike are you more safe with a helmet?"

Yes, if you get into an accident, you are likely more safe if you are wearing a helmet than not. The problem is, that's not the critical question. The critical question is, "will mandating helmets increase safety?" And the article puts the evidence forward that shows that mandating helmets will not lead to increased safety. It shows that in the places where helmets were mandatory accident rates went UP, because fewer people biked. So maybe society is saving money because of fewer concussions, but what about the costs of poor health because fewer people are now getting exercise from biking?

"As someone who actually works on writing transportation law," I would hope that your goal in creating safety laws is to actually increase overall safety. In order to do so you have to look broadly at issues; the shallow "if you wear a helmet and get in an accident you are safer!" doesn't even begin to cover the safety effects in this case.

by MLD on Feb 19, 2013 8:13 am • linkreport

The question for me is, "will mandating a helmet law improve overall public health?", which includes safety as well as health and well-being. Its undeniable there are health benefits from pedaling that are not present from traveling by motorized vehicle, 2-wheeled or 4-wheeled. The health benefits include physical activity, air and water quality, as well as safety for pedestrians in addition to the safety in numbers effect for bicycling.

I keep coming to the conclusion that anyone who supports biking as transportation, and wants to see more people biking, but who also supports mandatory helmet laws, either hasn't seen all the evidence or doesn't fully understand it.

I know that sounds really arrogant. But its the conclusion I keep coming back to.

If someone supports the helmet law b/c s/he thinks its a social norm that should be mandated by law b/c its just the correct thing everyone should do, thats an opinion I can not dispute (though I disagree). However, if someone supports a helmet law b/c s/he thinks it improves public health through improved safety, then I must conclude s/he has not seen/does not comprehend the data.

by Tina on Feb 19, 2013 11:43 am • linkreport

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