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Subject:  Re: Possibly poking a hornets' nest Date:  12/13/2012  4:36 PM
Author:  jammerh Number:  15003 of 16084

Hi C, not sure what the "that" in your first line refers to, or even which post you're responding to, but for the benefit of anyone who may be new or still interested in this topic (its one we talked about at great length over the years here) the question, as I see it remains one of the legitimacy of laws which force cyclists to wear helmets.

As for seatbelts, they're not helmets. To suggest one thing is like another means we can see similarities in aspects of their use. It doesn't mean helmets are completely like seatbelts. There are big differences. Helmets should be considered on the basis of their own merits and not lumped in with all safety equipment.

Pumping yourself up with football padding might make you even "safer" at least in some respects but I don't think anyone is advocating that. And for good reason. All that padding would be an encumberance. It would make you slower to react, and probably result in a lot of overheating.

Some of this happens with helmets, and the effect can be even more significant depending on where you bike, how far and hard you ride, and the local climate.

Helmets don't protect against the major cause of head injuries which result in fatalities. Those are concussions in which the brain cells are killed by shearing into each other, or against the wall of the skull. This is by far the most common form of head injury and it takes place on impact when the head is suddenly jarred.

Helmet use can actually make - especially younger cyclists over confident with regard to their safety. To the extent both cyclists and drivers passing them have been shown to take greater risks (passing closer and at greater speed) helmets may do more damage than they prevent.

In addition to this, to the extent that people who might be inclined to use a bicycle but are put off by the requirement of a helmet (along with the dangerousness that being forced to a helmet helps engender), you really have to question their value.

I know I personally, would be more inclined to drive than take my bike if forced to wear a helmet, and I don't think I'm alone in that feeling. And that means more pollution, and greater risk to the few who do continue to bike.

So, this isn't as cut and dried as some would have us believe. And we shouldn't assume that because everyone's doing it, it must make sense. The validity of an idea isn't determined by the number of people who believe it.

No one's suggesting we shouldn't do something because it's "socially unacceptable". Indeed, helmets may be more the norm than not - at least in some circles.

If someone wants to wear padding while riding because they believe it will help them that's their business. It's when they assume* that because they believe it helps that it's necessarily good for everyone else that we need to question the validity of helmets and laws enforcing their use.

* an assumption because there is no verifiable evidence to support the idea that helmets help reduce head injury.
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