Tevlin: Bike helmet debate hits evocative fork in road

  • Article by: JON TEVLIN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 11, 2012 - 9:35 PM

Some say mandating use amounts to bad public policy.

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thehoffersAug. 11, 12 6:29 PM

Even though my life was saved by my helmet when a motorist blew through a red light and T-Boned me, I know they won't mandate helmets. I'll always wear mine, but if we can't get motorcyclists to wear them, bikes are even less likely to get a mandate.

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timnilesAug. 11, 12 6:47 PM

For ten years (in Southern California) I biked quite a bit, averaging 60 miles per day when work and daylight was sufficient. I never wore a bicycle helmet, but this was in the period 1978 to 1988 when helmets were heavy and actually blocked vision. I also found that when biking in traffic (99% of my biking was done on the streets) it was absolutely critical to be able to pick up sounds clearly and to be able to determine where the sounds were coming from and I felt that helmets would interfere with my hearing. Example: the most dangerous situation came when approaching an intersection - I would be on the far right of the street (in the gutter lane) - and an unpleasant number of people driving vans or cars would try to make a right turn THROUGH ME! These are the sounds I had to pickup so I could hit my hand brakes BEFORE the cross street and thus avoid being turned into road kill: the sound of the tires slowing down; the sound of the tires changing direction; the sound of the engine changing revs; the sound of the air hitting the car would change; and of course the location of the sound (from behind and to the left.) These sounds in combination were very clear even when other cars (headed straight through the intersection) maintained most of their velocity in a straight line, the ones in position to turn through me would create sounds that made the ordinary traffic sound like white noise. It was very distinct and very necessary to survival. Do I think that this justifies most people NOT to use helmets? NO. Having your head hit the pavement (or something much worse) is always a serious matter. Helmets are better now, lighter, and every time you bike you should at least have a helmet with you as an option.

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melloncollieAug. 11, 12 7:15 PM

I am surprised anyone over 30 is alive today. No one I know ever wore a helmet and we all lived...

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chazzboAug. 11, 12 7:42 PM

The research from Europe indicates it's speed that contributes most to injury. I had a serious bike accident this year (wearing a helmet) but the helmet was not at all a factor. It was the combo of speed and poor road conditions that put me in the hospital for eight days. In circumstances where a helmet DID save me from injury, I was riding in extreme weather conditions or engaged in activities an average cyclist would not do. Though I wear a helmet virtually all the time, I think we should look at the research with an open mind.

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roymercerAug. 11, 12 7:43 PM

Safety do-gooders: Please find another hobby, other than my well-being. I have things managed just fine.

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tuite002Aug. 11, 12 8:30 PM

As a neurologist and a cyclist wearing a helmet clearly lessens morbidity and mortality and is supported at the highest levels, e.g., American Academy of Neurology recent helmet give away. Even casual riders can get hit by faster riders and cars. Whether one legislates this is another matter. Nonetheless wearing a helmet should be encouraged; especially if you are in charge of a bike program. I have cycled in Europe - Germany, Netherlands, etc. and the style of riding as well as driving and pedestrian behavior is different and therefore may explain some of the statistical findings.

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cadguymarkAug. 11, 12 8:43 PM

the best way to avoid brain injury or death while riding a bicycle is accident avoidance, better to not get in an accident at all rather than get in one and count on a piece of styrofoam to save you.

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ronf528Aug. 11, 12 8:58 PM

I ride frequently, almost daily, and mostly on trails. I wear a helmet 95% of the time and think they're a good idea. For those who think casual riding on an empty trail is safety-proof, you haven't ridden enough - anything can happen. But if the government tries to mandate that I "must" wear a helmet, I'll fight every step of the way. Just how would they enforce that? They don't even hire enough law enforcement to hinder major crime.

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twinman55Aug. 11, 12 9:04 PM

Is it too much to expect that riders actually be left to decide for themselves whether they need a helmet? After all, generations of kids have grown up without ever needing a helmet and suddently it should be mandatory?

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eillacAug. 12, 1212:00 AM

If I get hurt or die from not wearing a helmet, why do people care who don't even know me? I don't get it. Leave it alone.

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