Forget Your Bike Helmet

Most bike helmets seem explicitly designed to discourage the use of bike helmets. They’re often ugly, and can be inconvenient for people hoping to use biking as a commuting method.

And according to the New York Times, bike helmets may not even be necessary. The Times article explains that though cycling culture in the U.S. strongly favors helmets, the opposite is true in Europe.

But many European health experts have taken a very different view: Yes, there are studies that show that if you fall off a bicycle at a certain speed and hit your head, a helmet can reduce your risk of serious head injury. But such falls off bikes are rare — exceedingly so in mature urban cycling systems.

Even worse, the article notes, helmets can become an obstacle for would-be cyclists. Australian professor Piet de Jong even says that promoting helmet usage creates an unwarranted sense of danger when it comes to cycling.

He adds: “Statistically, if we wear helmets for cycling, maybe we should wear helmets when we climb ladders or get into a bath, because there are lots more injuries during those activities.” The European Cyclists’ Federation says that bicyclists in its domain have the same risk of serious injury as pedestrians per mile traveled.

That quote captures the essence of the argument: yes, riding a bike is safer with a helmet, but if people won’t wear helmets — even though maybe they should and are encouraged to do so — it still makes sense for them to cycle sans head protection.

That seems especially true in much of Provo, where wide streets and low speed limits mean that there is significant potential to increase the number of alert, adult riders.

Cyclists in Provo. Using a helmet is clearly the safest way to ride a bike, but some experts believe that even without a helmet the benefits of cycling far outweigh the costs.


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Filed under biking, commuting

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