How many of you always wear a helmet?

General cycling advice ( NOT technical ! )
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hubgearfreak
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Postby hubgearfreak » 13 Mar 2008, 6:00pm

i once saw a report where the researcher had a video on his bicycle and videod 2000 cars overtake him without a helmet
then 2000 cars with a helmet.

the difference in the space allowed by the motorists was considerable, and with the helmet he was knocked off twice.

their perception of our vulnerability can work in our favour.....
conversely, their perception of our flimsy and unproven protection can work against us

can anyone else remember this article, or find it?

swansonj
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Postby swansonj » 13 Mar 2008, 6:03pm

I wear a helmet pretty well all cycle trips except rarely when I forget. If I realise I've forgotten, I cycle extra-cautiously - proof that for one cyclist at least, risk compensation is real.

When I fractured my femur recently coming off my bike on black ice, one (but to be fair only one) nurse said to me in hospital as I was being wheeled on a trolley with my leg in traction: "well at least you were wearing a helmet!"

Part of my day job is assessing the strength of medical evidence. Having read a fair proportion of the literature on cycle helmets, I believe wearing a helmet will probably:

Make me slightly more likely to have an accident in the first place because of risk compensation by both me and by motorists
In the more common minor accident, prevent a bad headache or minor brain damage
In the less common major accident resulting in a straight bang to the head, marginally reduce the severity of brain damage (and yes I regard even the most minor of reductions as worth having)
Slightly increase the risk of serious brain damage by increasing the risk of sudden rotational acceleration to the brain which is what really does the damage (but I've taken the visor off my helmet and it's a smoothish circular one to reduce this risk)

If you asked my professional judgement, I'd probably say the net balance was impossible to determine. But I still wear one because I'm not brave enough to back my judgement and forego the possible safety benefit.

My decision is strongly influenced by the fact that I have no problem wearing one even in summer - I usually forget I'm wearing it and have been known to go into cafes still wearing it.

And actually, call me boring if you want, but I wear ear defenders when using DIY power tools, toetector boots when using a circular saw, mask when cutting MDF, and I always read the fire exit sign in hotels. Comes of having worked in my company's safety department.

John[/list]

steve climpson
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Postby steve climpson » 13 Mar 2008, 6:08pm

glueman wrote:TBH, Steve's argument is a good reason not to cycle full stop. Or ski or climb. I'd never make light of head trauma but where do you stop? Full face bike helmets? There are so many things that could kill us we'd never go out.


LOL I'm sorry if I've given that impression. Do as you wish but do it in the knowledge that the price you may pay will be a very heavy one.

I clearly remember the last second of my "normal" life, hearing the stone rattling down the cliff and rue the day I left my helmet at home.

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hubgearfreak
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Postby hubgearfreak » 13 Mar 2008, 6:20pm

swansonj wrote:actually, call me boring if you want, but I wear ear defenders when using DIY power tools, toetector boots when using a circular saw, mask when cutting MDF, and I always read the fire exit sign in hotels.


that's not boring. but the difference is that MDF dust or angle grinder decibels are both dangerous. and neither modify their dangerousness according to you attire

glueman
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Postby glueman » 13 Mar 2008, 6:38pm

steve climpson wrote:Do as you wish but do it in the knowledge that the price you may pay will be a very heavy one.

I used to climb too - without a helmet. You're right about the heavy price but 95% of people seem to consider most activities too unsafe, including cycling which may be the way society is evolving, stay in cars, stay in houses.
Anyway, I'm glad to hear you're still okay.

stoobs
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Postby stoobs » 13 Mar 2008, 6:41pm

iaincullen wrote:No it is the fact helmets are uncomfortable


This is hardly a fact. My own fact based on my perceived superior experience is that this is not true. So how do we balance that? My dad's bigger than yours, etc?

Many people do things which are at first uncomfortable, but which they become used to (cycling, for example). After an enforced break of a year, and then getting into mountain biking, I thought that my hands would never stop feeling bruised, and that my backside would never get used to a saddle again. I was wrong.

Realistically, and truthfully, please, how often, for how long and how regularly have you worn one for? I seem to remember this argument in the Tour de France a few years back, but there's no argument now, and they're not all falling off their bikes through heatstroke or going off in a huff - not for that reason, anyway.

I'm kind of in favour of helmets, but not into compulsion, but I'd like to have a properly informed debate. Any chance?

drossall
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Postby drossall » 13 Mar 2008, 6:44pm

steve climpson wrote:sounds like the reasons stated against the compulsory wearing of seatbelts


Not exactly. Seat belts when implemented, AIUI, produced a clear benefit in the national accident statistics to car occupants*. Helmets, AFAIK, haven't.

* But an equal and opposite disbenefit to those outside cars, resulting in no overall change.

aesmith
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Postby aesmith » 13 Mar 2008, 6:51pm

stoobs wrote:I'm kind of in favour, but not into compulsion, but I'd like to have a properly informed debate. Any chance?

A debate about compulsion? I'd rather that debate didn't take place, because arguments between freedom of choice on the one hand, and other peoples ideas of what's good for you, have a tendency to go against the freedom of choice.

A debate involving non-cyclists would certainly end up with compulsion. At work more non-cyclists than cyclists have given me their views.

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hubgearfreak
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Postby hubgearfreak » 13 Mar 2008, 6:55pm


aesmith
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Postby aesmith » 13 Mar 2008, 7:03pm

I've just realised I'm getting all worked up about possible compulsion, and loss of freedom, when that really wasn't the purpose of my post in the first place.

I'm absolutely not trying to change anyone's mind, and I don't dispute that in some circumstances a helmet could be beneficial. As could a number of other pieces of safety equipment that I don't have. I make my choice about what risks I run, and how to mitigate them.

I just wanted to see whether many other non-helmet people would pop up in the thread. I don't think I ever see a cyclist on the road without.

By the way, you'd see almost the same arguments if you drop into a sailing bulletin board, and ask who wears a life jacket.

stoobs
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Postby stoobs » 13 Mar 2008, 7:06pm

aesmith wrote:
stoobs wrote:I'm kind of in favour, but not into compulsion, but I'd like to have a properly informed debate. Any chance?

A debate about compulsion? I'd rather that debate didn't take place, because arguments between freedom of choice on the one hand, and other peoples ideas of what's good for you, have a tendency to go against the freedom of choice.

A debate involving non-cyclists would certainly end up with compulsion. At work more non-cyclists than cyclists have given me their views.


Just to clarify, 'cos my punctuation and wording were poor:

I'm IN favour of helmets for myself, but NOT into compulsion to wear them.

Sorry for any confusion.

I'd like a properly informed debate on helmets, perhaps referring to properly-analysed statistics, with logical inferences drawn, and discussed.

Some of those Aussie statistics are, frankly a bit borderline when we don't even know what constitutes a head injury, and some of the inferences are worse. Scientific papers tend not to come across as rants.

It is a basis of "Six Sigma" improvement methodologies that you can't improve any system without having proper "operational definitions". You'll have to look that up if you don't understand.

Kirst
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Postby Kirst » 13 Mar 2008, 7:13pm

I wear a helmet for the same reason my parents made me wear a seatbelt before it was a legal requirement to do so - I know the chances of an accident are tiny, but if it does happen, I want the additional protection.

I don't believe a helmet would make a bit of difference in a serious accident, but in a simple fall off the bike, or a minor accident, it could make the difference between a lacerated scalp and not, or a minor brain injury and not, or a major head injury and not. I think it's sad that some people think "cyclists have to wear helmets therefore cycling is dangerous therefore I won't do it" and I think we should challenge that wherever we can.

But, I took a referral today about a man who acquired a serious brain injury in a collision with another cyclist. He wasn't wearing a helmet. He used to be a normal, fully independent man who ran his own business. Now he's spent 18 months in hospital undergoing rehab, he's a wheelchair user, he's got massive cognitive losses and personality changes and it's unlikely that he'll ever be able to live without support. Without a time machine, there's no way of knowing if wearing a helmet would have prevented or decreased his injuries - but I want to keep cycling and if the minor inconvenience of wearing a helmet can help to prevent that ever happening to me, I'll put up with it.
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softpedal
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helmets

Postby softpedal » 13 Mar 2008, 7:16pm

Only time i dont wear a helmet is if i,m popping down the shop,300yds or so.
Last year i head butted the ground. Didnt see a large hole and landed smack on top of my bonce. Cracked my helmet instead of my skull.

But i have to admit the temptation on a warm summers day to ride without a helmet is appealing, but i'd have to carry it with me becaus the wive won't let me out without it.
Your never to old to become younger

Edwards
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Postby Edwards » 13 Mar 2008, 7:57pm

Being short of hair on top I find in the summer the helmet lets air flow over some of my head where a cap does not. Sunburn on top is not nice.
I have also found cold rain can hurt so use a helmet cover, finding it better than a hood on a coat.

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Wildduck
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Postby Wildduck » 13 Mar 2008, 8:31pm

Never used one and probably never will! Read almost all the research, seen the limitations of the design of cycle helmets, seen multiple casualties (having worked in intensive care units for eight years, two of them purely in a neurological setting) and yet I'm to be convinced.

As a result of the acceleration/deacceleration forces, your brain will rattle around its bone box during which it which it will tear some tissue, bruising when it hits the side and being shredded on the base of the skull which is no better than a cheese grater. The degree of this has no bearing on whether you wear a helmet or not. As to depressed skull fractures, these appear to cause far less damage than the brain 'rattle'. The BMA in its last vote on the subject was almost split 50:50 on the subject as a result.

Needless to say, there's also cervical spine injury which at best in a bad accident will leave you paralyzed from the neck down, if not on a ventilator for the rest of your life or probably dead.

Helmets appear only to be valuable at low speed where there is not another vehicle involved (eg. hitting one's noggin'), a situation more a kin to children cycling on pavements/driveways/in parks with developing balance and cycling skills.

Of more benefit I find is being aware of my surroundings, cycling in a defensive manner, believing every driver is not aware of me and at worse, knowing how to fall off a bicycle (rolling and tucking my head in).

May I long enjoy the sun in my face and the wind through my hair. When I start worrying about a head injury, it will not be the time for a helmet but to stay at home wrapped in cotton wool :wink:
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