Bike Helmets

When, exactly, did everyone stop wearing bike helmets?  It seemed like everyone was wearing them for a long, long time and then, all of the sudden, I’m seeing way more people on bicycles sans helmets.  Did I miss some sort of memo?  I mean, just the other day I was out for a run and saw a women with a toddler in a babyseat on her bike and both the woman AND THE TODDLER didn’t have helmets on.  Who does that?

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  • If you think that's bad, in Kelowna not only do a lot of people not wear helmets but they seem to think they can cycle on either side of the street. Sidewalks are fair game, and bike paths are multi-directional. Don't get me started on their lack of signaling. I've nearly run into a few of them in the past month *as a fellow cyclist*. Sadly there's nothing stopping them from behaving that way, so there's nothing I can do but watch out for the idiots.


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  • Here the law is for everyone, but I also blame (a) the hipster guys with their toques, and (b) the hipster girls with their old-style bikes, skirts, and retro hairstyles they don't want to muss up.

    Having had a bike helmet save my life (or at least my higher cognitive functions) at least once, I think they're all being dumb.


    • Totally dumb. I also don't laws that say only kids have to wear helmets and not adults – isn't that like telling kids "once you are a "grown up" you don't have to wear a helmet!" which will just make them not want to wear it more?


  • I wear a helmet most of the time, but I know that:

    – The benefits of helmet wearing are very much over-stated. For collisions above 12mph, some argue that they are nearly useless

    – Do we wear helmets while walking? In our cars? While gardening? Lots of head injuries happen in these situations but we don't wear helmets. Why not?

    – I believe more people should ride bikes. I think it's a good thing for our society, good for people's health and good for our environment. And I know that some newcomers to cycling find the idea of helmets off-putting. Someone is safer riding without a helmet than they are leading an inactive lifestyle and getting fat. So, for this reason, we need to relax about helmets. It's not as important as we think.

    – You hear many people say "a helmet saved my life" or "that person wouldn't have died if they were wearing a helmet". These claims are well-meaning, but often misguided. How does that person know what the consequences would/wouldn't have been. Many people survive without helmets and die with them. It's not as simple as we think.

    I choose to wear a helmet, but I know that'd because of how I feel, rather than the sheer facts.



  • Thanks for your comment! You've clearly spent a fair bit of time thinking about bike helmets!

    I agree that more people should ride bikes, but I'm surprised to hear that newcomers are so put off by the idea of wearing a helmet that it would prevent them from biking altogether. If we think of costs vs. benefits – where the costs are very low (a helmet is cheap compared to the cost of the bike, there aren't any risks associated with wearing a helmet) and the benefits are there (sure, it's not going to save your life if you get hit by a speeding truck, but it can definitely prevent head injuries in plenty of situations) – it just doesn't make sense to me to choose not to wear one because you don't like how it looks or you don't want to mess up your hair.

    As for other situations where head injuries can happen – I think we don't wear helmets in those situations because the risks are lower. I walk fast, but not nearly as fast as I bike!


  • In Australia, when they made helmet-wearing mandatory, the numbers of cyclists decreased and importantly, there was no decrease in injuries.

    And now Australia has the highest obesity rate in the world.

    Of course, I know other factors come into play, but you get my point. Helmets do put off many people who would otherwise ride. Your cost/benefit makes perfect sense, but people don't always think logically – they act on feelings, rather than facts. And many people feel that helmet-wearing is a reason not to ride a bike.


  • I am a newcomer to road cycling (all of my cycling so far has been done off road, or on deserted country roads etc.) Since I will be moving to Kelowna, I decided to bike to get in better shape.

    I have been living in Vancouver, and the #1 reason I haven’t cycled here is because of mandatory helmet laws. I won’t wear a helmet. As a rule of thumb, I avoid doing anything where I both look and feel stupid. I don’t work out; I don’t like it, nor do I have time for it. Biking is the only exercise I would be willing to do, but only in a no helmet situation.

    I have also done research (I do research for a living), and the benefits of bike helmets are negligible. Knowing myself, I’d venture to say that it would give me a false sense of security, and make me more reckless on the road.

    I would also like to point out that there is a certain bike community in Vancouver (and NO, I don’t believe this of all Vancouver cyclists), that think they have a point to prove, and certain rights to demand of drivers. They cut drivers off, they bike in an unsafe manner, just to prove they have as much right to the road (the road, like life, is not fair. Trucks will always have an advantage. You can risk your life proving a point, or just let them get by you as they could squish you like a bug). All while wearing flashy looking helmets. I would say that is way dumber than me biking without a helmet on a quiet road in daylight…

    Lastly, I’d like to point out that age restricted helmet laws are not unreasonable. The state doesn’t allow us to smoke, drink, or gamble until it deems us old enough to make our own informed decision. The only times they put their foot down are in cases where there’s obvious mortal danger, such as keeping heroin illegal, and helmet laws in Vancouver (worst drivers ever!) I’m not at all concerned with how it look to kids. I don’t have nor want kids, so I don’t see why I should be responsible for educating other people’s, and if I did, I guess I would have to expend the energy explaining to my kids why I want them to wear a helmet, instead of hoping they’ll never ask because everyone is doing it.


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