Saturday, March 30, 2013

Where's The Helmet?

I was out riding my bike today, and a driver yelled out, "Where's the helmet?" I only had time to scream back, "I don't use one!" before he was out of earshot.

I resent the inference that I must comply with the collective "wisdom" that all bicycle riders need helmets. They're expensive (compared to what I'm using now), they're uncomfortable (if your head itches or gets sweaty - especially if you're a chrome-dome like me), and they only provide limited protection in any event.

I am capable of performing the risk-benefit analysis, and my analysis lands on the side of no helmet. I'm willing to accept the risk that I might leave my wife and kids penniless wards of the state*, because I think that risk is minimal, given my riding style.

I would wear a motorcycle helmet (actually, I would not ride a motorcycle. I think they're too dangerous. If I crashed, a motorcycle helmet would be pathetically inadequate.)

If I die riding my bicycle, it will much more likely be due to a stroke or a heart attack. However, I would wear a helmet if I were shredding downhill on a mountain bike. But again, if I hit a tree trunk, I doubt the helmet would make more than a marginal reduction in my risk of a broken neck, concussion or aneurysm.

Seriously, bicycle helmets work on the placebo principle. The risk reduction for impact injuries is marginal at best. They're slightly better at preventing abrasions, but I don't ride fast enough to grind off a skull's thickness of bone. Sorry.

Update: nanny statism WTH?

*Actually, my family have too much self-respect to ever become wards of the state.


  1. Really? From personal experience I can tell you a helmet does matter. I have personally broken two of them.....glad that was not my head that cracked. Sure you may argue that I would have survived had I not had a helmet, I would say I gladly throw down the $40 for a little something between my head and the ground.

    1. I am not saying what anyone else should do. I'm just saying that people should live life they way they want, and leave others to do the same. Other people may make different decisions, based on their own assessment of risk or value. That's what freedom and liberty are all about.

      Where this all goes to hell is when government takes over our health care, and my head injury becomes an added burden on other taxpayers. Now government feels empowered to address that. Nothing is ever free. We pay with our money, or we pay with our liberty.

  2. Very true nothing is ever for free. However, your individual choice rarely comes without some effect on others. Yes you may choose to risk head injury on some stupid crash, because the worst injuries are always from something stupid like you couldn't get unclicked out of your peddles at a stop ligt, but in the end that will effect someone. For instance, when you become a semi-vegetable and your wife has to feed you. Or when you injure your head enough that you can't think straight anymore and can not have a job. Then who pays for that? Probably your insurance and that effects insurance rates for others.

    Sure when you don't wear your helmet you are unlikely to directly hurt anyone else. Not like when a drunk driver makes their own risk assessment and takes out an entire family. But when you suffer an avoidable head injury and your health insurance pays for that, that effects me because then overall rates go up. Sooooooo no nothing is free. With liberty comes responsibility.

    1. My point is, your risk assessment might be different from mine. Humans rode bicycles for over 100 years without helmets, and society didn't collapse as a result.

      I believe the hypotheticals are what we software engineers call "marginal" or "edge cases". The question is, how much do I invest to address each and every risk? If it's worth it to you, then by all means, go for it. I described the trade-offs in my original post, and explained why it's a non-starter for me for the kind of riding that I do, and the routes that I take.

      Even if I am in some kind of accident, I could be maimed in any number of ways, and the helmet's ability to protect me, or even improve my chances, would be very subjective. The additional 1% safety margin (or whatever it is) doesn't offset the other trade-offs, in my mind. In fact, the additional hassle and discomfort might make me decide not to ride at all, which might compromise my health in other ways.

      The reason we have a First Amendment (freedom of religion -- both the free exercise part and the non establishment part) is that people do have strongly held beliefs. In colonial times, people came to blows over religious doctrine. So The First Amendment said government could not prevent someone from freely exercising their religion, but simultaneously, no one could be compelled by the state to follow any religion.

      I think the helmet issue has taken on a religious fervor. So if you want to wear a helmet, feel free to do so. You can even encourage me to join your religion (which you are doing). But I don't have to join (which I am not doing). I appreciate your concern though. I really do.

  3. I hardly think wearing helmets has reached a religious fervor! And personally I don't really care if you wear one or not. To each his own. What I do care about is when your decision suddenly effects me.....which my risk assessment says it likely will.


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