[OPINION] Bikers: Wear Helmets!

A concerned “06880” reader writes:

I am fortunate to live near the beach. Houses are very close to each other. Kids have freedom to take a bike ride, and test their independence. They travel to friends’ houses on their own, and hang out at the beach. Or maybe they just go outside and pedal the day away.

I applaud kids for putting down their phones and getting some exercise. However, I am alarmed at the number of them I see riding without helmets.

I know the joy of riding your bicycle with the wind running through your hair. I know that helmets are a drag and can ruin the best style, leaving your with dreaded helmet hair. I know the feeling of a sticky, sweaty, uncomfortable forehead.

But I also know the danger that can arise from a bicycle accident. Whether it is slipping on sand or gravel, getting struck by a car or hitting a pothole and going splat on the pavement, outdoor bike riding has its pitfalls.

I implore kids and their parents to please put on a helmet — and make sure they stay on. Once a child is out of their parents’ sight, kids may be tempted to take off the helmet and let it hang from the handlebars. I see plenty of that.

Helmets should fit snugly, flat on the head, and be fastened properly. There should be no more than 2 fingers’ space between the chin and the helmet strap. Here is a video that shows the proper fit.

Click here for a list of reasons to wear a bicycle helmet. They include protecting your head, face and brain from trauma, increasing visibility, being able to see, and modeling behavior for others.

78% percent of adult cyclists and 88 percent of young riders who suffered head and neck injuries were not wearing helmets.

And if you want a visual, you can even show your kids this video:


Now get out there, buckle up — and go for a ride!

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25 responses to “[OPINION] Bikers: Wear Helmets!

  1. Richard Burton

    Yet more misinformed helmet propaganda. The link for showing the reasons to wear a helmet says “A bike helmet can save your life.” but the death rate of cyclists does not fall as helmet wearing rates increase, so that cannot be true. Death is the only reliable metric, and when the helmet laws were introduced in Australia and New Zealand, the death rate of cyclists rose, it didn’t fall. It’s much safer to ride a bike in Holland or Denmark, where no-one wears a helmet, than it is in Australia or New Zealand, where they all do. Check out cyclehelmets.org for the facts, not the fairy tales.

    • Russell Gontar

      This post asserts that wearing a helmet increases the risk of death to bicycle riders, as if the helmet was the cause of those deaths. As anyone who hasn’t recently been struck in the cranium can tell you, the post deliberately omits the fact that some riders erroneously and fatally increase their other biking risky behaviors due to their assumption that their helmets will protect them in all circumstances, no matter the risk. More risk, more death, not more helmets, more death.

      Strike one!

      • Richard Burton

        “More risk, more death, not more helmets, more death.” A rather futile distinction, if I might say so. If helmets increase risk taking and deaths, then the helmets have, at least tangentially, increased deaths.

        Since the whole argument put forward by helmet zealots is that a helmet will save your life, but the data shows that that is not true, why aren’t they being villified for their absurd beliefs and demands for a helmet law?

        • Russell Gontar

          Wearing a helmet, does not, by itself, cause anyone to do anything, directly or tangentially (I just love how you inserted that modifier. So adorable!).

          Risky riders may or may not wear a helmet, they may or may not put salt and butter on their corn on the cob and they may or may not believe that the 2020 election was stolen, but none of those things cause them to engage in any particular behavior, no matter how much you want to alternative facts it.

          Strike three!

          • Richard Burton

            “Wearing a helmet, does not, by itself, cause anyone to do anything, directly or tangentially…..”

            Which directly contradicts your statement in your previous post:

            “…..the fact that some riders erroneously and fatally increase their other biking risky behaviors due to their assumption that their helmets will protect them in all circumstances…”

            Are you new to this argument business or just suffering from a short term memory problem?

            • Russell Gontar

              There’s no contradiction here, Richard. Bike helmets do not cause people to make poor and dangerous decisions. They just don’t. But there are people who do make poor and dangerous decisions and then blame anyone or anything but themselves when things go badly. According to your “argument”, we’d all be better off by eliminating all manner of safety precautions lest some fool decide to engage in even further reckless behavior.

              Do you wear a seat belt, Richard?

  2. Mike Stuttman

    Wow, I guess I’m not surprised there is an organization that thinks bike helmets are a con. While it’s hard to find out who underwrites cyclehelmets.org and the Bicycle Research Foundation, it seems like the information is coming from the bike ride share companies who see helmets as impediment to expansion and revenue growth.

    An alternative view – https://helmets.org/negativs.htm.

    • Jack Backiel

      If you’re wearing a helmet, or not wearing a helmet, and you get hit by a car doing 75 miles an hour, it wouldn’t matter if you had a helmet or not. However, if you fall, and you have a helmet and maybe knee pads, common sense would dictate that your chances of getting less injured rises significantly! Helmets protect. That’s why baseball players wear them when batting.

    • Mike Stuttman

      To be clear I am 110% pro helmet!!

      … and very much against astroturf.

    • Richard Burton

      Ahh, the good old BHSI, dedicated to promoting helmets and bad science. The first paragraph on their website sums them up perfectly

      “We consider anti-helmet law views as legitimate and rational positions in the spectrum of political viewpoints. We do not consider ourselves “better than” those who oppose the laws, or even better qualified to make public policy, for which every citizen in a democracy is equally qualified.”

      Then they go on, with a mixture of bad science, misreading of statistics and outright lies to to effectively demand a helmet law.

  3. A. David Wunsch

    I was riding around the reservoir in Cambridge MA on my English 3 speed.
    Without realizing it, I went over the end of a short stubby stick, the sort of stick that people throw for their dogs to retrieve. The stick rose up and jammed in my spokes and the bike stopped so abruptly that I went over the handlebars.
    I landed on my helmet, then rolled onto my elbow. The elbow hurt and there was a major dent left in the top of my helmet. But my head was ok. I bought a new helmet, not wanting to see if the old one could withstand another such test. Everyone should wear a helmet. You should start your kids with one as soon as they get on their first trike. ADW Staples 1956

    • Richard Burton

      Your comment shows perfectly one of the problems which contribute to the failure of helmets to reduce the death rate of cyclists; risk compensation. You felt safe because you had a helmet and therefore failed to observe properly. Without the helmet, you would have been paying attention and would have noticed the stick.

  4. Eric William Buchroeder SHS ‘70

    Achtung!!! Achtung!!!! Virtue Signal Alert!!!!
    While you civic minded, altruistic and otherwise perfect Westspotters are at it, who wants to take a shot at today’s local art example showcasing beach strollers on 06880? The male figure depicted therein is grossly obese and that type of unchallenged gluttony not only endangers the food supply for the less fortunate, it is body shaming at its most grotesque. Shame on you and shame on those of you who do not maintain a bmi of 20 or less and those of you who shame them for not doing so. And tsk, tsk on the rest of you who don’t park where you should at Starbucks. Order a decaf venti next time and enjoy the stroll from the farther reaches of the parking lot. Don’t forget to turn off the light and leave the vent fan on when departing the unisex rest room. Be kind to Mother (excuse me, Birthingperson) Nature!!!!

  5. Eric William Buchroeder SHS ‘70

    Aaaand BTW!!!! Has that shit box on Maple Avenue been cleaned up yet? (Asking for a friend).

  6. Might be a good idea to have some safety signage in the Compo and Longshore area. Think I’ll contact Parks and Rec.

    • Eric William Buchroeder SHS ‘70

      Better yet, let’s hold a rally for bike helmets on the RSC Memorial bridge. But be sure to dress appropriately, hydrate frequently and apply sunscreen liberally (Uh, I meant Progressively).

  7. Howard Silver

    Speak with trauma surgeons and emergency room doctors who see bike accidents. They all would agree that helmets reduce head injuries. Helmets are a must for all bike riders.

    • Richard Burton

      Trauma surgeons and ER doctors are suffering observation bias, where you see what you want to see. The data is absolutely clear from decades of helmet laws in Australia and New Zealand; helmets don’t reduce the death rate of cyclists, and if anything, they increase it.

      • Russell Gontar

        It is false, reckless and dangerous to say that helmets themselves increase the rate of death among cyclists. It is not the helmet that it at fault, it is the other risky behaviors that cyclists engage in.

        Strike two!

        • Richard Burton

          You appear to be suffering from cognitive dissonance, saying one thing in one post, then contradicting yourself in another.

          This post:

          “It is not the helmet that it at fault, it is the other risky behaviors that cyclists engage in.”

          “Wearing a helmet, does not, by itself, cause anyone to do anything, directly or tangentially…..”

          Have you considered doing a course in logical argument? Or even logic?

        • Richard Burton

          Must be tough when you can’t produce any evidence, because it doesn’t exist, to support your argument, but your hubris is so great that you sign off with:

          “Strike two!”

          as if your comprehensive failure to understand the subject can be excused with an irrelevant phrase and an exclamation mark. It’s so hard to argue your point when the facts prove you wrong.

  8. Russell Gontar

    Do seat belts, airbags and unibody construction save all lives in all motor vehicle accidents? Of course not. Have they steadily and measurably reduced deaths in motor vehicles over the past 50 years? Of course they have. Would banning assault rifles eliminate all mass shootings? Of course not. Would doing so make it harder for shooters to obtain those weapons and commit mayhem? Of course it would as was the outcome of the assault weapons ban that congress passed and then let “sunset”. Have mass shootings increased since the ban expired? Of course they have.

  9. Howard Silver

    Many serious bike injuries don’t even involve cars. Hitting an object on the road, sliding on sand, hitting rock, a crack on the road, or just loosing control. Perhaps in countries where biking is the norm there are less accidents. I’ve biked in Europe, and cars respect bikers. Around here, drivers are not paying attention to bikers.
    True, helmets won’t help on a high velocity impact, but could greatly reduce serious head injuries in many biking accidents. Hopefully the posted comments won’t cause people who use helmets to reconsider.

  10. Russell Gontar

    Let me help you out here. Suggesting that helmets are “useless” if you get plowed into at 60 mph is the same kind of disingenuous response one gets from those assert that gun control laws wouldn’t have stopped this mass murder or the other. Or that suggest seatbelts make it difficult to exit a vehicle in an accident. Could that occur? Undoubtedly, but experience shows that you’re more likely to survive with the sear belt than without it.

    While not a “expert like you, I knew someone who was bumped into while riding his motorcycle in Connecticut without a helmet and sustained a traumatic head injury. I’ve seen the result of injury on the unhelmeted, up close and personal. I’ll bet you haven’t.

  11. Well, I sure never expected that a post about basic safety would lead to such controversy. We have reached the point where some people are repeated themselves. This post is closed to further comments.