Fit Philosophy

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Location: TUCSON, Arizona, United States

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Consider this argument against requiring helmets for bicycling:
  • Individually a good bike helmet limits head injuries from crashes. Most cycling accidents do not involve collisions with vehicles. Those that do are frequently fatal, and a bike helmet will not save your life in a serious auto accident.
  • Statistically, however, injuries and deaths while cycling are a vanishingly small percentage of all accidents and an even smaller one of fatalities.
So, bicycling is so safe that helmets don’t make a noticeable difference statistically.

But programs and policies that encourage or even require the use of helmets tend to reduce the number of people using bikes for transport and recreation. This effect is caused both by implying that cycling is dangerous and by resistance over the “inconvenience” of helmets or perceptions about fashion.

However, bicycling is the most efficient form of exercise. Increasing cycling is the best and fastest way to promote greater movement in the population and so produce improved health and all the other benefits of physical activity.

If you bike without a helmet, you are likely to suffer head-injury from any fall or collision. But that’s just personal. 

The number of injuries of any sort while cycling is statistically outweighed by the value of more people riding bikes, or riding the ones provided by publicly-subsidized bike-share installations in many cities.

Conclusion: the advantages of increased cycling are too great to be limited by helmet laws or even promoting helmet use.

Are you convinced by this argument? If so, it follows that wearing a helmet is just self-protection, like insurance. As a matter of public policy encouraging and simplifying cycling is all that’s justified. The matter of medical costs is a wider issue which would have to include riding motorcycles, ATVs, and so on.

[In this article I’ve excerpted and compressed a couple of recently published commentaries and studies --John Bailiff]