I heart helmets…=-)

26 03 2011

Mtn biking I fall off my bike regularly...

I own several helmets and I do wear them.


Fast road riding...

I think they are great pieces of gear that can be very useful. I don’t wear a helmet 24/7. I put a helmet on when I feel the activity warrants it.

I'm a fall waiting to happen on a mtn board!

I use a few guidelines to determine if I should wear a helmet:

  1. am I likely to fall/crash?
  2. if so how fast am I going and what can I hit?
  3. is the activity more dangerous than taking a shower or driving my truck?
  4. special conditions [ie. sickness, icy roads, fog, etc…]

I was going to keep going with a logical analysis of how I used helmets to back up my whole rationale safety post. The problem is when I looked into my helmet use more closely I discovered to my dismay I am not very logical about when and why I wear a helmet…=-(

Kiteboarding helmet & impact vest for 30' high crashes!

I don’t wear a helmet at home in the shower even though it’s pretty damn dangerous:

“Nobody ever expects a home accident to happen, but a slip down the stairs or a kitchen grease fire can happen in the blink of an eye — even with careful homeowners. In England alone in 2007, nearly 2.7 million people were injured in a home accident. In the United States, injury is the leading cause of death among children and young adults and nearly half of these accidents occur in the home, according to the National Safety Council. That same group states that in 2002, there were more than 33,000 deaths and 8,000,000 disabling injuries that occurred in the home. That makes one death every 16 minutes and one disabling home injury every four seconds. When it comes to injury and death in home accidents, the leading culprits are falls, toxins and suffocation by ingested object or smoke inhalation.”

I don’t wear a helmet in my truck even though driving is pretty damn dangerous:

“Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among those age 5-34 in the U.S.1 More than 2.3 million adult drivers and passengers were treated in emergency departments as the result of being injured in motor vehicle crashes in 2009.2 The economic impact is also notable: the lifetime costs of crash-related deaths and injuries among drivers and passengers were $70 billion in 2005.”

Watch out for the trees!

Now I could just put on a helmet the moment I woke up in the AM and then keep it on until I was back in bed that night. However, I’m a wild  man. I jump into the shower each AM and lather up without a care in the world. Sure the bathroom is competing with the kitchen for most deadly room in the house, but I am so bold that I not only don’t wear a helmet in the shower I add liquid soap to the mix just to make my footing less secure. No seriously I do! If that wasn’t enough I then pad over to the kitchen [again with no helmet on] and get something to eat. Like bacon, eggs and toast with no body armour or eye protection – let alone a skid lid.

I suppose because of this crazy reckless attitude I’ve become immune to fear and after breakfast I’ll climb into my truck and get this…not wearing even a baseball cap…I’ll drive through rush hour traffic to get to a meeting.

So when it comes to sports I weigh the risks up against the crazy death defying deeds I do every AM. If the activity is more dangerous I put on a helmet and possibly some other protective gear. If not I don’t.

Now before you leave me a comment I know what someone will say…“…are you nuts you can easily slip in the shower and crack your skull open!…I wear a helmet in the shower and in the kitchen…It doesn’t bother me and if I do fall I’ll sure be glad I had it on…” This is all very true. The bathroom is indeed the most dangerous room in the house for falls and car accidents are the #1 cause of brain injuries. So I cannot deny that it’s possible I could fall and hurt myself or dent my brain in a car wreck.

And yes you are also right that it’s a bit silly for me to wear a helmet road biking when I’ve never even fallen off a road bike once in my life – yet I’ve slipped in the bathroom several times and I’ve had 4 or 5 car crashes. So why no helmet where it really matters? I’m a kook. I’ll admit it. I don’t want to look like a geek driving around town in my truck. Sure after the shower it’s the most dangerous thing I’ll do that day, but at some point you just gotta stop worrying and crank up the tunes…you know?

One of the most dangerous things I do all day and no helmet - WTF?

I’m a bit torn – my cavalier attitude aside. I mean I know a guy whose cousin’s wife’s uncle slipped in the shower at a hockey rink after a game and would have died if he didn’t still have his hockey helmet on. I guess it was cracked right in two where his head hit the water temperature knob. OTOH I’ve slipped in the bathroom, but never actually hit my head on anything. I had a full on tumble on the stairs between my kitchen and bathroom last year. I went from walking to BAM! on the ground laid out…not sure what happened and I didn’t hit my head, but I could have and it was over so fast I didn’t have time to protect my melon at all.

I guess I have to decide if I want to take risks at home and in the truck for the sake of style and convenience or be safer and wear a helmet as soon as I get out of bed. Tough choice frankly!



9 responses

26 03 2011
Rob Thomson

Very good, very good indeed…I like it…just to make the argument more water-tight, I don’t suppose you know of any stats such as ‘injuries per 100 people’ or ‘percentage of participants injuring themselves’ something, do you? There is still that niggling comeback that one could suggest: “well, there are lots of people taking showers, so x million injuries is only a very small percentage of everyone taking showers” and then they would go on, saying “and there aren’t as many people cycling, so the few that do cycle and get hurt are, comparatively, a larger percentage.”

26 03 2011
Rob Thomson

OK so I looked it up for myself, and found this webpage: http://bicycleuniverse.info/transpo/almanac-safety.html

All in all, it is all quite complex…

Notable points:

Cyclists are, depending on what statistics once uses, between 3x or 12x as likely to die as motorists, per passenger mile (difficult to be accurate on this due to “we don’t know the number of bicycle miles traveled in the U.S. annually; the sources vary so much”).

“The gain of ‘life years’ through improved fitness among regular cyclists, and thus their increased longevity exceeds the loss of ‘life years’ in cycle fatalities.”

“Worldwide, the greater the concentration of cyclists, the lower the fatality rate. That is, the more cyclists, the safer it is to cycle. By converse, the fewer cyclists, the more dangerous it is to cycle. This is a main reason why cyclists oppose helmet laws, because they’re shown to reduce the number of cyclists, and that makes cycling more dangerous for those who remain (whether they wear a helmet or not).”

26 03 2011
You don't know me

Are you wearing a seatbelt in that truck? What a geek. But you can barely tell. All of the sarcasm masks it quite well.

I do like the logic though. Ridicule helmet usage because folks don’t have fire extinguishers in their kitchens or no-slip in their showers. Good one.

Mmmm, sarcasm. Tasty.

Let’s try that again, without sarcasm (about sarcasm):

It might be hard to tell, but, even though I chafe at the notion that statistics equals logic, I do respect what (I think) you’re trying to do here, Vik. We should all take time to reflect on our decisions and behavior. As cyclists who want cycling to flourish, we should try to behave in a way that doesn’t discourage new cyclists. Frankly, I don’t think helmets are the problem. For whatever reason, folks just like driving too damn much.

And now for the anecdotal drivel: I concussed myself twice after “coming off” of my bike without a helmet before I learned my lesson. Since then my helmet has struck pavement twice, and I popped right up both times. I obviously have wretched bike handling skills, but I do love my helmet. And no, I’m not interested in having it melted onto my skull in a kitchen fire. (oops. Hard to keep good sarcasm down)

27 03 2011

@YDKM – my goal wasn’t/isn’t to get people who want to wear helmets to stop. My goal is to make process of evaluating risk in cycling congruent with the rest of our lives. If you heart your brain and want to protect it I can’t argue with that, but wouldn’t you want to do keep protecting off the bike for other activities at the same risk levels?

@Rob – stats are challenging at the best of times and yes there are more people who drive than bike, but ultimately I think we can agree that cars and bathrooms are very dangerous when it comes to smashing your head. It could be argued they are a little more or a little less dangerous than I’ve stated, but you can’t argue they are not leading causes of brain injury. So it would seem that if you are prudent about your brain on your bike you’d continue that prudence in your car and your bathroom.

27 03 2011

I’m really enjoying these posts, Vik.

There’s that old saying: “There are three types of lies; Lies, Damn Lies, and statistics”.

3x or 12x as likely to die as motorists, per passenger mile does sound pretty dangerous… until you consider the relative speeds (and thus the distance travelled by the two modes in a given amount of time). If the average motorist may very well travel 3x to 12x faster than a cyclist it all kind of evens out in terms of likely hood of dying per hour traveling, huh?

Here’s a few more lies (I mean… “statistics”) for you; According to Transport Canada over the last decade there’s about 40-70 cyclists killed every year – which amounts to about 1-2% of road deaths. According to Stats Canada in 2006 1.4% of adults road to work regularly by bicycle. So if the mode share is 1-2% and the death rate is 1-2%… one would think your about as likely to die on a bike as you are in a car. Dangerous…? I don’t know….

I know the Heart and Stroke Foundation claims that 60-70000 Canadians die of heart disease… Considering that- is it more dangerous to ride a bike than it is NOT to…?

I wear do a helmet. Pretty much all the time I ride. That’s my choice, based on when and where I ride. Not making any claim that I am saferesterer than anyone, however, and I’m certainly not going to tell anyone that they should be legislated to do the same.

27 03 2011
Rob Thomson

@Vik – Yes indeed. I agree with your logic. Furthermore, all the stats point to an increased rate of bad bicycle accidents the less cyclists there are on the road (incidentally, a large factor in the decrease in cyclists is helmet use, as we all know). Or, put another way, increase the number of cyclists, and the proportion of accidents to cyclist numbers decreases. Try that trick with cars!

27 03 2011
Micheal Blue

I use my bike helmet when it’s slippery outside – snow, ice.
I also wear it when it’s raining, as the MEC rain cover turns the
helmet into a great rain gear thing.
Today I bought a new helmet – Specialized. It’s one of the few
cycling helmets that are Snell certified (it was also 3x as expensive
as a regular helmet). Is it nuts to spend so much on a bike helmet?
Perhaps only God knows. Snell certification is certainly more thorough
and tough.
This winter I had three falls. A slip on a railway crossing (very slippery plastic cover), slip on black ice (my head hit the pavement…I had a helmet on), and a slip on streetcar tracks.
I also prefer wearing the helmet when biking outside of Toronto. Some of
the roads I take are unpaved roads that are not exactly smooth…

28 03 2011

I’ve said it in other places, but it bears repeating. The main reason I wear a helmet when I commute isn’t for safety. It’s for the illusion of safety to others… aka, if some nimrod-on-a-cellphone runs me over, I don’t want my not wearing a helmet to be a point of contention that could prevent my wife from being able to sue the bajeezus out of the driver…

25 04 2011

bc is a nanny state like australia.
nanny telling you what you can do what you cannot do.
nanny protecting you from cradle to grave.
nanny getting involved into anything of your private life.

look at holland and denmark where bikes are used by the majority of people as a means of transportation. noone uses a helmet there because biking is a very safe and healthy activity.

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