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Home » Cycling » The Silliest Argument there is for not Wearing a Cycling Helmet on a Bike: They Increase the Chance of Injury.

The Silliest Argument there is for not Wearing a Cycling Helmet on a Bike: They Increase the Chance of Injury.

November 2018
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I read an article that touched a nerve. This is the last line:

Feel free to use your head as you see fit.

I commented on the article by adding, “Including as a means of stopping your bike”…

There isn’t much that gives me the vapors like the argument that a bicycle helmet shouldn’t be worn because it increases the chance of injury in a bike crash because the whole argument against helmets is predicated on the absurd notion that if one simply rides like a grandma, one won’t ever fall over because they’ll never encounter an unexpected situation. And the reason it drives me nuts is I used to think that way, right up until my eight year-old daughter fell directly in front of me – it was either I go down or I run over my little girl. I chose to go down and when I did, missed the pavement with my noggin by less than an inch. The fact that I didn’t split my mush was pure luck, nothing more.

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On the other hand, I know why the argument is made – and that’s what’s important; the ridiculous idea that a government should make helmets mandatory. Hell, the idea that a government can make wearing a bicycle helmet mandatory – or that politicians believe they have the right to regulate the lives of people to such a tiny degree is simply disgusting to me. This shouldn’t come as a surprise once you know I live in the United States. Most of us, at least those who paid attention in our history and political science classes, feel uneasy about government rule, as should be the case.

Actually, let me amend that paragraph… In Europe, South America, and Canada, over-regulation is expected. It’s the norm, so the notion that a population of people should be the petri dish for politicians bent on regulating the lives of their constituents to a point where all they have left to worry about is being happy and following all of the f***ing rules is nothing new. In the United States, it’s something of a turn (excepting California and New York, of course – residents of New York are so stupid they don’t know how to drink soda pop or put salt on their food. They need politicians to regulate those things for them… heh).

Before I go off on a tangent, which I’m precariously close to doing, I wanted to take a moment to interject some sanity into the discussion because if you don’t know how the argument works, you may end up believing something that simply isn’t true.

Let the silliness commence:

in NYC despite increases in helmet wearing they found the grand sum of zero safety benefit, in fact safety went backwards post helmet wearing and post rules for children. So we do know what happened after helmets became more commonplace. You can repeat this in every country you choose to look at incl UK where helmet wearing has increased significantly.

Zero safety benefit? We could call this, “what good people do with bad information”. Exhibit A:

My friend’s melon still looks the same after the accident that cracked his helmet. Here’s the helmet before the accident, lest someone gets the idea that he was a noob who didn’t know how to properly ride his bicycle:

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The jersey says “National Champion”, and it was actually earned. That’s not a “Fred’s Smokehouse Ride through the Park Champion” jersey. I’ve heard him explain that his helmet saved his life and I believe him. I have two more friends, both who cracked their helmets – one had a guy’s chain brake in front of him, the other simply passed out because he was dehydrated… neither had lasting injuries or repercussions because they were wearing a helmet. Zero safety benefit? To claim that is simply wrong.

Another favorite of mine is the canard that cyclists will ride in a manner more dangerous to their health if they wear a helmet; the old “they feel impervious to injury” argument. What a trailer-full of horseshit. The argument assumes that, if we’re not going to wear a helmet, cyclists will trade in their 15 pound race bikes for a beach cruiser with a bell and a basket on the front where we can neatly store our balls when we go for a leisurely cruise around the block to burn twelve calories. They assume a cyclist will turn into a bike rider if they don’t wear a helmet… Wrong.

That’s not what happens. We cyclists don’t trade in our balls for a leisure bike with tassels streaming out the handlebar ends. No, we ride as we normally would, just without a helmet. And the rare accident increases exponentially in severity. Instead of a broken collar bone, we end up with brain damage and the need for a nurse to change the diapers we now require because we have a tendency to crap our pants.

Folks, you can buy stupid if you want, but don’t expect me to jump off the “stupid” cliff holding your hand – even if you do think it’ll be a soft landing.

No thanks.


12 Comments

  1. The Omil says:

    I agree – I realise that wearing a helmet will not stop me breaking a collar bone so I don’t think a helmet will make me ride less carefully. I won’t ask where you stand on compulsory seatbelt wearing in cars (isn’t that law in 49 states and compulsory for under 18s in all 50?).

    • bgddyjim says:

      As far as I know, you’re right. I use a seat belt like I wear a helmet but it’s not the government’s job to make sure I’m not stupid or to use my stupidity as a money making scheme.

  2. theandyclark says:

    Totally agree that everyone should wear a helmet. I’d like to see some proof that helmet wearing makes people lazier about safety and it needs to play games with the statistics (so nothing like [made up example her] “:there are three times as many bike accidents among helmet wearers when they account for 20 times as many biking miles”). They are called accidents for a reason and things happen that aren’t under your control. There are obstacles on the road, you get caught in weird weather, other people do things you would never guess at, your chain breaks on you, …

    In my case, I failed to anticipate how slick a train track can be in the winter. It turned out to be iced and I was down in the blink of an eye. I smashed my helmet quite nicely and it would have been my skull. Ok, so now I know to be very careful crossing tracks. Without the helmet that would have been a very expensive lesson. Maybe casket or wheelchair for life expensive.

  3. biking2work says:

    Aside from the protection from unintended self caused falls, I see the need too but that’s because I choose to wear one. I reckon that the reason that the injuries & mortality goes up in countries where it is compulsory to wear one is due to a combination of possibly more people riding and the failure of people driving to pay any attention at all. For me as a father of 2 & a husband to an outstanding, it’s worth taking every precaution

  4. unironedman says:

    The anti-helmet brigade. I put them in there with anti-vaxxers, and the group that read an article once that said some driver died somewhere because he was wearing a seatbelt, ipso facto ALL seatbelts are inherently dangerous. Too smart for their own good.

    They enjoy selectively reading whatever might prove their point. Confirmation bias, in modern parlance. And then that’s rehashed out there on social media. And of course, their views will always find a foothold; in fairness, most cyclists have a libertarian streak, and while I applaud this, that shouldn’t extend to risking your health. We’re not free-soloing El Capitan here, or jumping out of airplanes; those are risky exploits by experienced professionals.

    When the average joe is cycling around on a modern bike on a public road without a lid, they are putting themselves in harm’s way, and their behaviour, by extension, encourages younger cyclists to take similar risks. If you’ve seen the mess NOT wearing a helmet looks like, then you will stop talking out of your arse.

    • bgddyjim says:

      Great points – especially the one about seeing the mess created by not wearing a lid.

    • biking2work says:

      To be fair to the anti helmet brigade, they do have a point when you consider segregated cycle ways adjacent to motor traffic like in the Netherlands and cities such as Copenhagen. You don’t see many Dutch wearing a lid while cycling but that’s because the risk for a HI is much lower in this circumstance. I think that this may cloud their thinking but for anyone riding in traffic with any sense should know better.
      Anecdotally, mandatory use of a lid increased HI morbidity rather than mortality in my ICU back home further increasing the burden on the public purse and the plight of survivors’ families and loved ones. Some may choose to die rather than live with a catastrophic head injury. Having stated this, I will always take the risk of a HI than being 6ft under earlier than is necessary. Beside which, I don’t have much hair so a wearing a lid doesn’t mess me around at all 😅

  5. saoirsek says:

    And the Darwin Award goes to…The anti-helmet wearing brigade😡😡

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