Daily Archives: February 10, 2009

Bicycle helmets, threat or menace?

That is a humorous title, but the subject is not funny.

[rant]Right now the only PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) we as cyclists have is the common bicycle helmet, designed to protect the brain from serious injury when stopping the head in a fall from a bicycle. with an impact speed of 12.5 MPH. The area protected isn’t that much, the top of the cranium extending to a band just above the ears. Except for a few models of DH MTB helmets and BMX helmets anything from the ears down is unprotected from anything except as the result of the helmet extending from the skull to absorb energy in a fall. You might as well be naked because there is no protection provided by the rest of your clothing at all, the typical cycling jersey and shorts have all the impact resistance of, well being nude.

Part of that is because of the tradeoff for the more immediate threats to well being while on a bike, which is heat injury and sun injury, impact injury coming much later than that. Seriously more cyclists are sent to ERs by heat injury than motor vehicle impacts, by at least an order of magnitude, and that’s with clothing designed to keep cyclists cooler while they ride. I don’t think anyone would seriously ask cyclists to stop wearing shorts and jerseys, but they have the World Naked Bike Ride every year to bring people’s attention to how vulnerable riders are to impacts with motor vehicles. (Portland’s WNBR is legendary.)

Any way getting back to helmets, they are designed as I posted earlier for a 12.5 MPH impact vertically but 0 MPH horizontally. They are designed to protect your head if you fall off the bike, like if you got your foot caught in the pedal when you stopped, or something like that. That means even in a single bike wreck and no other vehicles involved, even if you are wearing a helmet it really isn’t a whole lot of protection, once you get up to speed.

So with that level of protection why bother? Because like I posted repeatedly in the years I have been writing this blog in various blog support sites, bike helmets are the best we have to protect our brains from impact damage. Not wearing one lessens your chances of survival in a wreck, however infinitesmally that is. I think you should wear one every time you ride.

So, then it should be a law, then? Not on your (or anyone else’s) life! The level of protection vs the level of inconvenience is way too low to require bicycle helmets by law. They don’t even provide a satisfactory level of protection in wrecks without vehicles, just riding along and say losing the front wheel in a patch of sand and falling. Throw one up against the speeds and mass of a motor vehicle and they are nearly useless. My wreck is a good example of that. I still write well enough, but my speech sounds like I took the short bus to school instead of having been an award winning spoken word poet for years just before I was hit with the truck. My helmet functioned perfectly in all the impacts we could trace from examining it after the wreck, which by the way greatly exceeds the design standards for bicycle helmets. Bicycle helmets are designed for a single impact, if you hit your head again you better make sure you change helmets first or turn your head so that you hit a fresh spot on the helmet if you get hit more than once to the head during your wreck. Anyway at some point I went beyond the capability of the helmet to prevent brain injury. From looking at the helmet I don’t know if it was when I hit the windshield with the back of my head, or when I was sliding down the road on my face, but I would be willing to bet it was rotational damage from sliding down the road on my face. BTW the damage from sliding down the road on my face is the reason why I wear a full face DH MTB helmet every time I ride my bike on the street. The itching from all the places they sewed my face back on was so bad that I bought the best bike helmet for face protection I could buy, and replaced as needed even if it meant giving up some things to afford it. I have a collection of stinky bike helmets sitting on a stand, that have given their stinky all to protect my face and noggin should I ever be hit again. Fortunately they have never been tested in actual use.

So, in conclusion, bicycle helmets don’t work very good but they are better than nothing, so you should wear one. But because they don’t work very good the government has no business in making laws that require wearing one. When helmet standards test for getting hit by a Hummer at 70 MPH and the passing levels are such that there will be no detectable brain damage (if you have brain damage that isn’t detectable do you actually have brain damage?) after bouncing off the hood, windshield, and the road, and you can ride a hundred miles in 100F temperatures without cooking your brain in the same helmet, and it doesn’t look like a fungal cap just sprouted on your head, then the government can begin to think about requiring cyclists to wear helmets when they ride. The can think again when the government pays for health care for cyclists injured in wrecks, and they can actually start doing it if they do all that stuff first, and also prosecute all drivers that hit cyclists.[/rant]

Billed @$.50, Opus (that was a long rant and gave out a great deal of advice that was very hard-earned, hence the steep price tag compared to my regular daily fare)

Back on solid food, and speaking of food the Feed

I still feel like something the momma cat drug in and the kittens tried to bury in the litter box, but I had solid food and managed to keep it down. And now that the health report is out of the way, let’s get to the bicycle portion of the report.

Continuing coverage of that really weird wreck and even stranger reporting in Seattle. Remembering Kevin Black at memorial service I’m still waiting for some kind of reconciliation between the police report and what the driver and other witnesses posted to the web.

A blotter report on a hit-and-run against a cyclist. Public Safety: Man’s body found on trail at fence by border agents The bicycle story is next to last, right before the story of a man surrendering to a cop directing traffic at a fire for the pistol whipping of his girlfriend.

A hit-and-run in the Panhandle injures a cyclist. Man Seriously Injured in Hit & Run; Suspect At Large If any of my Panhandle area readers know of a white SUV that has suddenly sported fresh damage to the passenger side of the vehicle please let your local LEO know about it, you may have an attempted murderer on your hands.

Another field test report on the limitations of bicycle helmets. Man Suffers Head Injury After Bike Crash Even when there was no other vehicle involved a helmet is not much protection at speed. But you should still wear one every time you ride, as minimal as they are they are still the only PPE we have.

And an IL rider is killed from behind by a drunk driver. Forest City bicyclist killed after being struck by vehicle I hope they add homicide charges to the ones already made.

As bike riders ride indoor trainers for more than 2/3 of a day to support ALS research, headline writers show that you shouldn’t depend on spell checkers. Bike riders peddle for ALS fundraiser The words are all correctly spelled, but you pedal a bicycle to make it go, and peddle a bike to exchange it for money. Way to go cyclists, back to school for the headline writer.

Another UK article about a bike wreck as LEO ask for more witnesses. Plea for witnesses after OAP cyclist crash I wish the Seattle police had done that instead of making things up in the Kevin Black wreck.

And our final story is about a cyclist who was wounded in Afghanistan and had a leg amputated getting assigned to the Queen’s Guard. Soldier becomes first amputee to guard Queen Good for him.

And that’s it for today, maybe more tonight if I manage to log on again.

Billed @$.02, Opus