I bought a new helmet …

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This past weekend, there was a horrific cycling accident in my area. Two experienced road cyclists were hit head on by a car while descending a steep, windy, mountainous road north of Pemberton. Although they kept in their lane, the car swerved into it at one of the sharp corners. The cyclists were immediately killed, along with the passenger in the car. The driver, who was allegedly drunk at the time, was spared, and flown to a nearby hospital.

This accident has shaken the local cycling community. The same day, I completed a 170 km ride on what I would consider a “safe” highway. Although there was traffic in some areas, there was also a sizeable shoulder at the side of the road. I never felt unsafe, despite many fast descents where, whenever possible, I used as much of the right hand lane as I could. I felt safe, but after this weekends accident, I question whether we are ever really safe from reckless, hurried drivers?

The next morning, I awoke questioning what, if anything, I can do to be safer on the road. I can slow down, take fewer risks, wear more colourful clothing, travel quieter roads, and always wear a helmet.

I have two helmets. An light, cool and expensive one I wear on the road bikes. And, an old but comfortable Bell helmet that I wear when commuting. It’s old. Maybe 15 years old. Too old! There is no consensus, but is generally agreed that helmets need to be replaced every 3-5 years. The protective materials begin to break down, and the newer technologies are lighter, stronger, safer and cooler to wear.

Clearly, helmets would not have saved these two cyclists. They likely were likely wearing excellent helmets. But it is one thing we can all do to help protect ourselves.

Last evening on the way home, I stopped and bought a new road helmet, one I can wear with all of the bikes. It is not top of the line but very comfortable, well ventilated, and reasonable light. And, considerably safer than the helmet it replaced.

Do you wear an old helmet? If so, I would suggest you replace it today.

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29 thoughts on “I bought a new helmet …

    • They are the worst. If I can’t see the road ahead, I slow down. I’ll be even more careful now. You don’t expect to encounter a drunk driver on the road at 11 am. Be safe!

      • I KNOW! A guy died at the Horsey 100 in Kentucky, same story – drunk driver crossed the yellow line at 2 pm and hit a cyclist head on. Fortunately, we’re on back roads almost all of the time. Stay safe too brother.

  1. That’s so sad. A drunk driver is lethal and there’s nothing you can do to protect yourself from them.

    I don’t wear a helmet but it’s not a decision I made lightly. There’s some evidence that motorists give a wider berth to cyclists who do not wear helmets – http://www.bmj.com/content/346/bmj.f3817

    In any case, I have also heard that helmets deteriorate and it’s good to replace them every now and again. Have you seen the invisible helmet?

    • I am beginning to expect thoughtful, insightful comments from you 🙂

      I know it is controversial. Cyclists I know do not believe a helmet makes any difference. I had a “minor” concussion once. I passed out after a swim and hit my head on a bench cutting me for 15 stitches. I still have symptoms and that was 20 years ago. So, I wear a helmet knowing that even a “minor” hit on the head can be debilitating. So, I would encourage you to wear some protective gear.

      I had not seen this video but had heard of the research into the “invisible” helmet – a wearable air bag. Good things happen when you put women to work 🙂

      Thank for the comment.

  2. Just changed mine a month ago. Had a scary ride in Majorca recently. Out to the Cap Formentor, coming back many drivers, presumably just trying out their hire cars, were all over my side of the road, then a woman stepped out in front of me on a blind bend without looking, camera in hand, missed her by centimetres. Very worrying and all out of my control.

    • I’m glad you like my new helmet 🙂 I forgot to mention it matches my new shoes, gloves, and the rest of my kits. I have this black and white them going on. I have worn it the last 2 days and am amazed at how much more comfortable it is that even my good one. Thanks 🙂

  3. I just bought a new one this season to because every time I ride I imagine my husband explaining what a massive brain injury is to my kids in the event of a bad crash. Thanks for spreading awareness!

    • I know only too well what a knock on the head can be like. I had a “minor” concussion once. I passed out after a swim and hit my head on a bench cutting me for 15 stitches. I still have symptoms and that was 20 years ago. So, I wear a helmet knowing that even a “minor” hit on the head can be debilitating. And, good for you for purchasing a new helmet 🙂

  4. It’s a terrible tragedy, and should never have happened! From what I heard, the driver was driving with a suspended license. Maybe drunk drivers should have their cars taken away; it seems that taking their license doesn’t stop them.

    Stay safe!

    • It is tragic. I don’t know what to do with drunk drivers. In my opinion, it is completely irresponsible and they should not be let back on the road. And, if they kill someone, they should be charge criminally, and put away. It may not have been intentional but when sober they understand the consequences.

      And you too. Be safe, and wear your helmet 🙂

      • Good for you 🙂

        Often woman are reluctant. They don’t like the look, or what it may do to their hair. It’s not worth it. What seems like a minor hit on the head may prove to be quite serious.

      • I’m sure more women are reluctant to ride because of danger from vehicles than because of any worries about their hairstyles. I’m neutral on helmets because I grew up when nobody wore them, and because helmets do nothing to prevent injury and death from accidents like the one described in this post. And I think that the emphasis on helmets puts the onus for safety mostly on the shoulders of cyclists, when driver awareness campaigns and improved infrastructure (such as separated bike lanes) would go a lot further towards protecting cyclists. Nobody wears a helmet in Amsterdam or Copenhagen, as far as I can tell.

        However, as I said, it’s not that big a deal to wear one and it might possibly prevent some injuries, so I do now 🙂

      • I would certainly agree that driver awareness training and infrastructure improvements have a much greater impact for the urban cyclist. I use the Vancouver bikeways all of the time and feel more comfortable on the road as a result. And, I encourage more municipal investment in the program despite the inevitable opposition from drivers and local businesses. I cycle more today than ever because of the traffic calmed streets and dedicated bike lanes.

  5. Man, that’s awful. I wish people took their responsibility as drivers more seriously. A lot of lives could be spared.

    On a happy note, I picked up “It’s All About the Bike”, from the library today and I am already 45 pages in 🙂

    • There is not a lot we can do to guard against irresponsible drivers except make them more aware and, for urban cyclists, improve the infrastructure – dedicated bike lanes, traffic calmed streets …

      I hope you enjoy the book as much as I did 🙂 Let me know once you have finished it.

  6. That is terrible! I had one hell of an argument with my husband to get a safer helmet (his didn’t even have the sponges anymore or the strip behind the head where you pull it in to fit…). So after getting opinions of fellow riders he now has a safe NEW helmet 🙂

  7. Ah the helmet debate. Rachel, who I see commented and I debated this issue recently. I’m very pro. Like you I had a bonk on the head, mine bike related and cracked the helmet I was wearing. I was doing about 10 mph and a van about 20 when he cut across me. I went over his bonnet and head first onto the pavement. The doctor said nice things about what found have happened but for the helmet. I’d make them compulsory, frankly, especially for kids. And while I like the Dutch approach, namely separate infrastructure for bikes, it still doesn’t stop coming off the bike. Nice blog btw. Just over from Rachel’s

    • I’m with you on this. As much as I like and respect Rachel, there is no argument for not wearing a bike helmet that makes any sense. As we have learned, a small bump on the head can be debilitating. As I said to her, I would rather see the energy, effort, and money directed to developing safer infrastructures for cyclists.

      Thanks for the follow, and I look forward to your posts.

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