Do you wear a helmet?

I don’t understand why it is so controversial.

I understand the conflicting evidence about the benefits of wearing a helmet when cycling. But no matter what the numbers, if there is a benefit, no matter how small, why wouldn’t you wear one?

The manager of one of the local bike shops I frequent is adamant there is no benefit at all. He argues, with all who will listen, that there is no evidence that wearing a helmet is any safer.

Well, I have some evidence for him.

Recently, I experienced a high-speed crash while descending a long hill. After climbing for almost an hour, I was looking forward to a long descent to recover, and rest my legs. At the crest of the hill, I stopped briefly to remove my wind jacket, rolled it up, and stuffed into my middle jersey pocket before the descent. A third of the way down, the wind jacket (allegedly) came out the of the pocket and lodged in the rear wheel, immediately stopping it from turning. At this point, according to my bike computer, I was doing 62.4 kph. The rear wheel fishtailed, I was unable to maintain control, was thrown to the ground, and rolled repeatedly down the open road ahead. I first landed on my right side absorbing the blow with my right hand, shoulder, and back of the head. Apparently, I continued rolling, scraping and cutting my forehead, lip, left hand, and knees along the way. I lost consciousness with the first impact, and thankfully don’t remember a thing until I awoke in the back of an ambulance 15 minutes later, strapped securely to a spine board.

I was fortunate. No bones were broken, and I only experienced relatively “minor” scrapes, bruises, cuts, and a concussion. The attending physician at the trauma centre where I was taken said “Have you seen your helmet? It is badly cracked and flattened at the back. It saved your life. You are very fortunate.”.

There is no doubt, in my mind at least, that helmets save lives. It saved mine. You can argue all you like that there is no credible evidence that helmets make cycling any safer, that cyclists need to pay more attention to safer cycling behaviour, and the habits of motorists must improve. I get it. There are many factors that affect a cyclists safety. However, no matter how little the benefit may be, why wouldn’t you wear one?

I learned the hard way. I experienced a freak accident, took a hard hit to the head, and would not be here to talk about it unless I was wearing a helmet.

There is no good reason not to wear a helmet.


45 thoughts on “Do you wear a helmet?

  1. Wow, really pleased to hear that you weren’t more badly injured, and hope you’re recovering well. I was convinced to wear a helmet by seeing someone come off during the Tour de France. He went over a barrier, and when he got up, he had several chunks of rock sticking out of his helmet. Presumably, they would have been sticking out of his head if he hadn’t been wearing it.

  2. I used to go without in the summer because of sync running into my eyes, especially when I had sunblock on. Modern helmets are so well ventilated for hot weather that I can wear it all year round.

  3. Wow, so glad you’re okay. That’s quite a story. I don’t cycle often, but when I do I begrudgingly wear a helmet. I say begrudgingly because I lived on my bike when I was a kid and never wore a helmet. No one did back then. But just because I survived childhood on my bike without a helmet doesn’t mean it was safe–and I certainly never achieved 62.4 kph. Of course they are protective and life-saving. Your experience is proof of that.

    • Thanks Mind Matters. Like you, I never wore a helmet when I was a kid. No one did in those days. Even when I began road cycling, I was slow to wear one. Not now. It is an integral part of my kit. Thankfully, I have more than one.

  4. The same so called arguments show up in the motorcycle world and the arguments against helmets are even more moronic. Both kinds of helmets have either saved my life or prevented from more serious injury.

    • Thanks very much. Yes. I have cycled for years and never had a crash. And I cycle with a wind jacket regularly and it has never found its way out of my jersey pocket. Unusual indeed.

  5. When did that occur??

    Pedalworks, I just get tired of hearing the anti-helmet arguments. My partner had another cyclist crash into him just 2 wks. before 2010 Olympics. In the end, the other cyclist paid for his smashed up helmet. I didn’t even know dearie was in hospital ..until he came home. I was furious, because I was home..

    I also had a concussion on Seaside path on New Year’s Day 2015 when a cyclist crashed into me as I turned a corner ..just afew blocks from home. I was on disability leave from work for 6 months. I underwent physiotherapy, plus I had to rest in bed for a few months. What instructions has the physician given to you your head during rehab?

    Take the advice not to be in front of computer for long periods of time. get lots of bed rest. The brain must heal. tHis advice from….3 doctors…including my sister who is an emergency med doctor and has dealt with concussions.

  6. BAck of my helmet was slightly smushed. My folding bike whole fork had to be replaced, etc. Do you have memory of crashing…. I don’t. Even no memory of ambulance transport to VGH. I’m glad I am not haunted by the actual incident. I just woke in pain in hospital. I was put on a spinal board in ambulance …just in case.

    • No. I have no memory of the crash. Thank goodness. The last thing I remember is my back wheel fishtailing and struggling to get control of the bike. It’s better not to remember. I’m wondering how I might feel when I get back on the bikes.

  7. Omg I’m glad you’re ok. I don’t think anyone can argue that if you bang your head against a hard surface then it’s better to have some padding around your head. The main argument is that compulsory helmet legislation does not save lives because it discourages people from cycling and the population as a whole loses that health benefit of physical activity. But for the individual it’s certainly better to have some padding if you crash. I wear an airbag – hovding – and this has much better shock absorption than a plastic helmet. But I would never criticise someone for not wearing a Hovding.

    • Thanks Rachel.

      I hear the argument but it doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. When you drive a car you are expected to wear a seat belt. Without legislation to enforce it, people would still be driving without them despite the evidence.

      I was glad to hear you wear a hovding. For the type of cycling you do, it is a very suitable solution. Perhaps one day there will be a better alternative for the road cyclist.

      • Ah but there’s no health benefit for the population in driving a car. It would probably be a good outcome if compulsory seatbelt legislation led to fewer people driving cars but that’s not likely to happen. We want as many people to ride their bikes as possible because it’s better for them and better for our cities. Compulsory helmet legislation is counter-productive for this goal.

        The Hovding can be used by road cyclists. Any cyclist can wear it.

      • That’s true. I agree full heartedly that a carless environment is healthier for all concerned – less noise, less pollution, and more interaction. I do all I can to encourage people to get out of theirs cars and onto a bike.

        This is an interesting and informative video. Unfortunately, I can’t see the Hovding taking off with road cyclists any time soon. We get hot cycling and having to wear it around the neck would not help. If they could come up with a hybrid design they may be more easily adopted.

  8. Wow man, please mend quickly and thank you for sharing your story. I can’t imagine a crash that severe. If one person wears a helmet as a result it’s a win. Feel better and I’m glad it was not more serious!

  9. Crikey, that’s some road rash. Really glad to hear you’re on the mend. I share both your frustration with being off injured and your evangelism for helmets. I landed forehead first in a mountain bike crash 5 moths ago. Whilst my bones are still healing, my helmet was cracked and dented beyond repair. I’m just entirely thankful that was not my head. Please carry on spreading the word, helmets save lives.

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  11. there are many ways you can suffer a head injury; car accident, falling down stairs, slipping getting out of the bath, playing numerous sports. Head injuries from cycling make up a tiny proportion of the total suffered by the population at large so it is hard to understand why some people have such a fixation on cycling as being uniquely dangerous.

    Why don’t those who are so convinced of their necessity wear a helmet when driving a car, walking on a wet floor, using a flight of stairs if, as you say, arguments for not wearing a helmet make no sense?

    • I’m not certain what point you are making. Many sports do require helmets – hockey, football – and cars are significantly safer since the introduction of seat belts and air bags. We, as a society, have consistently made it safer for sports participants and for those moving on our streets. You are right. We can suffer head injuries at anytime. I know. I collapsed after a swim once and struct my head on a bench sending me to the hospital. But when the danger is known, we have struggled to protect our heads.

      • I mean that in the UK at least cycling accidents make up a tiny proportion of head injuries, around 1% I believe, yet there is no campaign to make the other 99% wear helmets. In the UK far more people are killed on the roads walking than cycling and far more again driving. What do you think the 1,000 people killed in car and vans each year in the UK and many thousands more worldwide die from? I just don’t understand why such a low risk activity like cycling attracts such vehement calls for protective gear which is of very little use if the worst does happen and a cyclist is hit by a car. You don’t wear a helmet to the swimming pool despite having injured yourself there you think someone like me whose life time of cycling has been injury free to wear one. It seems completely irrational to me

    • Thanks Leslie. I’m feeling much better now but it has been a difficult month. I’m back on the bikes (albeit a little slower) and a, travelling back to the cottage next week to close it up for the year.

  12. I am glad to hear things were not worse for you. I am happy to reach for my helmet every time I head out on the bike. It’s just become second nature for me now. I am happy to have others decide for themselves, but for me it’s not something I think about any more. If I was asked to justify my habit I guess I’d quote the old safety advert – before you take the risk, think about the risk you take. If I am going to fall off at anything above walking pace I want something wrapped around my brain.

    • Thanks Norman. I’m feeling much better. Even back on the bikes (albeit a little slower). Like you, I don’t think twice about wearing a helmet. It’s second nature. In this case, it saved my life.

  13. Oh my god… What?! So glad you’re okay, that must’ve been terrifying. I have a new bike now and ride it to work almost every day. I will admit I do not own a helmet…… is it an excuse that Verona’s roads feel much safer than Paris and London? No, it probably isn’t.

    • My, you get around. Italy! Pleased to hear you have a new bike and ride regularly. What happened to my birthday present – your book. Remember? You thought it may be published by August.

      • Ha, a lot happened! I went travelling, I moved to Italy, got two new jobs and started writing a short story to apply for the NYU writing program in December. Unfortunately this pushed my novel back in my priorities. BUT, maybe I can redeem myself with an early Christmas present by sending the short story when it’s done? 😀

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  16. Man, I’m glad you healed up okay! The owner of the local shop in our town is an ardent supporter of the dome cover for the exact same reason (he passed out riding, due to dehydration they think). The important one’s to talk to are the paramedics – they’ll tell you exactly how important helmets are. I won’t leave home without one.

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  18. Wow just now seeing this post! I’m glad you recovered from this. I think it’s scarier to descend! I don’t know why some people forego the helmet. There is a lot of road riding here and I see a lot of people without the helmets.

    • I know. When I first awoke in the trauma centre strapped in a spine board, the attending doctor help my helmet to my face and said “Good thing you had this on. It saved your life.” I don’t understand why anyone would get on a bike without one on. I certainly never will.

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