Our in-house scientist gives the final word on helmets

For years, we here at Active Trans have been the proverbial rope in a tug of war between both sides of the "great helmet debate."

We've heard it all: "Everyone in helmets, everywhere all the time!" to "Helmets are a scam and detrimental to the movement!" And everything in between.

Well, we finally decided to settle the matter once and for all using SCIENCE, slow motion photography and fruit. (Melon is a fruit right? Or is it a nightshade? Awww man, did we just open up another controversy?!)


Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

Can't get shampoo through those little helmet holes

This is exactly why I make my watermelon wear a helmet whenever I drop it on the ground.

And ever since I saw that other video I've started to make my daughter wear her kevlar vest on school days -- sure she cries and kicks a lot more now when we're wrapping her in body armor and strapping her into the backseat of our Navigator, and yeah, I suppose her odds of dying in a spray of bullets from a schoolyard shooter are low, a million to one, but if we can save even one life (what? disarm the shooter? hmm) . . .

Seriously, if I were younger and smarter I might consider making bike advocacy more difficult than it already is, adding obstacles in my own path, alienating potential allies and friends and contributing to emotional misunderstandings about bicycling and health and safety, but I'm old and tired and I only really have time to help you get on a bike and ride it comfortably and thoughtfully. Promoting widespread ordinary everyday bicycling in the USA is hard enough, don't "otherize" biking more than you have to . . .

Where's the science?

Where's the science?

What a load of bull.

This article video has no place on a site purporting to promote cycling. The assertions within the content will do the exact oppisite of promoting cycling - and that really is a scientific fact.

Such grandstanding

Where in the video does anyone say it's scientific? This is all pathetic grandstanding and mental masturbation. Save it for Gawker's comments; no one will rate you higher here.

It's a memorable, funny (subjectively, to be sure) reminder that helmets do work. So wear one. Or don't. Active Trans doesn't give a s***. That's why they've fought every helmet law proposed at the state and city level since the Bike Fed was founded.

Get off your soapboxes and back on your bikes. That's what will make everyone safer. It's not as though Active Trans has never espoused that view point a million times, either.

Fact Please

Here's the thing, Domenica. I _am_ open to a frank discussion on helmets.

However, I need evidence that they work to save lives and to prevent serious injuries more than spending a comparable amount of money because we don't have infinite money.

If we spend $1 billion on helmets that's $1 billion we don't have anymore to spend on infrastructure or other safety measures.

I have read ALL the appropriate literature and I have noticed that the pro-helmet camp resorts to emotional reasoning (you never know!), personal stories, and non-real world demonstrations.

On the other hand, those who are opposed to helmets give us statistics and case controlled experiments.

Everywhere there are mandatory helmets cycling went down and danger for cyclists did not budge or more cyclists died.

Finally, there are a few cases where helmet wearing caused a false sense of safety. In one example, a person is paralyzed due to his belief that the helmet would protect him. He said, "I would not have tried that stunt [that paralyzed me] had I not worn a helmet." In other case, the cyclist killed someone due to unsafe riding. After killing someone he said, "my helmet protected, I hope the other guy was all right."

Thus, there is no evidence that helmets save a significant number of people and there are ways in which helmets actually hurt and sometimes kill people.

So if you are going to continue this discussion please show us some facts. Preferably would be some census level of data collection which can be found in the few countries kind enough to conduct these experiments on their population due to mandatory helmet laws.

the real science is here folks

the real science is here folks


Ignoring issues with

Ignoring issues with methodology, this is not the final word.

Any protection a helmet offers applies as much to pedestrians and those in cars. In the UK the killed and seriously injured statistics per mile traveled are about the same for pedestrians as for cyclists. So why aren't we telling pedestrians to wear helmets? Why are we complacent about the biggest cause of head injury, which is occupants of motor vehicles? You'd save a hell of a lot more lives focusing on car helmets.

Because people rightly make decisions on the disadvantages a safety feature affords versus:
1) The likelihood of an accident
2) The likelihood the intervention will prevent damage if there is an accident

We could don full armor every time we walked 5 minutes to the shops, but the vast majority of people would find this a ridiculous over-reaction to the actual risks involved. Everyone takes risks. It would be impossible to function without doing so.

Giving the relative risks of cycling, normalisation of safety equipment, which does nothing to reduce the risks involved, as opposed to the results of those risks, is an absurd reaction to the problem.

I don't wear a helmet to walk to the shops, and no-one bats an eyelid or thinks I don't care about my own safety. The stats do not support thinking any differently about making that journey by bike instead.

Certainly not scientific!

OK, so you claim to be scientists, right? Conducting a scientific experiment?

Surely that means you have measured everything and can reproduce the EXACT results again and again. Additionally, you also have control experiments attempting to disprove your findings, right? And finally, because you're SCIENTISTS, you went into this with an open mind, and not trying to "force" one result or the other, right? After all, REAL scientists know how dangerous expectation bias can be to an experiment.

What's that? Oh, so you didn't measure everything? You CANNOT prove that the melons were thrown with the exact same force and velocity? You didn't allow for the massive difference in structural strength between the human skull and a melon (even tried to cut through bone with a knife, life you do a lemon?)

You didn't take into account driver behaviour around cyclists, which more often than not mitigates any fringe benefits helmets may offer.

Now before you accuse me of bias, I actually ride with a helmet all the time. This is because I know what it was designed for and I have a realistic expectation of what I can expect from it.

Helmets are designed to protect from low-speed falls, involving no other vehicle. I wear mine as it could prevent me from having a nasty road rash on my head. I realise that in the event of a crash with a car moving towards me at 30mph, assuming I'm stationary, my helmet will fail and offer no protection at all.
After all, it's styrofoam, not a magic hat. Exactly how strong did you thing styrofoam was? Also, go look up real scientific studies into styrofoam - it's rather rubbish at impact absorbtion.

So please, stop doing primary-school level, pre-determined "experiments" and then try to pass those off as science.

You're being grossly irresponsible and you're deliberately misleading people.

Ow, my melon! Jump to 2:10

Ow, my melon! Jump to 2:10 where they get to the smashing :)

This is why I ride with a helmet. Also because I like to believe that it sends a message to drivers: I am taking responsibility for my safety - you should too. I oppose mandatory helmet laws, however, because I believe that wearing a helmet is just one of many, many factors that ensure rider safety on the road. Street design, driving regulation, and cycling skill, in the big picture, are more effective to that end. A helmet law implies that wearing a helmet is the only protection a cyclist needs out on the road and puts all of the onus on the rider. Still, to bypass wearing one is to sacrifice a critical opportunity.

So, if I'm going to deal with a sweaty brow and a messed-up hair-do every time I voluntarily strap on a helmet, you'd better believe that I'm also going to bother supporting the creation of better streets and smarter riding.

Thanks for the video! What's next, properly u-locking your bananas?

Not science

Your analysis is about as scientific as homeopathy. Have you considered why nations with the highest rates of cycling (NL, DK) have virtually no helmet use and have riders from 8 to 80+? Have you considered how chances of collisions can be reduced in the first place? With respect to the video, did you consider the relative toughness between a human skull and a melon?

Please go back to college and learn some "science".

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

More information about formatting options

Recent comments

Copyright © 2015 Active Transportation Alliance | All Rights Reserved | Privacy policy