The vehemence with which the bicyclist opponents of bike helmet use attack the practice of wearing one makes me wonder if they secretly (or not so secretly) feel they might be wrong about not wearing one. They feel the need to state (even screech) over and over that helmets HURT CYCLING! DO YOU UNDERSTAND!? HELMETS ARE BAD, VERY BAD, NOT GOOD! GET RID OF YOUR HELMET AND REALLY HELP CYCLING TO GROW!
Sorry, I've just been following this thread on another cycling site. The helmet debate heats to a boil instantly. Each side throws its statistics at each other. Then the snide meter goes through the roof.
I hate wearing my helmet. But then, the designers of the Titanic hated how their pretty ship would look with a bunch of fugly lifeboats all over it. The vast majority of ships make it to harbor without ever needing lifeboats. If you have a good ship and know how to operate it, you'll never need those lifeboats anyway. Lifeboats, in fact, give the impression that SHIP TRAVEL IS DANGEROUS. Ticket bookings drop precipitously when potential customers think they might be in danger out there. And if you've ever actually been in a lifeboat, you will surely agree, those things will only save your life by the wildest stretch of luck. They're so small, in that huge ocean. Every passenger should have the choice of bringing their own lifeboat if they feel it will enhance their safety. The poor misguided sods.
Brothers and sisters, people started to stop riding on the streets in the 1980s, long before there was a thriving bike helmet industry. Their perception of the danger stems from large numbers of pushy bastards shoving ever increasing numbers of vehicles through curb-lined death canyons in city and suburb. In fact, cyclist numbers began to drop well before the advent of the SUV. Maybe things were different in some specific regions, but in general many industrialized countries spent the 1980s falling out of love with the bicycle. Why do you think those of us who rode through that period are so shell-shocked and bitter? We believed all that 1970s horse shit about peace and love and ten speeds. We knew from experience that a better life was as close as our local bike shop and your own streets and roads. And the vast majority of our fellow citizens couldn't shit on us enough.
The tide seems to be turning, hallerlooya. A whole bunch of people have suddenly gotten the word, and that's good. I'm willing to bet that a large number of the people in the helmet debate weren't there from 1975 to the present.
Skimming the principal (and possibly only) study by Dr. Ian Walker regarding motorists overtaking cyclists with and without helmets, I see only points of departure for further, better organized and targeted studies no one will ever undertake because of the trouble and expense involved. For instance, Dr. Walker states that motorists passed cyclists much closer when the riders were farther out in the lane, "contrary to what many experienced cyclists believed would happen."
Dr. Ian, I don't expect motorists to give me more room when I cover the lane. I either intend to block them completely until it is safe for them to pass, or I'm just trying to gain myself a little more escape room when something big decides to wedge in beside me.
Dr. Walker states that helmets do protect the head in low speed crashes. Because of this, he says, they are good for children, but of dubious benefit to adults. Of course. Adults never ride slowly. Here's an idea: as soon as you get up to a really safe speed you can take your helmet off and put it on the rear carrier until you plan to slow down again. "Please return seat backs and tray tables to the upright position and fasten seat belts as we make our approach to the runway."
I know a lot of slow adults. Indeed, many of the "street clothes cyclists" who make the loudest noise about the massive benefits of riding helmetless make a big point about how they ride upright bikes in a non-strenuous way: SLOWLY.
None of this would draw my interest except for the ululating of the faithful on both sides of the battle lines.
"Ayeyeyeyeyeyeyeyeyeye!! Death to helmets!"
"Ayeyeyeyeyeyeyeyeyeyeye!! Death to the naked-headed!"