Today’s Headlines

  • Deadly Hit and Run Suspect Arrested (CBS, LAT)
  • An Articulate Well-Researched Defense of Helmet-Free Bicycling (Howie Chong)
  • LACBC Interviews County Supervisor Candidates: John Duran, Rudy Melendez
  • Eagle Rock Needs More Places To Sit (Walk Eagle Rock)
  • In Defense of Purposeless Walking (BBC)
  • In Defense of Walking to Be Creative (NYT)
  • Blue Cross / Blue Shield Sponsors Chicago Bike Share (SB Chicago)
  • SF Mayor Sympathetic to Parking, Not So Much to Riding Transit (SBSF)
  • Welcome, Jason Islas, to Santa Monica Next

Get National Headlines at Streetsblog USA

  • True Freedom

    Howie Chong’s piece is utterly stupid. People who don’t understand statistics tend to make grossly incorrect inferences from statistical data.

    I will wear my helmet.. and if you have any common sense, you’ll wear one too.

  • Herbie Huff

    I really appreciated the Howie Chong piece! Thanks for linking to it. The truth is that 1) there’s no evidence that riding a bike endangers your head more than walking or driving and 2) it’s impossible to do a controlled experiment on the efficacy of helmets because of selection bias in the type of people who wear helmets and the type of riding that they do.

    Howie Chong researched and wrote carefully, and I found his perspective and writing style refreshing. I love riding bareheaded, and I do think it harms the bicycling culture to have a guilt trip ensue every time I show my bare head.

  • Wonderful, and please do wear one if that is your desire. But be well aware of the limitations that piece of foam has in protecting you, and stop making the wearing of one manditory as it is proven to keep more people on the couch where they are more likely to die. Please also follow the money to an industry that grew from scratch in 1970, and absoultely do NOT use helmets as justification for not building the bike infrastructure the USA should have been building since 1970.

  • spijim

    Oh the irony of calling other people stupid . . . judging from Chong’s academic background I’m pretty confident that his understanding of statistics is at least as good as yours.

    There is a time and place for helmets and that’s generally when your activity is high risk. Mountain biking, road racing, BMX, etc are all high risk because they’re high speed with a high chance of a fall/collision. Riding down the street to the store is neither high speed nor high impact nor high risk.

    Besides, the idea that helmets protect your brain (as opposed to just your skull) is what’s really ‘utterly stupid’. Just ask the NFL how well helmets have prevented TBIs.

  • Kenny Easwaran

    The problem with the Chong piece is that it doesn’t draw the important distinctions between helmet laws (which are very bad, because they discourage cycling and give motorists a false sense of security) and actual helmet wearing (which is good, because even though it makes cars pass you slightly more closely, it will protect against a larger fraction of falls than it will cause). He’s right to point out that helmets aren’t as protective as one might think, and that they do contribute to slightly more collisions because of subconscious risk compensation, but he doesn’t make any plausible case that those effects are greater than the actual protective effect.

  • True Freedom

    Well, while Yale is a well respected school, I cannot vouch for Howie’s pedigree in statistics with a focus on Forestry and Environmental Sciences. Even though my graduate degree from a top three engineering school focused on statistical inference, I would hesitate to say, de facto, that my understanding of statistics is any better or worse than Howie’s.

    What I will say, is that I disagree with the causal relationships and entailment he asserts in his piece.

    Relative to your comment, you say that there’s “a time and place for helmets and that’s generally when your activity is high risk” such as mountain biking and BMX and that riding down the street is low risk.

    What we have here is something that can be analyzed using decision theory. I might agree that riding down the street is lower risk, though there are probably more factors out of your control (drivers, pedestrians, sand on road, etc)… but in addition to the risk, you have to quantify the cost. I would assert that the cost of not wearing a helmet far outweighs the cost of wearing one, given the risk. That’s my opinion.. treat your head as you see fit.

  • spijim

    I would say mountain biking, BMX, but especially touring/road racing. That is to say that speed is dangerous – not the act of riding a bike. There is nothing inherently dangerous about riding a bike at 9mph. Any real danger comes from getting hit by a car not from falling off your bike at such a low speed. That danger from cars increases dramatically while riding in traffic moving faster than 25mph. But no one has bothered to ask cyclists (or witnesses) “where were you and what were you doing when you were hit by a car?”

    After 30 years of mostly urban cycling I can say that the dozens of cyclists I know who have sustained serious injuries from accidents (none of them head injuries) have come from car doors, speeding motorists, or other high risk activity on the part of the cyclist such as lane splitting, failing to yield, taking a corner too fast in the rain, or going on long distance rides on narrow country roads with posted speed limits of 45-50mph etc.

    While these are all anecdotes there is something we do know empirically – that walking without a helmet is at least as dangerous as cycling without a helmet. Or, in other words, utility cycling is not dangerous at all and the danger that does exist comes from the same sources that make walking dangerous . . . high risk activities and fast moving cars. Risks that can be mitigated by following the rules and avoiding streets with fast moving cars.

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