What's Your Excuse? It costs $40 and could save your life. What do cyclists have against helmets?

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What's this guy thinking?
Photographs by Darrow Montgomery

One winter day in 2002, Carol Tyson had no idea how badly she’d need her bicycle helmet.

She had spent the day outside in the freezing cold at an antiwar vigil in front of the White House, then went to Asylum in Adams Morgan to warm up and share a beer with some friends. From there, they rode their bikes toward a supermarket on Georgia Avenue NW. They were going to get ingredients for Spanish rice to make at her home in Petworth and take over to a friend’s party that night.

As urban cyclists go, Tyson was geared up for safety. In addition to her helmet, she had a front light mounted to her handlebars and a rear light on her seat post, as well as reflectors. As she prepared to take a left off of New Hampshire Avenue and onto Quincy Street NW, she turned to look behind her and saw an empty 66 Metrobus. The bus had just turned off its route to return to the depot.

The driver of the Metrobus behind Tyson apparently didn’t catch sight of her lights or reflectors. And the driver didn’t even feel it when she ran Tyson over, bike and all. She also didn’t notice dragging Tyson 80 feet before Tyson’s friend finally caught her attention and got her to stop the bus.

Big vehicles swallowing up young women has a familiar ring to it. Last summer, 22-year-old Alice Swanson was killed by a garbage truck making a right turn along R Street NW, just shy of 20th Street. A white-painted ghost bike still commemorates Swanson at the corner.


Her death prompted debate on blogs and Web sites about bike safety, mostly by bikers and motorists trying to point fingers. No one wanted to blame Swanson for her own death, but many noted the myriad ways in which bikers put their lives in jeopardy, either by not riding in bike lanes, or by disobeying traffic lights, or by weaving between cars.

None of those scenarios appeared to apply to the case at hand: Swanson, by all accounts, was doing everything right, including wearing a helmet.

Just a few weeks after Swanson’s death, the Washington Post declared, “[t]his is the summer of women on bicycles riding around town free as anything, wearing long dresses or skirts, sandals or even high heels, hair flowing helmet-free, pedaling not-too-hard and sitting upright on their old-school bikes….They make you think you are in Paris or Rome.”

Whether it’s because the local daily is glorifying helmetless riding or because people don’t want to pay $40 to save their skulls, this most basic of safety precautions isn’t exactly catching on. A recent study by Hunter College students determined that in New York City, only 36 percent of cyclists wore helmets. More female riders (about half) wore helmets than male riders (about a third). They found lower rates of helmet use among messengers.

No such study has focused on usage in the District. Unscientific observations of D.C.’s riding patterns suggest that about half of riders wear helmets. Riders commuting downtown during rush hour, wearing loafers and nice pants, usually wear helmets. Cyclists wearing gear like clip-on bike shoes or Lycra jerseys or padded shorts generally do so as well. In low-income areas, among messengers, and during noncommuting hours, helmet use goes down.

In the last 10 years, there have been a reported 232 bicyclist deaths in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia. Correctly worn, bike helmets are about 70 percent effective in preventing damage on impact. Mary Pat McKay, director of the Center for Injury Prevention and Control at the Ronald Reagan Institute of Emergency Medicine, says that with those odds, she doesn’t understand why so many people continue to ride without a helmet. “If I had a magic pill to prevent 70 percent of heart attacks among people with heart disease, they’d want me to put it in the water.”

OK, but drinking water is easy. It doesn’t mess up your hair. It doesn’t make you look like a fool. It doesn’t cost $40. And it doesn’t prevent you from feeling the euphoric caress of the wind running through your locks.

Of course, those are just the most oft-cited reasons for exposing your bare skull to collisions with asphalt and concrete. There are other, more creative ones too.

Our Readers Say

I wear a helmet every time I ride, but only because it is the only protective gear you can get as a bicycle rider, not because I think it will do any good. When I was hit with a truck in 2001 my helmet might have saved my life, but it didn't keep me from getting brain damage that makes speaking a real struggle when I get emotional. Bicycle helmets are designed to protect in falls from a bicycle, not against impacting a motor vehicle. Unless and until bicycle helmets will prevent brain damage against a motor vehicle impact at typical motor vehicle speeds (around here that is upwards of 40 MPH in residential areas and 65 on main roads through the city. Highway speeds are of course much higher, up to about 90 outside of major cities but fortunately traffic on highways is infrequent unless you're on a limited access highway.

Still unless a bicycle helmet can protect up to 40 MPH impact, not cook my brain, and not look like a mushroom just replaced my head, Government has no business forcing me to wear a helmet. Oh yes, add free healthcare to that list as well, when I was hit it cost me a freaking fortune in hospital bills and I got next to no rehab because of the cost and the fact that I was in a hit-and-run.
I wear a helmet when I race because its a rule. I wear one when I train to be accustomed to wearing a helmet when I race. But I don't wear a helmet while riding casually or commuting, because it is a hassle. And I don't feel that I need excuse my self, because I have thoughtfully evaluated the risks and made a decision that works for me. I have no problem with helmets, I do have a problem with the common misconception that they are a magic pill for cyclists.

"Bike safety" does not begin and ends with helmets as some would suggest. The notion that those with helmets are inherently safer than those with out, is simplistic and intellectually lazy and fails to consider the full gamut of factors that effect a rider's safety. To classify is human, and it is easy to spot and classify some one with out a helmet as unsafe. Problem solved? Nope, but it sure makes us feel nice being able to break things down in to good "biker" and bad "biker" categories.

Riding a bike comes with inherent risks (as do all things), such as death and or permanent injury. It simply isn't practical to hedge against all risk. Could I be safer if I always wore a helmet, possibly. But I could be safer still if my helmet had a face guard and if I wore knee and elbow pads and if I only rode in low traffic areas and only during daylight hours and only at speeds under 25 mph. It is up the individual to protect them best as they see fit.

If I am hit by a bus/car/truck etc. the only thing that will save my life is luck. Thinking that a 4 oz piece of Styrofoam will save your life vs a 2 ton vehicle traveling twice your speed is irrational at best superstitious at worst. Take the cases of Alice and Carol, both did "every thing right", both wore helmets, one lived one died. Different cases, Carol was luckier in her accident (if you can call being maimed for life lucky) than Alice, nothing more nothing less.

Any time I get on my bike, on some level I consider the fact that it could be my last time. I am OK with that. People who aren't ok with taking those risks should stick to other forms of transportation which by they way, carry their own risks. If you really want to protect cyclists, invest in better driver education, enforcement of auto speed laws, more bike lanes, reducing traffic in urban centers and increasing the number of cyclists on the roads (helmets or not).
some really horrifying stories. i'm not sure i believe in a helmet law but i would accept one if it ever passed. it would annoy me that most of the responsibility for being safe on the road is being placed on the cyclists (and scooter-riders and motorcyclists) themselves rather than a more equitable agreement between cyclists and drivers. i've collided with two cars on my bike, one without helmet and one with. neither time the helmet was a factor but at this point i'm absolutely convinced that it's a good idea. the first excuse from the messenger who rides a cargo bike is totally ridiculous. collisions happen way too fast to "feel the space" around you as you're falling. you don't even know what happened until you hit the ground.

i'm surprised you didn't mention amsterdam and the netherlands in your article. nearly everyone in the country bikes daily. i spent five months there and saw two bike helmets. as impossible as it sounds, people just don't get in collisions there. i think this has mostly to do with sane laws that physically separate pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists, as well as a cultural familiarity with cycling (kids get their first bikes around age 5 and never stop riding them).
<em>If I am hit by a bus/car/truck etc. the only thing that will save my life is luck. Thinking that a 4 oz piece of Styrofoam will save your life vs a 2 ton vehicle traveling twice your speed is irrational at best superstitious at worst. Take the cases of Alice and Carol, both did "every thing right", both wore helmets, one lived one died. Different cases, Carol was luckier in her accident (if you can call being maimed for life lucky) than Alice, nothing more nothing less.</em>

It seems a little odd to imply that your comment is the rational alternative to superstition when all it does is cite two anecdotes -- one of which, if you read the final sentence, is an argument FOR helmets -- and state without any proof that helmets are useless.

I hate wearing a helmet, but I do it every time I get on my bike. If you don't, well, good luck. You're right: my helmet may not save me if I get into an accident. But if you spend even a little time reading about traumatic brain injury it becomes impossible to claim that the chance of a helmet preserving your mind isn't worth the small cost of inconvenience.
I learned to wear a helmet the hard way. When I learned to ride nobody wore helmets, so when I started riding again I did not wear one. I rode nearly 6000 miles over a 20 month period without serious incident, until October 26, 2008, when I took a fall at mile 0 on the Capital Cresent trail. I was going 14 MPH.
I sustained two serious concusions, cerebral bleeding, loss of memory and a week in the hospital. I woke up in the hospital 8 hours after the incident, disoriented, sore and unable to walk. To this day I have no memory of the incident. In fact the last thing I remember was passing mile 20 of the C&amp;O.

It took a full two week to fully regain use of my hands and legs. While I am happy to say the my recovery appears to be complete, the pain, loss of time and cost to me and my family will be long remembered. Mostly I just felt stupid.

Helmets significantly decrease the probabilty of serious head injury (some say by as much as 75%), but some helmets can increase the risk of neck and spine injury. The right helmet can reduce the risk of both head and neck injury. Pick a helmet that is shaped like your head, as round in shape as possible and without protrusions, fins or flat spots that can prevent your head from rolling with your body in the event of a fall or collision. Aerodynamics is insignificant in all but professional riders. Other significant factors in chosing your helmet are fit, ventilation and peripheral vision.

I no longer have any excuses for wearing my helmet.
Tom -

Nice try on the gotchas. Worthyness of wearing a helmet is subjective not objective. Wearing a helmet 100% of the time is worth it to you, it isn't to me. Among my fears in life death and ending up a veggie as a result of riding a bike are pretty low on my list. That is just me, you perhapse are different, and that's great for you.

You sound more concerned with branding people as illinformed if they haven't arrived at the same conculsion you have, than making an effort at listening to other opinions. I know I am better off falling on my head wearing a helmet than not, never said otherwise. I don't fall often, and the times I am most likley to fall (racing and training) I am wearing a helmet.

People can't see past helmets to the bigger picture of making communities safer for cycling.
why doesn't ask these same questions about people who drive? most car accidents deaths are caused by head trauma so WEAR A HELMET 24/7
To Matt: I am not trying to "get you," instead my question is genuine. How do you respond to stories like the one you skipped over to trade jabs with Tom? Kevin writes about his serious head trauma and week in the hospital. Do you think he was unlucky?
I understand that you can't armor yourself into safety or styrofoam yourself away from death, but you can increase your odds of a healthy recovery with a helmet, right? So why not spend half as much as most cyclists spend on protecting their crotch with chamois shiny shorts and buy one? I really want to know why you think helmet free is the best way to protect yourself. Again that's not a rhetorical question.

To the author of this story, thank you, thank you, thank you for noticing the terrible timing of the "carefree, hair blowing in the breeze' bike rider portrayed in the Post piece. She sounded like she belonged not in France, or on any road, but on a sound stage for a feminine deodorant commercial.

When I was told in the ER that my femur was broken -- after it and and my noggin hit the trunk of a Nissan, I looked at the doctor and said: I wish I would have been wearing a helmet on my leg. And he said, good thing your brain isn't in your leg.

Broken bones heal (with the help of a titanium); broken minds not so much.
Wear a helmet or don't...not sure there's a real need for this article.

On a side note:
Many bikers act as if the roads were built for them--rather than for cars. When there isn't a bike lane, get the F out of the way. You might think you're Lance Armstrong, but you just can't pedal that fast. That's why you're riding your bike to work, instead of in the Tour de France.
If you ride your bike without a helmet, you are a fool. That's all there is to it.
I generally wear a helmet when I'm going anywhere further than a couple of miles. I agree that they can be effective in preventing brain injury.

But count me in as vehemently opposed to the government trying to use laws to force adults to wear bike helmets at any time. And No, I will not give you an excuse for not wearing one when I choose not to wear a helmet. If I don't feel like wearing one, I won't wear one. Any government role in protecting individuals should be in protection from other dangerous people. For example, you tell cars not to run stop signs not because it protects the driver, but because it protects people who that driver might hit. Certainly, at times the costs of caring for the injuries caused by those who take unnecessary risks is a concern and we might won't to protect our tax dollars from an unnecessary burden. Still I don't think the number brain injuries from bike accidents rises to a level that requires a helmet law.

There are a many people who would like to treat other adults as children and play the role or mommy, daddy or nanny. That's fine. If you get off on scolding other adults about helmets, go ahead and jack off your mouth to your heart's content. But keep the government out of it.
I also wanted to add some anecdotal evidence to this debate. I've been riding my bike a lot since 2001. I've fallen maybe 6 or 7 times. Sometimes on my own once in a collision with a car. Neither my head nor my helmet has ever touched the pavement or the ground in a fall.
Amanda -

I suppose Kevin was unlucky, and I think I understand you implication. But not wearing a helmet did not cause his fall.

I average 200 to 300 miles a week riding my bike. 90% of those miles I wear a helmet for reasons previously stated. I am fully aware of the risks of cycling in general, probably more so than most because if the amount of time I spend on a bike.

For me, short trips, eg. my commute and going to the market simply don't meet MY threshold of risk for what I feel requires a helmet. Just like crossing a busy street at a crosswalk probably doesn’t meet your threshold of risk to require use of a helmet. In both cases we would be better protected from blunt force trauma (to the head) with a helmet than without. But in each case we opt to use or not use a helmet based on our perceived risk of that situation. We can quibble over the probabilities of how likely we are to be bonked on the noggin, but that isn't really my point.

When an why I wear a helmet but one of probably hundreds of differences in the way we live our lives. There are probably risks you choose to take that I avoid and think you are nuts not to. There is no absolute correct way to live a life (despite what social conservatives say). It irks me when others impose their opinions and moralize what is really a matter of personal choice. It is after all my head, as well intentioned as you may be, I don't need you to worry over it.
antonio -

Check your local vehicle code. Bikes are permitted on all roads in the DC area, with the same entitlements as cars, except where expressly prohibited by posted signs. I am sure you have super important places to be in your car, but others have super important places to be on there bikes. Best remember it because this isn't a conversation you want to have at a stop light after driving aggressively around some riders I know.
Good points Matt. That's the pickle I'm in -- I want more people to wear helmets but I do not want a law telling them to (just like I don't want one telling people which crops are OK to smoke and which aren't, but I've opened enough can of worms today to go off on that.)

I average about that many miles a month -- and have had at least one more serious accident than you, so it looks as if my helmet isn't helping me out much in that regard.

I'm just glad we're all using our noggins to engage one another like adults.
Happy riding all -- and safe landings.
I have to say this, and I'm not going to be diplomatic about it all; bicyclists who do not wear helmets are, in the context of biking, total idiots. To anyone who doesn't wear a helmet, I wonder if you've ever cracked your skull open on concrete? Not me. Of course, that's because I've been wearing a helmet. Oh, I used to think that I was "aware of my surroundings," or that I would wear a helmet when I was going to be biking in a situation where I "might fall down," but I learned my lesson when I was hit by a car, the last time (2003) I went out on a bike without a helmet. There is simply no rational reason that a person on a bike should not wear a helmet. All the rationalizations for not wearing them come down to the premise of "oh, statistically speaking, I probably won't injure my head," when DUH! WE WEAR THEM FOR THE THOSE RARE EVENTS IN WHICH THEY CAN HELP US! You can't always be EXPECTING one of those rare, outlier experiences, but you can be prepared for them. To NOT be prepared is to be negligent to yourself and those who care about you. We have so-called "shelter-in-place" kits in the inner core rooms of my workplace. Is a dirty bomb, anthrax or nuclear explosion likely to take place in D.C.? No, it's extremely UNLIKELY, but hey, it's also totally reasonable to assume that it might happen (certainly, if it can, it will!), so why be idiotic and wait until after the 15 kiloton explosion near the White House traps you in your building to think "damn! I should've gotten some stuff together for this eventuality." We can't plan for EVERYTHING that could go wrong on our bikes, but it's exceedingly likely that anyone on a bike will eventually fall off it, or get knocked off of it, and probably not in a way that they can control (anyone who believes otherwise is either a super-athelete or martial artist, a superhero or a complete moron).

I don't think we need to have a law, but there really isn't any other way to say it: bicyclists who don't wear helmets when they ride are total idiots, immature morons, and perhaps, even, oh, I don't know, could it be....SATAN!?!?!?
Thanks for the heads up, Matt...some bikers are real tough motha uckas and i would never want to get myself into a tangle with them...this said:
the vehicle code does give bikes the same rights as cars, but bikers must "Ride with the flow of traffic as closely as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of roadway"...I was referring to the ones that do not follow this rule and take up the whole lane or ride with a the passion of Kevin Costner in "American Flyers". Or worse yet, the ones that shouldn't be on a bike 'cause they have no sense of balance and are wobbling all over the road (these folks, btw, ought to wear body armor from head to toe).
I would hate to step on anyone with my car...it would bruise my conscience--to say the least.
Anything can happen in life, however if you have a chance (even slight) of preventing a more extensive or severe injury, isn't it worth the extra effort? After all not every one who smokes cigarettes will die of lung cancer, but isn't it healthier and safer not to smoke? it should be the same with a helmet--just wear it and wear it correctly.
I don't think I need an "excuse" for busybodies as to why I don't wear a helmet and never shall. I've been cycling in Washington DC since about 1965 long before there was a City Paper or hectoring sissy busybodies telling people what it's good for them be it wearing seatbelts, not smoking or wearing helmets on bicycles or motorbikes.

I ride and collect classic 1970-80s racing bicycles, wear wool, black leather cycling shoes and cotton cycling caps. Worked well then. Suits me fine now. Unlike 99.9 per cent of my fellow cyclists in their dorky helmets, I also obey ALL of the traffic code as applies to cycles. If they're so into "safety" why can't they stop a red light or stop sign and yield to pedestrians?

So mind your own damn business.
I think that the article cherry picked the research and threw in some anecdotal examples to create a motivating story. She succeeded in creating the motivating story but failed to adequately report the science of helmets. The article is pretty close to helmet proganda but hey ... I read the article which presumably is the author's intent.

Briefly ...

There is very little evidence that mandatory helmet laws reduce mortality or injuries. Long story short, it appears that cycling is reduced with helmet use such that the aggregate statistics fail to identify the effect of helmet use. It would be interested to read whether the author feels that the benefits of helmet use outweigh the cost of less cycling -- i.e., more motorized traffic and worse health.

Helmets are designed to protect a rider from a standing two-meter fall onto a hard surface; i.e., the type of falls little kids have on their bikes. That is great for protecting you from boo-boos; but it will have a negligible effect on serious injuries.

Helmets may also cause injuries since the oblong shape creates a twisting force on the neck. Moreover, there is evidence that wearing a helmet makes it more likely for one to hit your head given a collision.

Oh ... I don't even no where to stop. I'm jumping off this carpet ride now. If you are interested in a better understanding of the empirical and theoretical pros and cons of helmets, the link below is an excellent resource.

Usually I wear a helmet. Sometimes I don't, either because I forgot, or couldn't be bothered. That's a choice I make. If I'm riding my bike to run an errand, I'll often leave the helmet at home. If I'm going for a mountain bike ride, and I forget it, I'll go ahead and ride without it. Statistically, the risk of driving to and from the trail is a greater danger than riding without a helmet. And statistically, riding a bicycle is one of the safest activities you can engage in.

Now to the separate issue justifying the personal decision wear or not to wear to your average helmet Nazi, here's my response:

Go Fuck Yourself.

There is a *huge* amount of self-righteousness coming from the "always wear your helmet" crowd, and it's quite puzzling. I can't think of another topic that generates quite as much righteous indignation as whether some stranger wears a helmet or not. It's so bizarrely irrational, it's funny.

I mean, car accidents are *far* more common than cycling accidents, and are far more common per vehicle mile traveled. More people die in car accidents than on bicycles, and wearing a helmet might well prevent a lot of those deaths. So why no deranged harping about drivers wearing helmets?

The answer is that driving a car is assumed normative behavior. Everybody drives. It's just part of life. And when 40,000 people a year are killed, that's just life. If you were to yell at every driver stopped at a red light, "Where's your helmet, sport!" people would rightly think you were off your fucking rocker. But it's completely acceptable to harangue total strangers, so long as they're engaged in risky fringe behavior, right?

Most folks assume cycling is daredevil behavior, even many (perhaps most) cyclists. So anyone who doesn't wear their special safety gear clearly has a death wish. After all, that woman who was crushed under a metro bus credits that 3oz piece of styrofoam on her head with her survival. Who would know better than her, right?

Totally ridiculous.

"bikers must "Ride with the flow of traffic as closely as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of roadway""

Right, but the catch here is that it's the cyclist who gets to determine what "close as practicable" means. If we're talking traffic lanes that are narrow enough that a car cannot pass a cyclist safely, then the cyclist is entirely justified in taking the full lane. The majority of urban streets fit this profile.
"the vehicle code does give bikes the same rights as cars, but bikers must "Ride with the flow of traffic as closely as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of roadway""

That section only applies when the lane is wide enough for a bike and a car to ride side by side within the lane. DC code specifies that a lane has to be a minimum of 12' to be sharable, and cars must allow at least 3' clearance when passing bikes. Most lanes in DC are 8-10'.
the part that gets me is:
"He was about to graduate from an Ivy League law school. Now he paints houses."
wear yr helmets, kiddies, or you won't have that white collar job you should have!
what's wrong with painting houses?
IBC &amp; Nick-

you're clearly well versed in the codes of the roads and i'm willing to trust you. thanks for shedding light on what i though was my right of way...though i'm not too keen on this code, i'll respect it and try to be less "get the F out of my way" next time i'm confronted with the situation. serenity now, serenity now!
People ARE required to wear helmets in cars, but instead of "helmets" they're called "SEAT BELTS."

All your arguments against mandatory helmet laws are the same as the arguments against mandatory seat belt laws. So my question to you all is: why bother wearing seat belts? I mean, they wrinkle your clothes and make you sweat in the summer. Yeech. I hate doing things for my own good.
"People ARE required to wear helmets in cars, but instead of "helmets" they're called "SEAT BELTS." "

Wrong. Even cyclisits who don't wear helmets wear seatbelts on bikes, but instead of "seatbelts" they're called "LED FLASHERS". You may think your seatbelt protects you, but you *still* need to wear a helmet if you're going to be galavanting around town driving your car, Mr. Reckless. I don't understand why anyone would jeopardize their health over such a trivial and inexpensive thing such as wearing a crash helmet.

I have friend who was in a auto accident--so I know first-hand what happens when you're driving around carefree, and decide to leave your crash helmet at home. HEAD INJURIES!!!

If you don't give a damn about your own health, how about setting an example for the children? Enough with your recklessness! Wear a full-faced helmet while driving. Ever watch a NASCAR race? If it's good enough for the professionals, it's good enough for amateur drivers. Or do you think you're a better driver than Dale Earnhardt???
because, otherwise, you'll end up painting houses and yr mom will be disappointed in you.
In regarding helmet use,
I have a special peeve for people who moralise from the peanut gallery.
Until you are out here taking to the streets on your bicycle on a daily basis, you really have no place preaching safety practices to those of us who are. This sort of ignorant arrogance is a constant source of agitation and I would implore those who indulge in this sort of high handed blather to shut up.

The dynamics of how you ride makes a big difference. Helmets work fine if you’re careening along on a straight path at speed. If something goes wrong you’re likely to get pitched forward and a helmet will be there between your skull and the pavement. That doesn’t mean you won’t get a concussion and be hospitalized for months either, let’s not overstate the amount of protection helmets provide.

In traffic, a helmet doesn’t provide much protection from a bus, garbage truck or the typical hyper-aggressive multi-tasking Maryland driver practicing the state mandated incompetence at the wheel. What I really need is to be as unfettered and attentive as possible rather than wearing a Styrofoam crate on my head to appease a bunch of dictatorial whiners who don’t actually ride. If I get hit in traffic, I’d really rather die than have my mangled carcass kept alive-per-se by having worn a limited function safety apparatus.

I accept my mortality and owe nothing to padded cell safety device junkies who want everyone else to imbibe in their culture of fear and fear mongering. There will never be enough devices to protect us from self-absorbed incompetence. If you can’t share the road with a bicycle then you really shouldn’t be driving. It would help if the DC “police” actually enforced the cell phone laws.

I hope the city paper’s helmet law article serves to silence the wail of self-righteous, non-participant hypocrites once and for all.
- Once again, cyclists are asked to take responsibility for the fact that motorists are killing them. This like trying to reduce homicide rates by teaching citizens to do a better job of begging for their lives.

- Mandatory helmet laws do not increase safety. Google "Australia helmet law" and you will find that their 1990 helmet law decreased bicycle use (by 36%), increased the rate of non-head injuries (the number of injuries decreased by 21%, which is less than 36%, so the rate went up), and decreased the rate of head injures (the number went down by 51%). Bottom line: while the rate of serious head injuries went down by 24%, the rate of serious non-head injures went *up* by 23%. In the meantime, less bikes and more cars were on the road, resulting in extra pollution and traffic stress. There was no clear benefit to anyone other than the helmet industry.

- This article reads like a health study written by a tobacco company.

- On Wednesday this week I attended a lecture in which the bike coordinator for the city of Copenhagen said that, if they were to start their bike-use campaign all over again, they would de-emphasize public discussion of "bike safety." Why? Because increasing the number of cyclists on the road has been proven to decrease accident rates and because "bike safety" campaigns scare people away from cycling. Articles like this make biking in DC *less* safe.

- What's my excuse? I don't wear a helmet for short, low-speed, utility rides because I'd like to live in a city where utility biking is common and, as a result, low-speed biking without a helmet is considered safe. I am being the change that I want to see in the world. The author of this article, on the other hand, is... well... Let's just say that she isn't being helpful.
bicyling would be a whole lot safer if some of these people would get their fat rumps out of their cars and onto a bicycle before telling everyone else how to do something that they don't do themselves. one less car means safer roads for everyone.
- Once again, cyclists are asked to take responsibility for the fact that motorists are killing them. This like trying to reduce homicide rates by teaching citizens to do a better job of begging for their lives.

- Mandatory helmet laws do not increase safety. Google "Australia helmet law" and you will find that their 1990 helmet law decreased bicycle use (by 36%), increased the rate of non-head injuries (the number of injuries decreased by 21%, which is less than 36%, so the rate went up), and decreased the rate of head injures (the number went down by 51%). Bottom line: while the rate of serious head injuries went down by 24%, the rate of serious non-head injures went *up* by 23%. In the meantime, less bikes and more cars were on the road, resulting in extra pollution and traffic stress. There was no clear benefit to anyone other than the helmet industry.

- On Wednesday this week I attended a lecture in which the bike coordinator for the city of Copenhagen said that, if they were to start their bike-use campaign all over again, they would de-emphasize public discussion of "bike safety." Why? Because increasing the number of cyclists on the road has been proven to decrease accident rates and because "bike safety" campaigns scare people away from cycling. Articles like this make biking in DC *less* safe.

- What's my excuse? I don't wear a helmet for short, low-speed, utility rides because I'd like to live in a city where utility biking is common and, as a result, low-speed biking without a helmet is considered safe. I am being the change that I want to see in the world. The author of this article, on the other hand, is... well... Let's just say that she isn't being helpful.
Helmets are a contrivance of motorists, not cyclists, with the belief that once adorned in these stupid looking things, the cyclist becomes nothing more than a "protected" sphere in a pinball machine and thus fair game for road hogging, entitled motorists. Interesting, where cyclists and cyclists are respected (and yes they are also responsible and we need to work on that people) and integral part of an urban transport scheme as in Copenhagen or Amsterdam, NO cyclist wears a dopey helmet. Helmets are a hallmark of American "biking". They are dorky looking, proven to have little true value in anything like a real accident, discourage cycling and are another emblem of the hectoring Nanny State. The author of this 'article" needs to buy herself a Segway and leave real cyclists alone.
The only people who wear bicycle helmets are people who don't know enough about bicycle helmets.
I suspect author Tanya Snyder is getting paid by Bell Sports. Her research consisted of digging out all the tragedies she could, making biking sound as dangerous as she possibly could, and interviewing helmet promoters.

Why did Snyder not check the records to see if helmets have really helped? They've been heavily promoted for years. The data's out there.

The New York Times did an article on this a few years ago. What they found? Helmet use has gone up wildly because of scare articles like Snyder's. The amount of biking dropped - probably because of scare articles like Snyder's. But biking head injuries did NOT drop, despite all the helmets! In fact, the Times computed that head injuries per cyclist had risen significantly.

Bike helmets simply don't work. Oh, I'm sure you can find people that broke their delicate plastic hat and CLAIM it worked. But these things are fragile by design. Every slight bump - even bumps that would miss a bare head - cause them to crack and cause you to spend another $40 to $100. If the number of head injuries don't drop when lots more people wear helmets, all you've done is sell helmets, not prevent head injuries.

A final thought: According to this site
fewer than 1% of the head injury deaths in America are bikers. But about 50% of them happen inside cars. That's despite air bags.

Does Snyder wear her helmet inside her car?

What's HER excuse?
I agree with an earlier commenter, that a lot of facts and quotes seemed to be cherry picked for this story. You quote the Washington Post a few weeks after Alice Swanson's death, saying it is glorifying helmetless riding. If you had done more research, you might have found I wrote a story the week after this tragedy on <a href="http://www.expressnightout.com/content/2008/07/tuesday_learn_the_lane_laws_cycling_safe.php" rel="nofollow">cycling safety</a>.

I'm not a fan of helmetless riding either -- and nothing irks me more when I see riders wearing no helmets with headphones -- but you should have delved deeper into the issues of cycling safety. Not just an easy target, that readily sparks controversy.
@Jason -- I totally agree. One time an overweight woman riding in an SUV leaned out her window to yell at me, "Wear a helmet!" I thought about yelling back, "Ride a bike!"
I am thankful that this article has put bike helmets to the forefront of DC talk for a minute.

I ride my bike all over DC and I have done so for 3 years - mostly without a helmet.

Most of the time I flow very well with the traffic, yet I still pull some bonehead moves sometimes. I would say that I ride on the aggressive side. I have also had my share of altercations with cars.

I bought a Bern helmet recently that - I think - looks pretty cool. It does mess up my hair a bit. Yes, I do feel a tad dorky with it when I am not riding hard. But after reading this article, I truly feel that all that keeps me from wearing my helmet is laziness.

Among the several sad stories in this article, a few really hit home. The Quincy/New Hampshire accident first and foremost. I live a block away and every time I ride I navigate this hairy intersection - one of DC's worst imo. The other is the law grad - which I am also.

From now on I am resolved to wear a helmet. This decision is based on emotion in - reaction to the horror stories I have heard, and reason - knowing full well that I am not infallible.
I know at least 3 people who would be dead had they not been wearing helmets. However, I grew up without helmets, so I don't see the issue with allowing people to choose their own destiny.
This is a great discussion about bike helmets. I was hit by a car last summer. The car did a u-turn from a parking space without bothering to look back, and without signaling. The car hit me and sent me flying over the hood about 15 feet down the road. I ended up with 7 broken ribs, a broken collar bone and a broken scapula. If not for my helmet I would have also had a head injury. While you might be okay 95% of the time riding without a helmet are you willing to bet your life on it?
I was woken up at 6:19am Saturday morning to a text from a friend telling me that I was on the cover of the City Paper. I thought little of it as it was early, and my head was still cloudy from the night before (I drank beer like it was my birthday). Knowing good and well that I had no business being on the cover of the City Paper, I laid there for an hour wondering what in the hell she could have possibly been talking about. Sure as shit, though, later that day I saw it and was completely stunned. The immediate feeling was that of panic. Who?!! What!?!? It was like someone had snuck into my room and stolen all my underwear. Like a playful punch to the groin by a good friend, it didn’t make any sense. I felt vulnerable, confused, betrayed, and still drunk. Then I read the caption: "WHAT'S THIS GUY THINKING?"

Holy hell. WHAT’S THIS GUY THINKING???? It may as well have said, “Hey! Look at this idiot!!” So blunt; it cut right to the bone. Slowly the calls came in from friends having seen the cover, everyone wanting to get a good laugh in while they could. You forget how many friends you have until the City Paper puts a picture of you on the cover and calls you a moron. Having no clue how to react, I read the caption one more time and I thought, “You know what, I’ll tell you exactly WHAT I was thinking.”

Late in the night before that photo was taken, I was on my front porch employing my Tobacco-Use-Only glass pipe. Possibly due to how tired I was, it slipped from my hands, and with a beer in my other hand I was unable to grab it before it fell to the ground and shattered. It was a fitting end to my evening, and I laughed it off as I fell asleep (in my bed, not on the porch). The next morning I woke up knowing that it was going to be a warm Saturday and that I wanted to spend it on my bike; remembering that I had broken my pipe the night before, I decided it pressing to replace it by that afternoon. Deciding to kill two birds with one stone, I biked the bike path from Old Town Alexandria into Adams Morgan and visited Capitol Hemp for a new Tobacco-Use-Only glass pipe. I'm not one to usually visit such establishments, but when you need a Tobacco-Use-Only glass pipe, where else are you going to go?

I consider myself a fairly established bike rider, nothing special, but I know what I'm doing. Like many people in the article, I was a bike messenger in Richmond for years. The day that photo was taken, I spent most of my day on the bike path, and only did a small amount of riding in traffic. Trust me - I wore that helmet when dealing with traffic, but found it pointless on the bike path and sidewalks. I know for a fact that cars eat bikes, and I’m not about to let some Maryland driver put me six feet into the ground. OUTRAGEOUSLY, when that photo was taken I WAS ON THE SIDEWALK. And then you ask “What’s this guy thinking?” Tell you what I wasn’t thinking: I wasn’t thinking that before I jumped onto the bike path to head home with my new Tobacco-Use-Only glass pipe in my pocket that some ass clown would take a photo of me and publish it on the cover of the City Paper. That’s the last thing I was thinking.
Lets face it, DC is not set up to be bicycle friendly, I wear a helmet, and have done the over the handlebars crash breaking both arms, my helmet had not a scratch on it. Since the accident I have no desire to wear it. Its a hastle, hard to lock up, easy to steal/forget where you left it.
I went to college at University of California, Davis... now that... is a bicycle friendly place, and I rode to school everyday.. helmetless.
My ex used to call me 'helmet boy' with the retarded 'welcome to MacDonalds' accentuation. That soon got to me, and even asking her not to call me that, it still crossed my mind when chooseing to wear or not wear a helmet.
Is it risky, hell yes, but another part of this is drivers education... pedestrians were on this planet before bicycles and bicycles were on the planet before cars.
There are drivers that take their weapon for granted and terrorize anyone without one. If I see them comming up on me fast I toss two or three pennies in their lane. or comming up to a stop light I'll kick their car as I pass.
So I'm not exactly the posterboy for passive bicyclist.
Cell phones and driving piss me off and the majority of time that I've almost been hit is the driver is talking on their cell phone and does not check their blind spot before swerving into the next lane.

So helmet, I'll take it or leave it, as long as I live my life such that everyday is a great day to die, I am the only one responsible for taking my last breath.
Here's why it's my business, folks:
"The public spent more than $1 million on Rico’s recovery."

When cyclists (and the dickwad motorists who hurt 'em) pay all their own medical bills, they can crush their skulls all they want. Until then I wear a helmet always - just like I wear my seat belt always - to avoid draining the system. It's called Responsible Citizenship.
I think a lot of people who don't wear helmets do so because they believe being helmetless imbues them with some kind of indie/punky/counterculture "cred," in the same way that dumpy hipsters often won't drink Diet Coke or "light" beer because they products are seen as somehow more "corporate" and odious then their full-calorie brethern. To these people, wearing a helmet is dorky, or "corny," as crops up in the article a few times -- akin to wearing Dockers, wearing one of those BlueTooth phone clip things on your ear, liking Dave Matthews (although maybe that's a dated reference point.)

If you have ever had a serious head injury, it is like nothing you can imgaine. You have no idea. You will wish, badly, you had worn a helmet. If you're still around/able to process cognitive reasoning, that is.

But, still, ya gotta look cool, so keep rocking that edgy, helmetless look! It's so authentic and real! -- you're not a "sell out" like all those conformists in helmets!
Gosh, RM, do you not use bar soap in the shower in case you drop it and slip and we get stuck with the bill, too? The most responsible citizens are those who mind their own business and who reject the fast evolving intrusive Nanny State which this article is all too typical. Everyone is a hectoring, self righteous busybody nowadays aimed with the "study" du jour about cycling injuries, second hand smoke, melting ice caps or static cling to justify their little causes. Why in Massachusetts they just passed a bill making it manadatory to wear helmiets when... snow sledding.
Man, you have got a good point (quoted below.) And I'll tell you something else, bike SEATS (not helmets) are an even bigger con. Sure, they're fine for suburban dorks, wussy corporte weasels, and just, really, really uncool people.

But if your'e kind of cool and interesting and enlightened... your own guy, living by his wits in this tough city (and, btw, Dad, if you're reading this, any chance of an advance on April's "living expenses"?), then you know that bike seats are a JOKE -- a total joke.

So, when I'm out and about doing a short, low-speed, utility ride, I will tell you this: I'm going seatless. It's all part of a little a dream I have that goes something like this: Living in a city where utility biking is common and, as a result, low-speed biking without a seat is considered safe.

It's called Being The Change, but you khakis wearers probably can't understand that.

Let's all keep it real -- Without a seat *or* a helmet!

&gt;&gt;&gt; "- What's my excuse? I don't wear a helmet for short, low-speed, utility rides because I'd like to live in a city where utility biking is common and, as a result, low-speed biking without a helmet is considered safe. I am being the change that I want to see in the world. The author of this article, on the other hand, is... well... Let's just say that she isn't being helpful. "
Just one more time for the car drivers with the attitude out there: fuck seatbelts.

The only way to be truly safe out there in your car is to ride a helmet. So if I see you trapped in a burning overturned car and you're not wearing a seatbelt, I'ma gonna piss on you. I'll be damned if I'll lend a helping hand to someone who won't even take the most basic precautions for their own safety. And don't expect the rest of us to pay for your recovery, you leeches.
i actually really liked the post article about girls and bikes as fashion accessories/pieces of their lives, because i think that the group with the most power to make the streets safer for cyclists is pretty girls. that demographic is the most alienated by bike safety campaigns and the machismo of bike culture, whether that's of the spandex clad weekend warrior variety or the straight edge and brakeless-with-a-freewheel kind. we've also seen that it's the group that drivers are the most cautious around, and i personally believe that girls can be the vanguard that attracts casual riders and builds a critical mass of riders which will make the driver-cyclist interaction safer.

the available evidence on helmets is ambivalent - everybody agrees that it's really strange that when helmets are made mandatory, traumatic brain injuries go up as an absolute risk. no one's suggesting that we stop encouraging helmet use, but no one's suggesting it's the cure for cancer either. more than increased helmet use, what we really need is pretty girls, and lots of them. to the degree that helmets discourage pretty girls from integrating cycling not only into fitness/recreation but also into their work and lives, helmets and gory articles about safety are doing the cycling community a disservice. especially if they mock the very thing we desperately need: girls on bikes, with spandex-free outfits and big purses, riding to the next party.
Three simple points...
If you don't know how to ride, no helmet in the world will save you.
If you take risks often enough, they'll eventually catch up with you.
If you lack focus and awareness while biking, you won't last long.
"If you lack focus and awareness while biking, you won't last long"

Gee, your life must be so exciting!

Meanwhile, back here on planet Earth, riding a bicycle is safer than most recreational activities per vehicle mile traveled.

Of course should you end up in a vegetative state ,the rest of society will pay the cost.
Be sure and leave the proper documents so we can pull the plug on your resperator
Just wear the helmet, morons!
Anyone seen a green bike with no seat (already stolen)? Helmet and lock still attached? I'll wear the helmet and ride standing up forever if I can have my bike back :(
The problem with bicycle helmets is that they don't properly protect against the most damaging cranial injuries (and might in fact cause more damage in certain cases). This doesn't even factor in that both bikers and drivers around bikers tend to engage in riskier behavior when the bikers wear helmets.

For more, see http://www.onestreet.org/pdf/Bicyclist-&amp;-Driver-Ed-helmet-efficacy.pdf

An examination is made of a meta-analysis by Attewell, Glase and McFadden which concludes that bicycle helmets prevent serious
injury, to the brain in particular, and that there is mounting scientific evidence of this. The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB)
initiated and directed the meta-analysis of 16 observational studies dated 1987–1998. This examination concentrates on injury to the brain
and shows that the meta-analysis and its included studies take no account of scientific knowledge of its mechanisms. Consequently, the
choice of studies for the meta-analysis and the collection, treatment and interpretation of their data lack the guidance needed to distinguish
injuries caused through fracture of the skull and by angular acceleration. It is shown that the design of helmets reflects a discredited theory
of brain injury. The conclusions are that the meta-analysis does not provide scientific evidence that such helmets reduce serious injury to
the brain, and the Australian policy of compulsory wearing lacks a basis of verified efficacy against brain injury."
A few points...

1. If you don't wear a helmet, and aren't able to pay for your FULL medical bills from an accident out of your own pocket (not the co-pay on your insurance, the FULL bill), then you're a strain on the system. SOMEONE is picking up the tab for your irresponsible behavior, whether that is the taxpayers if you don't have insurance and can't pay your bill, or your fellow insurance plan members if you do have insurance. I don't really care if people wear helmets or not, but I'm not up for paying anyone's medical bills.

2. There are problems with some motorists and some bicyclists. Take the idgit who almost got hit while running a red light on a bike in front of my house. Thankfully, the police were there to write him a ticket. Or the cyclists who don't stop for pedestrians lawfully crossing on a walk signal. Or the moron who I almost creamed in college because he felt the need to ride up the MIDDLE of a one-way, curvy road, THE WRONG WAY! Or the one who almost flipped over my car because he came screaming around a blind turn at about twice the speed limit at the moment I was pulling out of a driveway. There are just as many bad motorists out there, passing bicycles when it's not safe, opening car doors without looking, cutting off cyclists to make left turns, etc. Bicycles and cars can peacefully co-exist, especially in a city where traffic laws, red lights, and congestion keep cars to slower speeds and bike lanes and wide-enough streets are plentiful. Bicyclists would do well to remember that, in most cases, cars can go faster than them, and they should keep aside to let the motorized bunch pass when possible. Motorists would do well to patiently wait for the cyclist to move aside when there's an obvious obstruction to the cyclist's moving over immediately. ALL would do well to remember that we ALL have to follow ALL the same rules. And ALL would do well to remember to respect the pedestrians. As was said, people have important places to be in cars and on bikes, but also ON FOOT!

The only courteous bicyclists I have ever encountered belonged to the racing club at my college. They wore helmets, signaled turns, yielded to pedestrians, and kept out of the way of faster-moving traffic, if possible. I always felt bad when someone would cut them off or otherwise disrespect their status as a vehicle. As for the kid I almost ended because he chose to cut across 3 lanes of traffic without warning, well, I wouldn't have felt that bad hitting him, except if I had to foot the bill for his recovery.
You all have missed the point........
She was drinking while driving, even one beer can effect your ability to ride a bike safely! Don't drink and drive!
It's harder to see vehicles with a helmet on. Same reason I wear my contacts when I ride and not my glasses. I take my life into my own hands, never rely on assuming a motorist sees you or will behave as you think they would. I don't follow the rules but break them as if my life depended on it, never been hit.
This is a tragic article and a reminder to all bicylists out there to not only wear helmuts, but to act as if each and every car out there has bad intentions. I've been commuting into DC to work for more than 18 years. Each year, I can count 1 - 3 times that I'm glad I got lucky. Like the time in 2003 when a car for no apparent reason decided to run me off the road unto the sidewalk near the Reagan Bldg. Yes, it was done on purpose because the driver yelled out to me to get the (^(*^ to the sidewalk. During the summer of 2005, an SUV driver on D street decided suddenly to make a U-turn from the opposite lane into my lane. The only thing that saved me was my very loud voice and yelling obscenities at him that got him to look up and stop at the last moment. Then last year, as I was WALKING my bike across the street from the Braddock Road Metro, a cab driver ran through the crosswalk barely missing me. So I've learned to not take any driver for granted; to look them in the eye if I think they have the potential to turn into me; and to YELL AS LOUDLY AS I CAN...NOT MEEKLY BUT WITH ANGER AND VOLUME, because it's my life on the line out there. But of course, we can only do so much. I'll be happy within a couple of years to call it quits...that is working in DC...and do much safer riding NOT in rush hour.
To Matt: One of the lethal head injuries in our community happened to an avid cyclist who normally wore his helmet for extended rides. One day he was just going to the store a couple of blocks away, so he left his helmet at home. A driver abruptly opened their car door just as he was coming even with their car and he was thrown over the door head first. He died of his injuries and his children were left without a father. He wasn't even going all that fast, according to witnesses.

Another person I know was hit (wearing a helmet fortunately) in broad daylight by a drunk driver who suddenly swerved into him. His helmet cracked but protected his head--he had only mild brain injury. He could so easily have died. So sometimes helmets do provide protection from a vehicle crashing into you! I know I'd rather have one than not!

When we take risks like not wearing a helmet, we take those risks for ourselves and for our families. My own son's brain injury is one of the worst things I have gone through. My own life was on hold while I helped him through rehab (though I was glad he survived--he so nearly didn't). The anxiety and sleepless nights in the early days when we didn't know if he would live or have a mind left--I don't ever want to go through something like that again. I'm sure no one's family does. It's one thing to risk something only you will suffer through. It's another to put your loved ones through the ringer. (not personal "you" but general to all who don't wear helmets)
I am typing this one handed since yesterday I fell off of my bike riding with friends. I broke my collarbone going 10 miles an hour hitting a rut in the center of an asphalt road that I have ridden down a 1000 times before.

After getting up and calling an ambulance my friend told me he couldn't believe how hard ?i smacked my head into the pavement! Luckily I had my helmet of 3 years on. I cracked it across the left side and broke a chunk off.

I did not black out/get dizzy or have any blood, but I do fully remember hearing my helmet slam into the pavement. I assure you I would probably be DEAD right now if it hadn't ben for my helmet.

I ride about 150 miles a week with my road club and a family fun ride on Sunday. Yesterday was the FUN RIDE!

I know it's a free country and all, but those of you that say you are experienced and competent and whatever...all I want to say is accidents happen....even to us EXPERIENCED riders. Trust me, I didn't think my ride yesterday would be any different than the 50 mile 20mph ride I did the day before!

You are naive and foolish to proclaim that it could never happen to you, and I when I see somone not wearing a helmet and riding a bike, I think 'I hope he is an organ donor'!
Leave it up to the individual to choose. Most cities in Europe, which has more of a bike culture that in the USA, have riders without helmets. A bicycle mirror is far beneficial than a helmet. You might as well a helmet walking down the street too. You may slip on the pavement or get hit in the crosswalk. You might as well wear a helmet in your home. You may skip and hit your temple on the sharp corner of a table. Where are you dragging these stats from. More people with helmet get killed because it gives them a sense of invincibility and the become more reckless on the road that people that dont wear helmet. Leave it up to the individual. Don't push it on everyone like global warming.
1. The principal threats to children's lives are obesity, heart disease and other illnesses resulting in large part from inactivity. Cycling has a key role to play in preventing these illnesses. Less cycling through a helmet law would aggravate the situation.
2. Cycling is a healthy activity, and the likelihood of serious head injury is widely exaggerated.
3. Cycling becomes safer the more people do it. Encouraging cycling is by far the most effective way of reducing risk of injury.
4. Helmet promotion deters cycling and leads to poorer health.
5. The benefits of helmets are greatly over-stated.
6. Many other everyday activities could benefit more from helmet-wearing than cycling.
7. A helmet law would make it a crime for children to take part in a health giving activity.
this is dumb. yes, it's everyone's choice and it would be kind of silly to make a it a law to have to wear your helmet.

BUT - the fact is, it can't hurt and it will only help. it's common sense people.

this city is nuts. before i lived here, chances are you'd never catch me wearing my helmet. no more. dc has learned me somethin. i ride my bike every single day to work (in a bike lane mind you) and still almost every single day there is at least one 'close call' - people opening their doors, pulling out of parking spots, turning right in front of you, parking in the BIKE LANE (assholes), talking (or TEXTING!) on their phone (hello, talk about illegal and DUMB) not paying attention, people grazing you with their side mirrors, CAB DRIVERS, and OTHER GENERAL STUPIDITY. you get the picture.

stop being vain, making excuses and wear your damn helmet or accept the fact that no matter how cautious you are (without a helmet?) one day someone might door your ass and you could be paralyzed, brain dead or just real dead. then no more bikie for you! cool, i could use a new one.
If safety is your reason for a bike helmet when you're on a casual ride, then I'd expect you to wear one when walking or anytime you're in a car, passenger or driver. Or whatever you're on a ladder, or any number of other mundane and routine activities. Because you're statistically more likely to suffer a head injury when you're doing those things than you are while on a casual bike ride.


Educate yourself regarding the objective facts, and make a rational judgement. And make other decisions consistent with that judgment.
plural of anecdote ≠ data
My daughter-in-law and one of the people in my office were involved in bike crashes (one single-bike and the other an auto collision). Both had serious dents in their helmets but no head injuries. You will never catch either of them, or me, riding without a helmet.
"why doesn't ask these same questions about people who drive? most car accidents deaths are caused by head trauma so WEAR A HELMET 24/7"

Actually, most car accident deaths are due to not wearing a seat belt. Wearing a seat belt prevents trauma because you are held in place. Bicycle helmets prevent or reduce trauma to your head when you fall on a bike. Something tells me that the people who are against bike helmets are the same people who don't wear seat belts because they think they can prevent accidents.
I really don't understand how many comments there are from people that think bike helmets aren't necessary and that accidents are very unlikely. Yes addidents are unlikely. You will get in a car thousands of times between accidents with no problems, but when one eventually happens, aren't you happy your seat belt held you in place and the air bag did the same? Accidents can happen. Dumb drivers do dumb things. When I'm riding my bike at 30mph, with a helmet, I'm thinking that if I somehow crashed, it would really hurt. But when you think about it, if you were flipped off your bike at 0mph and landed on your head or did the same at 30mph, gravity accelerated you at the exact same rate. Forward momentum will make you bounce and hit harder, but imagine holding a watermelon at the height your head is on a bike and drop it to the ground. It's gonna go splat. Your head is a little harder and probably won't break open, but it's going to cause brain trauma if you fall on your head at any speed.
Terrible article.

Emotion over fact. Anecdote over reason. Utter lack of balance.

I'm recovering at home today after a bike accident that left me with a split lip, chipped teeth and a massive headache. I was riding very slowly down a broad sidewalk in Santa Monica, CA when a bag got caught in the spokes of my front tire. The bag jammed my wheel and I went flying over the handlebars, landing flat on my face. My helmet bore the brunt of the impact. I have some stitches in my lip but the CAT scan showed no bleeding on the brain. The fireman, paramedics, police officer, nurses and doctors all said the helmet saved my life.
I've read all the anti-helmet comments here, and the arguments seem to distill down into a few categories.

The first is petulant, quasi-political name-calling. "This is America! Who the hell are you intrusive, moralistic, nanny-state busybodies to tell me what to do on my bike? FREEDOMMMMM!" Look guys, when the founders preferred liberty over death, they didn't mean the liberty not to look like a dork on your brakeless fixie. Your basic human autonomy isn't being threatened by helmets or helmet laws. Whatever principle it is you're asserting, it's not freedom. Rather, to quote Marcellus Wallace, "That's pride fucking with you. Fuck pride." Not the good kind of pride, either, the kind that springs from dignity and self-respect, just sheer, childish bloody-mindedness. Don't confuse the two - it's insulting to those who have truly lived without freedom and struggled to reclaim it. Not wearing a helmet in protest doesn't make you Rosa Parks. And if the allegedly moralistic tone of helmet advocates bothers you, you're free not to listen to them and still make the same wise choice they do, not because you're being badgered into it by sanctimonious meddlers, but out of pure self-interest. But choosing to be cavalier with your own life and safety just because you resent being told what to do is supremely idiotic and self-defeating.

Second, there's the "helmets won't protect you from a dump truck, so why bother" crowd. The premise is correct, but the conclusion doesn't follow from it. Helmets won't protect you from bullets either, because they're just not designed to. (If someone can come up with one that does, however, you bet your ass I'll wear it!) They're not magic and nobody has said so. But there is a class of bike accidents that, while not as severe as a head-on collision with a freight train (why were you biking on the railroad tracks in the first place?), can result in horrendous injury that a standard helmet is in fact designed to prevent or minimize. Those falls are common enough to warrant a little additional padding at the expense of - well, I'm just not sure really. If you don't believe me, the risk-reward calculation is actually pretty easy: multiply the probability of one of those falls by the severity of the injury that would result, then compare that side-by-side to the total cost of wearing a helmet, including your lost cred and messed up hair. For example, even if there's only .01% chance that you'll wind up in a accident that will cost $1 million in medical bills, lost productivity, etc., that's still a statistically expected loss of $100, or the price of a couple of decent helmets. And that's assuming you live - the math breaks down a bit when you try to quantify what your life is worth. Think of it as a ridiculously cheap insurance policy, and remember that it's not just there for your protection. I don't feel like paying for your rehabilitation out of my tax dollars if strapping four ounces of styrofoam to your head would have made the difference between a bloody nose and brain damage.

Lastly, there are those saying that riding without helmets isn't the problem, it's bad drivers and cyclists who don't know how to use the road and cause accidents. The flaw in that reasoning is that it transforms the question into an either/or proposition: either take sensible precautions yourself or try to change the behavior of others so they're more respectful of cyclists. But we can, and should, do both. In the meantime, just because others on the road are incompetent or irresponsible doesn't relieve you of the responsibility to take care of yourself. On the contrary, the fact that bad, uneducated, careless drivers sometimes create dangerous situations for cyclists is all the more reason to protect yourself from them. That isn't victim-blaming, it's just common sense. Yeah, you can feel as indignant as you want towards the inconsiderate asshole who doors you as you're running your short errand to the grocery store, but indignation won't protect your unhelmeted skull after you cease to be a rider and become a projectile. There are many ways you can make yourself safer on your bike (lights, reflectors, sensible, predictable, law-abiding riding, etc.), but a helmet should be one of the tools in your toolbox. And for sure, we need to build more and better bike lanes, tighten up traffic laws, educate drivers and hold them more accountable when they injure and kill cyclists. But those changes don't become more likely because we choose not to wear helmets.

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