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Real source of smug found

Contrary to this week's South Park episode, I believe I've found the real source of "smug": bicycle helmets.

I happened to be browsing the archives of the Austin Cycling Association list (looking for comments about Shoal Creek) and came upon a thread about (mostly) bicycle facilities versus Foresterism. Good stuff; I usually like reading those. Then I came across a contribution which included the following:

Unhelmeted cyclists involved in falls, even at moderate speeds have sustained irreversible head injuries and death and even helmeted cyclists have sustained things like broken necks in non-collision falls. An example of the latter happened in Austin not too long ago when a doctor commuting home down Guadalupe hit one of those steel plates covering street excavations. He fell and he died. He was a regular bike commuter and wore a helmet, but it did not save him. On the other hand, past mayor Bruce Todd apparently took a fall with no indication that a collision with another vehicle was involved. He wore a helmet and in the opinion of doctors and others, it saved his life by mitigating injury to his head. While not statistically significant in and of themselves, these incidents are not that uncommon overall.

Does anybody else see the problem here? Two examples used of "why you have to wear a helmet or you're stupid", and in one of them, the guy died anyway; while in the other one, the guy got so badly hurt he nearly died and is still suffering brain damage even today.

And yet, people follow up with the likes of this:

"I've seen no motor vehicle/bicycle accidents, but I've seen a lot of cyclists without helmets and quite a few at night without lights."

As have I--always want to stop them and give them a gentle
lecture--what I call my "as a mom" speech.

Equating riding at night without lights (which has been clearly shown to be dangerous, in the real world data) to riding without helmets (which hasn't). Argh.

Folks, these things don't work. Whatever they're doing for your minor scrapes and scratches, there's just no evidence in the real world that they're doing jack squat for major injuries or deaths.

This entry was posted in the following categories: Bicycle Commuting


Not true. I saw a motorcyclist with his girlfriend on the back of his bike get hit by an SUV a few months ago about 20 feet in front of me. Those helmets were the only thing keeping their heads from scraping along the asphalt.

Personally, I think the idea that they even MIGHT help is enough reason to wear one.

Motorcycle helmets can work. Bicycle helmets don't have sufficient coverage to do anything more than prevent cosmetic injuries, which might be enough reason to wear one. Just don't get smug about those of us who choose not to, since as it turns out, they aren't going to help in a serious accident.

And as for the second comment (same person?): a bandanna MIGHT help too. Should we sneer at those who don't wear them?


The most recent GF was involved in a bike accident years ago after college. No helmet. 3 days in coma, 4 months recovering from aphasia, some memories lost forever.

You can ride helmetless all you want, but I'm not willing to pay for it thru my insurance (how's that for free-market)?

And I'll wear my helmet every time I ride, thx. (5-6x/week).




Unfortunately, what the real-world population studies show is that you guys wearing helmets should probably be paying more for insurance than those of us who don't. (As helmet usage goes up, so, apparently, do accident rates).