In a September 29, 2012 "New York Times" analysis piece called "To Encourage Biking, Cities Lose the Helmets...Elisabeth Rosenthal reported that... “Pushing helmets really kills cycling and bike-sharing in particular because it promotes a sense of danger that just isn’t justified — in fact, cycling has many health benefits,” says Piet de Jong, a professor in the department of applied finance and actuarial studies at Macquarie University in Sydney. He studied the issue with mathematical modeling, and concludes that the benefits may outweigh the risks by 20 to 1.
He adds: “Statistically, if we wear helmets for cycling, maybe we should wear helmets when we climb ladders or get into a bath, because there are lots more injuries during those activities.” The European Cyclists’ Federation says that bicyclists in its domain have the same risk of serious injury as pedestrians per mile traveled.
Yet the United States National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends that “all cyclists wear helmets, no matter where they ride,” said Dr. Jeffrey Michael, an agency official.
Although I may be missing a point- I had to respond in this blog;
Those cycling advocates who suggest that the pushing of helmet wearing makes a basically safe activity seem really dangerous- are being somewhat short sighted, perhaps irresponsible and a tad bit selfish. Helmets don't scare cyclists away from riding on city streets any more than seat belts frighten drivers from getting into a car and driving on the nation's deadly highways. The truth is, those who bike ride sans helmet in city streets- or anyplace for that matter, should pause and consider themselves as nothing more than human egg shells gliding along on two wheels. Sometimes, even the most seasoned riders learn that analogy is steeped in pain filled veins of truth thanks to the most random and mundane of accidents or mishaps.
As someone who has ridden a bike from points A to B, almost every day, for nearly 20 years of my New York existence- I can say I've had close calls with cars, pedestrians and cab doors flung wide open as I raced up Sixth Avenue or down through Times Square. I've cut in and out of traffic like a spawning salmon, raced buses as if there were a prize at the end of no where. I've even been spiteful to the commuters- whizzing down 9th Avenue at rush hour squeezing seamlessly through thousands of stalled frustrated cars-all waiting to get into those Jersey bound tunnels-looking back, smirking and thinking-suckers!
But for all those years of adrenalin driven,exhilarating cycling through these frantic city streets, I didn't wear a helmet. Oh I knew I should wear one, but it wasn't until one afternoon, while riding on my Mountain bike along the car free Hudson River bike path near around 123rd St when I unexpectedly became-shall we say- humbled. Again, no cars, in fact, at this point, no other cyclists, just me, a pretty sunset and the breeze, then all of a sudden, I lost my footing, and ka- bam!- down I went- real hard.
Through the grace of forces beyond my comprehension, I held my big head away from the paved path- and instead, hit the pavement with my chin full force. Two cyclists saw the benign looking crash and realized there was a much more serious looking bloody mess- so they stopped. One took it upon himself to call an ambulance. The two spandex sporting, helmet wearing types stayed with me fending off the curious inquiring passers by who wondered aloud- if I was okay. Looking back, I think they recognized that I was loosing a decent amount of blood-which had me spooked, one even offered his shirt to put pressure on the main wound until the ambulance arrived. When the EMS did figure out where we were and had parked on the car whizzing West Side highway- they made it to the spot and put me on a board. At that point my neck and head secured tight, all focus and sight was on the sky. The EMS loaded me and my bike up and took me off to a nearby hospital. Along the way, the EMT attendant kindly lectured,and informed me that if I had fallen in a slightly in different angle, my skull would have likely cracked, like an egg shell.
He said he saw bike accidents on the city's streets all the time- some more severe than others. And while the average risk for a cyclist to get hurt is relatively low- especially when compared to accidents in cars or even pedestrian who get bit by a car- there's no doubt-helmets reduce the chance serious injury in a bike crash, or even a simple fall like my incident.
Once healed, before I stepped back onto my wonderful bike and the adventure waiting on the city streets, I went out and found a helmet.
The fact is- I just lost my footing- and guess what- so could any of the thousands of other New York City residents who are discovering that this fast, clean, healthy way to get around our city is the most efficient, exhilarating and fun way to travel. Wearing a helmet doesn't make cycling seem dangerous- and if your worried about your looks like I can be-rest assured- you can fix your hair in a bathroom at your destination. The truth is- Helmets help those of us who wear them look a little bit smarter.