If cyclists must put on helmets, why not drivers?

If society is truly concerned about reducing head injuries, it shouldn’t worry so much about cyclists but find ways to reduce the enormous number of head injuries in cars, in bars, and falling down stairs [“Helmet debate won’t abate”, January 9-16].

Should we mandate helmets for using stairs or going out for a night on the town? Simple falls make up the vast majority of head-injury hospitalizations (45 percent), followed by motor-vehicle crashes (36 percent) and assaults (9 percent). That bicycle helmets were ever made mandatory and that enforcement rates so much ink are made possible only by the complete ignorance that cycling head injuries make up just half a percent of head-injury hospitalizations in Canada. The ratio makes it approximately equivalent to the head-injury risk in a car, but nobody is acknowledging the relative failure of seat belts and air bags and demanding that motor-vehicle occupants wear helmets too.

Helmet laws have failed to make a dent in serious head injuries in the few jurisdictions that have them. What legislation does is take a safe and beneficial activity and make it appear dangerous, while society loses all the benefits of those who are thus discouraged from riding.

> Ron van der Eerden / Vancouver




Jan 14, 2014 at 8:26pm

What is missing in this argument is a failure to compare the huge numbers of people using stairs and cars relative to the tiny proportion of the population who use bicycles on a regular basis. Why not compare the "head injuries per miles travelled" between cars and bicycles, and see how those number work out?

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Jan 14, 2014 at 10:30pm

My car has antilock brakes and ten airbags, what's your bike got Ron? LOL.

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Alan Layton

Jan 15, 2014 at 8:23am

Oh Christ, here we go again. I say let all the morons ride without helmets and just hope that parents will have enough sense and caring to teach their children to ride with helmets (ski with them too) so that following generations will already be fine with it. The current generation is a lost cause.

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Jan 15, 2014 at 8:31am

If cyclists don't want to wear helmuts and possibly save their own lives, then who am I to argue. Let the idiots who are nothing more than a pain in driver's butts, have at it. Good riddance to stupid people! It fits in perfectly with Turban wearing motorcyclists..............have at it fools!

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Jan 15, 2014 at 9:26am

Agree. Anit-lock brakes and ten airbags must be the minimum enforced safety standard for all motor vehicles ASAP. Any vehicles not having them must be pulled from the road until made compliant.

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Adrian Mack

Jan 15, 2014 at 10:20am

@Duh: Your car is a car. Ron's bike is a bike. Once you've got the difference figured out, you'll be permitted back into the debate, but with limited privileges.

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Francis noergaard

Jan 15, 2014 at 10:06pm

@Calculus more people on bicycles does not mean more accidents, it does exactly the opposite...there are safety in numbers. look at Copenhagen or Amsterdam, a many people on bicycles and no helmets, and still it is more safe than driving a car.

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R Robertson

Jan 16, 2014 at 7:57pm

Obviously this letter writer is a "Pro Cyclist militant" who never lets logic or law interfere with an irrational manifesto. Bike are vehicles. Cars are vehicles. Pedestrians are not. Walking is the natural form of human locomotion.

I state again Bikes are VEHICLES. Bikes are also subject to the MVA. Cars have their own safety devices that are mandatory (seat belts, airbags, headlights, brake lights). So do bikes: HELMETS, lights (mandatory 1 hours before sunset until sunrise), reflectors (mandatory). If a driver is caught without using their seatbelts, headlight etc, they get a ticket. Cyclists caught without helmets or lights/reflectors should also be ticketed. By the same MVA laws, if a cyclist is caught riding on a sidewalk (where they are BANNED) they should be ticketed just the same as a car driving on a sidewalk or other pedestrian zone. Cyclists DO NOT get to ignore the law or get special exemptions. Do helmets protect against ALL impacts? No. But since a cyclist does not know what kind of impact they may experience, it makes TOTAL sense (as well as law) for helmets to remain mandatory. Basically, the arrogant, laws shouldn't apply to me militant cyclists don't want to wear helmets for pure VANITY. They don't want to wear the "dork bucket" in public or have the dreaded "helmet hair" when they reach their destination. Realistically, that is perhaps the most idiotic reason for not wearing safety gear. It also counters all the cyclists claim that the multi million$ bike lanes are "all about safety". Since they don't car about personal safety by not wearing helmets, why should tax payer money go to improving their safety??

Once again, militant cyclist rantings making no sense when common sense logic (and LAW btw) are applied to their manifesto. Keep the helmet law in place and push for mandatory operator tests (just like cars) and cyclist insurance (just like cars at perhaps a lesser rate). Lets "level the playing field" for ALL vehicles on the road and protect our pedestrians by stringently ticketing ANY vehicles who ride illegally in passenger only areas.

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Jan 16, 2014 at 8:16pm

And to those militant cyclists who keep saying "well in Amsterdam or Copenhagen"...STOP. Different cities, nations, customs, geography, layout, road infrastructure etc. Older smaller European cities are FAR easier to retrofit to bikes than car centric, road heavy, urban sprawl North American cities like Vancouver. If your silly Copenhagen/Amsterdam stories are realistic analogies (they are not), lets use the example of Portland (a city I've spent much time in). VERY similar is size, geography, population, climate to Vancouver.

Portland is also THE most "cycle friendly city" in North America (approx 10% of commuters cycle). Their downtown core is very much like Vancouver: Condos, CBD, cool restaurants, a bustling foot cart industry, with many bridges connecting it to the rest of the city. Arguably Portland has busier traffic in downtown as their rapid transit rail system is street level rather than raised or underground like our Skytrain system. That said, their downtown core has ZERO multimillion $ waste of taxpayer money, traffic clogging concrete separated bike lanes...just painted lanes. Also on almost EVERY block in DT Portland, there are PROMINENT signs saying bikes MUST stay off sidewalks and violators will be ticketed. Also Portland has for several years had ZERO cyclist fatalities in the city. How does Portland pull off this "cycling miracle" with basically the same issues/geography/climate as Vancouver? Simple. Their cyclists are ADULTS who obey the laws, not petulant, militant, sense of entitlement brats who think laws don't apply to them. Portland cyclists respect both pedestrians and cars, invariably wear helmets, they stop are red lights and stop signs, they don't ride on sidewalks and they ride with lights and reflectors at night. They're not angry militants who scream psychotically if a car comes within 10 feet of them.

Forget Copenhagen and Amsterdam. Why can't militant VAINcouver cyclists be more like Portland cyclists? And why can't Mayor Wanna Be Dictator "I'm gonna ram these bike lanes down your throats until you vote me out" encourage cycling while not wasting tens of MILLIONS$ on these useless bike lanes and holding cyclists accountable to the laws like Portland local government? "Encouraging" cycling by allowing the militants to ignore EVERY law on the books is NOT a way to build acceptance for cyclists.

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Jan 18, 2014 at 1:18pm

One important thing that no one mention is that all bike helmets aren't the same...there are those that have been tested for their crash worthiness, then there are all the poorly designed ones...
"Bike helmets were designed to protect against catastrophic head injuries like skull fractures, lacerations or contusions on the brain, which they do.
However, as the understanding of concussions has advanced significantly in recent years, basic helmet design has not, and the standard that North American helmet manufacturers follow has not changed since 1999".

"Older smaller (European) cities are FAR easier to retrofit to bikes.." sure...small cities like Paris, London, Tokyo, Osaka, Shanghai..etc. to only name a few towns I know well, where there are lots of bikes (especially in the Asian ones) and also far more cars than in Vancouver..

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