Discarded Helmet on Magazine at Philip

Bike Helmet in the Trash at Magazine and PhilipI have been writing this bike blog for well over a year, posting over three hundred times, and yet I have never posted, not even once, about bike helmets. This is an incredibly contentious issue among riders, and I really ought to have an opinion. I passed this mixed-use helmet sitting out on a trash can on Magazine and Philip and wondered what its past was and figured now’s as good a time as any to weigh in. Did someone take a tumble, cracking the helmet and sending it tot he trash heap, proving that helmets save lives, or at least heads? Was the helmet purchased for a kid who got over whatever land/wheel sport originally demanded it, and it’s just heading out with the rest of the trash to make room for more junk in the house? I’m of several minds about the whole helmet issue, which I guess means I need multiple helmets. A part of me thinks everyone should wear them all the time, just in case. When I saw that poor woman smash her head in a drunken crash a couple of months ago and she was laying in the gutter with blood coming out of her ears, I thought a helmet might have come in handy for her (don’t worry–she’s ok, and I got her bike back to her). I’ve had a fall when riding helmetless, and I was thinking about my bare head as I flew over my handlebars. On the other hand, I’m not sure I’m convinced by the testing that a helmet would stay on my head in a traumatic fall and offer real protection. And some studies have allegedly shown that cars are more reckless when they see riders with helmets, assuming they’re more skillful. As I type, though, those seem like cop outs. Because I don’t love wearing them. I like to ride with the air in my hair, especially in humid New Orleans where a helmet head is a hot sweaty head. Which means I try to justify not wearing a helmet. As it is, I own two, and I wear one when I’m racing around on the Surly, but often ride bare-headed when on the cruiser. I’ve got no good explanation for those choices, and this righteous helmet post hasn’t brought me any closer to knowing where I stand on the Great Helmet Debate. I just hope the head that used to ride this helmet is safe tonight.

11 thoughts on “Discarded Helmet on Magazine at Philip

  1. I am neither pro nor anti helmet. However I do think that there needs to be proper testing of them to show how well they work and to what extent.

    I also strongly suspect that the type of bike you are riding and the speed at which you are riding would make a sizable difference in helmet performance too.


    • Yes, Aaron, I wish there were good and honest tests done on helmets. And I also suspect that most people, myself included, don’t wear them correctly… I will continue in my efforts to learn to ride safely, I suppose.

      • The CPSC standards (in force since 1999) test for helmet strap strength. it is crucial that the straps are tight enough such that you can’t wiggle the helmet around.

        I’m the same way though; helmet on for “serious” rides and off for cruises (where I’m more likely to be drinking anyway.) Risky.

  2. It’s harder, or at least more complicated, to teach children to use helmets in a place where no one else does. To use another example, anti-smoking measures often aim to reduce the extent to which smoking is normative behavior. Because what’s normative tends to be perpetuated. Yes, it’s a parent’s job to teach his/her children, and no, y’all don’t have to change your behavior for my child’s benefit. I just think community standards are a powerful complement to personal ones. I see people all the time with a toddler in one of those plastic seat attachments and the kid has a helmet and the parent doesn’t. What kind of message is that, and what kind of sense does it make?

  3. I wear a helmet to commute, and to mountain bike. I also wear one on my motorcycle, but a motorcycle helmet seems much more apt to protect you than does a bicycle helmet, in typical road crashes.

    I’m not sure that I’m any safer with a helmet on the commute, but it seems like good PR.

    I don’t wear one, too often, just riding around and doing errands. I don’t wear a helmet in my car, either, though I think it would probably improve survivability in many crashes. (There is a reason racecar drivers wear them.)

    As for the “kiddie influence”, I don’t avoid having an alcoholic drink at dinner, even when kids are present and not allowed to do the same. Kids know that the rules are different for them, and they will make their own choices when grown up. In the meantime, it’s up to us to protect them as well as possible, so that they have the ability to make those decisions, later.

    So, I don’t think that my wearing a helmet or not really has any bearing on whether your kids should wear one.

    • Ok, those are some seriously sassy helmets! I think making stylish helmets would definitely help encourage helmet use. Do they meet the same safety standards as other, uglier helmets?

    • Jon,
      Motorcycle helmets are actually tested for impact resistance and in varying types of accidents (at least they used to be) When I rode fast motorcycles I only bought Bell or Shoei helmets because of their testing.

      No cycle helmet manufacturer tests helmets to the best of my knowledge. The CSPC standard is voluntary and is at best equivalent to hitting yourself in the top of the head with something solid to see if it hurts.

      Another problem I observe is many people have no clue how to size or wear a helmet properly. I saw one poor urchin nearly strangle herself when she fell off of her small bike with training wheels, the helmet was so loose it rotated around her head and got caught on the handlebars when she fell over. Fortunately one of her parents was able to free her quickly.


  4. Seems to me the real issue is WHEN to ride with a helmet.

    Some circumstances suggest helmet use … some don’t.

    My son survived a motorcycle accident with no major facial injuries BECAUSE he wore a helmet. Prior to that, I had always assumed if a motorcyclist had “any kind” of accident he probably would be killed or seriously injured. But of course motorcycles ride with traffic and a far greater potential for crashes and injuries.

    A cyclist alone on a flat, paved, bike path is a different situation entirely.

    Take a look at a new blog called:


    What you’ll find there are great stories – not about biking – but about the over-the-top fears people harbor these days about circumstances that rarely ever happen. After reading at that site, you might change your mind about all kinds of fears.

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