View Full Version : Helmets and Bike-sharing schemes

12-28-2011, 11:51 AM
I live in New York, which is getting a bike-sharing program next year. I frequently visit my mom, who lives in Arlington (aren't I a good son?), and I have grown to admire the CaBi scheme whenever I'm in town, though I have yet to try one of the bikes. Why? When I come to town, I don't bring a helmet, and I have trouble imagining riding a bike without one, any more than I could imagine driving a car without wearing a seat belt.

While I don't want to start the sort of flame war that usually happens when the topic of helmets arises, is there a consensus on this issue? If I sign up to use a bike share program for short, spontaneous trips across town, should I be wearing a helmet? Have their been helmet-preventable injuries of people riding on CaBi bikes?

Thanks for any input,

Christopher Stephens

12-28-2011, 12:26 PM
Saw very few helmets in Miami Beach, but on my ride to Key Biscayne most people wore them. I pack my helmet. It means I bring less shoes. Ah, the sacrifices I make.


12-28-2011, 01:02 PM
In short, I think you should try to wear a helmet whenever possible. I've had two minor falls on bike paths that did not involve cars (one fall involved sliding on a bridge expansion joint, the other an errant child who jumped in front of me) and even though I did not hit my head, I did gain a new appreciation for the unforgiving nature of pavement. (As a result, I now always wear gloves of some sort, even on CaBi - road rash is not fun).

I think compared to most cities, the DC area is an easy, safe place to ride in given all of the trails, bike lanes, CaBi, etc but we suffer from lots of visitors who:

1) do not know the area and are frequently lost thus driving in circles and down one way streets,
2) who are more interested in looking at the sights than at the road in front of them,
3) walk on the bike trails without knowing trail etiquette,
4) are from places where they drive on the left side, and
5) don't know English well.

That said, if you plan to stick to the trails and common use sidewalks as exists on the Mall, you are probably in no more danger than the pedestrians out there that have to contend with cyclists flying by them on a daily basis. I know pedestrains who have broken ankles just tripping over curbs.

I always wear my helmet when I ride my own bike but on the few occasions I've used CaBi without a helmet, I must admit I was far more cautious riding than I am wearing a helmet so perhaps there is something to be said for the theory that helmets provide a false sense of security. But then again, I'm not in 100% control of my safety whenever other people are around....

I think it is easier for women to carry helmets with them because we carrying handbags/totes. If you routinely carry a messenger bag you can easily strap the helmet around the strap or maybe even thru a belt loop. There is a folding helmet on the market which makes it a little easier to carry but I don't recall the name.

Anyway, it is great fun to tour the area by bike. If you want to go for longer rides, please consider riding a longer term rental. The bikes are lighter with more gears and more comfortable for rides over 4 miles; they will also provide you with a free helmet. There are lots of rental places in the area, including one in Crystal City right next to the trail (again, I'm blanking out on the name just now - must need coffee).

12-28-2011, 01:12 PM
Hi Christopher --

If you feel more comfortable riding with a helmet, and you visit your mother often, you might consider buying a helmet to leave at her home for when you visit. It wouldn't have to be the most sleek/aerodynamic/expensive model, because the CaBi bikes produce the opposite of a sleek and aerodynamic ride.

I always use a helmet when riding CaBi, although I see plenty of riders who don't. I think there have been remarkably few serious injuries in accidents on CaBi bikes, based on the reports I've heard.

But I think you should do whatever makes you feel most comfortable. However, definitely find a way to get on a bike in Arlington -- it's fun!


12-28-2011, 01:16 PM
The bike shop in Crystal City would be City Hub