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Thread: NPR Article: Why Do Bikeshare Riders Skip Helmets?

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    Default NPR Article: Why Do Bikeshare Riders Skip Helmets?

    http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2012/05/03/151955048/why-do-bike-share-riders-skip-helmets?sc=fb&cc=fp

    Researchers found that only 20 percent of riders using shared bicycles wear helmets, despite the risk of injury. We took to the streets of Washington, D.C., to ask bicyclists, with and without helmets, about their choices

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    Eh, just thought people might want to read it. To each their own noggin.

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    Sorry, I should have been a little less abrupt - I didn't mean "So?" as in "So why are you posting it?" but rather "So, what does it really matter if only 20% of people on CaBi bikes are wearing helmets?"

    Helmets, I usually wear 'em. But they're only a small part of the safety equation.

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    NPR's really racing to the bottom lately. "If Fox (or WUSA) gets ratings with sensationalism and fluff, NPR can too."

    I'd much rather hear an old-school NPR in depth analysis of the study, more along the lines of what WashCycle did, but what we really need is some actual science.

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    Everyone is picking up on some study that was released. Even if the numbers are true, they aren't that significant. I think the professor said something like lack of helmet use is associated with 25 or 75 percent of cyclist deaths, or something like that. Well, considering that there have been zero cyclist deaths during the first 19 months of Capital Bikeshare operations, I guess that's technically true. Helmet use was a significant factor in every cyclist death on CaBi, meaning 0 out of 0.

    Even when you look at non-fatal injuries, helmet use hasn't been a significant factor in overall safety. I've only heard about 2, maybe 3, accidents that involved serious injuries on CaBi bikes. Given that there are still some hardened critics of bikeshare and cycling in general, you'd think that any CaBi accident would receive a lot of attention in the local media. One accident this spring received a lot of coverage. In that case, the injuries did not involve the head. I don't know about the other supposed serious accidents. If helmet use factored into the severity of those injuries, yeah, I guess one could say that helmet use reduces the risk of injury in 50 or 67% of all accidents. But that's misleading. The overall accident rate on CaBi is still extremely low.

    Say that there were 3 serious accidents. That's out of well over 1.5 million total bike trips. So even if helmet use affected the severity of the injury in 2 of those cases, that means that helmet use only helped in 2 out of 1.5 million+ trips. Any increased risk from not wearing a helmet on CaBi is so small as to be negligible.

    That's not to say that helmets aren't helpful. But as hinted above, the slow speed and heavy weight of the CaBi bikes are likely far more important at reducing the risk of accident and injury. Slower speeds mean that cyclists, drivers and even pedestrians have far more reaction time to avoid potential accidents. There's a huge difference in the time available to react when riding at 8-10 mph on CaBi vs. 15-20 mph+ on a faster road bike. And even when there is an accident, the damage is likely to be far less severe.

    There have been more than 3 total accidents but I've seen different numbers on the exact total. One estimate puts the number at less than 10. But the maintenance records seem to indicate as many as 2 dozen or so, from damage to bikes. (The damage can also be caused by vandalism or a car hitting an unused bike.)

    No matter what the exact numbers are, all indications are that both the accident rate and the rate of serious injury are very low with CaBi. I'm not too concerned about people not wearing helmets on every CaBi trip. I think helmet use helps a little, but it's not really a crisis or a disaster waiting to happen.

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    Quote Originally Posted by PotomacCyclist View Post
    No matter what the exact numbers are, all indications are that both the accident rate and the rate of serious injury are very low with CaBi. I'm not too concerned about people not wearing helmets on every CaBi trip. I think helmet use helps a little, but it's not really a crisis or a disaster waiting to happen.
    I generally agree, esp when you factor in the health benefits of biking over more passive forms of transit. Time/energy would be better spent politicing for segregated trails (from cars and peds), bollards in the PA bike lanes, better education of cyclists and drivers, etc.

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