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Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Why I Ride Fearlessly Without A Helmet

Posted by on Wed, Jun 5, 2013 at 2:42 PM

Tom Fucoloro at Seattle Bike Blog has the skinny on the federal government's abandonment of a study that claimed bicyclists who wear helmets suffer significantly lower injury rates:

The often-cited and influential 1989 study was conducted in Seattle by Robert Thompson M.D. for Group Health. It has been heavily influential in discussions about municipal all-ages bicycle helmet laws. Not surprisingly, King County is among the only major metropolitan areas on the planet to have such a law. After all, if you could reduce head injuries by 85 percent just by wearing a helmet, then of course we should make them mandatory!

However, subsequent studies have not been able to repeat the 85 percent figure found in the Seattle study. Results vary, but have consistently been lower. After urging from the Washington Area Bicyclist Association in DC, the CDC and NHTSA will no longer be promoting the 85 percent conclusion.

The city should make riding without a helmet a secondary offense, which would help Seattle's bike share program get off the ground, Fucoloro says, because unlike helmets, "safety in numbers is 100 percent certain to lower the collision rate for people on bikes.

I think we should do away with helmet laws for adults altogether. Mandatory helmet laws discourage usage of bicycles. "Seattle's mandatory helmet laws are the biggest blockade to creating a comprehensive bike sharing program," local nonprofit Sightline found in a study last year. Four out of five bike share riders in Boston and Washington, DC, ride helmetless. Grist points out that the data is decidedly mixed on whether helmets provide significant protection from head injuries (some studies say it actually makes you less safe), but that that debate obscures the more important one over bike infrastructure.

I don't wear a helmet when I use my bicycle to get around Seattle. Friends and family worry and have been imploring me to wear one for years. Why subject yourself to needless danger, they ask? While I drafted this post, Eli wrote to me, "Wear a helmet! You make your living WITH YOUR BRAIN!"

And that captures the essence of choosing to wear one. It's driven by a climate of fear. Wear one or risk brain damage (the rest of one's body parts are, apparently, an afterthought). Wear one because I'm scared and you should be scared.

Obeying helmet laws in Seattle is a totally rational choice if you don't want to get killed or disabled. I'm not trying to be cavalier here. It is also, however, a protruding sign strapped on top of your head of submission to the status quo.

It shouldn't be like this. Berliners, with their 400 miles of bike lanes, aren't scared of being hit by a car. They—"old men," "young mothers [who] tow toddlers in trailers," among them—mostly do not use helmets, and there are no helmet laws.

I choose not to wear a helmet as an expression of prefigurative politics. I ride as if the city is as it should be. We should not have to ride in constant fear of being run off the road or holding up traffic when the bike lane disappears entirely or becomes shared with cars, trucks, and buses. Until we have a respectable degree of bicycle infrastructure in this city—cycletracks, protected bike lanes, bike share, and more—I will flout helmet laws. Until everyone (communities of color, older folks, parents and kids, the-less-daring) feels safe using bicycles to transport themselves about the city, I will flout helmet laws.

I look forward to one day wearing a helmet.


Comments (161) RSS

Oldest First Unregistered On Registered On Add a comment
Just Jeff 1
Wow. Yet another way you're a fucking idiot.
Posted by Just Jeff on June 5, 2013 at 2:44 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 2
On a bike lane - sure.

But you should not do what I did and go down a 7.5 percent grade highway from Rossland to Trail BC on a racing bicycle without a helmet.

Mind you, it was really fun doing that for years.
Posted by Will in Seattle on June 5, 2013 at 2:47 PM · Report this
keshmeshi 3
It's insurance companies that dictate these kinds of laws. They're not going to sign up for paying out millions to you or your loved ones because you don't have the good sense to protect your brain.
Posted by keshmeshi on June 5, 2013 at 2:48 PM · Report this
I am totally fine with this as long as you have a "please club me to death in the event of serious head injury" order on file with all the local hospitals.
Posted by Perhaps Ansel Already Has Brain Damage? on June 5, 2013 at 2:48 PM · Report this
Head injuries don't necessarily involve cars.
Posted by Ruke on June 5, 2013 at 2:51 PM · Report this
You should have a word with my friend who works the head trauma unit in the ICU at Harborview, brave free one.
Posted by maddogm13 on June 5, 2013 at 2:53 PM · Report this
and when insurance runs out (reaches its max) guess who gets to pick up the medical bills for brain damaged intern?

Of course that is assuming he has any insurance to begin with. Same outcome either way.
Posted by Senor Guy on June 5, 2013 at 2:55 PM · Report this
Banna 8
A meta-analysis of 16 observational studies dated 1987–1998 by Attewell et al. (2001) concludes that bicycle helmets prevent serious injury and that there is mounting scientific evidence for this.

Even if it only reduces head injuries by 20%, or 10%, it's worth it, right?

Also, "the city is as it should be" means you're always following all traffic laws like stopping at red lights and stop signs, signalling all turns and lane changes, etc.

Posted by Banna on June 5, 2013 at 2:56 PM · Report this
WaddyJones 9
This is a great idea. Idiots should ride in traffic without helmets so they get more catastrophic injuries and are less likely to breed, thus less idiots in the future. Charles Somethingsomething wrote about this in the pre-internet days.
Posted by WaddyJones on June 5, 2013 at 2:59 PM · Report this
Pope Peabrain 10
I've worked with brain injury patients that are disabled for life. Very tragic and completely unnecessary when a helmet could have prevented it.
Posted by Pope Peabrain on June 5, 2013 at 2:59 PM · Report this
Here I thought that the motorcycle community had to deal with really terrible arguments against helmet laws. Head injuries can happen for a variety of reasons and situations when riding on two wheels that do not involve cars. One should ALWAYS wear protective gear.
Posted by SeattleMotorcyclist on June 5, 2013 at 3:00 PM · Report this
"It is also, however, a protruding sign strapped on top of your head of submission to the status quo."

No. Not even close. It's a sign that should my head come into contact with another hard object, I would like to increase the chances that my brains will stay inside my skull.

That's it. That's all it means.
Posted by dicon on June 5, 2013 at 3:00 PM · Report this
john t 13
This thoughtful article is worth every penny you guys paid for it.
Posted by john t on June 5, 2013 at 3:02 PM · Report this
keshmeshi 14

I was referring more to car insurance companies that understandably don't want to pay a huge cash settlement in the event of unhelmeted bicyclist + car = millions of dollars to the family or to the now vegetable cyclist. But I'm sure health insurance companies don't want to deal with it either.
Posted by keshmeshi on June 5, 2013 at 3:03 PM · Report this
Jenny from the Block 15
"Christ what an asshole."
Posted by Jenny from the Block on June 5, 2013 at 3:04 PM · Report this
Zebes 16
Don't wear a helmet, you guys- it doesn't look very cool. And you do want to look cool, right?
Posted by Zebes on June 5, 2013 at 3:04 PM · Report this
Fenrox 17
@7, Not an excuse.

Whatever, if this dude doesn't do it, who cares?
If others do, WHO CARES.

I agree with the article, until.... "It is also, however, a protruding sign strapped on top of your head of submission to the status quo."

Ugh, duuuuuuuuummmb.
Posted by Fenrox on June 5, 2013 at 3:05 PM · Report this
I think Ansel is trying to tell us he personally has NOTHING to lose by not protecting his head while riding a bike. The rest of us have functioning valuable brains.
Posted by Stop bashing the drain-bamaged, peepul on June 5, 2013 at 3:06 PM · Report this
Bike tires blow out. Bicyclists run into each other. Bicyclists swerve to avoid hitting unforeseen crap in the road. These are the ways that most of my friends have crashed their bikes. Without fail, all of them have been really glad they had their helmets on. And their crashes had nothing to do with politics or cars.

In the small country of Denmark where EVERYONE rides a bike and where bike lanes are as big as car lanes, my good friend Maria crashed her bike when another cyclist cut her off. Her head hit a telephone pole. Hard. She was wearing a helmet (because, she said, she lives in a social welfare state where everyone pays everyone's health care; she thinks it would be irresponsible to risk the integrity of her noggin on the taxpayers' dime). She also blew out her knee and had to hobble around for a few months, but that was far more manageable than a head injury would have been.

I make political statements left and right. Even prefigurative ones. But I try not to make them with my skull.
Posted by rainycity on June 5, 2013 at 3:06 PM · Report this
reverend dr dj riz 20
you should just walk.
Posted by reverend dr dj riz on June 5, 2013 at 3:07 PM · Report this
I actually applaud your philosophical approach here: Prefiguratively politically speaking. When people ask me if I'm not scared riding a bike to get to and from work I don't say: Yes, often! I prefer to say: as long as my fellow road users behave legally, rationally and considerately there's no reason to be scared.

(Of course many of my motoring fellow road users are complete fuckwads, but that's not the change I want to see in the world...)

That said, per Ruke @5, head injuries don't always involve cars and I wear a helmet and I replace it every few years.
Posted by JAT on June 5, 2013 at 3:07 PM · Report this
emor 22
I wear a helmet when I ride my bike (which is every single day). However, I don't pretend that it's going to keep me safe in a serious accident. That kind of magical thinking is what gets people hurt.

My helmet motto is "Wear one, but ride like you aren't."
Posted by emor on June 5, 2013 at 3:07 PM · Report this
I respect your right to not wear a helmet, just like I respect your right to acquire a meth habit, cut yourself with broken glass you found in the gutter, or have unprotected sex with people of dubious health.

You decide your own level of risk, dude.

Me? Helmet all the way. I've had waaaay too many near misses, some of which, to be fair, have been my fault, but the vast majority of which are due to oblivious or intentionally psychopathic drivers. Plus, I ride fast (where appropriate). Tumbling off your hipster fixie at 10mph is a wholly different event from doing it at 25.

"Submission to the status quo" is a way of saying "recognizes the reality of the world as it is today, and behaves accordingly." Ain't no submission there pal, that's just working with what we've got. If we lived in a city of protected bike lanes, I might ditch the lid. But we don't. So I don't.

I'd also second #6 - my friend, the ER nurse, has seen enough helmet-less cyclist's head-wounds to be pretty fucking adamant about helmets.
Posted by Jonman on June 5, 2013 at 3:08 PM · Report this
helmet, no helmet, I don't care one way or the other, as long as you obey all the traffic laws while you're riding your bike (which includes coming to a full stop at stop signs), and not being a general dickbag when you ride (weaving between the sidewalk and the street, pissing off both pedestrians and motorists, for example).
Posted by j.lee on June 5, 2013 at 3:09 PM · Report this
samktg 25
So, when you catch your front wheel in a streetcar track, and you crack your helmet-less head open when you flip over handlebars, you're doing your part to bring on the anarchist utopia? Carry on please.
Posted by samktg on June 5, 2013 at 3:09 PM · Report this
Cascadian Bacon 26
I was never a big fan of helmets, but wearing one when I impacted into pavement at 30+ mph meant that I merely lost a few teeth rather than spend my life as a diaper shitting vegetable.
Posted by Cascadian Bacon on June 5, 2013 at 3:14 PM · Report this
I fully support Ansel Herz's decision to ride without a helmet.

He should be applauded and encouraged.
Posted by GermanSausage on June 5, 2013 at 3:14 PM · Report this
DOUG. 28
I don't care if you wear a helmet. I didn't for years, careening 30mph down Denny from Capitol Hill. Then I turned 30 and no longer felt invincible. This will happen to you, too.
Posted by DOUG. on June 5, 2013 at 3:14 PM · Report this
I crashed and was unconscious and split my bike helmet in two places. I'm still here. I wear a helmet with or without a law.
Posted by MyDogBen on June 5, 2013 at 3:16 PM · Report this
Aaron 30
No hire.
Posted by Aaron on June 5, 2013 at 3:16 PM · Report this
Bob Anderton 31
As a helmet-wearing lawyer who represents injured bicyclists (with and without helmets) I think a helmet is worth wearing... but it's better not to get hit than to have a helmet with very limited protection.

There is at least some evidence that drivers give less room when passing helmeted bicyclists than they do to those without.…

Other ways to achieve this effect while wearing a helmet include appearing to be female and wobbling on your bike. Statistics can be deceiving. Lest one think that wobbly unhelmeted women never get hit by cars, that is not the take-away here.
Posted by Bob Anderton on June 5, 2013 at 3:17 PM · Report this
unknown_entity 32
So do you not wear seatbelts because you don't want to submit to a climate of fear?

In example of Mythbusters being close to a public service, watch episode 141: Bottle Bash. Look at how effective a football helmet is at absorbing impacts and how much trauma the brain experiences from even mild impacts. If you want to argue that they use a football helmet, not a bike helmet, then that is an arguement for making bike helmets stronger, not helmet laws weaker.
Posted by unknown_entity on June 5, 2013 at 3:17 PM · Report this
schmacky 33
I predict that at some point in the not too distant future you will, either through the wisdom of age or the pain of experience, feel very silly for writing this post.
Posted by schmacky on June 5, 2013 at 3:18 PM · Report this
Tom Sackett 34
Ansel mistakes magical thinking for "prefigurative politics".

Those who oppose helmet laws often claim that wearing helmets reduces safety by convincing riders they are safer than they really are. In this case, however, Ansel willfully pretending that he already rides in a future world where bicycling is safer, as if ignoring physical risks will bring about a world where they don't exist.

"Prefigurative politics" isn't an exercise in wishful thinking. It's an approach to social change that says you have to actively build institutions that model your values. It's not about pretending; it's about doing.
Posted by Tom Sackett on June 5, 2013 at 3:20 PM · Report this
AirBuddy 35
Ooooooh this is juicy! This is almost as good as when Slog had the white-mail-libertarian Unpaid Intern guy!
Posted by AirBuddy on June 5, 2013 at 3:21 PM · Report this
Max Solomon 36
in 1992, i t-boned a jeep at an unsigned intersection in wallingford (versus the jeep t-boning me). my front wheel, my collar bone, and my helmet broke. but my skull didn't, and i didn't get a concussion.

you're a stupid puppy who thinks he's a libertarian torch bearer.
Posted by Max Solomon on June 5, 2013 at 3:23 PM · Report this
i agree with ansel, unlike the rest of you. i also suspect that none of you ride a bike or have any knowledge of bike infrastructure or policy. i do though! so!

anyone with an ounce of knowledge about how bicycles work in a city would tell you that helmets are great! but totally unnecessary and often limit people from taking up cycling as a mode of transportation. that's why there isn't a bike share program that requires them.

furthermore, aren't we all supposed to be the change we want to see in the world? if people see a person on a bike wearing their normal clothes and just going about their day instead of a lycra'd up douchebag, they might find the inspiration to get out there.

and yeah, we can talk all day about the unfortunate folks that end up in the brain trauma section of any of seattle's hospitals. but y'all wouldn't blame the rape victim for her rape would you? maybe before we talk about how that "idiot" needed a helmet we should talk about the driver who was more likely than not driving faster than they needed to be, talking/texting, not paying attention, etc. people on bikes aren't the ones driving a two ton bullet.

basically folks let's stop talking about how people on bikes need to wear helmets and maybe talk about how they should have protected lanes so that whether or not you're wearing a helmet, you are protected from cars. then maybe less people will be hurt and this conversation will be pointless.
Posted by marple on June 5, 2013 at 3:24 PM · Report this
Hernandez 38
My aunt went for a nice bike ride on a bike trail in the early 1980's. No cars around, but she hit a bump and fell of her bike, landing on her head. She spent the final 25 years of her life with severe brain damage - couldn't even go to the bathroom by herself.

Two years ago, a good friend got run off the road by a truck, slamming headfirst into a lightpole. She walked away with a broken bike helmet and a concussion. Better than a broken skull in a body bag.

Later that year, another friend was struck by a Hummer limo. Again, the helmet mitigated the severity of his injuries.

Look, do what you want, but don't pretend that not wearing a helmet is anything besides recklessness. Concepts like prefigurative politics seem small in the scheme of things when you can't wipe your own ass or feed yourself due to a major brain injury.
Posted by Hernandez on June 5, 2013 at 3:26 PM · Report this
Reverse Polarity 39
My husband is an avid bicyclist. (Me, not as much.) He has wrecked his bike 3 times in the last 15 years, none of which involved a car. One of those he hit a downed branch on the Burke-Gilman and went right over his handlebars and landed on his head. It would have resulted in a serious head injury if not for his helmet.

So, risk serious brain injury for some imagined political statement if you want to, I guess. You can likewise flout the seatbelt laws to stand up to the man. But I think you're an idiot for doing so.
Posted by Reverse Polarity on June 5, 2013 at 3:26 PM · Report this
Kris 40
Hear Hear, I'm exactly the same although every time I try to defend my argument people say I'm an asshole. Kids should wear helmets, so set an example, etc. Whatever, make your own kids wear a helmet then, don't bother me.
Posted by Kris on June 5, 2013 at 3:26 PM · Report this
Sir Vic 41
@6 & @10 I've spent a week in Harborview with staples in my chest and a tube wrapped around a lung; I've also spent a week in a post-concussion haze. Give me that week in Harborview everyday, plus twice on Sundays, versus another concussion.
With every other kind of injury, you can be aware of the pain & healing process, but not with a brain injury. You're just constantly at sea in a storm with no navigation.
Posted by Sir Vic on June 5, 2013 at 3:27 PM · Report this
I am not so concerned about the insurance companies. It is just the fact that once that million or those millions run out for medical care for brain damaged intern cyclist the costs continue to mount. They are absorbed two ways - one: the hospital counts it as a lose while covering the difference by increased fees for other patients and two: the government pays for a portion of it. So, either way the rest of us potentially shoulder the burden so that idiot boy can look cool on his fixie.
Posted by Senor Guy on June 5, 2013 at 3:31 PM · Report this
Hey Stranger, fire this intern and hire me. I can, you know, actually post links to actual studies.
Posted by Bloated Jesus is Bloated on June 5, 2013 at 3:31 PM · Report this
rob! 44
That was a little tl;dr as potential epitaph, UI, but rest assured (heh) someone will dig it up (snigger) if the need rises (BWAHAHAHA!).
Posted by rob! on June 5, 2013 at 3:34 PM · Report this
Big Sven 45
This is- by far- the dumbest thing I've ever read in the Slog. Even if cars treated you every bit as respectfully as they treat each other, THEY ARE IN A FOUR THOUSAND POUND STEEL BOXES AND YOU ARE PERCHED ON A TWENTY POUND ROLLING COLLAGE.

You are of course entitled to act stupidly, and if you want to risk permanent disability you should be able to do so. But the problem with your article here in Slog is that people who are only half stupid, or just too lazy to buy a helmet, will read it and use it as justification for doing nothing. And you will be in some small way responsible for their resulting disabilities.
Posted by Big Sven on June 5, 2013 at 3:36 PM · Report this
rob! 46
That was a little tl;dr as potential epitaph, UI, but rest assured (heh) someone will dig it up (snigger) if the need arises (BWAHAHAHA!).
Posted by rob! on June 5, 2013 at 3:37 PM · Report this
Let's all hit this guy with our cars.
Posted by Seriouslyguy? on June 5, 2013 at 3:39 PM · Report this
Sachi 48
If I had kept it, I would be happy to show you my old cracked helmet. No cars involved . . . and better my helmet than my head.
Posted by Sachi on June 5, 2013 at 3:40 PM · Report this
Aaron 49
BTW, you might want to get and use some gloves too (any sort, fingerless, net, whatever) since before your head hits something hard when you go over your handle bars, one of the first things to make contact will likely be your palms on the road. Road rash on a limb or shoulder - bad. Road rash on your typing hands - so very much worse. If you live (without your helmet).
Posted by Aaron on June 5, 2013 at 3:40 PM · Report this
I have a friend whose life was saved via organ donation, and so I say: Go For It! You ride without that helmet, kid!

Young organs are better and fresher than old organs, btw.
Posted by MLM on June 5, 2013 at 3:44 PM · Report this
Berlin is not a valid comparison. You must know this.
I ride with a helmet because other people are stupid and so, occasionally, am I. But I'm sure you aren't.
Posted by heatherness on June 5, 2013 at 3:44 PM · Report this
rob! 52
(Very high correlation between clickbait, server hiccups, and double-posting.)
Posted by rob! on June 5, 2013 at 3:45 PM · Report this
seatackled 53
For the same reason, I ride my bike straight through stop signs.
Posted by seatackled on June 5, 2013 at 3:47 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 54
@36 for Insightful Win Of The Day.

I agree with @49 about the gloves. Also, I have literally shredded shirts and pants when I wiped out going fast on gravel or macadam, so I recommend the gloves too. And don't ride fixies with a t-shirt and a speedo - it really DOES HURT. For a long time.
Posted by Will in Seattle on June 5, 2013 at 3:49 PM · Report this
seatackled 55
RIP unpaid intern who won't be needing a new camera after all.
Posted by seatackled on June 5, 2013 at 3:53 PM · Report this
So you're not going to wear a helmet as a way of protesting our lack of sufficient bicycling infrastructure, but you'll start wearing a helmet once that infrastructure's in place? Seems bass ackwards to me...

And Berliners - with their 400 miles of bike lanes - can ride helmetless for two reasons: first, people in Germany know how to drive, so cyclist are less likely to get hit by a car in Berlin, and second.... They HAVE 400 miles of bike lanes, as opposed to Seattles pathetic collection of disconnected bike lanes, sharrows, and otherwise inadequate infrastructure.
Posted by SuperSteve on June 5, 2013 at 3:54 PM · Report this
@53: Stop signs are part of the tyranny of the state. (Duh.)
Posted by MLM on June 5, 2013 at 3:54 PM · Report this
Mittens Schrodinger 58
If you really do make your living with your brain, your future prospects do not look bright based on the quality of brain usage in this post. Good luck,'re going to need it.
Posted by Mittens Schrodinger on June 5, 2013 at 3:58 PM · Report this
seatackled 59
Actually, dibs on his new camera when it becomes available.
Posted by seatackled on June 5, 2013 at 3:59 PM · Report this
Gern Blanston 60
I'd say the odds of a bicycle rider being injured without wearing a helmet are about the same as having your unattended valuables stolen from a public place.
Posted by Gern Blanston on June 5, 2013 at 4:00 PM · Report this
treacle 61
Ach, so late to this conversation. Regardless, here are my two bits of anecdotal helmet knowledge from being an avid bicyclist for well over 20 years.

1. Wear a helmet when you bicycle DRUNK!

2. Helmets are very useful for supporting helmet-mount REAR-VIEW MIRRORS, which allow bicyclists to be very, very nimble and aware in traffic.

3. White or light-colored helmets improve bicyclist VISIBILITY to other vehicles. I like being visible on my bicycle.

Otherwise, do as you wish. Freedom of the road, no tickets/free parking, etc., etc.
Posted by treacle on June 5, 2013 at 4:02 PM · Report this
Annnnnnd you're stupid. I am sorry. You are. Jeff Speck sad it best. Riding around with the wins blowing through your hair doesn't magically turn your city into Amsterdam. Have you been hit by a car? I've been hit by a SUV and my helmet cracked but my head didn't (though l was still knocked unconscious). Getting hit by a vehicle doesn't feel good, even with a helmet on but it's bullshit to say that they don't cut down on head trauma.
Posted by Devin on June 5, 2013 at 4:02 PM · Report this
I threw away my broken helmet because the dried blood started to gross me out. My skull was fractured on the bottom where my spine hit it with the rest of my body, the top of my skull was fine.

@37- You are committing the logical fallacy of "argument from final consequences." If people wear helmets some people won't ride bikes (really?). Let's face it, most people who don't wear helmets are just shallow and don't want to mess up their hair, let's not try and pass it off as some statement against the man.
Posted by MikeB on June 5, 2013 at 4:06 PM · Report this
tabletop_joe 64
This post is something you will stumble upon in 10 years and feel embarrassed by.
Posted by tabletop_joe on June 5, 2013 at 4:07 PM · Report this
Urgutha Forka 65
Shouldn't pedestrians wear helmets for all the reasons commenters have given above?

I mean, even if it only prevents 5% of injuries, it's worth it for all pedestrians to wear helmets at all times. Right?

And full body protection as well. Because it's safer. Even if it only prevents 1% of injuries, isn't that worth it?

Car drivers should also all wear helmets and full body protection. Maybe Kevlar.

If it just prevents one person from dying out of 100 trillion superficial injuries... than it's worth it, right?
Posted by Urgutha Forka on June 5, 2013 at 4:07 PM · Report this
treacle 66
One last comment from me: If you ride a bicycle regularly, and especially for many reasons (commuting, errands, work, drinking, etc.), it's not a question of IF you will have an accident, it's a matter of WHEN you will have an accident.

It's possibly that you are in the very small, magical percentage of bicyclists who never, ever crashes in their entire life. But that's a tiny group, and you can't predict if you'll be in that group.

Concussions suck. They are brain damage. Helmets actually help prevent brain damage for that time when you crash.

I don't care for mandatory helmet laws because there are in fact times when I choose to go without (long-distance bicycle trips in particular), when I feel it is safer (bcz. fewer intersections and cars).

But I will always wear a helmet bicycling around the city. My life, my choice.

Take you own life in your hands, as you already do. As everyone does.
"Do what thou wilt, shall be the whole of the law"
Posted by treacle on June 5, 2013 at 4:15 PM · Report this
"I look forward to one day wearing a helmet"

That day will come sooner than you think, what with all the impatient drivers we have around here.

Just keep your unsafe self off the sidewalks (you're a vehicle, remember) and obey traffic signals (like all the rest of the vehicles have to) and we'll be fine.
Posted by treehugger on June 5, 2013 at 4:18 PM · Report this
Dr_Awesome 68
Motorcyclists have the ABATE clowns and their idiot anti-helmet silliness.

With, predictably, the same results. States without helmet laws or with tecently-repealed helmet laws see increased fatalities and serious, debilitating injuries.

Only idiots dont wear helmets.
Posted by Dr_Awesome on June 5, 2013 at 4:25 PM · Report this
Banna 69
Urgutha Fork with the reductio ad absurdum strawman, everyone.
Posted by Banna on June 5, 2013 at 4:26 PM · Report this
All I hear when I read this post is:

"I'm rebel, Dottie! A lone wolf!"

You know why it's so cool to ride without a helmet in Amsterdam and Paris? They have universal healthcare.

Therefor these oft exampled super-cool helmet-less Europeans don't end up suing somebody and/or elevating the cost of care for everybody else when they eventually ram their semi-socialist skulls through a granite wall.

Here not so much.
Posted by tkc on June 5, 2013 at 4:26 PM · Report this
Geni 71
I'm totally cool with bicyclists or motorcyclists not wearing helmets, so long as any cost for treatment of head injuries comes 100% out of their own pockets. Not from pooled insurance premiums - treating TBI raises premiums for everyone - and most decidedly not from any publicly-funded ER care (which we all pay for).

I remember a court case some years back on the helmet laws where a motorcyclist defended his right to go lidless by saying, well, the helmets always crack in an accident anyway! The doctor presenting the evidence for the other side said, "Yes, it's true, if I take this helmet and strike it against the corner of this table, it may well crack. On the other hand, if I take your skull and strike it against the corner of the table, it will definitely crack. You have to decide which you'd prefer."
Posted by Geni on June 5, 2013 at 4:39 PM · Report this
Fuck you. My wife was released from Harborview yesterday. Last week Wednesday she was riding to work and apparently got her wheel stuck in the SLUT tracks and fell in the construction area on Mercer. I say apparently because she has no memory of what happened. She was unconscious for 5 minutes and cracked her skull. That's with a helmet. The helmet itself has a crack all the way through the Styrofoam where her head hit. And no cars were involved in her accident.

She's alive and is on the way to making a full recovery, but she won't be able to return to work until next month, if then. She has mild traumatic brain injury which is affecting just about every aspect of her life right now, but only moderately so. I can't imagine what shape she would be in if she wasn't wearing a helmet. Maybe she'd be dead.

All I can say is that every time I now pass someone not wearing a helmet, I want to yell, "Wear a fucking helmet!" But I guess in your case I'm willing to make an exception so you shut the fuck up after your massive brain trauma.
Posted by taco hut on June 5, 2013 at 4:42 PM · Report this
emma's bee 73
@19: and don't forget animals and other critters that jump out in the road at you. Just last night outside my city a cycling group was out on an 18 mph ride on a nice country road. A labrador retriever ran out and charged at a guy, knocking him off his bike at high speed. His helmet cracked, but he suffered nothing worse than bumps and bruises.
Posted by emma's bee on June 5, 2013 at 4:46 PM · Report this
While I drafted this post, Eli wrote to me, "Wear a helmet! You make your living WITH YOUR BRAIN!"

He must not read your stuff.
Posted by Mr. Happy Sunshine on June 5, 2013 at 4:49 PM · Report this
emma's bee 75
I'm so sorry about your wife's crash, taco hut @72. I hope she makes a speedy and complete recovery.
Posted by emma's bee on June 5, 2013 at 4:52 PM · Report this
onion 76
the data ARE, the data ARE!
Posted by onion on June 5, 2013 at 4:58 PM · Report this
Thank you emma's bee.
Posted by taco hut on June 5, 2013 at 5:00 PM · Report this
@72: I wish your wife a complete and swift recovery. That really sucks and I'm sorry.

I know this will probably have no effect whatsoever on the tone of this comment thread, but notice that I do not say helmets are worthless or that you should never wear one. I occasionally wear one on longer weekend rides, or if it's rainy and slippery out. If I was to race, I think I'd wear one. I make a judgement based on the conditions. In this post I'm talking about bicycling as a form of city transportation. For that, we shouldn't need to wear a helmet or be required to.
Posted by Guest Author on June 5, 2013 at 5:01 PM · Report this
Just Jeff 79
Two words: Gary Busey.

This post is right up there with the one he wrote accusing people who support members of the National Guard of being warmongers.

What a fucking tool.
Posted by Just Jeff on June 5, 2013 at 5:02 PM · Report this
matt 80
Any chance this is a trollpost?
Posted by matt on June 5, 2013 at 5:08 PM · Report this
Urgutha Forka 81
For it to be a strawman argument, I'd have to have torn it down. It's just reductio ad absurdum sarcasm.

I don't bike, so it doesn't apply to me, but seriously... with all this ranting over wearing a helmet, most of it with screams of BECAUSE SAFETY!, why shouldn't pedestrians wear helmets? Would it not be safer? Ignore the body armor stuff I wrote... just pedestrian helmets. What if rigorous scientific studies showed that pedestrians wearing helmets were 10% safer. Would there be as much vitriol as there is right now over the bike helmet thing?
Posted by Urgutha Forka on June 5, 2013 at 5:11 PM · Report this
Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn 82
Just want to say thank you to Ansel Herz for not wearing a helmet. I wish more people like you would not wear helmets too.

Everyone not like Ansel Herz should definitely protect their brain, though.
Posted by Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn on June 5, 2013 at 5:11 PM · Report this
Furthermore, sex without condoms has way more freedomness. Seriously, there are studies in Africa saying condoms actually cause HIV.
Posted by cracked on June 5, 2013 at 5:17 PM · Report this
Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn 84

Dream on. Everybody pays more for these morons. How much more?

One year after relaxing its motorcycle helmet law, Michigan has seen a 22 percent rise in medical insurance claim costs associated with cycle crashes. The data is clear: When helmets are off, injuries and death increase.

The average medical claim rose to $7,257 in the wake of the change...

From Michigan motorcycle injury claims rise
with helmet law repeal
at Consumer Reports. Keep in mind that bicyclists don't have any insurance at all, and these young anarchist twats in particular don't pay any health insurance premiums. All these extra costs get passed on to either your uninsured motorist clause, your health insurance, or your taxes. Somebody pays and that somebody is all of us.

That extra $7,000 was the average. Motorcyclists are only 5% of the population. Think about how much money they had to cost us to drag the average of the other 95% up by 7 grand.
Posted by Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn on June 5, 2013 at 5:25 PM · Report this
Before we get all high and mighty and preachy about bike helmets - There were 32,367 motor vehicle-related deaths in 2011 in USA. (Thank you, Wikipedia). Why aren't motorists - And for that matter, the pedestrians they put at risk - also required to wear helmets? The answer is that human beings aren't particularly accurate, rational or honest with themselves about assessing bodily risk.
Posted by elpablogrande on June 5, 2013 at 6:03 PM · Report this
Diana 86
The thing about a TBI (traumatic brain injury) is that you could wake up in a hospital and not know that you’ve had one. When your family patiently explains to you, after you’ve woken up from a two-week coma, that you’ve fallen and hit your head, that you are seriously injured, and that for your own safety you absolutely cannot get up to walk to the bathroom unaided, you won’t understand why. You will get up and try to take a few unsteady steps, angry, confused, and yelling. You don’t know why your voice is slurred when you try to speak. You can’t walk, but you won’t sit back down because you don’t know why you’re in the hospital, and when you are told, it doesn’t sink in.

You don’t understand that the men in Harborview scrubs who have taken you down and are tying you to your hospital bed with soft restraints are doing so to save your life. If you try to walk before you’re steady, you will fall, you could hit your head again, and die for real this time. You have already died once, but a 3 year old saw out the window. She saw you fall and hit your head, she saw you have a seizure, and she saw you die. She told her father, and he gave you CPR.

You don’t know why your sister is crying, watching the nurses take you down and write down "noncompliant" in your chart. You didn’t hear the nurse tell her that it could be two years before you have recovered as much as you’re going to. You didn’t see your family come to visit you every day of the two weeks you were in the coma, wondering if you would ever walk or talk again, or if this was it. You didn’t see the tube coming out of the hole drilled into your skull through your forehead to monitor the pressure. You didn’t see your sister playing music for you while you were in the coma, hoping you would come back to this world. You didn’t see your mother’s brave smile. And when you came back to this world, yelling, you didn’t know that you’d have permanent volatile personality changes, that you’d never smell or taste a cup of coffee or any food ever again, that you’d never be able to hold down a job again. You couldn’t see the rehabilitative therapy that was in front of you, the years of headaches trying to get on Social Security Disability, the days of severe migraines you’re now prone to, and you didn’t know that you’d spend the next ten years living with your elderly parents.

Now, to be fair, my brother was not biking—he was assaulted. My brother’s brain injury was the result of falling backwards onto his head onto concrete from a standing position. It wasn’t just the force of the initial impact that caused the brain injury—it was the brain rebounding into the front of the skull, and then the swelling. The physics forces that could would into play in a head injury sustained in a bike accident, from even a casual ride, would be much greater than just falling backwards from a standing position. At any speed, a life-altering traumatic brain injury is a real possibility for a bike rider in an accident, regardless of whether the bike rider was 100% in the right, whether they were on their usual ride where they “should” be safe, whether the pavement was dry, whether there was a car involved, whether roadways were designed and maintained for the safety of cyclists, and whether the world is yet exactly the way we want it to be.

Wearing a bike helmet is not an act of fear. It’s an act of optimism and hope, of planning to go on living life and being in the world with one’s personality and unique mind wholly intact. Wearing a bike helmet is also an act of generosity, to do what one can, however slightly inconvenient, to avoid putting one’s family and friends through grief and heartache and worry. You could even look at wearing a helmet as an act of selfishness—looking out for number one. But not wearing one? There’s not an argument for that that stacks up against the possibility of waking up in Harborview in the way I’ve described (or not waking up at all.)
Posted by Diana on June 5, 2013 at 6:03 PM · Report this
It's less about you and your dumb, unprotected head - and more about the driver who will get an involuntary manslaughter charge when they accidentally hit your dumb, unprotected head.

Just like motorcyclists, you are far more likely to receive a head injury or death from crashing without a helmet - and that is why they are mandatory. Moreover, they are mandatory because we share the road with cars...and if a car hits us, it is JUST like hitting a motorcyclist. If you kill someone, it can ruin your life.

I bike to work every day AND own a car, and I would rather ride safe and drive safe, than have some hipster fixie come flying down the hill without a helmet, signals, or's just dumb.…

Posted by haaarvard on June 5, 2013 at 6:07 PM · Report this
Supreme Ruler Of The Universe 88

The other part of this is that if you look at YT vids of Europeans on bikes on cycletracks...they ride slow! They don't dress up in body suits and speed along in packs of 4 weaving in between pedestrians.

The bikes they ride are big and slow classic style bikes with high handlebars and baskets. And people wear their normal clothes.

But most of all. They don't speed. They go slow.

Bicycles in away a bit like street cars. For a while they were a standard mode of travel. Then they become just for kids and then finally entered the very rarefied mode of the $7000 track bike edging along a highway driven by high strung Lycra whippets on their way to a project management job at Pharmasoft.

Now I see the bike returning here in Kent. The cheap bike, the one that every kid can afford. Kids are sitting on their bikes, then taking off, going in circles, learning on training wheels. America is coming back. In the suburbs, where one can grow up healthy and play in the street or park all night long.
Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe on June 5, 2013 at 6:08 PM · Report this
History repeats itself. The more or less same nonsense was uttered in this state by the no-helmet laws motorcycle crowd about three decades plus ago. Absolutely selfish, inconsiderate crap.
Posted by Fairhaven on June 5, 2013 at 6:09 PM · Report this
F'ing preposterous. But that's cool. Want to come smoke a meth cigar to protest public obnoxious health messages about trying to save your life with me sometime?
Posted by yonush18 on June 5, 2013 at 6:12 PM · Report this
"It is also, however, a protruding sign strapped on top of your head of submission to the status quo."

As are personal grooming and clothing. Your reasoning is about the most childish I've ever heard. Bravo fair idiot, you win at dumb.
Posted by dwilday on June 5, 2013 at 6:16 PM · Report this
Bike helmets prevent head injury the same way filtered cigarettes prevent lung cancer.

It's for show. You wear one for piece of mind, but deep down you know that if shit get's sketchy you'll be relearning your ABCs helmet or no helmet.

Posted by Jeff on June 5, 2013 at 6:17 PM · Report this
@78. Thanks. I take back what I said in the last sentence of my post about you. That was over the top.
Posted by taco hut on June 5, 2013 at 6:19 PM · Report this
Ansel's so edgy, I nearly cut myself reading this Slog.

Accordingly, I've decided that I'm going to open-carry my largest caliber handgun everywhere I go, all the time. I know it sounds foolish but until the people around me in this community start getting over their ludicrous fear of firearms, I'm going to flout this silly paranoia and pack my Harry Callahan special every time I go to the QFC to pick up some pizza rolls.

Just kidding. I'm going to leave my hand cannon at home because I'm respectful of the community around me and because its a logical and reasonable thing to do. Just like wearing my helmet when I ride is a rational and reasonable thing to do, *especially* because we live in a city full of asshole drivers who watch their iPhone text inboxes instead of watching the road.

Final note: I hope you have insurance... If the city's emergency services have to one day ladle your brain back into your skull, your flouting the law is the cause, and the state ends up covering the tab, I'll think you an even bigger buffoon than I did after reading your reasoning behind not wearing a bicycle helmet.
Posted by Gonzzxxo on June 5, 2013 at 6:24 PM · Report this
AirBuddy 95
Oh man. Oh man. This is great. There should be more of these and eventually the internet will catch on fire.


You should do sunscreen next. C'mon, set your iconoclastic sites on that sacred cow! Do it!!!!
Posted by AirBuddy on June 5, 2013 at 6:25 PM · Report this
This guy is hands down the stupidest unpaid intern the Stranger has ever had. Even worse than that libertarian dude.
Posted by Reader01 on June 5, 2013 at 6:28 PM · Report this
Cars now have airbags to stop your head banging things in an accident, they also have daytime running lights. If a bicyclist wants to ride in traffic, head protection and lights should also be required for them.
Posted by uptown on June 5, 2013 at 6:30 PM · Report this
@92, but that's the point. You won't be.

The purpose of a helmet is the absorption and distribution of impact energy through the media it's made of. Much like how body armor takes a bullet or shrapnel impact and instead of letting it penetrate, breaks your ribs and gives you a bruise 3 feet wide. It's still painful as all hell, and you're certainly incapacitated, but you're going to live most likely, instead of having your liver painted all over someone else.

Posted by caltrop_head on June 5, 2013 at 6:36 PM · Report this
dwightmoodyforgetsthings 99
Given how many people ride without helmets in the face of helmet laws, I find it hard to believe that helmet laws are the big impediment to bike riding.

(And wear a fucking helmet, jackass. It might save your life, it might save you from a nasty head wound that bleeds all over your favorite shirt, it might do absolutely nothing, but it's really not much of a sacrifice.)
Posted by dwightmoodyforgetsthings on June 5, 2013 at 6:37 PM · Report this
On that note by the way, if you're in an impact fast enough to make the protection of a helmet to your brain irrelevant, chances are you're going to die. That's the territory of major organ and bone damage, and severe internal bleeding.

In the interest of fairness, I'd love for slog to invite a trauma surgeon to post a response. I think it'd be amazing.
Posted by caltrop_head on June 5, 2013 at 6:37 PM · Report this
Helmets are a good place to put lights....
Posted by pupuguru on June 5, 2013 at 6:39 PM · Report this
What a fucking idiotic article. I feel dumber for having read it, and I want that 45 seconds of my life back.
Posted by NateMan on June 5, 2013 at 6:45 PM · Report this
Y 103
The tag for this article should read "Bike Snob Trollbait."
Posted by Y on June 5, 2013 at 6:52 PM · Report this
I say, "Good for you. You make your choices, I make mine.
I chose to give up my bikes, I drive. This is a survival thing."

BTW, I have a friend who recently fractured their skull from
an encounter with a railroad track. I know because she sent
us Facebook message. Because... she was wearing a helmet.

With ObamaCare perhaps my local community won't be stuck
paying for those like-minded who are unfortunate enough to
find the need for people to feed them, to sponge bathe them,
and clean them up twice daily as they poop in their beds.
Posted by Nuclear Marc on June 5, 2013 at 6:53 PM · Report this
Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn 105

You mean like they don't take in to account deaths per miles driven? Because those 32,000 deaths are spread over 2,900 billion vehicle miles traveled. Almost three trillion VMT. Or 1.1 deaths per billion miles traveled. In 1921 the rate was 24 times higher. It plummeted because of mandatory seat belts. Mandatory bumpers. Mandatory vehicle crash testing. Mandatory airbags. And so on.

Notice a pattern? Mandatory safety engineering saves lives. Without it we'd have the same death rate as 1921, and 768,000 people would die in cars every year. We've saved 736,000 people a year with science and engineering and the targeted use of laws to protect people from themselves.

What if cars today were made without all those mandatory safety features? Read: Grim Findings in Latin Crash Tests. Welcome to Latin America, where the nanny state isn't around to make you drive a safe car. Gruesome shit.

So what about those helmets? Well the death rate per VMT for motorcyclists is 30 times higher than cars. The rate for bicyclists is at least 20 times higher.

That is why it's smart to mandate helmets for bicyclists, but it's not so urgent for cars. Cars have their own laundry list of mandatory safety devices. And they work. And more safety requirements are on the way. Nobody thinks 32,000 deaths are acceptable.

It's just that the data say helmets are most necessary for motorcyclists and bicyclists.
Posted by Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn on June 5, 2013 at 7:06 PM · Report this
Max Solomon 106
105 posts, UI! look at that ad revenue pile up - you know how to work us stupid libs.

BTW, I rode un-helmeted in Amsterdam, smoking big fat joints, all over town. you know why? my bike weighed half a ton, had 3 gears, it's utterly flat there, there are grade-separated bike lanes everywhere there are trolleys, and there's basically NO CARS.

But when I rode in NOLA, you bet your ass I had a helmet on.
Posted by Max Solomon on June 5, 2013 at 7:17 PM · Report this
dwightmoodyforgetsthings 107
@88- Training wheels are the worst way to learn to ride and the suburbs are the worst place to try to live by bike.
Posted by dwightmoodyforgetsthings on June 5, 2013 at 7:17 PM · Report this
Stop riding your bike on the fucking sidewalk.
Posted by I'm trying to walk. on June 5, 2013 at 7:35 PM · Report this
Greg 109
Do what you want. You're an adult, and solely responsible for the consequences of your actions. I'll keep wearing my helmet when I ride, thanks very much.
Posted by Greg on June 5, 2013 at 7:50 PM · Report this
jBee 110
27 years ago this week (June 3 to be exact), my beautiful smart healthy mother was killed by a truck driver as she rode to work on Mission Street in San Francisco. On behalf of my 3-year-old self who never saw her mother again, my grandmother who could never sleep through the night without heavy medication afterwards, my father, my brother, and the man whose life was ruined because he has to live with the fact that he took a young mother away from her family I say fuck you. Fuck your cavalier attitude. Fuck your indifference to the feelings of the people who care about you. Fuck your political statement.

Yes, we'd all be better off if there was the necessary awareness and infrastructure to keep cyclists safe but until then fuck you and fuck your desire to be a god damned martyr.
Posted by jBee on June 5, 2013 at 7:53 PM · Report this
I don't care what Ansel does as long as he does it on my face. Kid is fuckin hot.
Posted by dry dock on June 5, 2013 at 8:00 PM · Report this

Cars are also used as a form of city transportation, and yet people driving them or riding in them still are required by law to wear seat belts. In both cases, the law requires everyone to take precautions to ensure a greater risk of survival if an accident occurs- so stop acting as if it's a ridiculous notion to have to wear a helmet and just wear it.
Posted by Will from PA on June 5, 2013 at 8:09 PM · Report this
Jesus. Fire this idiot from their unpaid gig; the concentrated levels of stupid are a danger to all around them. This post may be the dumbest thing I've read on the Internet all month, and I'm not entirely sure the relative youth of June makes a difference. Really just painfully bad.
Posted by Warren Terra on June 5, 2013 at 8:12 PM · Report this
dirac 114
I hope you don't hit your head on an aPodment.
Posted by dirac on June 5, 2013 at 8:20 PM · Report this
Must be on Slog Trolling rotation with Charles.
Posted by capicola on June 5, 2013 at 9:12 PM · Report this
A motorcycle helmet saved my life in 1986. Without it I would be a vegetable or dead today. I was hit by a red light runner going 35-40 mph, I rolled up on his hood, and cracked the windshield with my head and was thrown onto the concrete median of the road.

The next day the valiant helmet had its straps cut off and it was thrown in the garbage. My foot swelled up to a size 25 or so, and I was on crutches for four months and in physical therapy for another three. All while trying to graduate from college (it was my last semester).

SO WEAR A FUCKING HELMET. That could just as easily have been me on a bicycle.

Best part? The guy was driving his girlfriend's Dad's Camaro. :-)
Posted by Mike Friedman on June 5, 2013 at 9:26 PM · Report this
flaneur 117
I have defended this intern in the past for his widely and justifiably derided posts. However, after reading this, I now believe "you just can't fix stupid". This intern may have blood on his hands if some naive biker follows his unfuckinbelievable advice.
Posted by flaneur on June 5, 2013 at 9:27 PM · Report this
You are the tooliest fucking tool-ass intern I've ever seen on this newspaper.
Posted by The CHZA on June 5, 2013 at 9:27 PM · Report this
Kind of like bareback sex.
Posted by DJSauvage on June 5, 2013 at 9:29 PM · Report this
Like bareback sex In that guys come up with a ton of fancy rationalizations but ultimately do it because it feels good.
Posted by DJSauvage on June 5, 2013 at 9:32 PM · Report this
Aaron 121
Hey, can you write something about why brakes on a bicycle with fixed gearing and no freewheel (like a track bike) aren't necessary either?
Posted by Aaron on June 5, 2013 at 9:32 PM · Report this
schmacky 122
Thanks, @86.
Posted by schmacky on June 5, 2013 at 9:34 PM · Report this
Keister Button 123
What would be funny would be Ansel's SLOG posts reposting every twenty minutes. Commenters would note "Hey you just posted that already!" And Ansel or a SLOG admin on his behalf could respond "did I? I don't remember. Oh yeah, and also, I ride fearlessly without a helmet."
Posted by Keister Button on June 5, 2013 at 9:37 PM · Report this
stupid aside, this is dangerous. what if some empty-headed 22 year old reads this and takes his advice? pun intended.
Posted by Grr4565 on June 5, 2013 at 10:18 PM · Report this
#85 FTW!!!!

People die from head injuries in car accidents all the time but nobody wears a helmet while driving. Hypocrites.
Posted by S T on June 5, 2013 at 11:14 PM · Report this
Ugh...As many people pointed out here there is a lot of other dangers besides cars, although cars in this city is a huge danger. Also we are not Berlin, we have huge hills and rain most of the year, and the two combine cause a shit load of accidents (a friend use to make fun of me for riding my breaks on hills, sure enough a couple weeks later he skidded out in the rain and broke his arm).

I'm going to make a jump here, but I assume you're for socialized health care based on other posts you've made. Well the argument you're making is a great argument against social health care. Basically I know something is dangerous but I'm going to do it anyways. Pull that shit in Seattle if you want, but stay out of Canada as we don't want to pick up your tab, we'd rather pay for health care for people who couldn't prevent their injuries.

Leaves camera on table unattended, no big deal I'll ask society to buy me a new one. Rides bike without helmet, no big deal I'll as society to pay for my medical bills...(Of course it's not like the Stranger's going to cover it, I assume since they don't pay their interns they also don't give them health coverage).
Posted by j2patter on June 5, 2013 at 11:14 PM · Report this
Basically I know something is dangerous but I'm going to do it anyways. Pull that shit in Seattle if you want, but stay out of Canada as we don't want to pick up your tab, we'd rather pay for health care for people who couldn't prevent their injuries.

Gotcha, don't go to Canada if you want to drive, skydive, have unprotected sex, ride a motorcycle, become a fisherman, mountain climb, hang-glide, scuba-dive, back-country ski, play football, etc, etc, and finally, etc..

What a ridiculously silly thing to say.
Posted by LJM on June 5, 2013 at 11:50 PM · Report this
@125, um what do you think air-bags are trying to do, and they are required by law:…
Posted by j2patter on June 5, 2013 at 11:50 PM · Report this
@127 - driving, mountain climbing, hang-glidng, scuba-driving all can be safe if you follow the proper guide lines. Football isn't a big deal in Canada (highschools are actually debating banning it due to injuries). Back-country skiing is stupid and should be outlawed. You're missing the point behind my statement. If you believe the society should take care of your healthcare (which it should btw), then you should take measures to take of yourself. If you drive without a seat belt then you should be ticketed, same if you ride a bike without a helmet.
Posted by j2patter on June 5, 2013 at 11:55 PM · Report this
The person who wrote #86 is the person The Stranger should hire whenever they do have an opening, and reluctantly decide they can't take on someone full-time who has the sense of responsibility Ansel has demonstrated during his internship.
Posted by robotslave on June 6, 2013 at 12:56 AM · Report this
To be fair, UI once had a $50000 helmet that someone stole because he left it on a table in a busy restaurant.
Posted by FonsieScheme on June 6, 2013 at 1:08 AM · Report this
Rob in Baltimore 132
Ah the young, and their false sense of invincibility. Ansel, your organ donor card is up to date, right?
Posted by Rob in Baltimore on June 6, 2013 at 4:13 AM · Report this
Just Jeff 133
What kind of incredible, whiny, self-centered little pussy is going to be deterred from riding a bike because of a requirement to helmet law? Says a lot about potential cyclists. "Gee, I have to wear a helmet. Guess I'll drive instead."

Ansel - you're a jackass.
Posted by Just Jeff on June 6, 2013 at 4:34 AM · Report this
AFinch 134
Could not agree more: the data don't show such an overwhelming correlation, and the mandatory requirements do discourage other riders.

Oh, and @6 - I tell you what, you and your head trauma buddy like epidemiological statistics so much, let's have a chat about the relative dangers of Iatrogenic injuries in that oh-so-safe-ICU and injuries from riding helmetless. I'll take my chances on the bike over a medico screwup any day.
Posted by AFinch on June 6, 2013 at 5:24 AM · Report this
bigg 135
So this kid wants to decorate the pavement with his blood & brains. I've some of the other stuff he's written - I say, LET HIM.
Posted by bigg on June 6, 2013 at 6:52 AM · Report this
Skulls are like egg shells, they crack so, so easily. All it takes is an oil slick, rock, pot hole, bump, myriad mechanical failure, and you are over the handle bars. Sure, I also worry about cars and being assaulted (you REALLY want a helmet on when a man tries to drag you off your bike or gropes you—it's happened four times in 30-some years and I was so happy my head/face was protected every time), but the roads are honestly a much bigger threat to fragile skulls.
Posted by mitten on June 6, 2013 at 7:22 AM · Report this
@111 Pictures please! I would like to see UI (Ansel) also... It's always fun to share with others!
Posted by RMF on June 6, 2013 at 7:56 AM · Report this
TomJohnsonJr 138
Diana @86, thank you thank you THANK YOU. Magnificently explained. So much heart. I don't always cry, but when I do it's for being glad people like you sometimes write things like that.
Posted by TomJohnsonJr on June 6, 2013 at 8:00 AM · Report this
ScrawnyKayaker 139
Ugh. Not going to try to read all the above, so sorry if this is repetitive: Did the studies try to exclude people who were wearing their helmets WRONG???

If the front of the helmet isn't about one finger's-width above your eyebrows, it's not gonna work! I see a large minority of people riding with their helmets perched on the back of their heads, so their entire forehead is exposed. It's not a fucking yarmulke! Put it on properly~~~
Posted by ScrawnyKayaker on June 6, 2013 at 8:13 AM · Report this
ScrawnyKayaker 140
What @28 said. If you're not pushing thirty, your brain is not yet fully developed (see recent brain imaging research, citation missing due to intense laziness).
Posted by ScrawnyKayaker on June 6, 2013 at 8:18 AM · Report this
I knew you were going to get a stack of shit the minute I saw your post. But hey - ill throw in for ya.
I dont wear a helmet either. For mountain biking, racing etc for sure. But for commuting, getting to and from work (I bike most days), fuck that. Hey sanctimonious posters - guess what? Death lurks EVERYWHERE. You wanna wear a helmet - cool. You dont wanna wear one - also cool. I came up in Vancouver, biking EVERWHERE, EVERYDAY. Now in Munich and its sooooooooo nice to not have to freak out and clutch for my helmet on my handlebars everytime a cop drives by (and btw - bike lanes cut out for no reason here, and the drivers are just as crappy in N. America with the not-paying-attention-texting bullshit). It aint fucking biking utopia here.
Posted by Nodz on June 6, 2013 at 8:40 AM · Report this
@78: If you shouldn't have to wear a helmet, I shouldn't have to help pay for it when you end up in the emergency room. Idiots like you should have to sign forms that opt you out of having society pay for your mistakes.
Posted by treehugger on June 6, 2013 at 9:29 AM · Report this
"@125, um what do you think air-bags are trying to do, and they are required by law:"

Plenty of people are still getting head injuries in cars air bags or not. Also not all cars have airbags. So why don't you wear a helmet in your car?
Posted by S T on June 6, 2013 at 9:58 AM · Report this
Sabotage 144
At this point I'm pretty sure the Stranger hired you just as entertainment for us. Dance, monkey!
Posted by Sabotage on June 6, 2013 at 10:35 AM · Report this
Hot Hot 145
Ride at your own risk. If you feel the need to protect your head please do so. If you feel safe that you don't feel the need to wear a helmet you should not be penalized. Most of us don't walk around with a helmet on just because we run the risk of getting hit by a car or walking tripping and landing wrong (granted its not at 10-20 mph) so we shouldn't be forced to wear a helmet. Let natural selection do its thing. I personally have a short route to work everyday (less than a mile RT) with bike lane so I don't wear a helmet. It's my head, my choice. Use your own best judgment.
Posted by Hot Hot on June 6, 2013 at 10:40 AM · Report this
Daddy Love 146
If we had more men like you, we'd have less men like you.
Posted by Daddy Love on June 6, 2013 at 2:27 PM · Report this
Daddy Love 147
Waiver of liability or not, we still suffer because the wives and children of these idtions have lower incomes, more behavioral and educational problems, and so on than ones with living, though still stupid, dads.
Posted by Daddy Love on June 6, 2013 at 2:30 PM · Report this
evilvolus 148
Jesus, Stranger. Where do you find these Randian imbiciles?
Posted by evilvolus on June 6, 2013 at 3:37 PM · Report this
Diana 149
Thank you, @122, @130, and @138. You never know when you share such a deeply personal moment how it is going to be received. Thank you for not letting it be a reception of silence.

I would write for The Stranger, @130. As long as I could do it from Olympia.

I actually edited my comment to make it less maudlin, @138. I took out the sentence describing how I took photographs of the Seattle skyline for every day my brother missed while he was in a coma at Harborview. I also didn’t mention how once you have a traumatic brain injury you can never not have it—you can never step outside of it—not even for a moment.

I understand that people are going to make their own choices in life, but life is incredibly beautifully fragile; and people should know what they are risking, for themselves and for those who love them. Just put on the funny hat.
Posted by Diana on June 6, 2013 at 4:56 PM · Report this
Ansel, you are usually smarter and a better journalist than this.

You could make most of the same arguments in the same prefigurative vein by replacing "Helmet" with "Pants". Aren't you kow-towing to the authorities and publicly admitting the existence and fear of the risk of rape if someone sees your attractive hairy legs in an unfortunate context?

Until everyone feels safe in the city, you should go pant-less.

And proudly explain your point of view and conclude, with a straight look into the eye of the questioner:
".... I look forward to one day wearing pants."
Posted by pantless in seattle on June 7, 2013 at 8:51 AM · Report this
To those of you saying "wait 'til you have a major accident and become a vegetable"...guess what, we're actually pretty resilient creatures. I've smashed my face into the pavement at a high rate of speed (best guess is somewhere in the neighborhood of 25...I was going down a decently steep hill on a racing bike), sans helmet, and the only thing I have to show for it today is two veneers and a lip scar. Yes, I was knocked unconscious. Yes, I probably suffered a minor concussion. But I did *NOT* suffer any permanent brain injury. I didn't even see a doctor until the next day. The impact was probably less severe than many (even restrained) passengers in motor vehicle collisions sustain. My brother had to spend the night in the hospital due to a head injury after my dad's car was dad had his head surgically repaired and spent a week in the hospital...surrounded by thousands of pounds of steel and strapped to their seats, they were injured worse than I was.

Not that tragedies don't happen. I know someone who died, after being in a PVS for a few weeks, after simply falling backwards and banging her head on the stairs. But my point is that we don't walk around wearing helmets in our homes, or while traveling as pedestrians, or while grocery shopping (those shelves are heavy, and if they fall!), or even while doing one of the most dangerous things any of us will ever do: traveling by personal motor vehicle. Depending on where and how you bike, it's no more dangerous than most day-to-day activities.

Wear a helmet if you want, but it's kind of asinine to insist other adults be criminally charged for choosing not to do so. It's a waste of enforcement resources, and, yes, reduces biking, dampening the #1 thing that improves cyclist safety (numbers). Education, passion, whatever...have at it. I've got no reason to be upset at someone who preaches at me about helmets, but I draw the line at criminalizing not wearing one. Most states don't even have cell phone use bans for drivers (I know, that's shocking, but only 11 states & DC ban handheld use), and you're throwing a primary offense at helmet-less riders?

Also, on the topic of cyclists needing to be 100% law-abiding, how about we go for a drive sometime? If you break one SINGLE traffic law, even a little, you're not allowed to talk anymore. I will enjoy watching you attempt to drive exactly 25 MPH... At the end of the day, a car making a "California stop" at 5+ MPH is a whole heck of a lot more dangerous than a cyclist making an "Idaho stop" at <5 MPH. And let me just tell you which one I see more (by number, not percentage, since numbers, not percentages, make crossing the street dangerous)...
Posted by Ms. D on June 7, 2013 at 10:42 AM · Report this
Halle-fuckin-lujah brother!! fuck all you assholes out there in the mindless satanic mob! I cant tool down the open sidewalk in the summer to get a coke at the corner store without one of your armed thugs harassing me about a ticket. [yeah; I just so happen to bike on weekends when we have multiple cops out on my street directing event traffic]
Posted by carsten coolage on June 7, 2013 at 11:01 AM · Report this
I live 4 blocks from the nearest store. If I go there without a helmet, which is the greater risk: being in a bicycle accident or being assaulted by police?

Also I'm black.
Posted by JoeyJOEJOEJOE on June 7, 2013 at 8:07 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 154
The only way this thread would be better would be if you had your pitbull puppy ride in a basket on your bike - sans helmet.
Posted by Will in Seattle on June 8, 2013 at 12:44 AM · Report this
The Stranger is definitely getting what they pay for with this guy! (Though isn't everybody at the Stranger pretty much unpaid?).

Look, do what you want with your life, kid, but by writing this, you may have influenced some very young, idealistic and foolish person (someone like yourself) to not wear a helmet. This is so irresponsible, it's sickening.
Posted by ian on June 8, 2013 at 10:23 AM · Report this
gefion 156
There's nothing wrong with being scared. Being scared allows us opportunities to be brave. But not wearing a helmet as some kind of political statement isn't brave. It's foolhardy. And encouraging others to not wear a helmet isn't admirable, it's the written equivalent of an attractive nuisance.

And if my idiot boyfriend* who also doesn't wear a helmet winds up dead or worse and it could have been prevented with a helmet, I will not stand at his funeral and think "Wow, what an amazing martyr for bikedom who lived how he wanna live". I will be in anguish and anger because I lost him and our life together because he was a goddamn stubborn fucking moron who was too cool for a helmet.

*Neil, if you're reading this, you know you were lucky that time you wound up at Harborview. Put on a fucking helmet!
Posted by gefion on June 8, 2013 at 9:39 PM · Report this
The Monsanto board of directors wears helmets.
Posted by tabski on June 9, 2013 at 11:26 AM · Report this
Either he is a troll or a douche. Either way, wear a helmet.
Posted by michael bell on June 9, 2013 at 11:47 AM · Report this
Roofeo 159
OP: "And that captures the essence of choosing to wear one. It's driven by a climate of fear."
And brain injury is driven by a climate of concrete.

"Wear one or risk brain damage (the rest of one's body parts are, apparently, an afterthought)."
They are, because most limbs can be set and your brain is the bare necessity to living. Therefore a helmet is the bare necessity for safety.

"Until everyone (communities of color, older folks, parents and kids, the-less-daring) feels safe using bicycles to transport themselves about the city, I will flout helmet laws."
While he could be a sensible example of smart biking he's being a self-righteous prick with a nonsensical political statement. Seems pretty counteractive to promoting biking, eh?
Posted by Roofeo on August 9, 2013 at 8:51 PM · Report this
Roofeo 160
Until Ansel Herz feels helmets and promoting helmet use is sensible I ask all his friends and relatives to give him helmets on every celebratory occasion.
Posted by Roofeo on August 9, 2013 at 8:56 PM · Report this
I want to live in a world where men with guns, tazers, and batons compel me to practice any behavior deemed "wise" by the majority of society.

Mandate my diet!

Mandate my health care!

Mandate every lifestyle choice imaginable!

Leave nothing to individual autonomy!
Posted by thepublicsucksfuckhope on October 11, 2013 at 5:49 PM · Report this

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