Here's Why You're Not Too Cool to Wear a Bike Helmet
YouTube/”The Great Muppet Caper”
I always hated bike helmets: They gave me hat head during city commutes and felt restrictive during country joyrides, though I would wear one sporadically, depending on factors like my hairstyle and the perceived danger involved in a particular route. But I’ve become a full-time convert since a morning in May, when I face-planted onto the pavement in my first-ever bicycle crash, breaking both elbows, tearing up my wrists, and chipping a tooth. My head, though, remained blessedly unscathed, thanks to the black Skid Lid helmet I’d reluctantly strapped on that morning.
Sadly, I can’t say the same for my neighbor, who had a bike accident around the same time as mine — without a helmet — and wound up undergoing seven hours of brain surgery as a result. She now wears a small pink helmet 24-7, protecting her fragile skull until it heals, and while her battered memory slowly starts to return. When I see her walking around the neighborhood, taking tentative, shuffling steps, I wince. And feel very, very lucky.
And when I see people biking helmetless — whether they’re alongside city traffic or sand dunes — I can’t help wanting to pull them aside and warn them to please stop worrying about their hair. But rather than act out in the streets or on the bike trails, I’ll take care of the warning here:
•In 2010, 70 percent of bicyclists killed in accidents were not wearing helmets. That’s according to Insurance Institute for Highway Safety data provided by the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute, a consumer group. “Helmets spread the transfer of energy over space and time, which reduces tissue damage,” BHSI founder Gary Smith told Yahoo Health. “That’s the basic science of injury prevention.” He also points to a classic New England Journal of Medicine study, which showed that helmets were 85 percent effective in preventing injuries in a bike accident (though findings since have challenged that percentage). “That, I think, is the best we can do.”