Riding a bike without a helmet, you're really killing yourself

I'm going to get straight to the point with the conclusion of this column: riding a bike without a properly sized helmet is utter folly.

Whoever does this is taking a risk, risking a potentially life-changing disaster. The same goes for all bike-sharing users, like Citi Bike in New York. Currently, these users take their bikes out of the station and ride without helmets on streets with or without bike lanes, merging into the often reckless flow of people and traffic, completely unconcerned.

Even careful cyclists can have an accident every 4,500 miles (7,200 kilometers), and from my personal observations, many urban cyclists are not careful at all. Despite the lack of reliable details on bike-sharing accidents in New York or elsewhere, a statistic for cyclists in New York City is alarming: 97 percent of deaths and serious injuries while riding are without helmets. % and 87%.

According to the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute, a nonprofit based in Arlington, Va., head injuries account for three-quarters of the roughly 700 deaths from bicycle accidents nationwide each year. And two-thirds of accidents are where a helmet could prevent or reduce the severity of an injury. Researchers at the University of Washington in Seattle reported back in 2000 that this protection holds even in a collision with a motor vehicle. Since then, this statistic has been confirmed many times.

You should never ride a bike without a helmet on your head anymore, that's where it belongs, not in a backpack, in a bike basket, or worse, at home.

Twenty-one states and Washington, D.C., and at least 200 territories have laws requiring teens to wear helmets on bicycles, but few laws covering adult cyclists. In the community I live in, it's common to see a father who doesn't wear a helmet with a kid in a helmet in the back seat.

Besides helmet hairstyles, there are many reasons why people don't wear helmets. One of the most common excuses is: “I just went to the store (or the gym).” But like car accidents, most bicycle accidents happen near home—mine did—and don’t necessarily happen in heavy traffic or when driving at high speed. Falling even while riding at low speeds can hurt your brain.

"The risk of falling at very low speeds is probably comparable to falling at higher speeds," said Randy Swart, director of the consumer-funded Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute. Say. "Just gravity, the distance from the ground, can cause head and brain damage."

Teenagers seem particularly reluctant to wear helmets, but because their brains are still developing, they are at greatest risk and are most at risk from traumatic brain injuries. "Teenagers tend to have a rebellious side," Swart said. "They said, 'Throughout my childhood, my parents forced me to be safe. Now I want to make my own decisions about the dangers.'" College students and young adults tend to think the same, he said.

I also worry about young children, even those whose parents insist they wear helmets on scooters, trikes, and bicycles. In the Brooklyn area where I live, I see a lot of these kids riding with their parents right behind them, and at least half of the cases I've observed are helmets that are too large, or don't fit properly, after a sudden fall or accident. It offers little protection in a severe crash.

The most common mistake is placement: a helmet worn too far back won't protect the most vulnerable part of the brain in the event of a heavy fall of a child (or adult), especially if the skull is fractured. If the straps are too loose (or not attached to the chin strap, which I often see even with adults), the helmet will fly off when a person falls, providing no protection.

The helmet should sit neatly on your head from front to back and not shift when you shake your head. The straps running from the sides of the helmet to the chin should form a V under each ear.

“A bike helmet is like a seat belt—the first time you put it on, you should feel comfortable, not tight, and when you start riding, you should be able to completely forget it’s there,” says Swart .

Another excuse I've heard, perhaps from people who are accustomed to concussions in football players, is that helmets don't prevent concussions. That's right. You don't even have to actually knock your head to get a concussion. Concussions are caused by the gelatinous brain shaking violently or hitting the hard skull, which happens with almost any major blow to the head. What the helmet can do is reduce the force of the impact, as well as the likelihood of skull fractures and brain hemorrhages.

If anyone is concerned about cost, Swart is happy to point out that many cheap helmets work just as well as expensive ones. His agency has tested three "extremely cheap" helmets (priced between $15 and $20), as well as three "extremely expensive" helmets (no less than $150), and he says "their performance levels are There is almost no difference."

So if you don't care much about fashion or brand, you can confidently buy a cheap helmet for every cyclist in your home at a chain or warehouse store. They all have to meet standards set by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

When buying a helmet, in addition to making sure it's the right size for the head, and the price is affordable, my advice is to pick one with a bright color; one of my helmets is orange and the other is lime yellow, I Will use them with jackets and backpacks of the same color.

Now put on your helmet, enjoy the ride, and come home safe and sound.